This summer marked the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, perhaps the most transformative war in history. While the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars harnessed national populations in a way not previously seen since the emergence of the modern state system, World War I combined the mobilization of both populations and industrial power, enhanced by technology, to produce a most lethal form of warfare.
CAMBRIDGE – The United States is a nation of immigrants. Except for a small number of Native Americans, everyone is originally from somewhere else, and even recent immigrants can rise to top economic and political roles. President Franklin Roosevelt once famously addressed the Daughters of the American Revolution – a group that prided itself on the early arrival of its ancestors – as “fellow immigrants.”
In recent years, however, US politics has had a strong anti-immigration slant, and the issue played an important role in the Republican Party’s presidential nomination battle in 2012. But Barack Obama’s re-election demonstrated the electoral power of Latino voters, who rejected Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a 3-1 majority, as did Asian-Americans.
As a result, several prominent Republican politicians are now urging their party to reconsider its anti-immigration policies, and plans for immigration reform will be on the agenda at the beginning of Obama’s second term. Successful reform will be an important step in preventing the decline of American power.
Attending conferences in Europe and the United States over the past three years, I have been struck by the increasing Western preoccupation with Asia’s rise, the growing influence of the rising powers of Asia, and the challenge they pose to Western values and norms governing international institutions. There is resistance to the idea that the rise of these powers will lead to changes in the decision-making practices of institutions such as the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.
Although it is recognized that China, for example, should have a greater stake in international decision-making, the approach has been to ask whether China will abide by the rules set by the US and Europe after World War II. Europeans are particularly concerned about the decline of their influence and the norms and values that are espoused by them in global diplomacy as Asian powers seek a larger role in global affairs and assert their values.
Last week, my colleague Kaisa Schreck wrote an excellent blog post on China. In it she argued that China had already saved the world economy and that it was bound to rule the region if not the world in the near future. Forbes’ ranking of Hu Jintao as the most powerful man in the world seemed to validate this assessment.
I personally think that China is lacking one key element to become a superpower: moral gravitas and appeal. And if we look at history, every powerful region or country has not only been powerful economically or militarily, but also “morally”.
Let’s look at the Roman Empire first. The empire ruled the whole Mediterranean region for centuries and its capital, Rome, had more than one million inhabitants, a significant number 2000 years ago. The Empire was not only powerful because it could crush its enemies, it was also morally powerful. By taking up Greek philosophy and focusing on philosophical and scientific education, the Romans quickly surpassed their enemies in thought and morality. The arts had a powerful place in Roman civilization and it shined from the shores of Portugal to Iran. Its values of citizenship, arts and philosophy were not only adopted by the Roman elites, but also by many of the neighboring elites.
Perhaps Nicolas Sarkozy has always been a political figure excessively focused on publicity, ratings and the attention of the media. Yet, as of late President Sarkozy has started to open up about his ambitions of becoming the puppeteer of the French media landscape, grasping for control of some of the most influential institutions of the French press.
In short, President Sarkozy tried to become the majority shareholder of Le Monde (a renowned newspaper), he changed the law in order to be able to appoint the director of France Télévisions (the publicly-owned syndicate who, among others, controls France 2 and France 3), and he might be able to exert direct influence on Agence France-Presse (the third largest news agency in the world) if the latter successfully turns into a public firm.
It seems legitimate to ask whether France is currently going through a similar process of centralization of media control as Italy under Berlusconi. Despite all the evidence suggesting that this is the case, the situation in France is still different. While major parts of Italian media remain under the direct control of Berlusconi, the French media is dominated by small parts of the French establishment instead. Unlike Berlusconi, Sarkozy is not (yet) a majority shareholder of any private media companies and as the Guardian notes, he relies on a powerful network of close friends who are instead.