The World According to Obama's Advisor

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/27/2008 03:37:00 AM
Guilty of taking cheap shots at America myself, I am amazed that even Barack Obama's foreign policy advisor Parag Khanna is doing the same in today's edition of the New York Times Magazine. He too says American hegemony is dead. You will not be surprised that I think the USA is becoming the Britney Spears of world politics: bloated, overindulgent, and in need of rehab to cure its excesses. However, Khanna's prescriptions are strange indeed for helping America adjust to a post-hegemonic existence. As you would expect from an advisor to a politician, he does not suggest the sensible route of belt-tightening and sacrifice to cure fiscal ailments. Instead, we get this:
Given our deficits and political gridlock, the only solution is to channel global, particularly Asian, liquidity into our own public infrastructure, creating jobs and technology platforms that can keep American innovation ahead of the pack.
Unfortunately, our man's grasp of economics leaves something to be desired; America already is using foreign liquidity to plug its massive savings shortfall. It's been doing so for years as necessitated by this thing called the "current account deficit." All the while, Dubya has overseen the bloating of American bureaucracy with investments in public infrastructure known as the Homeland Security Act and what else have you. Combating terrorism has already spawned a lot of technological innovation. Big government conservatism is already channeling global liquidity into US public infrastructure which has resulted in the creation of many public sector jobs.

Khanna also contradicts himself on many occasions. For instance, he says that "Americans lose control of assets to wealthier foreign funds," yet before that:
In true American fashion, we must build a diplomatic-industrial complex. Europe and China all but personify business-government collusion, so let State raise money from Wall Street as it puts together regional aid and investment packages.
Huh? I thought Wall Street needed cash infusions from sovereign wealth funds because they were unable to raise capital domestically? How are these same Wall Streeters which have gone begging abroad going to find money to aid foreigners, then? It does not compute.

Besides, why is Khanna so keen on aid? Wasn't the US the largest aid donor for the longest time? Why is he so sure that more aid will buy off geopolitical allies now when it has been unable to do so in the past? Nor is it clear why US investment abroad would be welcome. Go ask Venezuela, Iran, Russia, or many of those other states Khanna says are in the "second world" if they welcome American investment and the rest of the neoliberal package that went with it.

But wait, there's more. Khanna also makes the case that Turkey is becoming further integrated into the European Union. Is this the same Turkey which is being offered only a "privileged partnership" (AKA a sucker's deal) by France and Germany--the EU's bigwigs? Is this the same Turkey which is now complaining about the EU thus being in danger of becoming a "Club of Christians" according to Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan?

I could go on, but suffice to say that I am not entirely on board with Khanna given that his article is riddled with factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Overall, though, I do agree that the US is down in the dumps and needs fixing up (like Ms. Spears). Unfortunately, his politically palatable no-sacrifice solutions are unlikely to get America there. Sacrifice and hard work don't win votes in today's America, unfortunately. Next solution to "fix" what ails America, please.

UPDATE: Here's more for Khanna to ponder regarding the alleged "Europeanization" of Turkey: the ruling AK Party is now planning to introduce legislation that will enable headscarf wearing in Turkey's universities. Message to Khanna: more skyscrapers ≠ "Europeanization."