Henry Luce's American Century, to what is assuredly a Global Century?
I flew into JFK on Emirates Airlines, who just turned a profit of $1bn in the struggling aviation industry. Now Emirates is no perfect company, yet the difference in flying that airline, and Delta, which was my connection into DC, was akin to the difference between an Apple and a PC (okay that comparison may not work for you depending on which line of the divide you fall, but you get the point). Each time our flight time would approach, the airline would delay it by another half an hour. 6pm became 630pm. 630 became 7 and so on. The problem? They were trying to assemble a crew. First they had the captain. Then they lost the captain. Then another captain had arrived from Cleveland, but then nobody could find him. Stuck with old systems, union-driven regulations, and a spectacular lack of operational inefficiency, American airline operators could sadly represent the next generation of American companies.
It is quite harsh to treat the American private sector by the performance of US Airways, Delta and their ilk. Why not Google? Or Apple for that matter? Are they not industry leaders? If you look at the top ten companies by patent applications, you do not find a single American corporation: leading the pack is Huawei Technologies. There is no doubt that dynamic companies from Tata in India to LG in South Korea are and will be dominant innovation leaders. Global talent will not continue to flock to the US for education, and even when they do, they will often look to return for jobs in their countries of origin.
It is more than just the dynamism of a private sector, but the dynamism of a country that is the throes of a recession. On one hand you do have a political outlook that sees that the landscape of the future will not mirror that in the past, which embraces globalization, understands that international institutions and a framework of globally accepted norms will become more important, especially when the U.S. will no longer be able to bully others into submission or simply inertly follow its own direction. Yet on the other, represented by Glenn Beck, John Bolton, Sarah Palin and others, there is a shocking insularity that goes beyond "Buy American."
In a Global Century, the world will not be defined by a singular American presence. An inward-looking philosophy that obstructs an international consciousness and entrenches both the private and public sectors in a bygone past is the biggest threat to America's future. Beyond terrorism. Beyond some strange Russian revival. Beyond cyber-threats. A U.S. that is isolated, declining economically, and culturally unaware will create damage beyond any Al Qaeda operation.