US most unequal, least vaccinated in G7

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week, happy to be back in the offices, of course, in New York City. And by the way, and what do I have at my desk here? A fan sent me a Moose the dog cookie, which how does one eat that? You can't eat that because it's Moose, you just keep it! But that's pretty awesome, a Norfolk Terrier in a cookie right there, very talented. Thank you so much.

And let's get started. So what I was thinking about as I saw over this weekend, today. Not only is the United States today the most economically-unequal of the G7 advanced industrial democracies, and the most politically divided, but we're also now in terms of first jabs of the COVID vaccine, we are the least vaccinated of the G7, which is annoying because we were the most vaccinated of the G7 months ago. And of course, all of this speaks to the fact that the United States is enormously wealthy, enormously powerful, there are so many great things about this country, but the politics are deeply, deeply screwed up. And the problems we have are self-inflicted.


And after the 9/11 commemorations this weekend, which I thought were very well done, and I thought the speeches across the spectrum were good, and did reflect both the seriousness of the event and the tragedy of the event, but also how much work is ahead of us today. But if you look at what 20 years of the global War on Terror did and did not accomplish in terms of America's position in the world, in my view, it's not that it distracted us from fighting China. I would say that the problem there was the foreign policy establishment in the US thinking that the Chinese were poor and could never innovate on their own, and to the extent that they became developed, they'd have to align with us or they'd fail.

So it was a level of exceptionalism and arrogance. And it's not like the Americans can't chew gum and walk at the same time. We are capable of having a few thousand troops in Afghanistan and still talking about, and dealing with China. Rather, I think that 20 years of the global War on Terror, both at home and internationally, allowed us to forget about the work that needs to be done all the time to be an effective democracy, to be an example for ourselves, and to be an example internationally. Because the United States is not just a superpower, we are a superpower, but more importantly, the example of our power internationally, and the power of our example for ourselves is a big piece of what makes America the great power that it is. And that is something that has eroded significantly over the last 20 years. And again, and I don't think that this is about the power position of the United States. I think that China is actually creating backlash faster internationally than the United States is, concerning its allies.

And furthermore, I mean, I think if you look around the world, the Asians particularly, very, very worried about Xi Jinping and Chinese consolidation domestically, focusing on their authoritarian and state capitalist consolidated model, and also expanding in their backyard, whether it's about Hong Kong, or recent statements about Taiwan, or the expansion in the South China Sea, the nine-dash line, all of that is making them much more desirous to see American leadership in the region, irrespective of what's happened inside the United States or what happened over the last 20 years in the global War on Terror.

If you're Canada, if you're in Mexico, you have no choice. Whatever you think of the United States, your economies are completely integrated with the US, you're going absolutely nowhere. If you are Europe, you're much more concerned, but you don't actually want to pay for the alternative. Strategic autonomy that the French and the Germans talk about, the willingness to create alternative defense models to build the kind of robust diplomatic engagement internationally that would create an alternative to American leadership, there just isn't even the beginning of that. And of course that's made harder post-Brexit, and it's also made harder post-Merkel. There was just a big debate for the German elections last night, the three main candidates to succeed Angela Merkel, and foreign policy literally was not discussed. And that tells you a lot about what the Germans think is and is not a priority these days.

Now there are other countries that clearly are less aligned with the United States, but that has a lot to do with the fact that the Americans just don't care as much, and now we're talking about the Middle East, and we're talking about Eurasia. And so whether it's the Americans saying, "Well, Ukraine, Georgia, we like your governments, but we're not really prepared to defend you if you get invaded." Or, "Afghanistan, we liked your government, but it's far away, and it's way too expensive. We don't really want to persist on the ground even with a small footprint going forward." In Syria, we say, "Assad has to go," but actually we're not really willing to do anything about it. And so the Russians, the Turks, the Iranians can take over. I mean, that is broadly speaking a part of the world that just does not matter as much to the average American, or to the American national security interest. And as a consequence, there's more of a power vacuum in a lot of those places.

