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American Hegemony: India and Iran in the New World Order

by misneach Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 11:15:05 AM EST

Lord Acton once implored us to remember a simple mantra:

Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Since its inception, American foreign policy has essentially been to expand the sphere of American dominance at whatever cost is necessary. It began with simple expansion out along the American continent, slaughtering the inhabitants along the way. In 1899 President McKinley issued the "Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation" announcing Americas intention to set up its own version of the British Empire. This policy continued through the years of "Wilsonian Idealism" and accelerated after World War II, reaching its climax under the guise of "Humanitarian Intervention" under Clinton. Each step along the way has seen an increase in the scope of Americas hegemonic ambitions, and each time the sphere of influence was expanded. First it was just the North American continent, then nearby islands, Central and South America, and finally expanding through the Middle and Far East.

Americas two most recent conquests, Afghanistan and Iraq, are becoming indicators that the time of American Empire may be coming to an end. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States remained as the sole world superpower, excersising its will with reckless abandon. However, the extension - and expansion upon - these policies by George Bush Junior has polarised the world in a very different way. The unipolar order of The United States and everybody else is giving way under the paralysing weight of American ambitions of dominance. What is emerging is a multipolar order, with the United States being put in a position of being unable to exert its influence at will, and instead having to increasingly accept foreign influence and input in world affairs.

The end of America's reign as the worlds sole superpower, and the absolute corruption that such power brings along, should be welcomed and encouraged by people the world over. As important policies in America are seldom even discussed (The Kyoto Protocols, Nuclear Disarmarment, Human Rights), and the US is using its global power to marginalise such important doctrines as those set forth by the Geneva Conventions, any move away from the absolutely corrupting Absolute Power given to American interests should be heralded as a positive move by anyone concerned about the safety and well being of our species as a whole.

Lynchpin: India

The United States Senate last week passed (by a vote of 85 to 12) a measure approving the transfer of Nuclear technology, equipment, and fuel to India. Doing so required that an exception be made to the Atomic Energy Act, which specifically forbids the sale of nuclear materials to countries that are non-signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The important reasoning behind this was spelled out in a recent article in The New York Times which stated that the vote was "expressing that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear skills and bomb-making materials." Such an agreement also brings to an end the 30 year old doctrine prohibiting the transfer by the United States of Nuclear reactor components and fuel to other countries.

Today, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao is in India on a visit meant to increase bilateral ties between the two countries. The China Daily reports that

As the first Chinese president to visit the country in a decade, Hu is expected to work with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to "fill in the specifics" in the strategic partnership, according to Sun Yuxi, Chinese ambassador to India.

China and India announced the establishment of their strategic partnership for peace and prosperity last April in a joint statement signed by Premier Wen Jiabao and Singh.

Hu's talks with Singh today will iron out the details for enhancing this partnership in political, economic, military, cultural, scientific, technological and educational spheres, Sun revealed in a group interview last Friday with Chinese journalists at his residence.

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reports that this meeting between Chinese and Indian premieres is likely to lead to a Nuclear arrangement being ironed out between those two countries as well, with China adding their bid for India to the one already on the table from the US.
If China and India enter into a nuclear cooperation agreement, it will mark a new stage in the increasing competition between China and the United States for India's friendship.

President Bush branded China a "strategic competitor" as soon as he came to office in 2001. Since India's burgeoning economy and muscular military can tip the balance of power in Asia, over the last year the United States and China have been trying to build closer ties with India, said Sun Shihai, deputy director of the Institute for Asia Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

"The US always said it wants to use India to balance China," Sun said. "China feels it needs to engage India more [and] develop some kind of Russia-China-India cooperation" that can balance US hegemony. "So there is some kind of competition happening."

The White House's July 2005 decision to enter into civilian nuclear cooperation was widely seen as a critical step in attracting India into the US orbit.

The worrysome emergence of spheres of influence outside of US control, specifically Russia and China (with partnerships growing to include Latin America, India, Iran and Pakistan), has US planners on their heels, of which the US offer of Nuclear technology to India is merely a byproduct.

The most specific worry for US planners is the duo of China and Russia extending their influence beyond the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and including countries in Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela) and such strategic heavyweights as India, Pakistan, and Iran. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the US has aggressively been trying to expand NATO influence as far east as possible, encompassing many former Warsaw Pact nations. This is where the importance of India comes into play.

