The United States Empire Today: Some Observations
Eddie J. Girdner
Some academics who analyze current US global policies today attempt to pose the essential question as: “How can the US maintain its global power?” In other words, they realize that the US is a global hegemon and they wish to keep it that way. The problem for them is that US global power has weakened. This is what must be guarded against. It is typical of academics to serve the existing global power structure.
In my view, maintaining the US as a global hegemon is not the solution. Rather it is a large part of the global problem.
Why not begin with the simple observation that every empire contains the seeds of its own destruction? This idea is at least as old as the work of Ibn Khaldun in the Muqaddimah. The US Empire is no exception.
To quote Johan Galtung, “The cause of the decline and fall of western imperialism is western imperialism itself.”
One recent article argues for the theory of hegemonic stability (Charles Kindleberger). This theory posits that western hegemony under the US Empire has been a great and necessary benefit to the world since World War II. But in doing so, it stacks the cards, rather than giving a clear and accurate historical picture. This should be examined in terms of several categories below, such as the nature of the US capitalist economy, US foreign policy, US global hegemony, the Chinese economy, the post-war global order and so on. The above approach sees the post-war US hegemony and global order as benign, indeed beneficial apparently to all. This orthodox perspective should be examined more closely.
Mainstream academics generally examine US global hegemony under the rubric of the “western-led liberal international order.” They observe that this was set up by the US following World War II, and included the World Bank, the IMF, NATO, and later the EU.
Underwriting these, however, and critically, was the Bretton Woods Monetary System. This should also be emphasized. The critical role of the US dollar should also be mentioned. This gave the US great power to control, rule and eventually abuse the system. The dollar was the only currency that could not be devalued. This allowed the US to force other countries to bear part of the cost of its imperialism, particularly imperialist wars, such as the Vietnam War. This led to the revolt in France in the universities in the late l960s.
The author mentioned above sets up several supposed tenets of the “western-led liberal international order.” However, these are just taken for granted with no empirical examination or discussion of them. There is no examination of whether or not they were actually in operation after World War II, the Cold War period. He skips over the Cold War completely. But this period (1945-1990) was the period when the US basically controlled and ran the world order.
- The Post-War Liberal World Order:
It should be noted that the US set up the tri-lateral system centered on the US, Western Europe and Japan. In Europe, the US CIA largely restored the old ruling classes to power, with the Christian Democrat parties. The United States used the CIA to insure that social democrats would be kept out of power by secretly rigging elections with the help of the Italian Mafia in Italy. The US waged subversion with CIA operations against Eastern Europe and launched the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
In Japan, the US wrote the Japanese Constitution under General MacArthur and ensured that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would rule in favor of the old capitalist classes and the zaibatsu. These industrial groups were not really disbanded, but reorganized as keiretsu groups. Japan failed to follow the liberal model of political economy, as the US urged. Instead, they went in for state-guided developmentalist capitalism. (Chalmers Johnson)
Western Europe and Japan were the junior partners in the global imperialist system ruled over by the US. The US waged war against socialists in China. But the corrupt nationalists under Chiang kai-Shek, supported by the US, were defeated by Mao’s forces in 1949.
The US launched a global campaign to prevent any economic and political model from emerging that would challenge the capitalist model during the Cold War. The real problem was that markets, labor and resources should be made available for exploitation by western companies. This led to mass killings in Korea and Vietnam, some three million in each country. Massive state terrorism was used. Chemical warfare and apparently biological warfare against North Korea was used by the US. Agent Orange (dioxin) poisoned much of Vietnam and killed and maimed thousands. The poison is still there to this day and still killing.
In Vietnam, under the secret Phoenix Program, run by the US CIA and the corrupt South Vietnamese Government, tens of thousands of innocent people were tortured and killed under suspicion of having communist sympathies or sometimes just to fill the weekly Pentagon quota for dead “communists.” This was denied by William Colby, head of the program and later CIA Chief. There was no internet then, but all the common methods of torture were used by the US in these wars.
When the US was pushed out of Vietnam, in the l970s, the Phoenix operators were dispatched to countries around the world to implement similar programs of state terrorism. Of course the US overthrew many governments around the world in the Cold War period. Probably at least twenty million people died in these CIA operations and proxy wars. This was called counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. It goes on today in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and so on. General David Petraeus just recycled the theories from Vietnam for Iraq and Afghanistan. They have failed miserably, however, as in Vietnam.
During the Cold War period, the US supported fascist dictatorships in Latin America, under the pretext that if the communists came to power, they could never be removed (the Kirkpatrick Doctrine from Jeane Kirkpatrick). The US ensured the continued rule of the feudal kingdoms in the Middle East, and of rule under the military in Egypt. This still goes on. Military regimes in Turkey too were supported. Bahrain, which has a terrible record of human rights is supported by the US and the UK with Navy bases there.
The US had a huge world market with half of global production in the l950s. Even though the US was so prosperous, McCarthyism was used to crush democracy and the working class in the l950s. Many were blacklisted and went to jail as being suspected of being “communists.” Still workers made some gains in real income up to the late sixties. With the later shift in US industrial policy, in the 1970s, these gains were rolled back.
Racism was still in place in the US with segregation in the southern states. The Civil Rights Movement was only to emerge in the sixties. When university students protested the Vietnam War in the sixties, the US Government cracked down. Of course, US propaganda about the war was largely lies. Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, the secret Rand study, and was branded an enemy of the US when the New York Times began to print the study. Ellsberg was sent to trial. But Nixon lost in the courts and the CIA report was published.
- The US Economy
The US economy could be called “liberal” during this period if one considers that the massive attacks on the “welfare state” and Keynesianism had not yet taken hold. It was Keynesian welfare liberalism. Social welfare programs were expanded in the sixties under Lyndon Johnson, the Great Society legislation. But this was all to be rolled back at the end of the l970s. The US realized the mistake of assisting students to attend the university, when it resulted in massive protests of the Vietnam War on university campuses.
The US used the defense budget, the Pentagon, to massively subsidize corporate profits and research and development for defense and other corporations. The military-industrial complex padded the profits of corporations. The iron triangle, between the government, the military and defense corporations, funneled money to defense industries. A quarter of the US economy was based on war profiteering.
The US was not and is not, in fact, a democracy, if one wants to be technical about it. The US is obviously an oligarchy, in terms of the political science classification of regimes. The US is ruled by those who own capital. It is rule by the wealthy. The big corporations are the primary constituents of the US Government. One has to know that to get the money to get into political office and even more to stay in political office in the US. Then one must pay attention to the corporate lobbyists in Washington and vote the right way on bills.
One may fudge and refer to the US as a “democracy” just because the system is set up so that one of two parties may win through elections. That makes a very safe and stable political system, since both parties represent exactly the same ideology. So-called liberal capitalism. Generally there is only tinkering differences in public policies between the two parties that have any chance of getting elected. It looks like democracy to the outside world until one actually examines how the system works. One would think this might be interesting to political scientists, but they are usually willing to ignore these critical aspects for the most part. At least if they do address them, they will likely never get a job.
Up until the l970s, Keynesianism meant a great deal of state involvement in the US economy. This continued with the shift from “liberalism” to “neoliberalism” except that under neoliberalism, the state plays a different role. The state serves the corporations, the military and finance sectors. Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE). Social welfare is rolled back.
At the same time, the Bretton Woods Monetary System, due to the concerns of Keynes, was not liberal. Exchange rates were fixed among the major currencies of the world to allow European currencies to recover their strength in the market. Currency flows between countries was restricted.
Again, free trade was also not so free during the Cold War period. The US Congress balked at approving a world trade organization in the fifties. So GATT filled the gap and the trade negotiation rounds began. Congress acted to protect the interests of farmers to protect prices of their crops back in their rural constituencies.
The US could push free trade globally, since it was in the driver’s seat, in the most powerful trade position. But we know that the terms of trade militated against many third world countries. It took almost fifty years to overcome most domestic opposition to free trade in the US and bring the WTO into existence.
There has always been a strong religious element and foundation to US foreign policy. First the ideology of Manifest Destiny. The US Destiny, in this construct, was to take all the land west to the Pacific Ocean. This idea was extended to the rest of the world. (William Appleton Williams) The US saw itself as the “New Jerusalem” and Americans as God’s Chosen People. Millenarianism meant the US had a writ to rule the world and crush any opposition globally. This led to Wilsonianism, and Woodrow Wilson, said that the US had to root out evil with force, righteous force. God would be behind it. God would ensure that the US crushed any opposition anywhere and of course, would be the world’s policeman. This was drummed into the heads of generations of students in American schools. No wonder, they are so arrogant and take it for granted that they will always win anywhere. According to the ideology of American exceptionalism, the US is not just any nation, but different from all others. It cannot do any wrong. Whatever the US does is right by definition. This is pretty much what it dishes out from the US President’s bully pulpit. Moreover, the right-wing pundits argue that the US is not capable of being a selfish nation. It has no selfish interests. Whatever it does in the world is out of generosity to help other peoples. Sometimes they have to just be killed to be helped, unfortunately. International law is held to not apply to the US when it comes to national security interests. Therefore, the US need not obey international law. It can be a rogue state openly, with no possible sanction from any quarter.
Multiculturalism is much hated by the political right in America. Racism is a strong element and probably very useful when it comes to training soldiers that have to kill other people. In Vietnam, the local people were “dinks” and “gooks” and so on. Racism is strong in the US military as I know from my years in the US Navy.
- The Shift to Neoliberalism in the l970s:
The US was the one country that was an Empire from the beginning. It was an “infant empire.” (George Washington)
Following World War II, real wages rose for 15 or 20 years due to economic prosperity and the great global power of the US. The US enjoyed the privilege of having and printing the world’s reserve currency. The US had dollar hegemony. But by the end of the l960s, the US began to experience competition from Western Europe and Japan. These countries caught up economically and their currencies became convertible.
One should make a distinction between the American national system of capitalism and the national systems in Germany (Europe) and Japan. American capitalism is stockholder capitalism. It is designed to serve those who own the stock. It must attempt to produce profits for the owners of capital. German capitalism was a system of stakeholder capitalism. The workers generally were seen to have a stake in the system. In Japan, Shinto Capitalism, the government supported the big firms, Zaibatsu or Keiretsu, and workers were considered as part of the corporate family with lifetime employment. In America, however, the working class was to be cut out, having little power in the system. The Taft-Hartley Labor Law greatly limited the ability of workers to strike for benefits and higher wages. They could not strike in sympathy with another company. In the US, the corporation is legally an “individual.” This gave great power to corporations. Even at one point, minimum wage laws were ruled unconstitutional. In the US, almost all Congress members (Senators and Representatives) are owned by the corporations. Otherwise, they cannot get the money to get reelected. They have to serve big business with the laws they have already bought and paid for. A number of Congressmen have noted that this is a rotten system. It stinks. It is not democracy. This generally gets swept under the carpet. It would be a scandal really if this was known by the world. The Hollywood image still holds for the most part.
After the 1970s, the US economy was transformed. Supply side economics took over at the University of Chicago school. Milton Friedman and others claimed Keynesianism no longer worked. Deindustrialization began. Manufacturing was dismantled. Jobs were shipped to slave-labor countries such as China and India, later Vietnam and Bangladesh. And to Mexico. The attack continued on Keynesianism and social welfare. The economy became financialized. It can be characterized as monopoly finance capitalism. That’s where the profits are made. Real wages began to drop. Real jobs were replaced with low-wage and part-time temporary jobs, and long working hours with no overtime pay. Inequality increased by leaps and bounds after Reagan came to office in l981. The era of neoliberalism set in. Profits increased for those at the top of the system. Some ten percent or less of the population. The tax rate dropped for corporations and they could use global strategies and transfer pricing to avoid paying taxes. Some even get a rebate from the US Government after making billions in profits.
