Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Subtle metaphor of the current American political discourse

David Seaton's News Links

The American presidential campaign is talking about everything but the central question facing the United States: it's rapid decline as the world's hegemonic superpower and the enormous dangers facing the United States and the world if America tries to maintain that fading hegemony.

This "primary contradiction", which could cause millions of lives to be lost and result in unimaginable chaos and impoverishment, is ignored except, perhaps, when presidential candidates suggest increasing military spending or promise to reassert American "leadership".

Both "solutions" are like a terminal cancer patient planning next year's summer vacation. An insane waste of precious time.

Today, I've posted excerpts from two important articles on this theme by John Gray, emeritus professor of European thought at the London School of Economics and my favorite political commentator, William Pfaff.

Please read them very carefully and be prepared to discuss:)
We are back to great-power politics, shifting alliances and spheres of influence. The difference is that the west is no longer in charge. With their different histories and sometimes sharply conflicting interests, Russia, China, India and the Gulf states are not going to form any kind of bloc. But it is these countries that are shaping world development at the start of the 21st century. The US - its bankrupt mortgage institutions nationalised and its gigantic war machine effectively funded by foreign borrowing - is in steep decline. With its financial system in the worst mess since the 1930s, the west's ability to shape events is dwindling by the day. Sermonizing about "law-based international relations" is laughable after Iraq, and at bottom not much more than nostalgia for a vanished hegemony. Deluded about its true place in the world, the west underestimates the risks of intervening in Russia's near abroad. Russia's weaknesses - demographic decline, cronyism in the economy and a seething sense of national humiliation - are well known, but western vulnerabilities are no less real. Our leaders bore on about Russia needing us as much as we need Russia. In fact, despite a recent blip, investment in Russia is a byproduct of the global market that will continue for as long as it continues to be profitable, whereas Russian energy supplies can be curtailed at will by the Russian government. Economists will tell you the country is too reliant on oil. But the world's oil reserves are peaking while globalisation continues to advance, and Russia stands to gain from any international conflict in which supplies are disrupted. Again, the west needs Russia if the Iranian nuclear crisis is ever to be defused peacefully, and without Russian logistical cooperation Nato forces will find it even harder to bring the aimless, unwinnable war in Afghanistan to any kind of conclusion.(...) Clearly, with the exception of some in "old Europe", our leaders do not know what they are doing. The grandstanding of David Miliband and David Cameron in Ukraine illustrates the point. Blathering about national self-determination and territorial integrity, they seem not to have noticed that the two principles are normally incompatible. Self-determination means secession and the break-up of states. In the Caucasus, a region of multi-sided national enmities, it means a wider war and worsening ethnic cleansing. The stakes are even higher in Ukraine. Deeply divided and with a major Russian naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, the new state will surely be torn apart if an attempt is made to wrench it from Russia's sphere of influence. The country would become a battlefield, with the great powers irresistibly drawn in. Playing with Wilsonian notions of self-determination in these conditions is courting disaster. John Gray - Guardian

The United States has been invading troublesome Caribbean and Central American neighbors since the mid-19th century. It was what the U.S. Marine Corps did for a living – Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Ronald Reagan absurdly invaded Granada, officially to save American students from dangerous Cuban airport laborers. The senior George Bush invaded Panama to seize President Manuel Noriega, a former employee of the CIA. It has never been explained what those two invasions were really about. There were (widely publicized) clandestine operations in Nicaragua and El Salvador. All this has been taken for granted as the Monroe Doctrine at work.(...) Today the world’s only expansionist ideological power is the United States, aggressively pushing everywhere, persuading, promoting, and even invading countries for “democracy.” It wants to make everyone democratic “like us,” which in the end means to do as we want them to do. The ideology is meant to be generous, but it is a generosity devoted to the control of energy resources, raw materials, trade, and finance. This makes the U.S. the expanding and aggressive nation in the world today, the one with a “global ideology,” with military power to back it up. This frightens people. When the power doesn’t work as intended, as in the Caucasus, it makes other people frightened, the ones who have bet on the U.S. to advance their own agendas. That is what is changing the geopolitical map. William Pfaff
Meanwhile the American voters play with their dollies. DS


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Perhaps the most succinct commentary is the last line in this post.



Anonymous said...

As it ever was...

The last scene in the film "The Ugly American". A view of roof tops with TV antennas all tuned to American Idol. [Survivor Granada?]

Obama gives you chills. The possibility of President Palin is horrifying. McSame has two years left. The ultra right wing of this country is apoplectic.

Anonymous said...

rumor of america's demise are greatly exxagerated.


David Seaton's Newslinks said...

The United States is like a cork, in itself it is both unsinkable and invincible... But what is neither unsinkable nor invincible is American imperial hegemony... trying to maintain that will cause the useless and vain ruin of countless lives and fortunes.