Were India to join a strategic alliance with China and Russia, they would throw their sizeable population (over 1 Billion people, the 2nd most populous nation on the planet behind China and much larger than the US with 300 Million) and strategic central-asia location (between China and another country the SCO has been courting, Pakistan) into the already economically- and militarily- hefty China/Russia partnership. Moves have already been made in increasing cooperation between China and India with trade set to exceed $20billion (US) this year, exceeding the target set by the two governments for 2008. There is also talk of a bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries, which could enable an increase in the already strong rate of general economic growth in the region.

There are, of course, a couple of sticking points in the China-India relationship, which the US is trying to take advantage of while it still has the opportunity. These include Chinese cooperation with India's foe Pakistan, the asylum of the Dali Lama from Tibet in India, and the China/India border. The border was in fact originally drawn by the British government near the end of their colonial reign, and has not been agreed upon by China or India. In the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Nikita Kruschev is rumored to have encouraged Chairman Mao to go ahead and attack India over their disputed border, which India accepts but China views as claiming for India 90,000sq-km of Chinese territory. This act set in motion stronger ties between the US and India, which continue to this day; for instance, including a ten year mutual protection pact between the two countries currently in effect.

However, steps have also been taken in recent years to increase military cooperation between China and India, another factor worrying to US planners who hedge their bets on permanent US military dominance. This cooperation is being manifested in the areas of economics and defense, mainstays in the US's exertion of dominance in world affairs.

The value of courting India away from China/Russia is not lost on analysts, with such influential writers as Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky making their opinions heard on the subject. A regional economic and military alliance comprising Russia, China, and India, would have severe implications for continued American dominance.

Battleground: Iran

Successful defiance of American hegemonic interests is not undertaken lightly. However, the failed US invasion and occupation of Iraq has put the United States in its weakest position in decades, leaving open the opportunity for other power centres to assert their influence.

Previous attempts at defiance have led to serious consequences for countries such as Cuba, which suffered at the hands of an American economic strangulation since the overthrow of the US-backed Batista regime. Overt actions have been taken against others guilty of defiance in the past, such as many Latin American countries, North Korea, Vietnam, Sudan, and the recent US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela to oust the elected president Hugo Chavez.

Historically, Russia and/or China have consistantly fought the US on different battlegrounds, with Mao's troops fighting American troops in both North Korea and Vietnam (in the latter, the 100,000 strong Chinese forces even went so far as to don their Chinese military uniforms), the placement of Russian Nukes in Cuba, American Nukes in Turkey, and so on.

The re-emergence of Russia and China as global players is today being showcased in Iran. What was originally a confrontation strictly between France (proportedly representing the EU, although EU polls at the time indicated that the EU population was more worried about US militarism than Iran's nuclear program) and Iran has become a standoff between the East (Russia/China) and West (US/UK). Backed by these two UN Security Council Veto holders, Iran has refused to back down in front of US pressure regarding their nuclear program. Simultaneously, Iran is stepping to the forefront of one of the major issues of the day, the civil war raging in Iraq.

After two decades of diplomacy suspension, Iran's close ally Syria and American occupied Iraq are resuming diplomatic relations. Syria, branded by George Bush Jr. as a member of the "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea, broke ties with Iraq in 1982 in reaction to the US-backed war against their partner Iran; increasing ties between Syria and the US-installed regime of Malaki (and Talabani) could only be as surprising to their US masters as Malakis denunciation of Israel's US-backed murderous escapades in Lebanon and Palestine over the past few months.

Even more surprising for the US is the acceptance of the offer of a state visit to Iran by Talabani this weekend, where the major issue is likely to be the civil war raging in Iraq (it is often referred to in the western media as the "security situation" but to a rational observer 100 sectarian murders a day is beyond a simple "security situation").  This is on the heels of a call by Tehran for a summit with Iraqi and Syrian leaders to discuss Iraqs deep seeded problems.

The idea of such a summit occuring is so worrysome to the US that the US Embassy immediately issued a warning to the Iraqi government to stay away from Iran and Syria, and The US Propaganda machine immediately issued a report that such a summit would never happen.