But American legitimacy in terms of, to what extent its power as an example to others, its rulemaking capacity and interest, its moral legitimacy and suasion, those things are really eroding significantly. And 20 years after 9/11, those are the things the Americans need to be focusing on much more. That should be the lesson from 20 after 9/11, the lesson should be that the last act of the United States in the war of Afghanistan was 10 Afghan civilians getting killed mistakenly when we thought we were taking out a suicide bomber that was going to attack the Hamid Karzai International Airport, we were wrong.

And how many times do we need to be wrong, and do so many hundreds and thousands of people, millions of people, that are displaced from these wars need to suffer the ultimate price as a consequence? The torture, the illegal renditions, those were things the Americans did in service of national security and to fight terror, but as a consequence we hurt our own moral authority. We hurt what America stands for, who the Americans need to be, the country we want to be internationally, at least I think we want to be; I certainly want us to be.

And at home, the increasing surveillance, the lack of privacy, the erosion of civil liberties and human rights, this is something that we can't take for granted. And 20 years of the War on Terror have absolutely eroded those rights inside the United States. And now our country is more divided than it's been at any point in any of our lifetimes, it's worse than 1968. You'd have to go back to the gilded age before the Great Depression to see an American economy that was as divided, even though we are, of course, as a whole so much wealthier now, and you'd have to go back really to the election of 1876 before you saw a polity that was so incredibly divided.

And that's why the news of this weekend, that suddenly the United States is less vaccinated with its first jabs than any other G7 country, we've got the vaccines, but suddenly it's become tribal warfare in the United States about whether or not you want to be vaccinated. And that's an insane thing. But in a country that's this divided, where your way of sticking it to the man is saying that you're opposed to the thing that they're telling you to do, because you know that you can hurt them as a consequence, and we see this, it's so pernicious, it's so dangerous to our system, and it is decidedly worse than in any other advanced industrial economy. You do not see this level of dysfunction in the UK, in Canada, in Germany, in France, in Japan. And those are the lessons we need to be taking 20 years after 9/11, after the global War on Terror got started.

So, I hope that's a little interesting to kick off this week. Those are my thoughts, and I'll be with you all real soon. Be good.
An aerial view of a forest of trees

From accelerating our net zero timeline to creating digital tools for more sustainable consumer choice, Mastercard is working to build a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy. Watch and learn how we’re uniting in climate action with our network of banking customers, merchants and consumers – and helping to reforest the planet through the Priceless Planet Coalition.

A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

More Show less
Hard Numbers: Angry Spanish farmers, South Korea foots Iran’s UN bill, China tests Taiwanese air defense, Turkish journalist jailed

4.7 billion: Spanish farmers protested on Sunday in Madrid against the leftwing coalition government's agricultural and environmental policies, which they claim are depopulating rural areas. No way, says the government, which has set aside $4.7 billion to stop the rural exodus.

More Show less
Two children and a robot. We have to control AI before it controls us, warns former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Listen: Tech companies set the rules for the digital world through algorithms powered by artificial intelligence. But does Big Tech really understand AI? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells Ian Bremmer that we need to control AI before it controls us.

What's troubling about AI, he says, is that it’s still very new, and AI is learning by doing. Schmidt, co-author of “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” worries that AI exacerbates problems like anxiety, driving a human addiction cycle that leads to depression.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

COVID has accelerated our embrace of the digital world. The thing is, we don't always know who’s running it.

Instead of governments, Ian Bremmer says, so far a handful of Big Tech companies are writing the rules of digital space — through computer algorithms powered by artificial intelligence.

The problem is that tech companies have set something in motion they don't fully understand, nor control.

More Show less

If omicron makes cases explode in China, the country's leaders will have to choose between weathering short-term or long-term pain.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that sticking to the zero-COVID approach at all costs will hurt the Chinese and global economy. In his view, learning to live with the virus is the way to go.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: How do US presidents do in their first year?

Joe Biden's approval rating has taken a big hit during his first year as US president. Biden is now just slightly more popular than his predecessor Donald Trump at the same point in his presidency. While Biden has made a series of policy and political blunders that might be reflected in polling, this is also a sign of the times: US politics are now so polarized that presidential approval has a low ceiling. We compare the approval ratings of the last five US presidents in their first year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A year of Biden

Signal

Can we control AI before it controls us?

GZERO World Clips

Should China learn to live with COVID?

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal