- Category: Geoeconomics
- Hits: 2,784
Twenty years after the fall of the Communist bloc, the USA is about to default financially. What at first smelled like victory was a burned dish in the kitchen. It was a victory built on credit and an oversize army. This is the beginning of the decline of the American superpower, though not its end.
There will be no major foreign policy change with the Obama administration, because the country is ruled by the same industrial interests and Obama is a great compromiser. He is no true “wartime consigliere”, but a politician through and through. For the USA this will mean continuing war, but with a friendlier face. Soon the world will cease believing in his eloquent words, beginning with the Arabs in Gaza. There will be a lot of disillusioned Third World citizens. For a start, both Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed themselves to alliance with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful lobby group in the world.
The USA is now at the end of its financial tether. The nation has survived for decades by borrowing money from foreign States and investors. When the American banking sector almost collapsed in 2008, many foreign banks wanted a guarantee in the form of ownership in companies and real assets for their loans. Now the future for America hangs on China’s willingness to accept US Treasury notes, which are beginning to become less lucrative and more risky. There is no more money to be found for the American new New Deal other than what can be printed (they call it “quantitative easing”). The Fed’s interest rate cannot go any lower.
Another amusing word is “leveraging”: this means taking on far more debt than is reasonable. Thus AIG and Lehman Brothers suddenly had debt more than ten times the size of their capital assets. Eventually it only took a little breeze from the markets to blow everything over. Until that very day both companies had triple-A ratings. The rating agencies sell their ratings. If you are a big customer (and solvent), they will not want to downgrade you.
If you think the $14 trillion in foreign debt will destroy the US economy, that is nothing compared to what Social Security obligations will cost once the baby-boomers retire. The American government has taken out allthe money it could find, for instance it even borrowed and spent the accumulated surplus funds (the “Social Security Trust Fund”), while counting this as revenue rather than debt.
Still, the USA stands as undisputed victor of the Cold War. It is supreme in military force, in technological development, and in the export of its mass culture. This leadership began to manifest itself from 1919 onwards, but first became unmistakeable after the recession of the 1930s and the Second World War (cf. Philippe Richardot in Chauprade 2005: 35).
In its Magna Carta the USA is said to export free-market capitalism to the whole world, through the process we call globalization, if necessary using force. The strategy rests on three pillars:
- military dominance
- economic growth
- cultural penetration.
American popular culture – Hollywood films, fast food, and pop music – has been winning the hearts and minds of the whole world for two or three generations.
The business of America is business. Political ideals such as democracy and human rights are impertinently to the extent that they can be employed to achieve the country’s business objectives. The USA is the first modern society to have turned into a corporation. Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright were probably the first foreign ministers openly to advocate this economic doctrine.
The USA has understood the importance of elevating economics over politics, but it is stuck in a logic of military production and adventures. Consequently it tends to act in accordance more with the logic of geopolitics thanthat of geoeconomics, and more out of necessity than choice.
US foreign policy, after its heroic acts in the Second World War, has been nothing short of a disaster for the human race. Wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, two million people were killed in Vietnam, and just as many in Cambodia, active support of dictators in South and Central America, Invasions of Cuba in 1898, 1906, 1912, and 1917, Bay of Pigs in 1961, naval blockade in 1962, invasion of
Haiti in 1915–34 and again in 1994, of Dominican Republic in 1916–24 and 1965–6, of Puerto Rico in 1898, of Grenada in 1983, of Panama in 1903–14 and 1989, of Nicaragua in 1909–33, of Guatemala in 1954, and of Mexico in 1914–17. The President of Panama, Manuel Noriega, was well-known to be a drug dealer and was on the CIA payroll in 1985. When he became too independent the CIA sacrificed him in 1989. To avoid the embarrassment that open court hearings would have caused, Noriega was tried by a military court.
It took the USA seven thousand elite troops and three days to invade Grenada, which was defended only by a few dozen Cuban soldiers and some local military. The CIA supported and trained the Contras to fight the democratically elected Sandinistas in Nicaragua. The key organizer of this was John Singlaub, one of the founders of the CIA.
Oliver North took the blame, but charges were later dismissed excessive support for Israel against the Palestinians, training of terrorist movements all over the world – including training in torture, even on US soil – have resulted in unimaginable human suffering. According to Prof. Johan
Galtung, the US has conducted 73 military interventions since the Second World War. The number of people killed in overt Pentagon-sponsored military action is estimated at between thirteen and seventeen million. The number killed in covert action is at least six million. … This is the real moral defeat, not a few individuals at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or in the black prisons of the CIA.
When a few terrorists previously supported by the USA, Osama bin Laden, The Bush and bin Laden families were business partners. The bin Laden family were also investors in the Carlyle investment group, where James Baker and George H. W. Bush are major partners. his al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, turn against their old ally, the USA wants the rest of the world to believe that attacking a complete outsider country – Iraq, the only major country in the region that had nothing to do with these events – was a logical response. Looked at from outside it was like watching a child running amok in a glasshouse. From the inside it was probably a tuff sale, which the public will soon forget.
The preemptive war on Iraq was a consequence not so much of a terrorist attack as of American insecurity (cf. Todorov 2003: 44). And that is understandable: 9-11 was not an ordinary terrorist attack, but an act of “hyper terrorism” or “apocalyptic terrorism” (terms used by Heisbourg 2001 and Kaminsky 2004: 56). Such events provoke irrational decisions. Also Europe has reached out to aggressors in times of distress.
9-11 created mass fear in the USA. The increased resources allocated to border control have made entry to that country difficult. It is quite easy to enter China in comparison, and the Chinese airport system is already much more efficient.
All Third World countries now know that the USA cannot fight in two countries at the same time (Iraq and Afghanistan). If Gaddafi in Libya had known that before the Afghanistan war, he would not have given in to pressure so easily at that time. It has made Iran feel secure, at least until they redraw from Afghanistan. It has convinced Pakistan that it can do pretty much as it likes and continue to appeal to Uncle Sam for more dollars.
With its refusal to sign important international treaties like the Kyoto protocol or to support the Hague tribunal, and for its notorious and systematic obstruction of the United Nations, the US government has become increasingly unpopular in the eyes of the rest of the world. Some would say it is out of touch with the prevailing political agenda of our time, which is becoming increasingly multilateral. The Copenhagen summit on climate change was a reminder of this.
Through its actions the US government has clearly demonstrated that its role model is not modern Western democracy, but the Roman Empire. It is equally clear that the USA is not the Rome of the Republic. Let us hope then that we are in the time of Vespasian, so that we can soon expect a Marcus Aurelius. (Not that Marcus Aurelius actually did much to alter the fate of the Roman Empire.)
The most fervent Bush critics outside the USA hoped that the Republicans would win the re-election. At least then the atrocities would be easier to see and criticize. Now the same critics are hoping for a “tea party” President.
The retro-utopianism of the religious attitudes of the Bush administration recalled the utopianism of radical Islam. At the end of Bush’s presidency no previous American president had been less popular, not even Nixon – or possibly Hoover was, but he did not deserve it. (Hoover’s problem was that he failed to embrace the mass media, he lacked charisma.)
Because of the consequences of US foreign policy, the EU and China may be forced to co-operate in the near future, to break with US dominance. It is better to co-operate with an undemocratic secular superpower than with a quasi-democratic fundamentalist State. … On the other hand, in the long run China will not need European help to overtake the USA.
The USA accounts for more than forty per cent of the world’s military spending. The Military–Industrial Complex has grown out of hand. In 1991 the Department of Defense adopted a radical outsourcing policy known as “front line first!” (see Jacques Aben in Daguzan and Lorot 2003: 60). This seemed a rational way to conduct warfare, but it also means that military companies have a stronger say in political decisions via taxfree political contributions. When Obama became President the number of private-sector contractors rose to a historical high.
In general war is bad for the economy, unless of course you are in the arms industry. In the USA that industry has become the single biggest economic player. Deciding not to bomb means jobs lost, American jobs. Just consider San Diego: it is difficult to separate the city from the marine base.
Obama is spending more on defence than his predecessors. The American defence secretary Robert Gates proposed a budget for 2011 higher than what the US spent during the Korean or Vietnam Wars.
The USA has two strong special interests, the military and the health care industry. Together they account for about half the federal government’s annual expenditure. Another eight per cent goes on servicing foreign loans, principally to China and Japan. These three figures by themselves are most telling for the patient’s condition.
The 9-11 incident did not alter US geopolitical interests. It just speeded up their plans, providing an excuse for moving ahead faster, legitimizing their action in the public eye. In Iraq the main ambition was to control the oil fields, in Afghanistan to secure the pipelines through Herat and the west of the country (at a safe distance from the Iranian border). So far none of this has materialized.
No trace has been found since the early 1990s of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rumsfeld and his neoconservative friends wanted regime change in Baghdad, although the National Security Council was skeptical (Powell was afraid that one bad guy would be replaced by another). George Tenet pointed out the difficulty of a coup d’etat. That was when Rumsfeld came up with the idea that it was not Hussein they were after but the weapons of mass destruction. This made compromise possible at the NSC (cf. Pierre 2005: 276). When the time came it was probably Vice-President Dick Cheney who was the main advocate for the war (op. cit.: 281).
Many have suggested that Cheney was the acting president all along, managing the family business on behalf of Bush Senior and his partners. In the end, though, Bush Junior took most of the blame.
Colin Powell had no chance against the hawks in the Bush administration. Already by the time of his last visit to Israel, when he tried to get a peace conference started between Israel and the Palestinians, he must have sensed that his political career in the Bush administration was over. When Obama rose to power Powell was quick to show his support, but the new president had all the Republicans he needed for his great compromise, and turncoats are more feared than opponents.
American and British intelligence both knew that there was no real threat from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. To bypass the American intelligence agency, defence minister Rumsfeld set up his own intelligence operation, the Office of Special Plans (OSP) led by Douglas Feith, Under-Secretary of Defense for policy (Pierre 2005: 294–8). All intelligence reports were sent via this office, creating a censorship filter. Dick Cheney made sure that CIA director George Tenet was held in check by keeping in close contact with him. Much later, when the administration needed a scapegoat, Tenet was sacrificed.
By invading Afghanistan the USA is attempting what the Russians, and the British before them, failed to do: to control Central Asia. It is guaranteed to fail. For one thing, the US soldiers are not motivated to fight. American officers do not even have a clear idea of what a realistic victory would look like.
All reasoning suggested that if you wanted to take out one person, bin Laden, you would not attack a whole country. Besides, it was the wrong country. The home of the Wahhabites is Saudi Arabia. … But the Saudi king is a close business partner…
It is fascinating to see how the Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) is repeatedly fooling its American counterparts into looking in the wrong direction. ISI has always played both sides. For a Western mind this idea is hard to grasp, but not to anyone familiar with the Arabian Nights, where deceit is the rule rather than the exception. 32) “Full Spectrum Dominance”, the American version of blitzkrieg, was highly efficient in overcoming the enemy in Iraq. Only one American was killed for two to three thousand Iraqis (figures from Le Monde quoted by Todorov
2003: 480). At the next stage, though, the American forces had no real strategy and soon became sitting ducks. What started as a diplomatic failure is now a moral defeat. Many US soldiers do not even know why they fought the war. Jane Mayer’s much-acclaimed book The Dark Side is an attempt to blame a few (the CIA, Cheney, Rumsfeld,
and a few of their staff), while the entire military, Bush, Rice, Powell, and so forth are let off free. Americans want to get on with their lives. This has less to do with revealing the truth than with offering a way out of a psychological trauma.
Ever since the USA intervened in the Middle East its chief aim has been to check Iranian power in the region.
In 1953 the US and Britain played an active role in overthrowing the Iranian leader Mossadeq (see e.g. Pierre 2005: 43).With the Iraq war not only are hundreds of thousands of civilian lives lost, but the USA is destroying half a century’s worth of their own diplomatic efforts. Iran is the winner; through the US attack on Iraq it has become the regional superpower, now with a firm grip not only on Basra, but also on Syria and the Lebanon.
The Americans in Iraq experienced the wisdom of an old saying: only one thing is worse than a badly run State and that is the absence of a State.
There is a parallel between the political careers of George W. Bush and Cesare Borgia. Both acquired political power through their fathers, and both lost it when that influence waned. As Machiavelli said (1532: chap. 7),
“…he who has not first laid his foundations may be able with great ability to lay them afterwards, but they will be laid with trouble to the architect and danger to the building.”