Free trade pacts shifted production globally (such as NAFTA). The US economy should be referred to as neoliberal, rather than liberal, after this point in the1970s. Social welfare programs were dismantled. The business classes started calling themselves the masters of the universe.
Public Choice theory was ushered in along with New Political Economy. Economic theories took over social science, particularly in political science. Traditional American political science theory, interest group theory (David Truman, Robert Dahl), was scrapped. Under the new theories, democracy and participation by the people were seen as distorting the market. Profits would be higher without democracy. We can say that democracy, to the extent that it existed, was scrapped too. Democracy was just a nuisance to Wall Street. This nonsense was then peddled around the world under the IMF structural adjustment programs. Everything had to be privatized, even if it made the system less efficient. Any loses would be put on the people while the companies reaped the profits protected by the government. Banks would be bailed out if they failed. Banks were too big to fail and bankers too big to jail, while the people were too small to save.
Democracy was generally seen as “rent seeking.” This distorted the market. Labor unions that increased wages were just counterproductive and a waste of good capital and so on. The same with environmental protection and government regulation. The state, under neoliberalism, would serve the corporations. It meant the free market for the people and corporate welfare for businesses. Trillions would be printed to bail out the banks and serve the corporate masters of the universe. One saw it in the US and Europe following the 2008 financial crises.
When the bankers collapsed the system, the taxpayers were stuck with the bill for trillions of dollars to bail them out. A few million people lost their homes. The rich got richer. The one percent. But those who really gained were far richer than most in the one percent.
The conclusion was that democracy was bad for the economy, and so technocrats would run the system. The people should just bug off and leave the capitalists alone and pay their taxes. The only problem was that their jobs had been sent to China and Mexico.
Neoliberalism, public choice theory, New Political Economy, became the dominant ideologies for neoliberalism. It would serve to restructure economies so that US corporations could maximize profits through strategic global production. This does not dismantle the state. A strong state is needed to enforce austerity and discipline protests by the masses when they have no work (Greece and Spain today). Also China. The state runs the economy with technocrats. There need not be democracy, at least not beyond the cosmetics of elections. Profits can soar under financialization and globalized production.
In the big emerging markets, like China, India, Turkey, and so on, the economy most generally takes the form of crony capitalism. These are essentially slave-labor regimes. Look at the mining sector in Turkey. In China, Deng divided up the economy between his sons. Economic growth can be high under crony capitalism. MNC’s increase their profits and repatriate them.
- The Chinese Economy:
There are two basic periods, of course. The first period under Mao was from 1949 till 1976. When Mao died, the capitalist roader, Deng Chao Ping, came to power. The Maoist period was basically a mixed economy as there was also a private sector. It was not so different from India, after l947, in significant ways. But the Chinese path was more successful in developing and mobilizing the country for future capitalist production. Both countries, of course, followed import substitution industrialization. This laid the basis for the later opening to the global economy.
After Mao, China began to shift to the capitalist road in the l970s. This was also not different from India, under Rajiv Gandhi. Economic liberalization began around the same time. In both the case of China and India, protection of the economy laid the foundation for entering the global market and globalization of production in the l980s.
Economic growth increased, of course, along with the familiar ills of greater inequality in both countries.
The US used this opportunity to dismantle the traditional manufacturing economy. Deindustrialization was carried out in the US in the l980s. Jobs were shifted abroad. The US is as much responsible for the rise of China as an economic power house as China itself.