Why should America be so worried about Iranian influence on Iraq?  It is generally accepted by those who look beyond Fox News Headlines that the US's intention was to impose a client regime on Iraq, opening up for US businesses "economic opportunities," in other words unfettered access to Iraqs vast reserves of natural resources, and a permanent US presence in the center of the resource-blessed region.  Iran, on the other hand, wholeheartedly rejects the idea of any American and British influence in the region.  An op-ed in the Iran Daily reflects this:

Many Arabs and Muslims I talked to at the weekend about his new round of irresponsible statements about Iran were of the opinion that Blair could be suffering from a fresh bout of dementia.

In a television interview, the Labour boss known to many peace lovers in and outside Britain as "Tony Bliar", "Phoney Tony" and "King of Spin", publicly admitted that the war he jointly engineered with George Bush was a "disaster."
However, that admission of defeat did not stop him from blaming Tehran for all that has been going very wrong in occupied Iraq as a direct result of the Bush-Blair arrogance.
He said he had a message for Tehran and Damascus: "If you are prepared to be a part of the solution, there is a partnership available to you."

We cannot speak for the leadership in Syria, nor do we know if or when Bashar Assad proposed any mechanism to help bring peace to the volatile Middle East. As far as Tehran is concerned, Blair, who will be remembered by posterity as a pro-war ruler obsessed with Israeli security and interests, had the wrong address once again. Those who decide foreign policy in our country do not recall ever wanting to be partners with killers of innocent Muslims like Blair or Bush.

Having said that, it deserves mention that the UK prime minister who dragged his country into the bottomless quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, is simply not in a position to make offers or speak on behalf of the people in our part of the world. One need not be a political scientist to understand that there is not one single country in the Muslim-Arab world that wants even impartial western rulers to speak on its behalf.

Now, how can Iran get away with such blatant disobedience of American power?  The answer lies, once again, in the East.  Iran's ties with Russia and China are consistantly played down in the western media in favor of a portrayal of Iran as a country on the verge of aquiring nuclear weapons and intent on using them to commit genocide against Israel.  However, if we look back at the timeline of the most recent developments in the confrontation we see other important factors.  Iran's military is being supplied by the Chinese (who in turn were supplied by Russia), and their military capabilities were most recently demonstrated in excersises they carried out in nearly half of their provinces and the Persian Gulf.  This chinese-supplied military capability is widely seen as a deterrant to the American military option.  Additionally, Iran has secured a trade partnership with Russia (and, in turn, the SCO) that comprises the worlds largest supply of Natural Gas and one of the top five supplies of crude oil, and it is Russia (not Iran) that is building in Iran a new state-of-the-art nuclear reactor.

Strategically, Iran is in an ideal position to all but cut off the supply of Middle East oil to the West, while allowing oil supply to continue through pipelines to their allies in the East.  Iran's close ties with China and Russia are likely to prevent the US taking any more aggressive stance against the country than they already have, for economic reasons I have explained before:

Another dangerous economic trend is the steady decline in value of the US Dollar. Against the Euro it has dropped by more than a third of its value over the past five years. America's aggressive foreign policy isn't helping the situation much either, as the countries that were subsidising the US's enormous budget deficit by (as required by the IMF) purchasing US government bonds as collateral to insure their own currencies, such as many South American, Asian, and "Old Europe" countries, are looking to withdraw from their IMF obligations and take their money elsewhere in response to what they rightly perceive as American Imperialism.

Perhaps more worrysome for the American economy is the fact that major energy-commodity trading countries, which have been propping up the value of the dollar since the seventies as it is the major trading currency for oil, are also responding to american imperialism with a desire to switch to other currencies as their oil buying and selling currency. Most notable would be China, which holds the largest foreign reserve of US dollars on the planet, and which has begun serious discussions this year to switch to Euros as its oil buying currency. That would lead their main oil supplier Iran, which the US has been bullying recently, to switch to Euros as well (for oil), and could lead other OPEC countries to follow suit. This would lead to a rapid decline in the value of the already weak dollar, and skyrocketing inflation in America.

The end result is that the US, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing strong eastern opposition, is not currently in any position to enforce their hegemony.

Future Implications

Once an empire enters into decline, history tells us that the end result is consistantly terminal to their ambitions of dominance.  Rome, Greece, Persia, the Ottomans, Britain; each have fallen by the wayside as their policies led to their downfall.  What is emerging now is a multipolar order (rather than a unipolar order under US control) with the US sharing its global power with China and Russia, India (whom America is having to attempt to woo away from the other emerging powers), and a Latin America being led by Democratic Venezuela in partnership with defiant Cuba and economically strong Brazil, and with close ties to the strategic alliance of Russia and China in the East.

