German leader warns U.S. superpower era is over

By MARTIN SIEFF  |  Sept. 26, 2008 at 11:03 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck has proclaimed the Writing on the Wall for the United States: America's days as an economic superpower are over, he said Thursday.

Steinbrueck said the United States will "lose its financial superpower status" as a result of the current financial crisis. He said it was now inevitable that the major industrial powers would move into a multipolar financial world with better capitalized Asian and European banking centers rivaling the United States.

Ironically, far from prophesying complete catastrophe and meltdown, Steinbrueck was much more measured and cautious than the continuing fiscal irresponsibility and illiteracy in Washington and New York justified. He merely predicted the dollar would remain as a reserve currency, but only as one among several.

Indeed, it looks increasingly likely that the dollar will not even remain the leading reserve currency. For several years, Arab nations, led by Saudi Arabia, that were alarmed by the financial measures included in the Patriot Act have quietly been transferring hundreds of billions of dollars into euros. And strongly anti-American but major oil-producing nations such as Iran and Venezuela certainly have been talking themselves in that direction.

Now Russia, the largest combined oil and gas energy exporter in the world, is talking about using its record financial reserves to create a gold ruble. The dollar has not been backed by gold since President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to effectively devalue it by taking it off the gold standard in 1933.

The remaining months of President George W. Bush's two terms in office therefore are seeing the collapse in financial and real power terms of the unprecedented pretensions to long-lasting 21st century global pre-eminence that he imagined he was establishing.

It is a huge irony that the administration that produced a National Security Doctrine premised on the United States being the sole superpower left standing and therefore needing to craft policies to maintain that position indefinitely should be ending this way, not only militarily stretched but financially crippled.

Amazingly, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike on Capitol Hill continue to balk at the emergency bailout package without which U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry "Hank" Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have warned that fiscal catastrophe could sweep the country. The bipartisan deal to pass the emergency package that was supposedly cobbled together collapsed within 12 hours Thursday.

Republican congressmen in the House of Representatives as much as Democratic ones whined and prevaricated about it. The biggest argument against passing the emergency package was that popular sentiment was so strongly against it. One Republican congressman said 96 percent of his e-mails were running against it.

In fact, representatives of the people under the American system are not elected to mindlessly reflect their constituents' emotions: They are meant to exercise wise and superior judgment on their constituents' behalf, especially when that runs counter to what the less-well-informed constituents actually want.

That was the theme of President John F. Kennedy's famous Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Profiles in Courage," which, in fact, was ghost-written for him by New York Times journalist Arthur Krock. But you didn't see much sign of that kind of courage on either side of the aisle in Congress this week.

Meanwhile, as the Republicans and Democrats alike continued to fiddle while the American financial system burned, the world turned its back on them and moved on to prepare for a future in which America is an irrelevance rather than the global leader.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez -- a vastly more formidable and successful enemy to the United States than clownish Fidel Castro ever was -- has just visited Moscow for the second time in two months. He did so after Russia announced it was going to sell Venezuela another billion dollars worth of arms -- virtually giving them away for free on easy loan terms.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he wanted to strengthen ties with Latin America and may offer Venezuela help with a nuclear energy program. Meanwhile, Russian warships have been cruising the Caribbean Sea, challenging America in its own historic home waters.

It was also symbolic that as Congress wrangled as usual in its failure to act to save the collapsing U.S. financial system, three more Chinese taikonauts were orbiting the Earth.

Authoritarian China is riding higher than ever after hosting one of the most glorious Olympic Games of all time.

The wise German finance minister -- no enemy of America, to put it mildly -- knew what he was saying when he uttered that prophetic warning.

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