• Tue
  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:31am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 4:22am

The world has lost its fear of the US

Is it better for a statesman to be loved or feared? This is one of many questions that Machiavelli posted and answered in The Prince. He concluded it was best to be both, but if you must pick one, always work to inspire fear.

But of course leaders often have no choice in the matter. Barack Obama has proved to be one of those leaders.

Like dogs that bark a lot but have no bite, the angrier Washington's rhetoric directed at Hong Kong, the mainland and Russia over Edward Snowden, the more impotent the Americans have shown themselves to be.

So White House spokesman Jay Carney has waxed indignant.

"This was a deliberate choice by the [Hong Kong] government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant," Carney said. "And that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship."

US Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened that Russia would have to deal with the consequences of not helping to detain Snowden. "There would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences," he said.

Such harsh words from Washington might have made many countries tremble not too long ago. Not any more.

Obama is still popular abroad. Just witness the enthusiastic response he drew from the crowd at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin last week. Alas, he is not and never was feared.

So much for his statement as a presidential candidate in 2008 that he would gain respect for America and restore its standing!

The US remains the world's only superpower. Even if China catches up economically, it will still take decades for its military to match that of the US, if ever. But the relative decline of US influence and power is unquestioned. US Republicans' criticism of America's loss of global standing under Obama may be self-serving, but it is not wrong. His refusal to intervene in Syria is further evidence of the ever-shrinking role of the US as the world's policeman.

When even tiny Hong Kong, with its long-standing history of legal enforcement with the US, thumbed its nose at Washington by claiming a technicality for not honouring its extradition request, you know the game is up.


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This article is now closed to comments

I have to disagree with your assessment. No doubt China has the influence to dictate certain issues but it is only limited. There is only so much China can do without direct provocation from the HK's public.
The citizen of HK will simply refuse to kowtow if the issues are directly in conflict with our interest.
As far as SCMP, yes you are spot on.. on certain issues where I feel the editors should be more vocal and gutsy but to compare SCMP with China Daily or Global is just no comparison. Would you rather read and trust SCMP or the above 2.
America has lost its leg and moral high ground... like myself, I used to admire them but not now. No longer and not anymore and frankly, not interested especially since after 911.
Beside, I think it was a damn smart move of China or HK govt to allow ED to leave. There is no hard feelings really...it is just politics.
Correction: Obama has not "refused" to intervene in Syria. He has tried and been thwarted, for better or for worse.
It is only Hong Kong, China and Russia may have lost their fear of America – only diplomatically at that. The world, including those three, their citizens on the contrary should have gained fear of America. No less, for the Americans of their own government. How long would such fear persist? I doubt not for too long if human persists their use of cyberworld for communication, viewing and reading which all subject to be snooped upon by your government, your employer, your neighbor or anyone who wants to. Snowden’s revelation which formalizes our awareness on US government’s snooping yet we would still trade off privacy for immediacy and convenience offer by modern technology. We will become insensitive and not fear. For most of us everywhere.




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