The unsolved question remains the intentions of the EU.  Mired in their own expansion problems and with leader-states France and Germany caught in the middle of Iran's nuclear row, the EU of late has not taken much in the way of concrete steps to assert their independence from American control.  Instead, the EU has taken a backseat in international affairs, allowing for the emergence of Russia as the dominant player in recent international issues.  In the future it would seem that the EU will be faced with the choice of isolating America, or standing with America against the backdrop of a world tired of being forced to cow to American demands.

In any event, the indications of the demise of America as the worlds sole dominant superpower can only be welcomed by those who care about the future of our civilisation.  The absolute power and absolute corruption that a system of American Hegemony has brought along is far from the best interests of the people, and it will be the people who benefit from moving away from the current Status Quo.

Strange that nobody has reacted yet - probably a lot to absorbe. Thanks for posting it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:00:26 AM EST
There isn't much to disagree with, is there?

The only point of contention is what the EU should do:

The unsolved question remains the intentions of the EU.  Mired in their own expansion problems and with leader-states France and Germany caught in the middle of Iran's nuclear row, the EU of late has not taken much in the way of concrete steps to assert their independence from American control.  Instead, the EU has taken a backseat in international affairs, allowing for the emergence of Russia as the dominant player in recent international issues.  In the future it would seem that the EU will be faced with the choice of isolating America, or standing with America against the backdrop of a world tired of being forced to cow to American demands.
And, even there, I don't find much to argue with in the way the question is framed.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:08:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ta, misneach, for a well-linked, rational diary.

i don't think you'll get any contradictions here.

what comes up for me as i read this was:

1. realpolitik rules, and we are not deemed as a public worthy to absorb and understand such concepts, so are you just  ahead of the curve, or we being dumbed down so we specifically remain ignorant, chewing on the cud of whether to vote for brown or cameron etc.

i think a lot of relatively politically unsophisticated peeps have come to the same conclusions around their kitchen tables, following 'cui bono?' to its logical conclusion.

this cognitive gap between the blithe lying we have to expect from our leaders and the reality of what's happening that we all feel in our guts,(and see reflected in our energy bills) is staggering....

crazymaking, in fact....

humanist values just don't get much of a place at the table of the powerbrokers, and if we don't assert our demands and rights, well and often, i certainly am not holding my breath till they give them to us out of the goodness of their black little hearts...

well done for researching and writing this summary of the frightening status of world power, and the lunatics who control it.

  1. europe will nor be able to sit on the fence for ever.

  2. i pray that the enlightenment values we discuss so often and well here, will prevail over the brutal mindsets of the other world powers, russia and china. in fact i think this is the only kind of globalism i endorse.

we have taken on board the i ching, acupuncture, pancake rolls, vodka and tolstoy, so come on guys, make nice with us as you milk us for every other thing we've illicitly amassed....sob...

savour our thoreaus and emersons, our shakespeares and whitmans, become blues fans...we really did come up with some intellectual, cultural and scientific marvels that will help your civilisations as well, dance to the best of our music, and we'll do the same...

but PLEASE don't treat us like the americans treat the iraquis, or we brits treated the indians, or the french the algerians, or the italians the ethiopians....

don't just feed us into the hopper to be rendered...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:32:09 AM EST
ten years ago who could have imagined, the US could fall so far so fast, or that Russia (russia! remember when it was broke) and China would have risen so fast?

who knows what the world will look like 10 years hence...

The world will end not with a Bang, but with a "do'oh"

by love and death on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 10:57:52 AM EST
As sort of a post-script to this really well done diary, Immanuel Wallerstein recently had a bit of a related discussion in a recent NLR on whether the Irak fiasco has served as an accelerant to decline in US hegemony, relevant extracts below:

It seemed to many that the post-1970 period was a golden era for the us. Not at all; it was quite the contrary. First, the us had lost a major war against a small country... Vietnam was compounded by the Watergate scandal, which forced Nixon to resign. Military defeat and domestic political crisis were, however, only a backdrop to the graver us geopolitical problem--the loss of any automatic economic superiority over its major allies, Western Europe and Japan. For, once the Triad had become more or less economic equals, the us could no longer count on Western Europe and Japan behaving like political satellites. American foreign policy had to change. Beginning with Nixon, and continuing for the next thirty years (Nixon to Clinton and passing through Reagan), all administrations concentrated on an unspoken objective--slowing down the decline of us hegemony.