The question is whether the USA has not already mutated from an enlightened democracy into an empire (cf. Christian Harbulot in Chauprade (2005: 89–91). The current model is one of corporatocracy, built on three pillars; major companies, international banks, and colluding governments.
The USA is managed by committees not laws. The members of the committees (SEC, FED, etc.) can always be bought.
There is another parallel with antiquity. Like the Greek city states, Europe is made weak by internal disagreements. Like Rome, the US has received the sciences and its ideals from Europe. Like Rome they have chosen a militaristic direction. But whereas the Roman Empire lasted for almost a millennium The Western Empire lasted for more than 500 years, while as the Eastern Empire lasts for almost 1500 years., many experts will be surprised if the American Empire lasts for much more than a century. One century would be no longer than the Vandals occupied Tunis.
The symptoms are clear: trade deficit, high national debt, the shift from the dollar to the euro as the world’s reserve currency, a short-term business outlook, a morally-weak business environment (consider Enron, Halliburton, Arthur Anderson, and the various failing investment banks), high dependance on non-American experts (e.g. in Silicon Valley), high rates of crime and a high proportion of the population in prison, The USA had 7,513 prison inmates per million inhabitants in 2006.
That is considerably higher than the runnerup, Russia, with 5,985. In 2006 there were an estimated 9.3 million people in prison around the world. Of these 24 per cent were in the USA, 17 per cent in China, and 9 per cent in Russia. (See Dorling et al. 2008: 346.) considerable hidden poverty, commonly ignored, substantial media manipulation, and so on. … But the pioneer spirit of the American people works to their advantage, at least so long as there continue to be pioneers. In a generation or two the descendants of Europeans will be outnumbered by those of Hispanic conquistadores, who are less accustomed to taking initiatives and accepting responsibilities. By then the Asian elites in places like Berkeley and Stanford will have moved on, out of the USA.
During the Cold War, the north-eastern part of the USA – the Great Lakes area, from New York City to Chicago – was a world-leading centre of industry. This is no longer true. We are witnessing the endgame for the large American car manufacturers. They are close to bankruptcy, and surviving only through sales in China, government support and temporary reconstructions. Japanese car manufacturers, led by Toyota, are in the opposite situation: despite recent setbacks, their pockets are loaded with cash. The response of the American president is desperate; to force American companies to move production back to the US
Little more than a decade ago the conclusion was: “At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible”, and to achieve that it should “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars”(Donnelly et al. 2000: 11). In the neoconservative think-thank “Project for a New American Century” (PNAC), plans were for “US domination of the Gulf ” and a “new American frontier” (Kellner 2003: 22). That was a decade ago. Now the strength of China is leading to forced recantations.
“The ultimate objective of American policy should be benign and visionary: to shape a truly cooperative global community … but in the meantime, it is imperative that no Euro Asian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging America” (Brzezinski 1997: xiv). Zbigniew Brzezinski, once one of President Carter’s advisers and now an adviser for Obama, sees the Eurasian continent as the site of a three-way struggle. His thinking continues the spirit of Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman.150 There will not be much voluntary change in American foreign policy. Rather, the new reality will impose itself. The future policy of the USA will be what that country’s resources allow it to be.
“North America versus Euroasia, with the world at stake. The winner would truly dominate the globe” (Spykman 1942: 6). In geopolitics, international relations are a race that someone has to win. The logic is: if we don’t win this, someone else will. This logic will remain constant so long as rival nation states exist.
Brzezinski describes previous empires, the Roman, the Manchu, and the Mongolian, but fails to mention that these conquests were achieved through massacres. The US may not have failed to notice that the tools have changed, but know no other way of increasing its power than true military means.
When Brzezinski wrote his book in 1997, he predicted that Russia would rise to become a great power again (p. 44). Just a few years later Russia was experiencing complete disintegration. Today Russia is an important market with 143 million consumers, it has the largest gas reserves in the world, and because of that it also has substantial currency reserves. But there are few signs that the Russian Bear will ever make it back onto the world stage. Their great wealth, like that of the Wahhabites, will disappear with the end of the Petroleum Age. Recovery of the Russian economy will take too long.
The logic of the bipolar world was quiet and submissive. It was a time of hibernation. Now we are well out of the den, it takes some time to get used to the bright light.
It was too easy to criticize the USA under its previous administration consisting of red necks and Christian fundamentalists. With the Democrats, things have again become less transparent. The people has received its saviour, a great orator, as happened when Franklin D. Roosevelt replaced Hoover in 1933. In times of crisis voters tend to elect charismatic leaders.
Drugs will be the largest problem for the USA with the rise of the new North American NAFTA alliance. Two to three million illegal immigrants enter the USA every year, one in five of the population does not even speak English, thirty per cent of the young cannot read or write.
Seven and a half per cent of GNP is spent on the military sector, and eighty per cent of research is linked to armaments. Two conclusions can be drawn from this, one short-term, the other long-term:
- the US will engage regularly in wars simply in order to be able to use their equipment and order more
- the US must derive economic advantages from the use of this military equipment, or otherwise it would not be able to pay for them in the long run.
Later this century a majority of the US population will not be of European extraction. The USA alone accepts forty per cent of all world migrants, and eighty per cent of these now come from non-European countries.
Whites, called in America “Caucasians”, currently amount to 54 per cent of the population (see Pierre Emmanuel Barral in Chauprade 2005: 17). Blacks form twelve per cent of the American population, or about 30 million people. Today it is black and especially Hispanic mothers, i.e. the least privileged members of that society, who are providing America with its future children. In due course they will demand to rule.
Currently the USA is a superpower which walks alone, without a future. It is a country that is being attacked from all sides and from within.
The US–Japanese relationship is financially necessary for the USA and politically necessary for Japan. The American dream has been in the hands of Japanese investors. So long as Japanese security was in American hands and the American population continued to consume Japanese products, all was well. But in the summer of 2008 all that changed, when a large proportion of Americans were no longer able to balance their credit cards, and China replaced Japan as the biggest creditor. This was a first indication of the new balance that is emerging.
There is a growing gap between import and exports in the US. In ten years, from 1990 to 2000, the gap rose from two per cent to about six per cent of world trade. It represented close to $400 billion in 2000, more than $700 billion in 2005, and $763bn in 2006. … It was Milton Friedman and the monetarists, supported by the chairman of the Fed, who convinced the Americans that this was a sound policy. By now most senior politicians must know that Friedman’s advice has been devastating for the US economy.
In theoretical economics, though, little has changed. No-one apart from an occasional Krugman or Stiglitz is prepared to admit that the last half century of economic thinking has been seriously flawed.
US strength is founded as much on the circulation and use of its currency, the US dollar, as on the country’s industrial resources. This position is now threatened by the EU as more and more countries, especially in Asia, are exchanging dollars for euros. Unlike the dollar, the euro is a creditor currency, which may well witness the end of American leadership. For instance, it may be that OPEC oil will be traded in euros in the future.
Alternatively, the euro may disappear soon. Right now we do not know. Merkel will do anything to defend it… the legacy of Kohl 57) The strength of the dollar is due primarily to the fact that the USA convinced creditor countries to keep their debts in dollars, and to use the currency as a financial reserve and as a medium of pricing for key commodities.
It is not first of all due to the strength of American Industry.
Thanks to the role of the dollar, the USA has been and continues to be something of a free-rider in the global economy. Hence it is logical that the USA and Britain do not want any changes in the international financial system, even after its near collapse; it is their system. Regulation means loss of customers, and eventually loss of control.
When the USA is no longer able to service its debts, its creditors might do as the US did with the allies in the 1920s: play the debtor–creditor game. That is, deny the country the option of defaulting. Force it to sell off at low prices whatever the State owns in the shape of enterprises, mineral rights, even access to markets. It is bitter to have to take one’s own medicine.…But, to achieve that China must first become a military leader.
If Asia calls in its loans and at the same time continues to exchange its dollar reserves for euros, US economic dominance will be short-lived. At the moment, though, that is not in Asia’s interests; on the contrary. China wants the USA to survive, if not to excel. There is also always a problem being a too large creditor…then the debitor comes in a position of power
The inability of the USA to solve its budget deficit and to take care of its poor is ultimately due to its political system of corporate democracy, where there are no political interests and pressures independent of economic interests, and the elites think only of themselves.
