The perception of the waning influence of the United States has met with several responses — from downright dismissal to disbelief to a grudging acknowledgement. A slew of spying allegations against the US seems to have added to the dwindling impression of a loss of power commanded by Washington. Undoubtedly, the unexpected federal shutdown jolted the might of the American state, thrusting its wobbly administration into the glare of partisan politics played out in full view of condescending adversaries. Though espionage is common in international politics, the latest revelations against the unchallenged superpower in the world after the fall of the Iron Curtain and dissolution of the Soviet Union, have made it look weaker and meeker. Though the widely intrusive nature of the telecom snooping doesn’t make Washington look as if it were struggling to hold on to power, it does point to desperation in the attitude of the administration. Public Administration originated in the US. Woodrow Wilson, known as the father of the discipline, gave it a structure and body. The multi-layered US administration is considered quite complicated. President Barack Obama has ordered an investigation into how intelligence is collected, alluding to the helplessness of a seasoned politician and administrator in failing to understand the nuances of the trade.
The latest allegations of snooping have come from staunch US allies—France, Italy and Germany. Before the Obama administration could get over swatting allegations of widespread spying on millions of the French, and Italy just finished accusing Washington of snooping, Germany’s Angela Merkel was on the phone with Obama.
In the latest revelations that could once again put Washington on the backfoot, it has come to light that the US had tapped the mobile phone of the German chancellor, perhaps the most powerful leader in Europe if not the world. A miffed Merkel, generally known to be soft-spoken, called up Obama and demanded an explanation. Though the US leader told her that her communication was not monitored, Berlin seems to be in no mood to listen and has demanded a full explanation about US surveillance practices.
The need for espionage and spying apart, the audacity to snoop on the mobile phone of one of the most powerful leaders of the world certainly points to an agenda that has not been laid out on good principles. Snooping on phones and internet communication of the public can to an extent be justified on grounds that the United States is overtly paranoid about its security. But what security threat did Merkel pose to the US? She does not belong to a so-called rogue state, does not head a Left-leaning country, is not close to Washington’s adversaries, and Obama can count on her support without a hitch.
The Obama administration needs to undertake an overhaul of its spying strategy as soon as possible, lest it should be unsuccessfully found trying to reverse its declining influence in the world•