The programme they evolved was threefold. The first plank...was an offer to Western Europe and Japan of `partnership'. Washington in effect said...that it would offer them a say in constructing a joint world geopolitical policy, in return for (their) refraining from unilateral policies of their own. Partnership was implemented by the creation of a series of institutions: the Trilateral Commission, the g7 meetings, the World Economic Forum at Davos among others. One major argument the us used was the need to maintain a united front against the Soviet Union...The allies did not stray too far.

The second plank was designed to secure us military advantage...The us had already lost an absolute monopoly in nuclear weapons, since by the mid-sixties Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France and China had all developed them. But the us decided it was crucial that the spread stop there. The second plank was thus a drive to stop nuclear proliferation. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons...offered a deal: the five nuclear powers would work to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament and permit...other countries to develop the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; in return, the rest of the world would renounce the pursuit of nuclear weaponry. Three countries refused to sign the treaty--India, Pakistan and Israel--and each has since obtained nuclear weapons. But the majority of states eventually signed, and many countries which were thought to have started programmes in the direction of developing nuclear weaponry in fact closed them down...There is of course a small group of countries whose real practices have long been in dispute: Iraq (whose Osirak nuclear facility was bombed by Israel in 1981), Libya (which dismantled its facilities in 2004), North Korea and Iran in particular. The reason why this treaty is so crucial to the us is that even a few nuclear weapons give a country the capacity to limit the strategic options of the us and the reach of its military strength...

The third element in the revised us foreign policy was economic. When the Washington Consensus replaced developmentalism as the reigning world doctrine, American economic and particularly financial involvement in Third World countries became much more profitable, hence compensating for some of the decline in the profitability of erstwhile leading industries in the us. In many ways, this aspect of the revised foreign policy was the most successful of the three, until the late 1990s.

But the very success of these efforts to slow hegemonic decline created difficulties for the us at the very moment when it was congratulating itself on its emergence as the `sole superpower'. The first of these was caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The rhetoric of the United States had always been that the Soviet system should be ended...When Gorbachev did...tear down the Wall, and forced considerable mutual disarmament on the superpowers, the us was unsure how to handle this new development...

The principal geopolitical consequences were two. Washington lost the last important argument it could employ as to why Western Europe should remain politically tied to the us... It also lost the last major indirect constraint on the policies of Third World nations--the role of the Soviet Union as an enforcer of the rules of the Yalta arrangements, in countries hostile to the us. The latter effect became dramatically visible with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990...

(Saddam) of course worried about world reaction to what was obviously, under international law, aggression. But because of the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, he could afford to disregard Soviet views. Saudi Arabia posed no serious military threat. The only obstacle was the United States. Saddam probably reasoned thus: either the us fails to react (as he was assured by the us Ambassador to Iraq two days before the invasion) or if they do react, the worst they will probably do is push Iraq out of Kuwait. So, all in all, it seemed a gamble well worth taking. And of course he turned out to be right. The us, after a momentary hesitation, mobilized a political and military campaign to expel Iraq from Kuwait, getting four countries (Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) to bear some 90 per cent of the cost of the American operation. But they stopped at the border for fear of the negative consequences for American interests of invading Iraq itself. The end result was the status quo ante...

On the world-economic front, the 1990s was to be the decade of long-term institutionalization of the neoliberal global order. Its chief instrument, the WTO, was charged with ensuring that the countries of the South open their frontiers to trade and financial flows from the North, while respecting their `intellectual property'. The basic message was the slogan launched by Thatcher a decade earlier: There is No Alternative. The countries of the erstwhile socialist bloc, including Russia itself, engaged in an orgy of privatization and deregulation. So did many other states in the South.

The immediate result in a large number of countries was to worsen economic conditions, with the disappearance of social safety nets, increasing rates of unemployment, and declining currencies--all occurring side by side with the spectacular rise of new wealthy strata. Internal inequalities in the less developed countries of the world greatly increased. When the one area of the South that had been doing rather well economically--East and Southeast Asia--suffered a severe financial crisis in 1997, followed by similar setbacks in Russia and Brazil, the neoliberal option lost much of its credibility as a solution to the world's economic problems...