American corporations loved to invest in China, not because it was democratizing. Rather, US businesses depended upon an authoritarian system to screw the workers to the wall and enforce labor discipline. After all, that is what neoliberalism and New Political Economy argues is necessary for capitalist production and indeed, development today. Indeed the old idea that greater democracy is conducive to a more productive economy has been tossed out the window. This principle is being applied all over the world today by the US corporate agenda of globalized production and strategic production and strategic trade. The corporations use a complex global strategy. And the new trade pacts (NAFTA, Trans Pacific Partnership, Trans Atlantic Partnership) are institutions to discipline countries to line up to this agenda and be punished if they do not.
So US corporations turned to slave labor in China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Mexico, wherever cheap labor could be found, primarily in poor third world countries. Of course, this will spur development in some of these countries, particularly China and India. Capitalism has from the very “Rosy Dawn” of the system depended upon a cheap labor force and reserve army of labor. So it is nothing surprising. What the US is about is being a great global empire primarily through military might and force. The corporations will enjoy all the resources of the world for their profits. And to hell with the domestic economy and the American people. That is not what it is all about. The domestic economy is about the financial sector. Industrial production will be done in slave-labor countries such as China. The US has now decided to treat this as if it was domestic production. Manufacturing in the US has shrunk to embarrassing levels. It is pretty hard to find anything made in America.
In fact, Chinese capitalism is based upon the East Asian model of state-guided capitalist development. The Chinese are copying Taiwan, which copied Japan. The Vietnamese are now following the same model. They need not be “transforming” to an American style “liberal democracy.” The contradictions would be too great as the workers mobilize for more rights and higher wages. Capitalists would just have to move on to other areas. The current gospel of neoliberalism holds that democracy is incompatible with competitive global capitalism. Moreover, the regimes in high growth countries are usually characterized by crony capitalism. This is the case with China as Deng divided up the economy among his sons. This is similar to Suharto in Indonesia. We need not mention the current dispensation in Turkey.
There are massive and continuous worker disputes in China, but they are being ruthlessly crushed by the state. Tien an Mein Square in 1989 was a sort of right-wing coup in China that consolidated the foundation of neoliberalism. The left liberals were thrown out of the government. Western corporate investors have no objection to this practice of busting and disciplining workers. It is one of the reasons they might prefer China to India as a place for their capital. India is more democratic. There is no sign that the regime in China is “transforming” to democracy. Why would they want to be like America? The Chinese would be appalled at the American model. They have no intention of destroying the country, the way the global corporations are destroying American society. Most of the American people just do not get it.
As capitalism has always exploited cheap slave-labor, starting with the sweat-shops in England in the nineteenth century, why wouldn’t they make use of save labor in China, India and other countries today? Profits are generally higher where production is the most labor-intensive.
Today, the Chinese political economy cannot be disentangled from the US. Holding something like three trillion dollars in foreign exchange, the US borrows several billion dollars a day from China. This makes the US somewhat dependent upon China. But on the other hand, as the US Treasure Secretary (John Connolly) once said, “It is our currency but your problem.” The US has a lever and can sink the value of the dollar costing China. And it does this continually with its QE agenda, simply printing dollars and flooding the world with increasingly worthless paper. The US tries to force China to let the value of the Yuan rise, but China resists.
Officially, China claims in its party line that it is using capitalism to build “socialism.” This is, of course, nonsense. It is producing dollar billionaires faster than any other country in the world. It is developing and must embrace all the contradictions which capitalism brings, particularly vast inequality. While I do not know exactly what socialism is, I greatly doubt if it is this.
In August 2014, it was reported that China’s GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) was the highest in the world. The US, from a state power perspective, is of course concerned about this. However, it has largely been brought about by the US itself, using Chinese cheap labor to increase profits.
It is a dialectic. The more the US tries to strengthen the Empire, the faster it declines. It is, after all, the historical trajectory of all past empires.
