America is not what it used to be. Even The Economist laments this in a headline this week on America’s lack of involvement in the Middle East. Chaos reigns in Iraq, Syria and Libya, but the U.S. seems undecided on how to set it in order. Barack Obama no longer wants to play the world’s policeman, preferring to keep foreign policy in line with his “light footprint” doctrine. However, we shouldn’t interpret this strategic repositioning as backing down or giving up on a leadership that has now been established for more than a century because America doesn’t need to rely on its military power to exert its influence on the global business market.
In 2014, as the statistics now tell us, the U.S. became the world’s leading oil producer. The country’s energy independence is within reach. Even better, America is on the point of acquiring the status of “swing producer,” playing a referee role over black gold, a position which has traditionally been reserved for Saudi Arabia, and is an increase in power which surely is not unrelated to its retreat from the Middle East … and there are plenty of other regions where America imposes its imperial whisper. The subprime mortgage crisis is long forgotten on the other side of the Atlantic, where Wall Street is taking forward strides once again. The dollar reigns supreme in global finance. New tech giants, from Google to Uber, are revolutionizing entire industrial sectors. American courts are getting involved as far away as Paris and Geneva, imposing dramatic inquiries and record-breaking fines. No, America has not stopped imposing its vision for the economy, justice or competition on the rest of the world. The footprint it is leaving is as light as that.