America. The land of the free… In the last century America has engraved itself so deeply in the global consciousness that it’s hard to miss its influence. With the American Presidential elections coming up the world watches in anticipation because, like it or not, what happens in America affects the rest of us.
America has had an intriguing relationship with the rest of the world politically, economically and socially. This great nation has power likened to previous superpowers like the Roman Empire and Great Britain (back in its heyday). But empires come and go, so it’s not unnatural to wonder whether America will suffer the same fate.
It’s hard to imagine a world where America is no longer the giant. Politically, it’s a force to be reckoned with. When you consider its influence in the United Nations, the major platform for international political and economic relationships, it’s easy to see why this is the case.
America holds a permanent seat on the Security Council of the UN. It also spends more money on its military than a number of governments have at their disposal. Not to mention the various alliances it’s made with other important players in world politics like the UK, France and Germany.
Countries that do not agree with, or even dare to oppose American policy, do it at their own peril. Presidents get ostracised (Paul Kagame, Robert Mugabe,) others get killed (Saddam Hussein.)
America’s made many enemies and has been involved in many high-profile wars over the years such as Vietnam, Japan, Afghanistan and Iraq. This has earned its respect, fear and derision from the world. It’s fair to say that during George Bush’s tenure as President, it was mostly derision, but now with Obama, the world is a lot less edgy about who America might attack next.
This country is famous for pushing its foreign policy agenda. No other country has its tentacles in as many political pots (so to speak) as America does. This is compounded by the substantive economic influence America has on the rest of the world.
This country practically invented foreign aid in the early-mid 20th century. Trillions of dollars later, many countries in the ‘developing’ world are more economically stable and forever indebted to America. Literally.
As much as America has helped these countries, what it requires (or demands) in return is often construed as classic manipulation. There are always strings attached. In fact, it’s gone as far as threatening withdrawal of aid unless policies and laws are introduced or removed by recipient countries. In the economic and political minds of many middle and low-income countries America is a pushy, preachy, self-righteous, arrogant and manipulative country.
Increasing numbers of African countries are now turning to Asia, particularly China, for economic and trade partnerships. Unlike America, China is not preachy and doesn’t really care about other countries’ political affairs (unless, of course it interferes with said trade.) What’s more, China does’nt care if you kiss its arse. China just wants a good business plan. Full stop.
In addition to this, emerging economies like Brazil and India are less dependent on foreign aid. As countries are becoming more economically independent, they are turning to eachother to do business. This has lead to the strengthening of regional economic structures that do not involve America and its allies, and that is bound to have an impact in coming years.
Furthermore, with America’s struggling economy, which has featured heavily in this year’s Presidential campaign, some parts of the world seems to be moving on quickly. Asia Pacific has now overtaken North America as the region with the most billionaires on earth.
Luckily, the biggest Advantage America has over its predecessors in world domination is social power. The American social ideology is its biggest international export. One word. Media.
The biggest factors here are Facebook, Twitter and Hollywood. As their T.V. shows and movies circulate all over the world, the American social construct is rapidly becoming the world’s social construct. America has shaped world opinions on everything from democracy, to gay rights, to romance, to Justin Beiber. The idea of the American dream has spilled over into the rest of the world and is now everyone’s dream.
A great deal of the reality of American life has been masked in movies, songs, ‘reality T.V’…so much so that people all over the world imagine an America that simply does not exist. But it is this glorified version of this great nation that draws people in. This is what keeps us interested, and as long as that interest is held, America will always be relevant.
Written by Irene Kyomuhangi.
Photography © Noel Y. Calingasan