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An Emulation Nation?: This is not a "Sputnik Moment?"

What is heading America's way?: Just another "Sputnik Moment" or our Waterloo.

Mr. President, this is not exactly a 'Sputnik moment'
The State of the Union speech revealed again that Obama wants the US to learn from its big economic competitors. That's far different from the cold-war competition with the Soviet threat.
January 26, 2011

With his constitutionally mandated report to Congress last night, President Obama has now made it official: America must become an emulation nation.

It’s no longer the “exceptional nation,” as in America’s past, or a “beacon on the hill,” the leader of the free world, or the sole superpower. It is a nation that must try to learn from its top competitors on why they are succeeding.

The more Mr. Obama has traveled overseas, the more he cites foreign lessons for Americans to follow. His State of the Union message summed up this call by claiming the US is now in a “Sputnik moment.” In his interpretation, that means a need for America to innovate and invest its way back to prosperity.

But that historical comparison isn’t quite accurate. The Soviet Union’s surprise missile leap in 1957 was seen back then as more of a military threat that required US dominance in space and missiles. NASA and the moon landing provided spinoffs to the economy, but Sputnik was mainly a cold-war call to arms.

Rather, Obama’s main point may be to draw positive economic lessons from rising powers like China, Japan, Germany, India, or South Korea. Not since the 19th century, when Americans looked so much to Europe as a model, has a US president held up other nations as examples to match.

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