US suffers decline in prestigeFinancial Times
By Stephen Fidler in London
Published: September 12 2007 20:55 | Last updated: September 12 2007 20:55
The US has suffered a significant loss of power and prestige around the world in the years since George W. Bush came to power, limiting its ability to influence international crises, an annual survey from a well regarded British security think-tank concluded on Tuesday.
The 2007 Strategic Survey of the non-partisan International Institute for Strategic Studies picked the decline of US authority as one of the most important security developments of the past year – but suggested the fading of American prestige began earlier, largely due to its failings in Iraq.
John Chipman, the institute's director-general, said the "authority, prestige and reputation of the US is not what it might have been four or five years ago". The deterioration of American power had led to a "non-polar" world in which other actors, such as Russia, had been able to assert themselves.
The report says the US failure in Iraq had meant the Bush administration suffered from a much-reduced ability to hold sway in both domestic and international affairs. This was evident, it says, from the president's failure to push through a new immigration bill, to the scant regard paid to US efforts to influence Israeli-Palestinian developments and Mr Bush's sudden acceptance of the need for action on climate change.
But a more fundamental loss of clout occurred at a strategic level. "It was evident that exercise of military power – in which, on paper, America dominated the world – had not secured its goal," the survey says. The failings in Iraq created a sense around the world of American power "diminished and demystified", with adversaries believing they will prevail if they manage to draw the US into a prolonged engagement.
In the Middle East, the survey says, the loss of US influence encouraged some countries – notably Iran – to flex their muscles in the region; it provided ammunition for radical groups seeking to discredit the leaders of countries maintaining solid links with the US; and it encouraged other countries to hedge their diplomatic relations with the US by strengthening their links with other regional powers.
Washington's ability to act as an honest broker in the world had declined; and Iraq had meant the US had failed to pay as much attention as it should have to other parts of the world.
The report concludes that the "the restoration of American strategic authority seemed bound to take much longer than the mere installation of a new president".
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007