When the wto met in Seattle in 1999 to draw up definitive rules for a neoliberal world economic order, it was met by popular demonstrations (largely of us social movements) that effectively derailed the proceedings. Similar protests followed at other international meetings over the next few years, leading to the creation of the World Social Forum, which met for the first time in Porto Alegre in January 2001--designed as a popular riposte to the World Economic Forum of Davos, the official meeting-ground of global neoliberalism. The programme to slow down the decline in American hegemony seemed to be grinding to a halt. It was time to rethink it.

The rethinking was provided by the group of neo-conservatives whom George W. Bush installed in high positions in his Administration after his inauguration in 2001... This group was extremely critical of Clinton's foreign policy but, in effect, they rejected the whole thrust of the us foreign policy that had tried to slow down the decline of us hegemony after 1970. They believed the glass of us power was not half full, but half empty--American decline was all too real. They did not attribute this to structural changes in the world-system (for example, the end of us economic superiority vis-à-vis Western Europe and Japan), but rather to the political blunders and lack of tough resolve of successive us presidents. They did not exempt Reagan from this critique, although they did not say so too loudly.

This lobby called for a radical revision of us foreign policy. They wished to replace the soft multilateralism that was the basis of the partnership the us had offered its principal allies between 1970 and 2000 with unilateral decisions, to be offered its allies on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Those countries that seemed to be resisting nuclear non-proliferation were to be forced toward immediate adherence. At the same time, efforts were to be made to free the United States from the restraints it had accepted on the expansion and updating of its own nuclear arsenal. The neo-conservatives aimed to block American participation in new international treaties that would in any way limit us national decisions (Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, etc). Above all, they were set on ousting Saddam Hussein, who in their eyes had humiliated the us by remaining in power in Iraq, by force. Implicitly, they blamed the first President Bush for not having marched on Baghdad in 1991.

It is important to note that many, if not most, of these individuals had held high positions in the governments of Reagan and Bush Snr, but had never been able to get either of these administrations to buy this programme. They had been stymied by a large group of officials who adhered to the Nixon-to-Clinton strategy, and regarded their proposals as dangerous folly. So they were frustrated not only by Saddam, but by the us foreign policy establishment. Their frustration continued for the first eight months of the Bush Administration. Then came bin Laden's assault on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Almost immediately they were able to get Bush to buy their entire approach. What probably persuaded him and his immediate political advisors was the fact that assuming the mantle of `war president' seemed to be the surest road to re-election as well as to the realization of his most cherished domestic objectives.

The logic of the neo-conservative position was very simple. Bringing down Saddam by force, preferably unilateral, would not only restore American honour, but also intimidate three groups whose policies seemed to constitute a major threat to us hegemony: Western Europe with its pretensions to geopolitical autonomy; the potential nuclear proliferators, especially North Korea and Iran; and the rulers of the Arab states who were dragging their feet over a `lasting' settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict largely on Israel's terms. The neo-conservatives reasoned that, if they could achieve these three objectives rapidly and conclusively, all serious opposition to us hegemony would disintegrate and the world would indeed enter a `new American century'.

In doing so, they made several major errors of judgement. They assumed that the military conquest of Iraq would be relatively simple, and cost little in either personnel or money. It is now clear they were wrong...Washington was manifestly unprepared to handle the complexity of Iraqi internal politics, and found itself caught in not only a military but a political quagmire, from which it has so far failed to extricate itself...

Moreover the politics of intimidation was only partially successful. In 2002 and 2003 France and Germany publicly signalled their dissent on the invasion of Iraq and the us had to withdraw the second un Security Council resolution when it became clear how little support it would receive. Nor did intimidation work any better with potential nuclear proliferators. Both North Korea and Iran drew the conclusion from the American invasion of Iraq that the us could attack Iraq not because it had nuclear weapons, but because it did not have them. It seemed obvious to both governments that the surest defence of the existing regimes was to speed up the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal... But the us found itself weakened militarily and politically by the occupation of Iraq. It became clear that the us would not be capable of a successful land invasion of another such country. It might pre-emptively launch nuclear missiles, but the consequences of doing so seemed daunting. Indeed, it was now in less of a position to rally either Western Europe or East Asia to any effort to force the two countries to cease their programmes. The us was consequently in a weaker position to stop nuclear proliferation after the invasion of Iraq than before it, the opposite of neo-conservative projections. As for the Arab regimes, the conclusion they drew from the invasion of Iraq was that the ambiguous policies they had pursued for decades were the only plausible ones for their own survival...They were certainly wary of any further us projects in the Middle East.