The only way the USA knows to control its increasing social tensions is to build more prisons and to design towns as self-imposed ghettos – so-called gated communities – segregated by income and social status. …
This system of urban segregation was effective in halting revolution in Los Angeles in 1992. With a few simple manoeuvres the army closed the highways and prevented the rebellion from spreading. Instead the poor plundered each other. It was blacks versus Asian and Latinos.
American greatness in the twentieth century is founded primarily on the fact that they have been able to attract and retain the best minds. The first brain-drain consisted of hard-working immigrants, the second consisted of intellectuals fleeing Fascist Europe, the third came after the Second World War, and the most recent large wave of immigration followed the Cold War. American weakness is the flip-side of the same coin: they have not been able to generate enough grey matter of their own, but continue to rely on importing it. We can see this from the Pisa study: American students consistently score low on maths and the natural sciences. The large private universities now rely for their success entirely on foreign students with high SAT scores.
Religion is the chief identity marker in American culture, transcending ethnic divisions. Sixty per cent of the American population are Protestant, divided into Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Evangelicals.
The centre of power in America has shifted away from New England and the north-east to the South, to the Bible belt, an area stretching from Texas north to Kansas, east to Virginia, and south to northern Florida. Here a fervent Evangelical Protestantism is part of the culture. … This is the Bush family’s territory.
To understand world events we must follow the money. As an example and an exercise: United Fruits is owned by Zapata Oil, founded by George H. W. Bush. He was Ford’s man, ambassador to the UN under Nixon and Ford, and Ford’s CIA Director. In 1954 the CIA arranged a coup in Guatamala. American pilots bombed Guatamala City. The democratically-elected President Arbenz was overthrown and assassinated, and replaced by Colonel Carlos Castillo. Just follow the money.
The CIA, like many other foreign services, quickly developed into the “jackal”, which arrives after negotiations break down, but before the military intervention.
For Bush Junior it must all seem a bit unreal in retrospect: he did not rule the country, now he gets most of the blame. The country has been run by Big Business for more than a century now, just recently by a group of supporters from inside the Pentagon, all in a revolving-door logic. Some of these called themselves the Vulcans, in honor of the Roman god of fire, forge, and metalwork. These men were Cheney, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz, and Armitage (Mann 2004).
Bechtel is the largest engineering company in the USA and a cornerstone of the Republican Party. Nixon, Ford, and Bush are all its supporters. Bechtel’s president was Georg Schultz, Nixon’s treasury secretary. Caspar Weinberger was the company’s vice-president. Robert McNamara was set to run the World Bank, like Paul Wolfowitz later. Armitage became a board member of ConocoPhillips in 2006, after he was forced out of government for disclosing State secrets. Bechtel has great influence on a number of American universities, among them Stanford. Do the exercise: just follow the money.
Cheney was Secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush and had been president of Halliburton. KBR/ Halliburton got most of the contracts in Iraq with no competition, arguing they were the only ones who could do the job. It was a simple way to repay donors and friends. No other war has involved so many private-sector contractors. Blackwater, CACI, TITAN, these were the real war profiteers, making billions of dollars from the deaths of others, Iraqis and Americans alike. … And yes, they won the war in the only way wars are won: financially.
It is ironic that Eric Prince, who owns and runs Blackwater (now renamed “Xe”, because of all the bad publicity the company accumulated), was rejected by the CIA when he applied for a job with it. He was then taken on as a contractor because (as he said in an interview for an American magazine) CIA agents did not want to take the risk involved in operating in Iraq and Afghanistan: “they had families”. How can you rule the world when your foreign intelligence service has this attitude towards risk?
These corporate interests (Bush, Schultz, Weinberger, Cheney, Richard Helms, Robert McNamara, etc.), what has been called the Military–Industrial Complex, at one time chose a puppet for president, Ronald Reagan, then later became bolder and took the presidency for themselves, assigning the post to a major player from an oil family. Now they have had to rebuild their relationship with the new president from the Democratic Party. That is not too difficult.
Obama is a pragmatist, and he got his share of Republican money during his election campaign.
