In the current issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes about the Davos conference,
… for the first time in my memory, America was somewhat peripheral. There were few demands, pleas, complaints or tantrums directed at the United States. In this small but significant global cocoon, peopleâ€”for the moment at leastâ€”seemed to be moving beyond America.
“There has always been a talk by a senior American official as one of the centerpieces of the Forum,” said a European who has advised the Forum for many yearsâ€”and who asked to remain anonymous because of his relations with U.S. officials. “And in the past, people eagerly anticipated who that would beâ€”Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice. This year, almost no one inquired. We expected disappointment. But there was none. No one even noticed.”
Part of the reason is that people are moving beyond George W. Bush. Europeans and Middle Easterners in particular used to rail against Bush. Now they think that their views about him and his policiesâ€”whether on Iraq, global warming or unilateralismâ€”have all been vindicated, so why keep ranting? Besides, he’s a lame-duck president, his weakness on full display in last week’s plaintive State of the Union address.
But there may be a larger phenomenon at work here. This year’s conference theme was titled “Shaping the Global Agenda: The Shifting Power Equation.” The emphasis, and some of the talk at the conference, focused on that shift in power, with speakers foretelling the rise of Asia (and implicitly, the decline of America and Europe).
Zakaria goes on to discuss what might happen if another nation, most likely China, stepped in to the leadership niche, or what might happen if no other nation took on the job, and his projections are gloomy. Although our leadership is, um, substandard at the moment, you can say the same thing about a lot of other nations’ top dogs. Must be something in the water.