No Huddles

Nikolas Gvosdev describes an unease (among participants at a Carnegie Council panel on the Rise of the Rest) with the concessions and limited leverage that result from globalized interdependence. The new environment is definitely less conducive to a “with us or against us” approach, which I think is a historical feature of American foreign policy, even if it has been exagerrated by (and therefore associated with) the Bush administration. Gvosdev is mainly referring to the American dependence on emerging countries as sources of capital and energy. But it extends beyond that as our strategic partners increasingly find their interests interwoven with those of our strategic rivals. An illustration of that is how at the same time that Pakistan’s Prime Minister was receiving Asst. Sec. of State Richard Boucher in Islamabad and vaunting the importance of its friendship with America, Pakistan’s Finance Minister was in Tehran for a two-day Iran-Pakistan Joint Economic Commission, where the two countries are expected to sign various trade MoU’s.

To express it with a sports analogy, Americans are used to football, where two teams line up along a line of scrimmage and try to push their way up or down the field towards opposing end zones. The rest of the world is used to soccer, where the teams are intermingled and the movement of the ball is non-linear, with the best way to advance towards the opposing goal sometimes being a backward pass. And the emerging global order increasingly resembles a game of soccer where there are dozens of teams on the field at any given time, and the points are tallied not by how many goals you score but by how many passes you make. We keep waiting for the rest of the “team” to come back to the huddle for the next play. But there’s no team anymore, no huddle, and no quarterback. No wonder we’re uneasy.

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