Essay

How to become a superpower in three easy steps

IN THE POST-SEPTEMBER 11 world, many middle-ranking countries are starting to ask the question: 'If the United States can be a superpower, why can't I?' This is a very good question. The ease with which the US now exercises power should be an inspiration to every aspirational country. By following this easy three-step process, you can go from diplomatic irrelevance to being top dog on your bloc overnight.

 

Step one: Looking like a superpower

IN TODAY'S IMAGE-CONSCIOUS world, if you're going to be a superpower, you've got to look like one. So before you embark upon global domination make sure your own house is in order.

First of all, employ a really trendy graphic designer to spruce up the look of your national accounts, United Nations reports and anything else other countries are likely to see. World leaders are busy people, with hundreds of reports flooding in every day. They can't possibly read all of them (many don't read any of them), so it's important the design of your national reports catches their eye and creates a good impression. For example, on the cover of a report on terrorism you might put a picture of Osama bin Laden through a gun-sight. It's a striking image that communicates to the world that you're against terrorism, rather than for it. This is exactly how Qatar got to play such a vital role in the most recent Gulf War.

H.V. Evatt knew the value of a stylish report. That's how he got the UN set up – he just published an old, first-year politics essay in a leather-bound hardcover report with gold gilding. Next thing you know, the UN is up and running and he's president of the general assembly. Imagine how much he could have achieved had PowerPoint been invented back then.

By the same token, your diplomats should be wearing the latest fashions from the trendiest design houses so they catch the eye of those in the know. The French have been onto this trick for years. During the 20th century, the French lost every major battle they fought and yet wielded more influence than the bottom 169 nations combined. How did they do it? Simple, by dressing their diplomats in YSL, Cartier and Louis Vuitton. Everyone was so impressed by how good they looked, they forgot that France was a washed-up has-been of a country whose major claim to fame was bombing a boat owned by a bunch of left-wing New Zealanders.

While you're at it, get the design houses to help you redesign your national flag, your sporting colours and even the skin colour of your peoples (generally the whiter the better when it comes to world domination).

Of course, the other important aspect of looking the part is to make your military hardware look new and shiny. Everyone knows that most military hardware fails, so general assessments are done using 'visually based performance criteria' – in other words, how good it looks. Thus the most cost-effective way to achieve superpower status quickly is with a coat of paint.

You can choose whatever colour paint you want for your missiles. Don't be scared to try something new and daring (nobody has ever tried Hayseed before on weapons of mass destruction) because as long as your enemies think the colour is deflecting radar more effectively, next thing you know, they'll be copying you and you'll be on the path to true superpower status.

If that's not enough, never underestimate the value of flashing orange diodes. Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, persuaded America to let him join the coalition forces in the most recent Gulf war simply by adding several dozen diodes to the interiors of their B-52 bombers and then claiming it was a new "smart navigation system". The US forces fell for it and are currently installing flashing orange diodes across their entire fighter jet range.

 

Step two: Selecting the right ally

WHEN IT COMES to selecting an ally, it is important to choose a country that is not totally pathetic yet one that will jump to your every command. Many years ago, the US realised the potential of Australia to become just such an ally and cultivated a close 'friendship'. Look at the results: total obsequious acquiescence to every wish the US has.

Selecting an ally can be hard work. Pacific islands are generally too pathetic to be valuable allies, as are large countries in Africa. Both suffer enormous internal problems, which mean that when you come to actually ask them for assistance you'll suddenly find the guy you've been talking to is in jail. Nowadays, most Latin American countries are also out, mainly because the guy you've been talking to has suddenly become a Marxist anti-imperialist. Central Asian republics are great in theory, but since the last guy to have any success with them was Genghis Khan, you might wish to start off with easier pickings.

This leaves European countries. Britain is an excellent ally to have and the leader there has sufficient moral flexibility to accommodate all needs. Italy has also shown itself to be a flexible partner. However, caution must be exercised if you are going to use its military for anything more than as place-fillers at awards-night ceremonies. Poland, Romania and Hungary and, indeed, any of the ex-Soviet bloc countries, are excellent choices because they're already used to being pushed around by a superpower. If you want one of them, you'd better hurry, however, because while you're reading this, the US is snapping up most of them at bargain prices.

Whichever country you've selected as an ally, it is important to communicate to its leaders in ways that seem honest and open but which are, in fact, narrowly in your own national interests.

For example: say you want them to help you invade a little oil-producing nation. Let's call it, say, 'Iraq'. First of all, you should talk about freedom, democracy, the mutual threat that terror has on all countries – even the ones that aren't superpowers. On no account mention the oil. Not only will your ally not understand, it may get weird ideas about having dibbs over some of that oil in the event of a victory over this 'Iraq' country.

This, of course, applies to everything, including trade. If you want, say, all the shoes that your South-East Asian ally (let's call it, say, 'Thailand') manufactures, then you should talk to its leaders sternly about the fundamental human rights of people to work in a deregulated labour market, with workers able to demand as much (or as little) as they want. If there are reports of child labour in 'Thailand', tell them you are appalled by it but that the way to deal with that problem is not by passing a law against it but through the moral force of consumer demand. Preach the importance of letting the free market decide whether average income-earners can afford food or not. Tell them this makes their country more 'competitive' (everyone likes to feel competitive). Then, compare their 'competitiveness' to a mutual enemy (say, 'Norway'), and label 'Norway' as being 'uncompetitive' for having high wages, health and safety regulations and anti-child labour laws.

At no point should you mention to your ally that you just want its shoes as cheaply as possible. Remember, an ally will generally be prepared to sell its people down the drain but only if it has an argument that holds together during an entire 30-second sound bite on the news that night.

Lastly, don't fret too much over choosing an ally. Any good superpower will regularly dump its allies and even invade them just to keep everyone on their toes (see 'Iraq' case study).

Step three: Unleash the bully within

THE FINAL STEP is about goal-setting. What do you want out of being a superpower? Is it the violent domination? Is it the wealth? Is just the buzz? In each case, you're going to have to work out what is and isn't acceptable behaviour by other countries and then tell them clearly and in no uncertain terms that they will die horrible and painful deaths unless they accept your decisions with a smile.

A good way to prove you can throw your weight around is to invade a country. The first step is picking the right country. Ideally, what you want is a tiny country that has been disarmed by a UN weapons-inspection program over the past decade. Failing that, any tin-pot Third World country will do. On no account pick Vietnam.

If your resources are stretched, try picking somewhere close to home. During the Cold War, the US picked on countries like Cuba, Guatemala and Panama, which were conveniently located and allowed US troops to 'set an example' without incurring jet lag. An added bonus of this approach is that you can claim the countries are within your 'sphere of influence', which means you can do whatever you like to them.

By the way, once you've invaded a country, and you're done with it, it is customary to let European countries clean up. Nobody quite knows why, but they seem happy about this, so don't complain.

Now that you've unleashed the bully within, all you've got to do is stay on top and you'll be a genuine imperial power and a budding superpower.

The carrot-and-stick approach is the best way to keep your colonies compliant and complacent. The carrot can be anything your colony wants from you – usually access to the latest sitcoms. However, the French kept many of their colonies happy for years by exporting mime artists (a shocking example of how badly colonies were treated in the 19th century). Traditionally, the stick has been the threat of invasion, the enslavement of the male population and the starvation of women and children. Nowadays, things are far more civilised, the carrot is the promise of a free-trade deal and the stick is usually the actual free-trade deal itself.

 

Summary

THERE YOU HAVE it. If you've followed all the steps, you're now a superpower that should be able to rival the US. Unbridled power is now at your fingertips, so use it wisely.   

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