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sábado, janeiro 31, 2009

Will America's “network power” trump the “Asian century”?


Into the mix comes a short, deceptively simple essay by Anne-Marie Slaughter (pictured), who recently stepped down as dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to head the State Department's Office of Policy Planning. Ms Slaughter writes that power in the 21st century depends not so much on arms or wealth but on network connections. By this she means not just internet links, but physical ones such as immigrants have with their original countries, businesses with their trading partners, aid groups with the communities they serve and the like. Here, she believes, America has an extraordinary advantage.

“In this world, the state with the most connections will be the central player, able to set the global agenda and unlock innovation and sustainable growth,” she declares. “Networked power flows from the ability to make the maximum number of valuable connections.” And into the debate over the ascent of Asia and decline of the West, she asserts: “The twenty-first century looks increasingly like another American century—although it will likely be a century of the Americas rather than of just America.”

The essay answers both Asia boosters and America bashers. Ms Slaughter’s ideas are not earth-shatteringly original; indeed, she doffs her cap to no less than a dozen scholars. The essay occasionally devolves into cyberpunk manifesto and Panglossian apologia. But it is mostly very smart. Like recombinant DNA, Ms Slaughter mixes the known base-pairs into something unique and compelling. Coming from a foreign policy stalwart of the old school, it deserves attention. But is she right?

The argument, simplified, goes like this: by dint of population, geography and culture, America is best placed to lead. Its immigrants make it a hub for the world’s best ideas. Its geography helps it reach out to other regions while insulating it from global problems such as refugees, cross-border conflicts and even some of China's air pollution. Its culture of openness, as well as constructive intellectual and commercial conflict, makes it a hive for innovation. Other countries suffer a disadvantage in these areas. In a world where hierarchical power is less important and relationships paramount, Ms Slaughter writes, America’s ability to orchestrate, not dictate, will bring it success.


The Economist

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