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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Int'l Power Rankings | 06.19.06 Edition

The following is a list of countries in order of current global significance — about as subjective a measurement as can be imagined, but a fun exercise nevertheless.

Based on a number of global power factors (military, economy, politics and culture), these nation-states play the biggest roles in shaping world events.

Like college basketball rankings — in which trusted coaches and media experts are asked to pluck the top 25 teams from a pool of hundreds — these rankings are largely based on speculative performance and are apt to change at any time.

1. United States. An empire so powerful they had to create a new name for it, this hyperpower may soon come to grips with a waning power it never really wanted in the first place. Now to convince the world that one hyperpower is better than none.

2. China. Up Arrow Everybody's favorite spoiler. The question these days seems to be when — not if — the Middle Kingdom will overcome America either economically or militarily. What nobody seems to know is what that will mean for the rest of the world.

3. Russia. Down Arrow A shadow of the former USSR, Russia remains a force to be reckoned with. Commanding a large sphere of influence and a growing presence in the Middle East, Vladimir Putin is keeping Moscow very much in the game.

4. Great Britain. Chalk it up to Tony Blair for masterfully straddling the Atlantic, with one foot on the dollar and the other on the euro. His involvement in Iraq notwithstanding, the Limeys have done one hell of a job staying both relevant and respected.

5. Japan. This economic juggernaut may be mere moments away from removing the "no-war" clause in their pacifist constitution. Good news for America, bad news for China and big news for the Korean peninsula.

6. Germany. Berliners have played their political hand to perfection, becoming that coveted "plus one" to the UN Security Council's permanent five. But in a world where employment and armies count, Germany's playing a losing game.

7. France. Down Arrow World-class economy? Check. Nuclear arms? Check. Seat on the Security Council? Check. Willingness to check its disastrous game of chicken with demography? We'll see.

8. India. Up Arrow I am utterly convinced that within two generations India — not China or the US — becomes the world's most powerful nation (one billion voters can't be wrong). But first they have to stave off AIDS, hold back in Kashmir, and get over that detail called mass starvation.

9. Brazil. Up Arrow Has all the ingredients for a future world-class nation: progressive economy, regional political influence and a soccer team that beats up on Europeans. Just a matter of time before Brazil steps up as leader of the global southwest.

10. Pakistan. President Musharraf must be one hell of a chess player. Taking a large Muslim nation with an unsanctioned nuclear arsenal and teaming up with Bush against the wishes of 90% of your people? Brilliant! Don't get shot now, y'hear?

11. Italy. Down Arrow Poor Italy — always getting left out. For EU issues, three's a crowd for France and Germany. When it comes to global politics, E3 may as well stand for "minus Italy." And when's the last time they ever joined the winning side of a war?

12. Israel. The front line of civilization or the front line of barbarism, depending on whom you ask. Either way, the Promised Land always makes for front page news. Now for some allies whose names don't start with "United".

13. Iran. Up Arrow Been a hell of a year for Ahmadnejad, but his bluffs are bound to catch up with him at some point. Just don't expect a US invasion. Or an Israeli airstrike. Or economic sanctions. Or a Security Council-supported scolding. Remember — bluffs only lose when somebody calls you.

14. Saudi Arabia. They've got oil. They've got cash. And they've got the United States in their corner. Now if they can just keep their disowned son Osama away from his fan base, they'll be fine.

15. South Korea. Up Arrow Influential China plus activating Japan plus nuclearly-unstable North plus American soldiers equals hotbed of fun! But until it all escalates to the point of no return, a strong economy with cutting-edge technology keeps the South on top.

16. Canada. Down Arrow Zzz.

17. Turkey. Up Arrow If only everyone were more like Turkey. Here we have a large Middle-Eastern nation that somehow remains stable, secular and peaceful to the point of approaching European entry. And they even get along with Israel? Unfuckingbelievable.

18. Poland. Up Arrow You can't really envy anyone living between Berlin and Moscow, but America's New European friend now enjoys a large stake in the EU, and they're ready to play with the big boys. Gotta love anyone who makes the French uncomfortable.

19. Egypt. Gaza's favorite neighbor may be an official ally of America and Israel, but Egyptians on the street chant otherwise. Even in fake democracies like Egypt, that counts for something.

20. Mexico. Enough of this "good fences make good neighbors" bullshit. Know what really makes good neighbors? Speaking the same language. Sure, they can pick up English — but God forbid we try to learn Spanish at the same time.

21. Australia. Up Arrow The British Empire's forgotten son is today's up-and-coming entrepreneur. These offshore Anglos are making all the right moves in the Pacific — including a bold outreach to Indonesia — and within ten years, we'll be glad they're on our side. Maybe.

22. Venezuela. A loud, nutty ruler spewing anti-American slander from atop his vast oil reserves? How did a Middle Eastern country spring up in Latin America? And should we be concerned that his neighbors — not to mention China — are playing along?

