Amer­ica’s resur­gence is re­shap­ing the world


National Post (National Edition) - - ISSUES & IDEAS - Con­rad BlaCk — BLACK Na­tional Post cblet­[email protected]


Al­most in­dis­cernible in the end­less tu­mult about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is the ob­jec­tive re­turn of Amer­i­can might, right on our doorstep. A ca­sual sam­pler of the Cana­dian, and even the Amer­i­can, me­dia, might think that the United States was so far along in its de­cline that the en­tire process of govern­ment and nor­mal pub­lic discourse had bro­ken down in that coun­try, and that the much-dis­cussed process of na­tional de­cline was ac­cel­er­at­ing in a cli­mate of virtual chaos.

In fact, the econ­omy of the United States is as­tound­ingly strong: full em­ploy­ment, an ex­pand­ing work­force, neg­li­gi­ble inflation and about three per cent eco­nomic growth. And it is a broad eco­nomic re­cov­ery, not based on ser­vice in­dus­tries as in the United King­dom (where Lon­don han­dles most of Europe’s fi­nan­cial in­dus­try, while most of Bri­tish in­dus­try has fled), and not based largely on the fluc­tu­at­ing re­sources mar­kets as has of­ten been Canada’s ex­pe­ri­ence. In the eight years of pres­i­dent Obama, the United States lost 219,000 man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs; in the two years of Trump, the coun­try has added 477,000 man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. This was not sup­posed to be pos­si­ble, and this time, un­like in the great Rea­gan boom, it can­not be dis­missed by the left (and it was false in the eight­ies) as a pro­fu­sion of “ham­burger flip­pers, dry clean­ers and peo­ple de­liv­er­ing pizza,” (all nec­es­sary oc­cu­pa­tions).

It is clear that China is feel­ing the heat of Amer­i­can tar­iffs. Their mag­nif­i­cent hypocrisy of gam­bolling in a $360-bil­lion trade sur­plus with the United States while ex­tort­ing tech­nol­ogy from Amer­i­can com­pa­nies and re­duc­ing Amer­i­can high-tech gi­ants like Ap­ple and Google to sniv­el­ling on China’s be­half when their sales in that coun­try are re­duced, and all the while lead­ing G-77 in cupped­hands re­quests for re­lief from the eco­nom­i­cally most ad­vanced coun­tries for their pol­lu­tion of the world en­vi­ron­ment (al­though China is the world’s great­est pol­luter), all of it is end­ing. The United States will not be the world’s pre­mier chump any­more. The most en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port the United States is re­ceiv­ing in its trade stance with China is from China’s neigh­bours, from In­dia to Ja­pan. Of course China is the world’s se­cond-great­est power and must be treated with re­spect, but that does not mean the shame­less grov­el­ling of Trump’s pre­de­ces­sors, pay­ing court to Bei­jing like lack­eys kow­tow­ing to the em­per­ors of the Mid­dle King­dom.

Ev­ery U.S. pres­i­dent start­ing with Dwight Eisen­hower has be­wailed Amer­i­can de­pen­dence on for­eign oil. For­eign­ers then sup­plied 10 per cent of Amer­ica’s oil, a fig­ure that rose to 60 per cent un­der pres­i­dent Obama, and no one has done any­thing about it, un­til the past two years, when oil pro­duc­tion has been sharply in­creased and re­liance on oil im­ports has been sharply cut, on its in­ex­orable way to zero. For decades, when­ever the U.S. made pur­pose­ful noises about do­ing the nec­es­sary to re­duce oil im­ports, the Saudis en­gi­neered a cut in the in­ter­na­tional price and Amer­i­can will col­lapsed back­wards into the con­temptible tor­por of de­clin­ing pow­ers. All that has changed. What were for cen­turies the Great Pow­ers, and for nearly 50 years after the Se­cond World War, the prin­ci­pal Western Al­lies and the Soviet Union, have been re­con­fig­ured. The Soviet Union has been sliced down to Russia with about 40 per cent of the for­mer Soviet pop­u­la­tion, of­fer­ing a pal­lid repli­ca­tion of Gaullist ef­forts to make France great again by be­ing an an­noy­ing gad­fly ir­ri­tat­ing the Amer­i­cans around the world. Charles de Gaulle was a great states­man, who per­son­i­fied the his­toric cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal at­tain­ments of France in its most difficult and dis­hon­oured times; Vladimir Putin is just an­other chief thug re­sid­ing in the Krem­lin.

China has re­placed the U.S.S.R. as prin­ci­pal ri­val to the U.S., but now has no ide­o­log­i­cal dis­tinc­tion, as well as, in repli­ca­tion of the Sovi­ets, no in­sti­tu­tions that func­tion ex­cept the army. It is try­ing to beat the United States at its own game of cap­i­tal­ism, but the Chi­nese ver­sion is a hodge­podge of state cap­i­tal­ism and a com­mand econ­omy, and the re­coil of the Chi­nese from the pres­sure that has been ap­plied by this U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion demon­strates more clearly what the real bal­ance of power is be­tween the two economies. China is the great­est eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment story in the history of the world, but as a chal­lenge to the para­mount sta­tus the United States has oc­cu­pied for over a cen­tury among the world’s na­tions, it won’t fly. Wash­ing­ton has seen it all, and seen it off, be­fore.