Finally, on the front of neoliberalism, the Washington Consensus no longer seemed so binding on the countries of the South, thanks to the weakening of the us geopolitical position as a result of Iraq. Both negotiations within the wto, which the Bush Administration sought to revive, and Washington's bid to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas (ftaa), ran into a roadblock set up by the Brazilians and other governments of the South...

The net result of the entire Bush foreign policy has thus been to accelerate the decline of us hegemony rather than reverse it. The world has entered into a relatively unstructured, multilateral division of geopolitical power, with a number of regional centres of varying strength manoeuvring for advantage--the us, the uk, Western Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India, Iran, Brazil at the very least. There is no overwhelming superiority--economic, political, military or ideological-cultural--in any one of these centres. And there is no strong set of alliances for the moment, although one is likely to emerge.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 11:44:39 AM EST
.. I indeed share the narrative of the oiary .. but certainly not most of the details.

I certainly doubt the American mepire will fall in a sudden collapse. Transitions from an empire to another in the last two centuries have been normally quite soft and without strong and sudden changes.. it is just a smooth adaptation. ONly a WOLRD War Ii and FDR spped it up alittle bit for the US.

Actitudes and policies can change slightly the profile of the change but the end point is a fix point and almost impossible to avoid/change.

Of course, policies can make it more painful or less painful, this is true, But Presidecnies like FDR only fast tracked the US to global status two or three decades.. and this of course changed the world...for a few decades... but not the final fix point... a multipolar world.

In a world capitalistsc society where energy is abundant (and we have plenty of coal... unfortuantely some would say sinc eglobal warming is there waiting us if we use it) with high interchanges the power and area of influence will be depend almost exclusively in the ability to generate andspatial program which can deliver IBCM. In Physics we learn to isolate the most relevant variables in a particular frame. In our present frame/world the knwoledge, ability and the existence of means within your borders to develope IBCM  (nuclear power is much more easy than IBCM) is all that counts...

So a multipolar world will appear eventually with all nations (or group of nations) that can have one. namely Russia, Europe, China, India and Brazil (eventually Japan-Corea if they scratch they present treaties with the US or Australi if they do the same)....maybe with time SouthAfrica.. but this last is a long shots still.. but eventually it will happen

And that's it. Any of these nations will eventually have enough economic strength to become an economic superpower..

A basic economy with your own resource is the indicator  to achieve a spatial program.. the own nuclear and IBCM programs are pursued and, depending on economists and knowledge of the rulers you can reach world economic status sooner or later...

The ones that have reached an economic status (or seem to get it fairly soon) are China and India.. this is true, three decades at most adn they get to catch up the US or Europe.. so the balance will go to the Pacific.. but Russia is still more a de facto power..and Brazil is only waiting...(example of a delay due to bad leader.. until the present and past presidents)

Bush just did one thing.. he lost Asia two or three decades before than expected without a lot of pain except for Iraq citizens.. on the other hand.. these are also excellent newsgiven that the American army is strecthed thin, hard power of US has been redimensionalize and reduced by an order of magnitutde  (at least) and soft power will have to be subtituted with cooperative power and alliances if the US wants to be the first of the pack for a couple of decades more,

In any case, it woudl have been a matter of time.. luckily Bush make it faster... Invading Iran will make it mcuh more painful.. this is true.. so this is probably the only and relevant measurte of the Bush administration. But the final point is the same..multipolar influences being the US one among many (with good presidents maybe the slightly first among many)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 01:13:00 PM EST
I agree that America's days as Sole Superpower are numbered, and I also want to believe this should be "welcomed and encouraged by people the world over." What I especially like about your analysis, however, is the attention you give India. The CW has been that China is the only candidate for superpower status ca. 2050 or so, and I simply don't buy that, not with the increasingly severe environmental constraints China is going to suffer over the next few decades.

