March 13th, 2012
04:27 AM ET

Zakaria: How America can thrive in a post-American world

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Hundreds of you have submitted very thoughtful questions for me through FacebookTwitter and my blog. Over the next few days, I am going to post my text and video responses to some of the most common questions and a few others that caught my eye.

How do we make sure that America continues to thrive in a post-American world?

It strikes me there are two ways:

First, the United States has to fix its economy by revitalizing its dynamic and productive sectors. This does not mean using credit bubbles and excess consumption. Instead, we need to revive American manufacturing, build on some of our strengths and invest in education so that middle-class Americans with moderate skills can upgrade their skills to compete in the world market.

By investing in American growth and American economic vitality, we will be able to take advantage of what I call "the rise of the rest" - we will be able to take take advantage of the fact that we're living in a more dynamic, larger global economy. We've done this before when Europe rose after World War II. The rise of France and Germany in the 1950s was actually something that helped American growth.

Zakaria: Avoid another war in the Middle East

The second piece is that the U.S. needs to adjust geopolitically.  As the rest of the world rises, the United States has to transition from a dominant, hegemonic role to one in which the U.S. is a catalyst, a coordinator and an agenda setter.

I have to say that on this front I give the Obama administration pretty good marks. They have been able to recognize this new world and adjust to it.  If you look at the Libyan mission, what was sometimes called "leading from behind", I would call, actually, just "leading very smartly in a new world".  America forced the Europeans to take responsibility and insisted that the Arab League endorse the intervention.

Zakaria: Why oil prices keep rising

This is a template for America's geopolitical role in a new world. We work with regional players; we burden share; we don't bear all the costs; and in this way the U.S. stays relevant - indeed, pivotal - in this post-American world.

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Topics: Economy • From Fareed • Reader Q&A • United States

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. pmcdonald

    I suppose you are right Zacharia. But many will say that.....you are advocating state capitalism (government support to certain sectors, industries or regions) and socialism (state support for education, health and social security) that frees all Americans to contribute and maximise their potential. The 'get the state out of the market' crowd (e.g. Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck) will disagree with you as will many of their followers. But I would suggest that Zacharia is better versed in the political economy. You will need to start a debate about the value of Government. You should invite Stiglitz, Sen, Rodrik and Sachs on to describe how this plan should work and why it is necessary.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:41 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      pmcdonald, it's vitally important that the state should provide a decent education. If it gets too costly, people don't bother to educate or train themselves to tackle new professional challenges. Look at the European model! It works!

      March 13, 2012 at 7:10 am | Reply
      • dpnelson1978

        Nothing in the European model works...

        March 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • George Patton

      Well stated, pmcdonald. I agree.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:20 am | Reply
    • DCarlen

      I think both you and Fareed Zakaria GREATLY overestimate the government's willingness to do all the things you would like them to do, regardless of their ability. I think the problem is that we set up this hypothetical work of fiction, have it do everything we say it should do, and nothing else, and simply add the label "government" on it. What makes you think politicians and civil servants really put your welfare, and the public's welfare, at a higher priority than do corporations and businessmen?

      March 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
      • WWRRD

        Our government is far more willing than able to meet the objectives Zakaria suggests. The sad truth is that our government is so beholden to moneyed special interests that nothing really gets done for the good of the people. Additionally, there has never been an impratial review process that makes programs more efficient and discontinues ineffective government programs and agencies.

        Government is huge and has enormous momentum. You can't turn the ship or make it stop when you need it to. Thus, it just continues to grow and be more inefficient over time.

        That is why government is bad. It aims to do good , but the politics get in the way of it working well.

        April 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  2. jal

    Stop the steroid use that is rampant in the youth today. Such a bogus solution to lifes problems.

    March 13, 2012 at 8:01 am | Reply
  3. George Patton

    We need to quit bullying other countries around the world and start to take care of our own economy and high rate of crime. Furthermore, we need to let the Middle Esat take care of itself and let the chips fall where they may! In other words, Isolationism is a very good idea whose time has come!!!

    March 13, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • Chris Columbus

      Yeah, because it works so well for North Korea, right?

      March 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
      • George Patton

        Do you remember anything about the "roaring 20's" after this country went back to Isolationism? This country had a booming economy never seen before nor after. Then again, there was the Belle Epoch in Europe(1880-1914) when American interference was absolutely unheard of and Europe's economy also boomed!!!

        March 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • dpnelson1978

        Do you remember what happened at the end of the 20's?

        Do you remember what finally corrected the crisis?

        March 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  4. Debasis Dash

    Big changes in the economic policies. If you get time please read this article. Other BRIC countries are also in the same direction.

    http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679328/a-new-class-of-indian-consumers-could-drive-a-sustainable-revolution

    March 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  5. Lee

    USA has to stop its terrorist activities immediately for its future in order to diminish Anti American view . otherwise in Post American world , every country will be anti American like Egypt . Egyptian did not forget what USA had done with people before revolution .

    March 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
    • Marine5484

      Well said, Lee. The same thing is also true about Iran back in 1953 when we maliciously put the brutal Shah Reza Pahlavi in power without regard for the Iranian people!

      March 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  6. Jitmeng Tan

    Thanks Fareed . I have always remained optimistic that America will continue to play its global role despite its existing problems.
    I pray and hope the American voters will elect an intelligent man with a global mindset to lead America come November .

    March 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Forget it, Jitmeng. Whoever gets elected next November will work for the MIC just like Obama does now!

      March 13, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  7. Ron Brinn

    Fareed: Thanks for GPS:

    The American Experiment is alive and well The rest of the world emulates our vibrant and innovative style.
    Democracy will continue a forward march, and it will benefit America and regions where it takes hold.
    Too optimistic? Not at all. America will always evolve as a Global role model. After all, it is the true Global model.

    March 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Actually Ron, the American Experiment is becoming less and less of a democracy as time goes on. As Pres. Dwight Eisenhower warned us back in 1959, the MIC(military-industrial-complex) has pretty much taken over. The middle class is quickly shrinking while the poor get ever poorer. Today the MIC owns both the White House and the majority in Congress!

      March 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  8. Star

    To a point I agree with you, but a very small point as this country as stayed on top for well over two hundred years I'm figuring we got something right. And to say in your round about way that American's can compete on a global level you are wrong as we have been doing so from many many years and still on top. Also show me a country in the world that isn't having economic troubles so do they also have to change what they stand for and who they are? or is it just American's?

    March 14, 2012 at 3:01 am | Reply
  9. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Did anyone learn anything new in this ELEMENTARY piece???????

    Everyone knows that we need to re-invigorate our economy by bringing back manufacturing given that the US has lost over 20% of manufacturing jobs to China, Mexico and other countries over the past decade.

    Also many people are tired of the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while focusing more on the threat from increasingly RADICAL ISLAMIC population in the west, as well as threats from nukes & other WMDs from radical Muslim nations such as Iran and Pakistan.

    We surely need to refocus our priorities to combat these OMNIPRESENT threats, rather than wasting our efforts trying to bring democracy to Muslim nations or interevening in FRATRICIDAL sectarian warfare (Shias-Sunnis, Pashtun-Tajik etc.) which makes no financial or ideological sense to most Americans.

    March 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  10. Joseph

    I do think that we missed to discuss one main point here. The health insurance still sucks. Everyone is behind repealing the Obama care without even understanding the benefits so some of the new provisions that is going to take effect in the next couple of year. I have a CIGNA HMO plan and I pay about 550 dollars per month and even in then I ended up spending more then 7000 dollars last year. If we need to be compete globally we need to do more that what was implemented my Obama and not try to repeal it. Most of the people who has gone through some heath issues knows how bad insurance companies treat their customers. I just can't wait for the provision in Obamacare that requires insurance companies to spend 85 cents on every dollar or refund the premium paid to kick in so that we are not on the losing end when insurance companies make huge profits.
    The treatment is not decided by the doctor any more it is decided by the insurance companies. My daughter had phenomonia and the Dr. office gave her a shot now the insurance company does not pay the insurance charge for the shot since they didn't follow the protocol of waiting for another two more days for the phenomonia to get worse. All in all please read and understand what is good and what is bad by yourself before making your decision based on biased sources.

