Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our Eroding Empire

"Washington concerned about the secrecy surrounding the Chinese defense budget. During a visit to Washington last month by Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to be the next leader of China, the Obama administration specifically asked for greater transparency in the Chinese military budget and for deeper communications between the two militaries"--NY Times, March 5, 2012

"The top-secret world the [U.S.] government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work"--Washington Post, July 19, 2010

Apart from making money, the point of having an empire, particularly a powerful one, is that you can ignore the golden rule. You can do unto others what you would never let them do onto you.
So we can demand that other countries tell us their military plans. Or that Afghanistan continue to allow us to kill and imprison its citizens on its territory. Or, as President Obama likes to say, keep all options open when it it comes to blockading, bombing and subverting sovereign nations whose policies irk us. Or that we can spend hundreds of millions influencing foreign elections even though we have a law barring foreigners from doing the same to us. Of course, most of this is illegal, but, then again, the law is there to keep the lesser classes in line. If it, as idealized, applied equally to all, half the greedheads on Wall Street would be doing time right now.
Americans have become so used to bossing around foreigners that they don’t notice that their commonplace utterances, as well as their deeds, create new enemies daily. I don’t think my next door neighbor would be charmed if I kept referring to his property as my back yard. Nor would the guys at the bar bow down because I had anointed myself the greatest and therefore their leader. More likely, they’d kick me out on my ass.
That’s exactly what’s happening world-wide right now. The American empire is getting booted out of its satrapies. Not all of them, of course. And it’s even adding a few new ones. Burma comes to mind, while Syria appears up for grabs. But the trend is on the down side. Latin America, our longtime “backyard,” has already become free. And it’s not just the leftist nations like Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Even conservative politicians from Mexico to Chile are finally realizing that there are fewer and fewer reasons to take orders from the decaying gringo empire. They see that it’s better for the whole continent, with nearly twice the population of the U.S, to unite than to continue to singly submit to Washington and Wall Street. Indeed, there you have a prime reason for the empire's ennui. Another is that when it comes to products, ideas, or protecting foreign elites from their own people, the U.S. no longer has anything special to offer.
Behemoths China, Russia and Brazil are powers unto themselves. India is defying the U.S.-led economic assault on Iran. Pakistan has announced it will stand with Iran if Israel and/or the U.S. attack. Turkey and South Africa are growing in influence. Regional powers are strengthening despite Washington’s resolve to never let them rise up.
While eastern Europe seems satisfied to retain its satellite status, merely switching masters from the USSR to the U.S., western Europe is another story. Its politicians and money managers are still yoked to Washington and Wall Street, but its people haven’t been so restless since the Great Depression. Unlike Americans, large numbers of Europeans are willing to do battle with the enforcers of austerity. From Spain to Greece, there’s even a whiff of revolt in the air.
In the Middle East, the whiff has already turned into a whirlwind. Whether it will ultimately blow left towards secularity and social democracy or right towards a Muslim version of Santorumism remains to be divined.
In short, stuff’s happening everywhere. Not so much here yet out on the right cusp of the world, where folks remain as ignorant of their empire in its dotage as they were in its heyday. But that can change, too. And quickly.

Post Script

For three days, Iran has dominated the agenda of the annual conclave of Aipac, a must-have ticket for politicians eager to prove their pro-Israel bona fides--NY Times, March 7, 2012

I was finishing the blog above when I ran across the above quote from a Times story about the ubiquitous and all powerful influence that the politicians and generals who run a country the size of Honduras have over the world's self-declared most powerful nation. One of the many unmentioned ironies of this election year is that Obama is being trashed both for being insufficiently tough on foreign policy and insufficiently servile to a tiny foreign state. Only in America!

No comments: