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Barry Yourgrau Headshot

Has America Become...Irrelevant?

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Is this what six years of Bush and Bush-enabling have wrought for US influence in the world?

I pass along this excerpt from Adam Gopnik's intriguing piece on Nicolas Sarkozy in the Aug. 27 New Yorker. Its windup, see below, suggests that the US, thanks to all its delusional play-to-the-home-front bellicosities of the last few years, may have managed to make itself, in the end.... irrelevant.

Favorite line: "To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from."

That's us: the world's fulminating nut you edge around scornfully on the subway. (Heckuva job there, Big Decider.)

From The Human Bomb, The New Yorker, Aug.27:

"....Now, for the first time, it's possible to imagine modernization as something independent of Americanization: when people in Paris talk about ambitious kids going to study abroad, they talk about London. (Americans have little idea of the damage done by the ordeal that a routine run through immigration at J.F.K. has become for Europeans, or by the suspicion and hostility that greet the most anodyne foreigners who come to study or teach at our scientific and educational institutions.) When people in Paris talk about manufacturing might, they talk about China; when they talk about tall buildings, they talk about Dubai; when they talk about troubling foreign takeovers, they talk about Gazprom. The Sarkozy-Gordon Brown-Merkel generation is not unsympathetic to America, but America is not so much the primary issue for them, as it was for Blair and Chirac, in the nineties, when America was powerful beyond words. To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from.

What Brown, Merkel, and Sarkozy all have in common is that they do not want to be defined by their response to America--either unduly faithful, as with Blair, or unduly hostile, as Chirac became. Instead, as Levitte says, they all want to normalize relations with a great power that is no longer the only power. Its military weakness has been exposed in Iraq, its economic weakness by the rise of the euro, and its once great cultural magnetism has been diminished by post-9/11 paranoia and insularity. America has recovered from worse before, and may do so again. But it is also possible that the election of Nicolas Sarkozy may be seen not as the start of a new pro-American moment in Europe but as a marker of the beginning of the post-American era."

Thanks as ever to Uber.com, where my blog Brain Flakes appears.

Also at SmirkingChimp.com