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2012: the American gamble

    • Milan
    • 30 January 2012

          At this Talk-Debate event organized in conjunction with ISPI to launch the latest edition of Aspenia, the members of the discussion panel underlined that 2012 is set to be a crucial year for the United States: not only a year in which anti-Obama sentiment and the presidential elections will play out, but also a period vital to understanding what America’s economic and political future holds. The economy, as in the days of Bill Clinton, will probably be the decisive issue. Meanwhile the White House is ramping up its fight against unemployment, its crusade for a fairer tax system, and its efforts to revive manufacturing and to lead America back to the center of the world stage.

          “America is back” President Barack Obama insisted during his recent State of the Union address. Yet this return is fraught with dangers, not least because the America readying itself to face different challenges to those of the past is – as observed in issue 55 of Aspenia – an “unprecedented” one. It was remarked, for instance, that US public debt has almost reached Italian levels, but unlike Italy, private indebtedness also remains very high. There is, however, one thing that Barack Obama can be assured of: namely, that contrary to many predictions, foreign policy has become an asset for a president who, in 2011, brought home America’s troops from Iraq and freed the US and the world from the menace of bin Laden.

          The world – it was acknowledged – has changed much over the last twenty years. It has been a  period marked by growing “divergences” and by disaggregating forces, in contrast with the neatly-arranged world order of the Cold War period. Yet even today, the American gamble cannot succeed without Europe. The transatlantic relationship, while different from the years of the Iron Curtain, remains a strategic cornerstone of the White House’s foreign policy agenda, in the knowledge that the destinies of Europe and the United States are now more than ever bound up with each other, not just by the respective roles played on the world stage, but also by the need to all work together to overcome the serious economic crisis currently being faced. The view that Europe has become marginal for the United States, and that there is much more interest in the Asia-Pacific axis in Washington than in the old transatlantic ties, was felt to be out of step with reality.

          It was nonetheless conceded that it will be up to Europe to rejig its institutional arrangements to ensure that a now-tattered governance mechanism is made more effective and efficient. Indeed, the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis was pointed to as demonstrating that the European treaties were only designed to work when everything is going smoothly – “for better, but not for worse” – having proven ineffective in dealing with and overcoming any truly serious predicaments. The success of the American gamble thus rides on that of the EU, but Europe in turn must look to America as an active and responsible partner – that is, not as a source of grave concern and vulnerability, but as strategic to its own resurgence as an integrated and dynamic area, capable of putting in place a strategy of growth.

          • Giulio Tremonti and David Thorne
          • David Thorne and Marta Dassù
          • Marco Fortis and Giancarlo Aragona
          • 2012: the American gamble, Milan, January 30, 2012