And there is Europe. Cana­di­ans were rightly of­fended, as Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders were, when Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Ed­ward Heath tried to plunge head­long into Europe in 1972, hav­ing failed to make it as the Com­mon Mar­ket ne­go­tia­tor for Harold MacMil­lan in 1963. We were put over the side for Bri­tain to take a to­tal im­mer­sion bath in Europe. Nine years later, Mar­garet Thatcher did a 240-de­gree turn, brushed Europe back and plunged into a splen­did re­newal of the Special Re­la­tion­ship with the United States. She and Ron­ald Rea­gan did a cred­i­ble job of filling the shoes of Win­ston Churchill and Franklin D. Roo­sevelt, and they did as ef­fi­cient a job of lead­ing the West to vic­tory in the Cold War as their revered an­tecedents did in lead­ing the West to vic­tory in the Se­cond World War. But be­fore long, the special re­la­tion­ship gave way un­der Bri­tish lead­ers more at­tracted by Europe and Amer­i­can lead­ers who had lit­tle in­ter­est in Bri­tain. Then came a half­hearted Bri­tish ef­fort to go back head-first into Europe. It fal­tered and the Al­bion is fal­ter­ing and be­fud­dled.

The prob­lem with the Eu­ro­pean Union is both prac­ti­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal. As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, it is gov­erned by a bu­reau­cracy of Dutch and Bel­gian scribes and func­tionar­ies that is an­swer­able nei­ther to the lu­di­crous Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment in Stras­bourg, the ul­ti­mate ir­rel­e­vant talk­ing shop, nor to the prin­ci­pal mem­ber states, and is ex­act­ing its re­venge for cen­turies of def­er­ence to France, Ger­many and Bri­tain.

The Ger­mans don’t mind the shower of au­thor­i­tar­ian di­rec­tives from Brussels — they are ac­cus­tomed to reg­i­men­ta­tion and are the lead­ing power in Europe any­way. The French and Ital­ians don’t mind, be­cause they never pay any at­ten­tion to what gov­ern­ments say and gen­er­ally re­gard govern­ment as a bunch of crooks and in­com­pe­tents and hyp­ocrites any­way (of­ten cor­rectly). The Bri­tish, how­ever, do like to be law-abid­ing, and gen­er­ally do pay some at­ten­tion to the legislation and edicts of those who rule, and rightly judge Brussels to be in­suf­fer­able and sti­fling. The un­der­ly­ing the­ory of Europe was that a cen­tury after the hecatomb of the First World War that en­gulfed Europe, and many decades after the Eu­ro­peans gave us the bless­ings of to­tal­i­tar­ian Com­mu­nism and Nazi­ism, the Eu­ro­pean pow­ers, from Poland to Ibe­ria and the North Cape to Cyprus, would stand on each other’s heads and re­gain their sta­tus as the cen­tre of the world. The whole idea was un­ut­ter­able non­sense, and the struc­ture is now crum­bling.

France has elected a com­plete out­sider as pres­i­dent and the brave new regime has been hum­bled and de­filed by the im­per­ish­able Paris mobs, the ex­tras and stage­hands at 10 abrupt and pro­found changes of gov­ern­men­tal struc­ture in 230 years, and of count­less sport­ing ef­forts to get the regimes’ at­ten­tion with ri­ots and van­dal­ism. The splen­did boule­vards of Paris have seen it all be­fore many times. Mighty Ger­many, its gov­ern­ing coali­tion al­most worn thread­bare by the im­pru­dent ad­mis­sion of a mil­lion des­per­ate Mid­dle Eastern and African refugees, has de­liv­ered it­self over to en­ergy de­pen­dence on the fee­ble gang­ster-state of Russia while cut­ting its NATO con­tri­bu­tion to half of what it had promised and com­plain­ing of Amer­i­can lack of en­thu­si­asm to con­tinue car­ry­ing Ger­many on its crowded and un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated shoul­ders. Italy is in more pro­found po­lit­i­cal sham­bles than ever; Spain is dis­tracted by a sep­a­ratist threat that the cen­tral govern­ment has bun­gled (it could have learned from Canada but didn’t).

Through it all, the United States, ap­pear­ing to be dis­or­derly, its es­tab­lish­ment and me­dia at war with the oc­cu­pant of the White House, is demon­strat­ing al­most ef­fort­lessly how il­lu­sory is the idea that any other coun­try or group of coun­tries can chal­lenge its pre-em­i­nence among the world’s na­tions. Cana­di­ans may not like it; the world may try to pre­tend oth­er­wise, but how­ever the domestic po­lit­i­cal tides of Amer­ica may flow, North Korea is on its best be­hav­iour, the ay­a­tol­lahs are quak­ing in their vo­lu­mi­nous rai­ment, and all Amer­ica’s trade part­ners, in­clud­ing Canada and China, are ac­cept­ing what amounts to uni­lat­eral rene­go­ti­a­tion by the U.S. No other coun­try in the world has any ap­pre­cia­ble in­flu­ence at all more than a few hun­dred miles from its bor­ders (an area that in­cludes 95 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of Canada).

Note: It was an over­sight to have omit­ted Paul Martin from the list of tal­ented fi­nance min­is­ters I gave in this col­umn last week, and I apol­o­gize for that omis­sion.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to mem­bers of the mil­i­tary in De­cem­ber at a hangar rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

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