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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.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Int’l Power Rankings | 7.5.06 Edition

How much has the world actually changed since the first International Power Rankings posted almost three weeks ago?

Short answer: not much.

Long answer: the actual potency of each country has stayed about level, but some have actively used their power while others remained dormant.

The big story, of course, has been the escalating situation in Gaza, where Israel has been battering select targets and tinkering with a possible full-scale incursion. Other significant events include North Korea's missile test launch and Iran's new deadline for nuclear cooperation.

The World Cup, however, remains a non-factor in these rankings. (Sorry, Portugal.)

Previous rankings:   6.19.06

1. United States. Busy week for everyone's favorite hyperpower. In just the past week, America blocked a Security Council measure that condemns Israel's actions in Gaza, helped the E3 grant a new nuclear deadline for Iran, and scolded North Korea for its missile launch. Next week: golf.

2. China. According to World Bank measurements, China just topped Britain this week to become the fourth largest economy in the world. They just spread it around a lot more people, that's all.

3. Russia. Hosting leaders of the world's largest economies at the upcoming G8 summit should be a good boost of confidence for Putin. Yeah. Because that's what Putin needs. More confidence.

4. Japan. Up Arrow North Korea getting trigger-happy has two noticeable effects on Japan. It means Washington and Tokyo are speeding up their work on a joint missile-defense shield. And it means the yen just got a lot less stable. Nutty neighbors are a bitch, huh?

5. Great Britain. Down Arrow It just keeps getting uglier and uglier for Tony Blair and friends. While internal political wrangling continues, expect London to play it safe on the world stage by getting increasingly involved with France and Germany.

6. Germany. Google "Germany" and everything comes up soccer.

7. France. Ditto.

8. India. Ties between India and China have been warming as of late — bilateral trade rose by more than 37% last year, and this week witnesses the reopening of the famed Silk Road. So why haven't you heard about this historic event? In a word: soccer.

9. Brazil. The UN recently ranked Brazil as a global leader in food and agriculture, spurred by a growing demand for beef and wheat as diets become richer worldwide. Fogo de Chao accounts for about half that.

10. Pakistan. Pakistan: "Can you help us develop our nuclear energy capabilities?" America: "No comment." Pakistan: "Can we get your blessing on an Iran-India-Pakistan oil pipeline?" America: "No comment." Pakistan: "The Taliban is regrouping next door." America: "How many F-16's do you want?"

11. Israel. Up Arrow Watching Israel in Gaza is like watching a game of Texas Hold 'Em where one guy goes all-in on the first hand. Sure, he's probably going to win a few bucks, but for the rest of the game, he's that guy.

12. Iran. Up Arrow With the UN Security Council focused on Israel, Iran quietly gets a new deadline for nuclear cooperation. Wait a minute... split Security Council? Constantly shifting deadlines for cooperation? Country whose name starts with an I-R-A? Where have we seen this before?

13. Italy. Down Arrow In lieu of any non-soccer Italian news, here's a little joke I just picked up:
Q: What's innuendo?
A: An Italian suppository.

14. South Korea. Up Arrow As North Korea makes more powerful threats, South Korea makes more powerful friends. After all, the "six-way talks" concerning the North's nuclear capabilities include the top four powers on this ranking list plus the two Koreas. The list doesn't lie!

15. Egypt. Up Arrow Doing everything they can to stay relevant in the Middle East, short of invading their neighbor or making nuclear threats. But while Egyptian politicians try to play the diplomatic hero, the streets of Cairo are screaming for blood. Storm's a-brewin'.

16. Canada. I like Canadians. I think they're nice. But nice guys don't finish first. They finish sixteenth.

17. Saudi Arabia. Down Arrow Talk about a country trying to stay out of the action. Here they are, in the heart of the Middle East, with no less than three neighbors making international headlines daily, and the House of Saud has nothing to say. Enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts, I suppose.

18. Turkey. Iraq's foreign minister recently approached Turkey for help regarding their security and territorial integrity. And unlike Iraq's other neighbors, Turkey actually has the ability and the will to follow through. I said it before and I'll say it again: Turkey rules.

19. Poland. With Bush's European allies in Iraq dropping like flies — first in Spain, recently in Italy, soon in Britain — have to wonder if Poland is next. My guess is no. The Cold War ended much more recently than World War II, and Eastern Europe's trust in American geostrategy goes well beyond a few setbacks. If Tony Blair goes down, it's Poland's time to shine.

20. Australia. North Korea's missile tests prompted Australia to cancel a planned diplomatic meeting in Pyongyang. At the same time, Australia and South Korea are talking military cooperation. Is it only a matter of time before the six-party talks on the nuclear North add Australia as a seventh?

21. Mexico. Down Arrow First America, then Germany, then Italy, now Mexico — these "too close to call" elections are getting out of hand. And they always lead to weak leaders, shaky coalitions and small moves down the road.

22. Venezuela. Up Arrow Well, it's official — Venezuela is now a full member of Mercosur, Latin America's free trade organization that (in my opinion) may someday be the precursor to an EU-style Latin Union. So what should we care? Because as unpopular as Hugo Chavez is in the United States, he's playing his cards just right everywhere else.

23. Palestine. Up Arrow Hamas is this high up the rankings not because of the power they command, but because they have the backing of hundreds of millions of Middle Easterners. The whole world is watching. Now what?

24. North Korea. Up Arrow Someone should have taught Kim Jong-il that there's a difference between "good attention" and "bad attention."

25. Indonesia. Down Arrow Just when the tsunamis and earthquakes and mudslides subside, the bird flu starts picking up. Kinda makes you feel guilty for bitching about your life, doesn't it?

Just missed: Syria, Ukraine, Spain, South Africa, Vietnam.

About the rankings

This 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.


Anonymous Adam J said...

I support the inclusion of Palestine.

I would also vault India to Fifth. Silk Road has potential to be big news.

For the symbolism alone, it helps do away with the perception of constant hostility between the Asian countries (read: squabbling over Tibet, borders, and the Seven Sisters of NE India).

Practically, if the Silk Road opens floodgates of serious trade, then in ten years, the U.S. becomes the odd man out.

Re: Mexico. Time will tell. The fact that a market/progressive candidate remains at all in the lead speaks for stability. Think if the country had swung hard left and nationalized everything.

I continue to reserve comment on Pakistan until I have time to formulate thoughts.

And of course, N. Korea. I think they get "balls points" for setting off the fireworks on the Fourth. At least here. As for whether there will be serious fallout, I have doubts.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

My optimism regarding India is well-known: superpower someday, work in progress today. Potential alone isn't quite yet enough to top the E3 (though that Silk Road business sure has them going in the right direction).

To tell you the truth, I don't yet know what to think about Mexico. Perhaps it's the American in me speaking, but they need themselves a greater asset than liability in the region... and with Brazil and Venezuela rising to the south, Mexico needs to act soon before becoming a black hole in the middle of the western hemisphere.

North Korea: balls points is all they get. In the International Power Rankings (as with anything else in life): the higher they rise, the harder they fall. And if you though North Korea couldn't become any bigger a disaster, just wait!

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