Kissinger said “Control the oil and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people”. Thus genetically modified organism (GMO) became a major US project, initiated by the Rockefeller family, run by companies like Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow Agro Sciences, in close “revolving-door government” relations with the Reagan and Bush administrations (cf. Engdahl 2007).
The “new” American conservatives, or “neocons”, are not new at all. They have their roots in religious movements in the 1920s (on this, see Blandine Chelini-Pont in Chauprade 2005: 105). Those movements were reactions to the modernization of Protestantism (evolutionary theory, sex before marriage, divorce, rights of gays and lesbians, etc.), returning to the fundamentals of the Bible. Like the Wahhabites, they are true fundamentalists.
It is the same intolerance, but just in a different surface form. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement is the new form.
The problem with American strategy during the Bush administration was that it was not in step with the world, and everyone else could see that. The rest of the world today is firmly on the path of democracy, human rights, law rather than military force, co-operation between international organizations, and multi lateralism and pluralism. American strategy was a retro-utopia, just like twelfth-century Muslims. The real political interests of the USA have not changed under Obama. Unlike Bush, Obama has conquered the moral high ground, at least at home. …There are always two battles to advance an interest: one economic, the other moral. You have to win them both to stay in power.
Make no mistake: the USA has lost the moral high ground in the eyes of the outside world, especially in Asia and the Middle East. US interventions, military and paramilitary, have dissolved the trust that the world had in the USA following the Second World War, and the sixteen-year reign of the Bush family was the last straw.
Obama cannot change this unless he drastically changes American foreign policy, which he has shown no signs of doing. He may want to reduce the military sector, but they will not let him. Some projects will be cancelled, but new ones will be created.
In his last article, written less than a year before he died, Stefan Dedijer (2003) predicted the downfall of the American empire. He pointed to a number of reasons: corruption, failing social welfare, a high suicide rate, the number of prisons and prisoners, a poor power-supply network, a bureaucratic and malfunctioning intelligence community, and excessive greed. Both Bush and Cheney were friends of the directors of Enron, “the most crooked firm in US business history” (op. cit.: 8).
In the same article Dedijer holds up Sweden as a winner among societies, because of its “social personality” and “national character”. If the Swedish population was not eight million but eighty million, like Germany, they would have been the dominant economic player in Europe and probably a world superpower. However, remembering the Thirty Years’ War, when Sweden conquered almost half the nations of the Holy Roman Empire, it is questionable whether history would have been any less bloody.
Henry Paulson helped out his friends at Goldman Sachs, where he had been chief executive until 2006, whereas smaller companies such as Lehman Brothers were abandoned to their fate. The argument was that the big were too big to fail. Now they can become even bigger. The same people have been given a green light for continuing exploitation and mismanagement. American politics is caught in its own trap.
Since the Cold War, American administrations have launched a more progressive foreign policy, giving rise to worries about escalation of violence. Pre-emptive attacks are in line with the old school of geopolitical thinking, or as a Confucian saying goes, “the one who fails to take care of his future problems is condemned to his immediate worries”. The problem is not the interventionist policies themselves, but the way in which they are being executed.
During the Cold War there was a certain rationality to world politics. We had two political blocs, well-organized and controlled. Today we have none of this. The world of politics has become much more complex, and we have come to feel less secure.
It remains to be seen whether the USA will continue to advance the hawkish idea of a US-dominated world, a Pax Americana, for which the war against Iraq and for control of the Persian Gulf region was but a first step (Kellner 2003: 21). If they attack Iran, they will run out of money. They will also lose the war. From that point it would be only a matter of years, not even decades, before the USA was eclipsed by China as the number one superpower.
If the US cannot recreate the melting-pot experiment with its new Mexican immigrants within a generation, it will become a second-rate power, then later as crime rates get out of hand it will become more like Mexico and South America, a lawless territory where police and gangs fight quasi-wars.
Declines are never straight forward, Nations seldom collapse. There will be many periods of recovery.
Less than half a century from now, much of the world’s shipping will be passing through the North-West Passage all year round. Oil exploitation in the New North (L. Smith 2011) promises to turn Canada into one of the richest countries in the world.
Canada not only has one of the best school systems in the world, it has also succeeded with integration of its immigrants. This is a country on the rise.