23. Spain. Down Arrow How to make yourself irrelevant: join a war. Get bombed. Retreat.

24. Indonesia. If it weren't for all those pesky natural disasters, Indonesia would have cracked the top 20 by now. No matter. Demography and geography make the world's most populous Muslim nation a virtual lock on international significance within a generation. Maybe Australia's onto something.

25. North Korea. Down Arrow Nuclear blackmail only works so long as someone's paying attention. Get in line.

Just missed: South Africa, Palestine, Vietnam, Ukraine, Argentina.

Notably absent: Iraq. By any standard of international power, Iraq is not a "nation of significance". Regardless of where its future lies, Iraq is not so much a nation-state as a territory in which world-altering events are taking place — and its government is just one of the many key players. A country whose political, economic and military leaders are exerting every resource on internal struggle cannot be expected to be a player on the global stage.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Adam said...

Thoughts:

U.S.: No. 1 (t)
China: No. 1 (t)

For all the hurdles China has to overcome, it's enough of a juggernaut -- in the literal sense of the word -- that I think it officially has the U.S. in hand, at least in a future sense. I hate "inevitable" forecasting, but the landscape has already changed enough that it won't change back.

Japan: No. 4
Germany: No. 5
India: No. 6
England: No. 7
France: No. 8

I'm more liberal with my thoughts on Japan. Economics and the potential re-militarization push it past England.

All the bets that Tony Blair has hedged, I believe, are about to bust. His country is stuck between shifting conservative or far left out of disdain for him, but neither one particularly will favor ties to the U.S.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel has emerged as Europe's strongest leader; and she has done it -- for the most part -- independently of the U.S.

France has enough social infighting, and apparent lack of spine, that it doesn't deserve a Seven. It sits on the Security Council, but it's role in U.N. politics is diminished.

India meanwhile deserves higher, in my (perhaps biased) opinion. I think it's social problems will hinder it some, but as more of the world reorders, the economics will overpower. I.e. -- We'll have a superpower (even hyperpower) that also has an AIDS epidemic. I don't, however, think it will pass China that quickly.

Canada: No. 15
Sing it with me, natural resources "Save the Queen." As India and China continue to grow economically, expect those friendly oil connections with the U.S. to be less free flowing. Enter the Canuck's importance. Now if only they could help the Inuits.

Palestine: No. 23
Simply to replace Spain, which only gets points for still technically being a part of Western Europe. Meanwhile what Hamas does next, literally every day, will have more impact in the near-term (and potentially long-term) than Indonesia or N. Korea.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading your blog makes me miss playing risk. BTW, where's Greece on your list?

Miss everyone,
Angie

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

In response to Adam's thorough comments:

China: there's just no way they're tied with the US. Not yet. But eerily soon.

Japan/Britain: I was torn between these two. Britain is currently very active in the world, between the war in Iraq and the E3 activities. Tony Blair, unpopular as he may be right now, still ranks among the all-time greatest Prime Ministers ever, and his legacy isn't written yet. But as China grows in importance, so too will Japan.

Germany: I've got to disagree about Merkel. If she's the strongest European leader, she's earned it by default. Seems like every European government of significance is either torn 50/50 (Germany, Italy) or just discredited (Britain, France). These shaky coalitions just can't get much done. Usually, you just wait them out... as Italy's outgoing Berlusconi put it, "their government will only be a parentheses."

India: I will entertain any argument of India reaching limitless power someday. But today, theirs is very much limited. That being said, look for India to creep up the rankings as time goes by.

Canada: Interesting. Hadn't considered the oil factor. But I think you may be slightly overlooking the no-desire-to-do-anything-global factor. At what point does potential end and potency begin?

Palestine: You're probably right here. And yet, any government that can't pay its own employees can only be given so much credit.

On a final note, I'm curious why—with your vested interest in India and your strong understanding of the South Asian region—you've had nothing to say on Pakistan, which I rate more significant than nearly anyone I've ever read!

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

And to Angie:

You just gave me an idea—would anyone like to see me develop an updated Risk board, with current territory names (i.e. no more Siam) and estimated point values? Could be fun!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you designed a new board, I would fly out just to play a game or two.
But can we keep Irkutsk? It's just fun to say.
Angie

Blogger Buck B. said...

What about "Kamchatka"?

Kamchatka, Kamchatka, Kamchatka. Whee!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

when did buck b become your nick name. can i still call you online?
- ang

Blogger Buck B. said...

Don'tcha know, all us bloggers have to have super-cool nicknames. "Online" is so 2001.

You can call me whatever you want, though.

Blogger Spek said...

USA no. 1
Israel no. 2
Canada no.3

Lets be real, Isreal and USA are the only real players in this game. If they wanted to, all of these yelping mini dogs will be put in their kennel.

Seriously, stop talking shit.

And Canada number 3 because obviously they will be the only place left after everything goes to hell. And they have MJ =)

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