Opinion: America is great again

Editor’s note: Peter Bergen is a CNN national security analyst, vice president of New America, and professor of practice at Arizona State University. Bergen is the author of “The Cost of Chaos: The Trump Administration and the World.” The opinions expressed in this comment are his own. See more reviews on CNN.


The United States is torn by polarization, its democracy is under threat, inflation is raging, and the Dow is down significantly this year. Yet despite all these problems, if you zoom out and look at the world, the US is still doing pretty well compared to its archenemies and closest allies.

Russia and China, the two nations with which the United States strives most to gain influence on the world stage, have recently experienced a dramatic decline in their ranks.

Unless it invades Ukraine and achieves its war aims, Russia is showing that it is no longer a great power. After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” for the war in Ukraine last month, some 200,000 Russians voted with their feet and left their country, including two who sailed to Alaska.

In the early days of the war, Russia failed to capture Kiev, and in recent weeks it has lost about 3,000 square kilometers, according to Ukrainian officials. Even Putin’s generally reliable cheerleaders, such as the Chinese, have distanced themselves from Putin’s defeats in Ukraine.

Led by the US, NATO is now stronger than ever, supplying Ukraine with massive amounts of weapons and increasing collective defense spending. NATO is also adding non-aligned countries Finland and Sweden to the alliance. While former President Donald Trump continued to threaten to pull the US out of NATO, the alliance now has new importance.

Russia also failed to stop European countries from filling their gas reserves by more than 90% by the coming winter, reducing President Vladimir Putin’s power to undermine NATO support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, American weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), GPS-guided precision missiles, and US technologies such as Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite broadband Internet communications system, have been He helped turn the war in Ukraine.

On the contrary, Soviet-style, Russian artillery rounds continue to land on Ukrainian cities, killing civilians, but without strategic purpose, because these attacks have little military utility. Iran has also supplied drones for Russia’s use in Ukraine, but such developments have only hardened Ukrainians’ resolve to expel the Russians, with 70% of Ukrainians wanting to continue fighting Russia until victory against Russia, according to a Gallup poll last month.

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping may take a victory lap as he is expected to be named leader of the Chinese Communist Party this week at the ruling party’s national congress, ensuring he will become the country’s most powerful leader since Mao. .

However, Xi’s zero-Covid policy has fueled repeated mass lockdowns of Chinese cities that have hurt the nation’s economy and are increasingly unpopular.

Zero-Covid policies, coupled with what the Wall Street Journal calls a “total property downturn,” are slowing China’s economy dramatically. Until June, youth unemployment was almost 20%.

At the same time, China’s imprisonment of up to two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, according to US State Department estimates, and its expensive loans for its “Belt and Road” policies have not endeared it to much of the planet. Earlier this year, according to Pew surveys, “Negative views of China remain at or near historic highs in many of the 19 countries the organization surveyed.”

Despite Xi’s belligerent rhetoric during the Communist Party Congress this week about China’s right to use force, China must have taken note of Russia’s failures in Ukraine, including the sinking of Russia’s flagship Black Sea fleet, the Moskva. April. Any Chinese invasion of Taiwan would involve crossing a sea border and launching a navy 100 miles across the water to reach the island.

Another American adversary, Iran, is threatening the regime with street protests across the country as threatening as they have been since 1979.

In the Western Hemisphere, Venezuela is also in free fall under its socialist government; almost seven million people have left the country since 2014, a quarter of the population.

China, Iran, Russia and Venezuela have one thing in common; they are autocracies, not exactly a form of government known to serve the interests of the people.

America’s closest democratic allies are also in deep trouble. The U.K. is becoming a third-tier power after voting for Brexit in 2016 and its disastrous decision to leave the European Union’s free trade zone, which quickly saw the pound lose more than 16% of its value against the dollar that year. .

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson ran a “Get Brexit Done” campaign in 2019, ending the withdrawal from the EU by January 2020. This should have freed the British from the burdensome obligations of the European Union.

Instead, it has proven to be an economic disaster. In the UK, many jobs that would have been filled by Europeans who were once free to come to Britain to work are unfilled in sectors such as construction, agriculture, nursing homes and restaurants. Since the Brexit vote six years ago, UK per capita income has grown by just 3.8% in real terms, while that of the EU has grown by 8.5%, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Then came UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, who compounded the Brexit damage by proposing unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy in September. After political uproar and financial turmoil escalated, Truss backtracked on the tax cut decision, but the damage was done, and the pound fell to historic lows. He announced his resignation under pressure on Thursday, en route to becoming Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister.

And what about that US-UK bilateral trade deal that Conservative leaders thought would wave a magic wand over the UK’s economic mess? Truss told reporters in September: “There are (are) no negotiations with the US, and I don’t expect them to start in the short to medium term.” This is government speak acknowledging that Americans have said to the British, “And is it never good for you?” To quote the great New Yorker cartoon.

European countries are generally doing better than the UK, but they still face their own problems. The dollar, at a two-decade high against the euro, remains strong as the Fed raises interest rates and the US economy remains the most dynamic in the world. In fact, the US has the lowest unemployment rate in five decades. And today the US is the world’s largest gas and oil producer.

American vaccine technology used by Pfizer and Moderna helped turn the tide against Covid-19 in the United States and other countries that used these vaccines. In contrast, Chinese and Russian vaccines have been much more effective against Covid-19.

To be sure, the United States has many problems, including deep political polarization, rampant inflation, high inequality, a staggering death toll from Covid-19, shrinking life expectancy, frequent mass shootings, unaffordable housing in many places, and intense battles over abortion. The denial of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory among Republicans raises serious questions about the health of the nation’s democracy. However, in many respects, the US fares much better than much of the rest of the world.

Immigration, which Americans often treat as a problem, underscores the continuing appeal of the United States. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled their homeland since Putin announced partial mobilization in the war against Ukraine, and tens of thousands have left Hong Kong after China took over the formerly autonomous city.

To paraphrase Warren Buffett, betting against America has never been a smart move.