The dismantling of the US economy with deindustrialization (neoliberalism) dovetailed nicely with the dismantling of socialism (neoliberalism) in China in the l980s. Now, everyone should be happy. Except the people. They have been screwed by the ruling classes in both countries. But as far as I can tell, that is what the New Political Economy is all about. And to hell with democracy and the people. The new billionaires will be laughing all the way to the bank.
China does not embrace an ideology of becoming a global hegemon. However, it is true that China is engaging more in imperialist ventures as capitalism intensifies. Like all imperialistic countries, China in Africa will use the pretext of “helping the people” but it is primarily under the rubric of Chinese national interests. China needs resources to feed the capitalist machine and a huge population.
Clearly the size of the Chinese economy worries those at the helm of the US Empire. But it is the main workhouse of the world and part of the system that the US has helped to bring into existence under globalized production. As long as it is just a location for slave labor and producing for the world, no need to worry. It is not clear if the Chinese will come to create its own superior technology as the Japanese have done.
- The US Empire and China
However, the US insists upon global hegemony, so-called “full spectrum dominance.” It wants to be “top dog” and control the most critical resources, oil, and so on, around the globe. At this point in the historical trajectory of the Empire, it can only be achieved by perpetual wars. And since the Empire is essentially bankrupt, it can only continue perpetual war by printing dollars and forcing the world, all other countries and individuals who hold dollars, to help pay for it.
This is an intolerable situation and the world population is certainly going to revolt against it. It is also highly unethical if one can see through it. I wouldn’t expect a US Congressman to, certainly, but intellectuals should be able to get at least a dim glimpse. (Actually those congressmen who did are now mostly out of office, like Ron Paul.)
Putin is chomping at the bit because there is no alternative to the dollar. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization or the BRICS may not be able to overcome this very soon. Other regions of the world are also trying to get out of the system, such as Latin America. (The Bolivarian Revolution) Latin America has largely dropped away from the US after recent experiences.
It is surely anachronistic to see the continuation and perpetuation of post-war US hegemony as the best solution and greatest situation for the world. One cannot freeze history. The world has to more on. There must be a change in the system.
Why insist upon the status quo under the US Empire as being the best of all possible worlds?
The Cold War period of US global hegemony was not benign. The projection of US power in the world killed some twenty million people. The war in Vietnam killed 59,000 American soldiers. More than this committed suicide from the stress of killing later on. It was not so much the fear of “communism” as the fear of losing access to global resources that the Cold War was all about. The US feared the success of an alternative system to capitalism. Finally this took the absurd form of the dogma that liberal capitalism is the only possible system. (Fukuyama) There is no alternative (TINA) from Margaret Thatcher and earlier Herbert Spencer.
If this is so, why worry? Just stand by and watch the other systems collapse. No need to fight with them! Imperialist wars must just be for fun.
That’s why the end of the Cold War just meant the US had to invent a new pretext, terrorism, to justify fighting imperialist wars. What are all these American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria dying for? A wonderful democracy in Iraq, presumably. Could anyone in Washington or elsewhere actually take such hog wash seriously?
Why wouldn’t the decline of the US global Empire be good news, as Johan Galtung thinks? It keeps being said the US provides stability. That is it “maintains global stability.” Why is it that the least stable places in the world are those places where the West keeps invading repeatedly over the centuries? The Middle East is the best example. If this could have produced stability, these areas would be insufferably stable, but just the opposite is true. The US has not done enough damage in Afghanistan in a thirteen year war. Now they want another ten maybe. That stability is just now coming. It is just around the corner. Of course. Who can be that foolish? Imperialists must be imperialists and that is the basic principle. The only solution is the historical collapse of the empire.
Now the admirable neocon regime change in Iraq has produced the Islamic State and probably a regional war between Sunni and Shia if we are not awfully lucky. So much for providing stability. So much for the counterterrorism strategy of General Petraeus in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The west created the state of Israel. The British used terrorism against the Palestinians. How much stability has this created in the region? Even regime change is included under the rubric of providing stability. However, the US achieved the extraordinary result of making Saddam Hussein look like a genius in Iraq. Such foreign policy surely must be admired. And now the neocons are on the way back.
