If You So Smart, How Come You Ain't Rich?

Or so I would ask the legions of wise people gathered presently at Davos.

Of course they are rich. They come to Davos in private jets and luxury cars. It is the people back home who are struggling. It's a European Union with a GDP that is forty percent lower than America's. It's a continental disaster called Africa. And it's a Middle East where social development is so backward that fewer books are published annually in Arabic than in the relatively small country of Spain. These are the poor. These are the people who suffer under the elitist leadership that is now hobnobbing in Davos.

A host of transnational do gooders "interact" with corporate leaders trying to put a sheen on their global credibility. Third world tyrants sup with shills for global warming dollars. Left leaning out of power American politicians somberly decry the failure of the present regime in Washington to the delight of European socialists. And a general theme of failed American leadership runs through the conference like a string binding together these self declared forces for good.

Are we to believe that they would lead us better? Judging from the way Europe, most of Asia and all of the Middle East are delivering on their social contracts, one might be justified in being skeptical.

The fact is, at this point in world history there is only one country that has the power, influence and money to be indispensable. Of course that country will never do things perfectly, nor to the world's satisfaction. Particularly when the rules suddenly change, and powers that be around the world have a vested in interest in the status quo, it is a difficult task finding the correct balance. But the question remains, is there any other country or region out there that could take on the task, let alone do it better? And if America is an empire in decline, compared often to the late Roman Empire by various European pundits, where are the Visigoths and Vandals lining up at our boarders? Where are the alliances of "everybody else" that would surely arise if the Europeans, Japanese, Indians, and Chinese didn't agree, either explicitly or implicitly, with the substance of our actions.

In a recent conversation with a normally thoughtful British friend, all the criticisms of American leadership came pouring out precipitously. One could imagine the nodding heads of a hundred conversations where arguments describing American incompetence were perfected. It seemed somehow possible to hear the frequent BBC interviews with British soldiers in Basra explaining how their years of experience in Northern Ireland made it possible for them to do "soft hat" insurgency warfare better than the novice Americans. My friend even brought up the Suez Crisis, as if the American motives for abandoning the British were a grasp for worldwide supremacy, rather than an effort to avoid a regional if not global conflagration.

And yet people like my school friend seem to forget some of the lesser accomplishments of recent European leadership. They fail to recall that three ree of today's hottest global flash points are places that the British hastily exited at a time (late 1940's) when they were voting for Labor leaders, nationalizing their national wealth and building a domestic health care service - all at the expense of international affairs. There is little note of the EU's extraordinary failure to resolve or even slow the genocide on their doorstep in Bosnia in the 1990's. And even today, one wonders if most Brits know that it was their vaunted British "pragmatism", learned from centuries of colonial rule, that led to the 2004 escape of Muqtada Al Sadr from the business end of an American M-16 in Najaf - an error of judgment that is more costly today than ever.

Never mind the situations in Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Darfur, West Africa and host of other hot spots where "the international community" has taken the lead.

Noting these discrete failings of non-American leadership is not meant to be read like a scorecard. It is mentioned only to bring context to the constant drum beat of negative pronouncements and bad publicity of everything American, particularly at places like Davos. And as today John Kerry spews forth with utterly predictable stereotypes, employing a common tactic of Juniors Abroad in order to curry favor with his European audience, one has to wonder if the internationalists, the NGOers, and conference goers aren't sinking into a perverse irrelevance not unlike Mr. Kerry's. For with a billion new workers coming into the global economy in the next twenty years, leaders who can't deliver high GDP growth and low unemployment won't be doing much more than sitting on panels.

* Hat tip to Spengler and acknowledgment that I ripped him off.