Time is on Mexico’s side. Its emigrants will comprise the majority of the population in the south-western parts of the USA, including the whole of California, within a few generations. Economic ties between the USA and Mexico will become ever closer, much to the advantage of the latter. This will be the Mexicans’ revenge for the War of 1848, when they lost a third of their territory.
Quoting Alan Riding (1984): “Most Mexicans are meditative and philosophical, they are discreet, evasive and distrustful, they are proud and consumed by questions of honor, they are forced to work hard but dream of a life of leisure, they are warm, humorous and sentimental and occasionally also violent and cruel, they are enormously creative and imaginative yet impossible to organize. They are internally set in their ways and externally anarchic.” “The country’s inhabitants are more oriental than western.” “Relations are guided by tradition rather than principles, pragmatism rather than ideology and power rather than law.”
“The strangest contrast is the ritual and disorder that seem to coexist within the Mexican, yet this too illustrates the predominance of the spiritual over the material.”
“He interprets the world in accordance with his emotions. In an environment of apparent disorder, he can improvise, create and eventually impose his own personality on events.”
“He contributes to disorder in the name of expressing his individuality.”
“A powerful religiosity, adherence to traditions, a ceremonious mode of behavior, the formality of language, all involve caring for the emotional and spiritual side of life.”
“He can deal with external chaos if his spiritual concerns are cared for, but he cannot allow his identity to be obliterated by man-made forces.”
“He possesses enormous internal strength, and burst into song at the least provocation.”
“The future is viewed with fatalism, and as a result, the idea of planning seems unnatural.”
“They may save for a fiesta, but not for the bank.”
“They have an instinctive nihilism, are non-intellectual.”
“The Mexican flees from a reality that he cannot handle into a world of fantasy where pride, idealism and romance can safely flourish and passion dominates reason.”
“He seems almost anxious to lower his defenses, to share in a degree of trust.”
“Once an emotional bond is established, once a ‘cuate’ –literally, twin –relationship exists, he is open and generous, willing to confide and hospitable to extremes.”
“The Mexican people possess remarkable musical sensibilities, and their interest in music is thought to be stronger than in any other art form. Dance is a rapid and direct way to reach the heart and soul of the individual.”
The USA has considered Cuba theirs since the 1820s. Jefferson and Quincy Adams tried to annex the island. It was just a question of waiting until the British navy was weak enough. From then until 1959 the US pretty much ruled the island with the help of the American Mafia. As soon as Castro had gained power every effort was made to retake the island, by all possible means.
The Americans have always been defeated when fighting Cuban soldiers, at the Bay of Pigs but also in Angola. In the forces, political ideology is a better incentive than money.
The end is probably near for Cuba. It is only a matter of time. The country has run out of oil, its cars are wrecks. The collapse, as in the case of the Soviet Union, will come from within. At the best it will experience a slow transition to market economy like in China, but signs of this has not materialized yet. As with the Soviet Union, it is doubtful whether the collapse of Communism on Cuba will lead to any significant improvement in the short run in most people’s quality of life. Things might get worse initially.
A decade of US-backed military interventions has produced unintended consequences in South America. A whole continent is now reacting against US interference, led by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Even Castro is now safe during his last days. If Mexico turns socialist, the reaction will be complete.
Colombia is a country which lives largely off the sale of drugs (cocaine and heroin) to the USA. It is a society in a permanent state of violence, torn apart by left-wing guerilla groups (FARC and ELN) and para militaries, where soldiers are hired by local businessmen.
The many tax havens in the Caribbean and elsewhere offer an easy way to launder dirty money. It is estimated that they hold twenty per cent of all deposits by American citizens.
Brazil and Argentina are finding a stable partner in China, to ensure these countries respective growth. These countries will feed the billion-plus Chinese population. That will permit a certain rise in the standard of living for many South Americans.
Brazil is an agricultural superpower. It is the leading producer and exporter of orange juice, sugar, and coffee. It is also the leading exporter of chicken and beef.
If you are thinking of investing in Bolivia, bear in mind that the government may expropriate your business at any time. This has made it very popular among voters there.
A number of left-wing politicians in Latin America are systematically disregarding the democratic system, inspired by Chavez in Venezuela. For a while it looked as though Chavez would have things his way in Honduras too with the support of Manuel Zelaya. Now he is instead relying on Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.