US Loses Sight of World from Shuttered Windows of Capitol


Giuseppe Ricapito
IV Beat Reporter

While I pored through the morass of information regarding the government shutdown, “egg-on-the-face moment” was a frequent term used in reference to the United States. But this pithy, understated idiom will follow alongside “oil on our minds” and “blood on our hands” as key moments in the American retrospective.

The government shutdown is now reaping international consequences as it draws into its third week, each day diminishing the credibility of U.S. solvency. World leaders outside the U.S. do not genuinely care about the reform of our systemic political stonewalling — they want the tangible benefit of results.

The international community perceives the U.S. in a state of flux — until normal affairs resume, America is a feral, back-alley mongrel, growling and frothing at the chain around our throats. The world acknowledges our presence, but it backs away slowly, arms up, blameless — we remain dark on the outskirts until an endgame is in sight. They want to kill the beast inside us, at least for a time being, just to get back to business as usual.

Washington is frozen in time. President Obama’s “Asian Pivot,” a new policy measure meant to increase trade and dialogue with the fastest growing regional economy in the world, will have limited international clout. His absence from the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Bali, Indonesia, was cause for concern; replacement delegate Secretary of State John Kerry merely provided a U.S. presence, albeit a presently unwelcome one.

Washington’s cornerstone plan, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), was constructed to gain unprecedented access to the goods and services of 12 Asian nations — excluding China. But the shutdown has collapsed Obama’s grand scheme for a renewed economic relationship with Asia, and China is stepping in to fill the void.

China’s President Xi Jinping, APEC’s keynote speaker, backed his commanding rhetoric with the power of direct capital investment. Building on the free trade partnership between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China is expanding its sphere of influence. China committed to infrastructure and financial projects in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Java, as well as a “Maritime Silk Road” incentivizing investment and economic developments in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. With China dramatically upstaging Obama’s foundering foreign policy goals, the shutdown’s consequences may reverberate on the international stage for years to come.

Quartz also reported that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was one of the few Asian leaders to publicly comment on the shutdown. According to Quartz, Loong tersely stated, “Obviously we prefer a U.S. government that is working to one that is not.”

Russia has taken a tongue-in-cheek response to the United States’ situation, reminding the nation of its obligations to international stability, while at the same time suggesting its weakening credibility. President Vladimir Putin publicly expressed regret that he was unable to speak with Obama at APEC, citing the dire need to confer on Syria and Pacific trade.

Even the wavering economic health of the European Union has prompted concern in the U.S. government. The tenuous fiscal structure of Wall Street puts currency exchanges and foreign investment at risk — our country is at risk for default and national debt is mounting to near $17 billion. The bond market is registering this financial anxiety; on Oct. 8, worried investors forcefully tripled yields at an auction of four-week Treasury securities. With the government working at partial capacity, many global business leaders are wary of an unpredictable hedge against a potential economic disaster.

National security is another foreign policy mandate implicated in the shutdown — according to a report by USA Today, even the Taliban are mocking the shutdown. Despite phrases such as “sucking the blood of their own people,” the Taliban commentary is eerily similar to a typical American opinion of the controversy — a result of “selfish and empty-minded American leaders.”

On the international stage, every American foreign office and diplomatic courier is dealing with the same question — when will it end? As lawmakers cling to their phones for fresh information, federal officials are drinking and pill-popping like mad, staving off violent attacks of panic. Though unassociated with the shutdown, American policymakers are feeling the weight of world leveraging against them.

The government shutdown of 2013 won’t be gone, even after it’s over. The domestic instability of the United States is a diplomatic pocket ace for our global competitors, and it’s clear that international disapproval won’t disappear even after order is restored. The Redemption Day of American politics will soon be at hand — whether it stems from home or abroad is a story for the future.