Why the new Middle East war will be a decisive test for the USA

Many say Israel – and actually mean America. They want to destroy one state and thus also affect the other; Anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are the two faces of an adverse reality in the Middle East.

The Western leading power – with the aircraft carriers “USS Dwight D. Eisenhower” and “USS Gerald R. ford“Currently patrolling off Israel’s coast – is therefore experiencing difficult times. Your help also serves to help yourself. Their authority is being tested in Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific and now also in the Middle East, even if US soldiers have not yet been directly involved in combat operations.

Test hits America at the worst possible time

This test is hitting America at the worst possible time. Because the country is suffering – and it is not suffering first from Putin, Xi Jinping and Hamas, but from itself. Without any external influence, America’s appeal will dwindle.

The USA is not experiencing a military or economic decline, but rather a moral and cultural decline in its position as a world power.

If you want to assess this loss of power, Harvard professor Joseph Nye’s mental model is useful. It breaks down the concept of power into its three components.

American reputation problems

A nation is only powerful, says Nye, if, in addition to the performance of its economy and the omnipresence of its military – Nye speaks of hard power – it develops a cultural appeal that makes people follow it voluntarily. To eat, dance, work, feel and vote like them in the United Nations General Assembly.

The United States experienced the greatest expansion of this cultural attraction – so-called soft power – when people idolized Marilyn Monroe, watched the moon landing, stood up at night for boxing kings Cassius Clay and Joe Frazier, and admired the beauty of a democracy dominated by presidents like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Those days are over. If you want to understand America’s reputation problems in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, you have to look at its diminished soft power, which is manifesting itself in five ways these days:

1. US capitalism produces a disenfranchised class

In addition to impressive innovations in Silicon Valley and exorbitant profits on Wall Street, the American economic system appears increasingly dysfunctional. Millions of people are excluded from any value creation. To quote sociologist Richard Sennett, the specter of uselessness haunts the tent cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

Between the super-rich and the poor devils lies a Grand Canyon of socio-political failure. The middle class settles somewhere on its slopes. She lives in constant danger of falling.

2. Gun laws betray the idea of ​​freedom

One increasingly has the feeling that Americans are waging war against themselves. Every year, more than 40,000 US citizens die from and with their firearms, and mass killings occur again and again in schools, restaurants and on the street, as happened just a few days ago State of Maine when a 40-year-old gunned down 21 people.

The political system – which immediately lowered the country’s flags to half-mast in the most recent case – is unable to stop the deliberate murder. There is mourning, but no action is taken. “The land of the free,” as the national anthem goes, became the land of snipers and serial killers.

3. The America First policy turns partners into rivals – even in Europe

America first: America’s initially rhetorical and then actual retreat into its own nation has been passed on from Trump to Biden. Even friends of the USA, such as the Federal Republic, are now seen as rivals and fought against. The Inflation Reduction Act is less a program to curb domestic currency devaluation than a lure for European companies to shift value creation to the USA.

The big brother snubs the little one with the predictable result: sibling love grows cold.

4. U.S. foreign policy alienates the Global South and many other non-aligned countries

The USA can no longer convince the global south and the non-aligned states of itself and its values. The abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan, the political drama surrounding the arms deliveries to Ukraine, but also the insensitivity towards Africa seem strange to many. The once cosmopolitan America has folded its arms over its chest.

The USA no longer sees everyone in the West as a guarantor of freedom and brotherhood, but rather as a representative of egoism and nationalism. India, the world’s largest democracy, is also keeping its distance – and does not want to take part in the economic sanctions against Russia, for example.

5. US democracy has become entrenched in polarization

American democracy seems rusty. Opposites no longer meet, even in the course of parliamentary procedures. Republicans and Democrats face each other bitterly and bitterly on Capitol Hill. You no longer want to convince the other person, you want to destroy them.

The American gerontocracy, with the 77-year-old Trump and the 80-year-old Biden at the helm, is dominated by partisan tactics and money flows. In today’s Washington, people don’t have dreams, they just have interests.

There is not even cohesion within the party: in a dispute over their party line, the Republicans voted out the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, and de facto rendered the country unable to act for three weeks.

There is no Iron Dome for world powers

Conclusion: The new Middle East war becomes the “defining moment” for the USA’s position as a world power. The volcano we call the zeitgeist spews lava and ash onto “the shining city upon a hill” – as Reagan called his America at the inauguration. This mystical place has not disappeared, but it has slipped. So America is fighting these days not only for Israel, but also for itself. There is no Iron Dome for world powers.

Jean Harris

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