50 years from now historians will probably be writing about the fall of the American empire. But history is writing itself furiously in the present, accelerated by the revolution of global freedom of information. What would have taken years to unlikely gather is accessible to anyone with a few strokes on a computer keyboard. So never mind the historians of the future, and lets see how reality is shaping up today.
In my last commemoration of 9/11/2001, I made the argument that the crumbling period of the United States empire started on this tragic day. Since then, a chain of events so dire occurred that it would seem the empire defeated itself by a series of catastrophic mistakes. After 9/11, Americans wanted revenge, and the war in Afghanistan became a very easy sale for the Bush administration. But then the neo-cons seized the opportunity to push their agenda of the New American Century project, and it was precisely the Achille’s heel of the empire.
Attacking Iraq: The Biggest Geopolitical Blunder In History
When the Bush administration attacked Iraq in 2003, a critical element escaped their understanding of the regional and demographic parameters: By toppling the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein, they would give the upper hand to the oppressed Shia Iraqi majority allied with Iran.
In a word, the US troops who fought and died in the conflict did it ultimately for the regional benefit of the Iranian Islamic Republic. The blunders did not stop with geopolitics, but were compounded by a catastrophic financial burden.
The Cost Of Wars in Iraq And Afghanistan Is Bankrupting The US Economy
If the Pentagon was a corporation, it would be the largest in the world. The curiously called, Department Of Defense, costs the American taxpayers, since the ill advised attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, around $700 billion a year. Of course, if you add up health care for wounded veterans, and layers of new “security” administration such as the Department of Homeland Security, the numbers keep adding up to top $1 trillion a year. Overall more than 25 percent of the federal budget gets swallowed in the financial black hole that is the Pentagon.
If Americans could do the math, they would quickly understand that the bill for the two wars is now creeping up to $10 trillion. In order to achieve the chimeric goals of the neocons of an ever lasting global American empire money had to be borrowed. Currently, for every dollar spent by the federal government 40 cents is borrowed. America used to borrow mainly from Japan and Europe. but now does its main borrowing from China. In a striking reversal of fortune, the “poor man of Asia” has now become the country in the world with the most liquid assets.
Empires Always Have An Expiration Date
Americans have a delusional sense of historic exceptionalism which they share with most previous empires. After all America’s ascension to a leading role on the world scene is very recent. The deal was sealed in Yalta in 1945 between Stalin and Roosevelt, with Churchill present but already taking the back seat. In a matter of 5 years, and about 60 million deaths, two news empires had emerged from the ruin of three: the United States and the Soviet Union. On the losing side of history was, of course, Japan, the empire of the sun, but also Britain and France.
The old imperial powers of Britain and France were slow to fully understand the nature of the new game. It took the loss of India for the United Kingdom, in 1948, and the one of Indochina for France in 1951 to make them understand that they would have from now on an ever shrinking role on the world stage. However, it took 9 years for Britain and France to fully digest the consequences of Yalta. In 1956, France and Britain took their very last joint imperialist venture by attacking Egypt over the ownership of the Suez Canal. The decaying empires were told to back off by the United States and the USSR.
A Repressive Capitalist Globalization Or The Revolution Of Global Freedom Of Information ?
The Cold War was a fairly predictable era. Beside a few crisis such as the flash point of the Cuba missile crisis, the two super-powers fought to augment their respective turfs thought proxy wars. But Afghanistan came along for the Soviets, and the long war made the USSR collapsed. Naturally the United States started acting as the only super-power left, and for this reason as the master of the universe.
The narrative of Ronald Reagan is peppered by such elements, and so is the one of all of his successors including Barack Obama. But all empires had the same distorted visions of themselves, the Romans imposed the Pax Romana on their vassals for a long time , so did Charlemagne, and Napoleon for a much shorter time. In any sense, power is cyclical and never lasts.
Thanks to WikiLeaks and the courage of his founder Julian Assange and the one of Pentagon’s whistleblower Bradley Manning, it has become rather obvious that while President Obama has changed the official tone of Washington from the Bush administration, the overall goals of US foreign policies have remained the same: Ensure and expend US power and authority on vassal states. This push to establish a new world order under exclusive US authority has been prevalent in all of the US administrations since Ronald Reagan and the end of the cold war.
President Obama, despite what could be his personal convictions is a prisoner of this imperial system. Obama is trapped by a complex nexus of inter-locking institutions such as the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department etc, and by powerful interest groups profiting from endless wars. The very same institutions and interest groups have been at the core of every post-1945 imperial presidency. As early as 1946, president Harry Truman said: “From Darius’ Persia, Alexander’s Greece, Hadrian’s Rome, Victoria’s Britain; no nation or group of nations has had our responsibilities.”
However, most analysts and foreign policy experts currently assume that the present century will not be American. In this tectonic power shift, under the push of China and India, the emerging new world order will be plural and decentralized. But the main question is: How Americans will adapt to this new paradigm where the United States loses its status of uncontested leadership?