Thursday, September 6, 2012

It’s true that America cannot command the same respect abroad that it once did, when its domestic economy is faltering.

While traveling around the globe after communism’s fall in the early 1990s, I heard Asians and Africans and Middle Easterners and even Russians repeatedly say they admired the American model because it worked and guaranteed prosperity. They wanted to emulate America because they thought we knew what we were doing and had a formula that combined political freedoms with economic success.

Yet, today many Asians, Africans, and Arabs are now looking to other models, including more centralized economies such as China’s, which lack political and civic freedoms. So what has gone wrong?

America’s brand has declined because foreigners believe we can’t get our political act together. When I travel abroad now, I hear doubts about our competence and skepticism about whether we can fix a broken political system. Foreign leaders and publics believe our country is so riven by political partisanship that it can’t repair our economy.

These doubts took root during the Iraq war...

Over and over in Iraq, and in the Mideast, bewildered Arabs repeated this mantra to me in the 2000s: “We thought you Americans could do anything. How could you have made such a mess in Baghdad?”

The world’s skepticism about the U.S. model intensified with the 2008 financial crash, a product of too much deregulation and corruption on Wall Street.

I’m a believer in America’s capacity for renewal. But the U.S. economy won’t right itself without leaders who truly embrace national unity and are willing to compromise to make our economic system function.

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