One can see the decline of the American Empire as a historical process. It is a historical dialectic. The US Empire is addicted to war and this is bringing it down faster. The real problem is surely not the rise of China. One rather worries about what new folly will be forthcoming from the banks of the Potomac.
- The European Union:
This was a banker’s project, led by Jean Monnet. The US wanted to lock in capitalist policies in Europe and prevent the rise of social democracy. That was the real threat, not any threat from the Soviet Union. The eventual solution was to embody a set of totalitarian principles about the functioning market economy and impose them from the top on as many European countries as possible. These were the so-called Copenhagen Criteria. The Commissars in Brussels became a sort of central committee beyond the reach of any democracy. Now they run the continent with economic technocrats, impose austerity and carry out quantitative easing for the benefit of the big bankers. This helps the bankers, but creates poverty and unemployment (Paul Krugman). They kill the economy. Democracy is cut out. There are too many bureaucratic layers between the people and those in the lofty heights of the Berlaymont in Brussels. Countries no longer even make their own laws, for the most part. They wait for them to arrive from Brussels. No country can expand jobs and social welfare. It is a sort of Americanization of Europe under neoliberal policies. The jobs are exported to cheap labor countries, Turkey, China, and India.
The commissars in Brussels rush from place to place consuming vast quantities of wine and gourmet food at the expense of the people. They only serve the interests of the big corporations and the banks to increase corporate profits, They are overpaid. It is a huge racket and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. They are like a central committee of bureaucrats insulated from democracy.
The Euro also serves to lock countries into the austerity policies of the commissars. But the system fails to create jobs for the youth today and there is a mismatch between the economies. This continually puts pressure on the weaker states like Greece, Spain and Portugal. The Europeans are the sub-imperialists to the US. They assist the US Empire. The slaves are the Chinese, Indians and Turks, who produce most of what they consume. But it is a dialectical process and over time, the periphery can gain more wealth and power.
A key to the maintenance of the Empire is the US dollar. While it is weakening, it will not collapse all at once. It is a long historical process. Every imperialist war weakens it further, however, as the Fed just creates fiat dollars. The dollar is perhaps the bell-weather of the system. If the dollar collapses, also the Empire must collapse. That’s why the US must control the world’s oil and market it in dollars.
From my perspective, the collapse of the US Empire would be a positive development. It would also be great for the American people. The US could be a normal country and do some things for its people at home. Perhaps the businessmen would no longer be the masters of the universe, which would be a big blow to them.
Developing countries, like India, would have the sovereignty to provide help to farmers who are committing suicide by the thousands because trade pacts have forced down the price of their commodities. Countries could also engage in environmental protection without running up against problems with the dispute settlement bodies of the WTO. This would take some of the resentment off of Western imperialism as it is not imposed on the world.
Why worry about the US global empire, then? The dissolution of the post-war US global hegemony is not being brought about by the rise of China, as much as by the American Global Empire itself. This is the historical dialectic at work. Whatever replaces it may be a lot better. Galtung discusses some possibilities. He also does not see China as becoming a global hegemon. As it is, the US is driving much of the world crazy with its policies and imperialist wars. This is the basic source of non-state terrorism. It is a reaction to massive state terrorism. Drone wars drive people crazy today in western Pakistan hovering above their villages for days and killing innocent people without warning. This is just a more sophisticated version of the Phoenix program in Vietnam that tortured and assassinated villagers that might have the wrong ideology, from the perspective of the Empire. The US cannot keep doing that and preach about human rights. It will just not wash.
One cannot freeze history and maintain the status quo. Empires do not endure forever, even though the rulers dream about a thousand years rule. There must be dialectical change. That is the nature of the historical beast.
May 10, 2015