On the other hand, as much as I'd love to see South America rise to the top of the world order, I don't think that Venezuelan oil or Brazilian growth will be enough to push the region into the front ranks.

As for the EU, well, it's obvious that they could easily surpass the U.S. on every single front, if only they could come up with a leader or two who cared enough about the rest of the world to want to be a major player.

by Matt in NYC on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:31:23 PM EST
The EU is a collection of member states trying to find ways to cooperate that will benefit themselves. Structurally it is bound to be inward-looking. I see this as a good thing.
by Trond Ove on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 01:07:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree: the EU first has to come up with a half-dozen leaders or two who care about the EU. We haven't had one since Delors-Mitterrand-Kohl-Gonzalez 15 years ago.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 03:15:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Completely agree with that, too. Good leadership starts at home, and Europeans don't seem to realize that the EU is their home for the foreseeable future.

Still, I think EU countries have so much going for them, individually not to mention if they ever learn to act a semblance of unison, that they will muddle through virtually any superpower/multipower scenario. Maybe that's why Europeans seem so smug and self-satisfied these days; they actually like the idea of being rich and apathetic bystanders for the remainder of history.  

by Matt in NYC on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe that's why Europeans seem so smug and self-satisfied these days; they actually like the idea of being rich and apathetic bystanders for the remainder of history.  

Nah - truth is that much of the "core Europe" continental bit is waiting for an opportunity (i.e. post-Iraq-invasion, post-Afghanistan-invasion US in military-financial retrenchment mood) to get discretely out from under the US, wriggle our way out of the NATO straitjacket.. both for the sake of independence and so we can be free at last to play a more positive, decisive and non-US-determined role in the ME... and the rest of our hyper-touchy, hypersensitive "neighbourhood" ... without getting ourselves pre-emptively US-nuked as a hostile "peer competitor"...;-)

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What a bright future we have in store! Those "core Europeans" are going to take care of Darfur, Chechnya, the Kurdish problem and even find a way to sweet-talk the U.S. and China into doing something about global warning!

I really don't like being cynical, not about Europe anyway, but, with the possible exception of Spain, no European country has leaders, in or out of power, strong or visionary enough to make a difference in the rest of the world.

by Matt in NYC on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 04:05:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Millman, Europe has no intention of imitating the US's presumptuous urge to "play globocop" in furtherance of its imperial and/or petrochemical ambitions: US string of messes/horrors from Vietnam to Cambodian bombings onwards into Iraq are more than sufficient proof that in the post-colonial world such "white mans' burden" ventures are not well received by the locals.

In a multipolar world the spheres of influence/conflict-resolution of the various "poles" is essentially regional not global. For instance, we are not involved and have no intention of becoming involved in the North Korea spat, the Taiwan spat etc etc - which regard South Korea, China, Japan etc. not Europe. Just in case you haven't noticed, we live in Eurasia, meaning our primary security concerns regard decreasing dangerous conflictuality near and around our own borderzones. In particular, again just in case you haven't noticed, at present the conflictuality-zones of greatest concern to us are in the Mediterranean and ME (Balkans and Southern-Eastern Med. = Lebanon, Israel/Palestine and the expectedly devastating consequences of the US/UK's misguided invasion/occupation of Iraq).  We also have good reason to attempt to pour oil on troubled waters further north i.e. we wish to avoid the kind of civil-war splitup the US has been aiming for in Ukraine by funding and otherwise stirring up the ethnic-Ukrainian 50% against the ethnic-Russian 50% component. Also wary of provocations such as NATO getting dragged into the chain-reactions resulting from neighbour-hostile moves by countries such as Georgia, intent on crushing independence movements in South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabach.

NOT born yesterday! And FAIK, no-one in Somalia wants US or EU "white man's burden" stormtroopers landing inside its frontiers or bombing it from the sky?

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 03:18:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry - I meant Matt not Millman.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami
by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 04:11:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A really top notch diary. I imagine one of the worst things about writing something this good is that it engenders hardly any discussion. We stand back and admire it, but don't engage with it because it's so good. It's disheartening

I'd agree that it is unlikely that the US will fall hard and fast, unless the abandonment of dollars by japan, europe and China takes place more quickly than currently seems likely. I think it won't, simply because any hint of such a move would render the stock worthless.

But a little more humility from the White House would certainly be welcome

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 03:19:14 PM EST

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