    March 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  11. Rabbit One

    These divisive, national inquiries matters not. There is a natural world without boundaries; the human-recognized boundaries are only enforced by temporal arms. A more divine truth is present at birth and at death. Each human is human, whatever the exceptions and limitations may be for each. And with that, each human deserves opportunities available from the natural and from the human, and each human inevitably (by life itself) holds himself or herself (or whatever) accountable. US dominance is an abstraction as abstract as the Roman Empire. The US of today is one moment, and life was before it and will be after it. So the inquiries of the divisive nationalists are moronic and against the beautiful bounty of divine nature.

    March 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  12. bUDDY

    China can mix water,flour and yeast in a automated bread making machine, inside a trans pacific shipping container.Have it show up in the store fresh and warm @ 1/3 less than the cost to manufacture it in the U.S.A. O.k. 1/2 the cost. We have sold our souls to the Emperor.

    March 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
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    March 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  14. Edward Quinn

    Fareed, is a blatant America hater. He talks about the rise of the others.. .for all its alleged economic might, India can't even provide clean drinking water to its citizens .. Yet will spend huge sums on a military budget. Pakistan and N. Korean beyond poverty yet spend on nuclear arms. China as well. So not sure how much they are "rising economically" . Fareed is like most people from India who come here, happy to take advantage of the wealth and life, while pointing out everything they perceive as wrong, and yet never involved in politics of their corrupt homeland, . The reality is under the Obama adminstration there has been 3 straight years of economic decline, 8+% unemployment on average, and little or no strategy other than to try and effect some liberal academic view of socialist utopia. Change the education system, incent business to invest in america. Stop blaming your predecessor.

    March 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • Joseph

      The reality is that he has a better world view then you do. The country was in resession when Obama took office and it took 3 years to get it of it. There are some people who just watch Fox and that is their world view. That is the reason why country is where it is today..

      March 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  15. Man From Mississippi

    I could be wrong but I would be willing to bet that Zakaria may be an American Citizen with dual citizenship. That gives him the right as a citizen of our country to critique his opinions just like anyone else. Whether you believe in his opinions or not is 100% totally irrelevant. He has the right as a citizen and a responsibility as a journalist to express them. The ideas "of reinvesting in the economy" and "avoiding another war in the middle east" is what most Americans "agree witht" based on general phone polls. Does to much government oversight, regulations and taxes worry most Americans? Absolutely! Are people worried about their paychecks, the price of gas, their financial prospects and developments in the middle east. Yes....

    To point blame at the current president or previous one, is not the answer. The political process can work only with our participation. Lobbying our leaders (local and federal) is how you get things done.. It may be tiresome and frustrating at times, but it's the answer. That's how this country works.

    For all you people on this site complaining about the state of things, then do something about it. Run for office or get involved at a political level.

    March 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  16. PKU

    Honey, Hoped to save and also eat healthy..
    I told you to try vegetable harvesting in our yard..

    Honey, I tried but hardly any yield.. :( Shall we buy some manure??
    Well, we somehow just need to attract more butterflies to increase pollination.. that would do the trick.

    Honey, but there are only few flowers.. :(
    Well, it must be because of the season and cycle..Let's wait few weeks..

    Honey, our plants will completely die by then.. :(
    Well, spending more on this project would defeat the purpose of saving. Let's buy manure this month instead of spending on mower!

    Honey, if we don't mowe and weed out, weeds will be everywhere in our yard :(
    Well, they may have some weed flowers to attract butterflies!!

    Honey, but the weeds will take away all the nourishment meant for vegetable plants.. :( It is just a misuse of manure..
    Well, just the way I told you before, let's not do anything for sometime.. It stands the same chance of success as doing anything..

    March 18, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply

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