Imperial America's End Time
By Stephen Lendman
29 November, 2010
Noted analysts on both left and right see America's empire in decline. In his 2009 book, "Global Depression and Regional Wars," James Petras said:
"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and are bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system," and with it America's empire.
On August 16, Paul Craig Roberts headlined his article, "The Ecstacy of Empire: How Close Is America's Demise," saying:
America's profligacy "is running out of time...." Yet "2010 has been wasted in hype about a non-existant recovery." Government-manipulated reality masks the internal rot. Wall Street handouts and imperial wars are bankrupting the country.
"US military spending reflects the unaffordable and unattainable crazed neoconservative goal of US empire and world hegemony....If the wars are not immediately stopped and the jobs (not) brought back to America, the US is relegated to the trash bin of history....Without a revolution, Americans are history." Indeed so.
In his March 18, 2008 article headlined, "The Collapse of America Power," Roberts said:
America thinks it owns the world. In fact, it "owes the world. The US 'superpower' cannot even finance its own domestic operations, much less its gratuitous wars" except through mounting debt that can't be repaid, and the more it mounts, the greater the eventual crash, working Americans to bear the burden.
In his November 16 article headlined, "Ruling on Behalf of Wall Street's 'Super Rich:' The Financial End Time has Arrived," Michael Hudson said:
"The financial End Time has arrived....(t)hanks largely to the $13 trillion Wall Street bailout - while keeping the debt overhead in place for America's 'bottom 98%" - this happy 2% of the population now receives an estimated three quarters (75%) of the returns to wealth (interest, dividends, rent and capital gains). This is nearly double what it received a generation ago. The rest of the population is being squeezed, and foreclosures are rising."
The economy is being destroyed to favor Wall Street and Pentagon militarists. Obama perpetuates this madness. "The Wurst of Obama: He's Carving the Middle Class into Sausage Filler as a Super-Meal for the Rich," and trashing America in the process.
A recent article remembered Chalmers Johnson, best known for calling America's global wars and imperialism a "suicide option" unless reversed. Access it through the following link:
Naming us our own enemy, he called our policies "arrogant and misguided," America's condition dire, and it's "too late for mere scattered reforms." We can choose - democracy to survive or perish under current policies. He said America is plagued by the same dynamic that doomed past empires unwilling to change, what he called:
"isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy," combined with authoritarian rule and loss of personal freedom. In other words, tyranny and ruin, his book "Nemesis" presenting:
"historical, political, economic, and philosophical evidence of where our current behavior is likely to lead. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent."
"The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government - a republic - that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire." Eventually, however, we'll keep neither.
In a July 30 article, titled "Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire," Johnson cited:
(1) Postwar expansionism is no longer affordable;
(2) We're losing the Afghan War and pursuing it is bankrupting us; and
(3) Our shameful "empire of bases" must end; close them down, at least most, ideally all, and also sharply cut our standing army.
His main message: "we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives." Few empires ever did it voluntarily. Britain did, chosing democracy. The Soviets didn't and fell.
A Grim Pentagon Afghan War Assessment
In its most recent semiannual report, released late November, titled, "Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan," Pentagon commanders were worried, suggesting that despite 100,000 US forces and 50,000 others (double the force since 2008), conditions are no better, saying;
"Progress across the country remains uneven, with modest gains in security, governance and development in operational priority areas." Progress overall has been "slow and incremental....key terrain....relatively unchanged."
Notably, however, violence and Afghan deaths have sharply risen as a result of a 300% increase in armed clashes since 2007, and a 70% rise over 2009. Despite the force buildup, "The insurgency has proven resilient with sustained logistics capacity and command and control."
Afghans also acknowledge that security is worse than ever. Moreover, "insurgent safe havens" in Pakistan and Iran threaten to widen the war further. In fact, "(e)fforts to reduce insurgent capacity....have not produced measurable results" despite heightened drone and other attacks.
In addition, out-of-control corruption exacerbates the problem, the report calling it "consistent with the view that (it's) preventing the Afghan government from connecting with the people and remains a key reason for Afghans supporting the insurgency."
Nonetheless, Washington is staying the course, shifting its exit strategy from fixed to transition, the report calling the "US commitment to Afghanistan....continuing, enduring, and long-lasting." In other words, continuity, not winning or losing matters, assuring hundreds of billions more dollars endlessly spent. And not just in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
Another Gloomy War Analysis
On October 14, Anthony Cordesman of the conservative Center for Strategic Studies (CSIS) issued a report titled,"Grand Strategy in the Afghan, Pakistan, and Iraq Wars: The End State Fallacy," saying;
"Grand strategy is not an American strength....Iraq is already a case in point. We have not yet achieved any meaningful form of positive strategic result (from over seven and a half years of war), and may end in a major grand strategic defeat."
Conflict continues. Obama's end of combat mission was bogus. Permanent occupation is planned. Iraq can't contain or counter Iran. There's no stable or effective government or political system. Iran's influence in the country may rival or surpass our own. Our pursuit of an "end state fallacy" may lose the war "in grand strategic terms." In other ways, it's already lost. Violence plagues the country daily, little reported in America's media.
An announced end of 2011 exit is planned. Expect that goal to change, while at the same time, Congress shows less willingness to appropriate limitless funding. "We may (also) lose the Iraq War for other reasons - its unstable politics, tenuous security, and Iran's dominance of future Shiite governments." So far, "we have won exactly nothing." A tactical victory looks increasingly pyrrhic.
Moreover, Washington "seems to be in a state of partial denial in dealing with the need for a long term...strategic commitment to the region." Alternatives to strategically failing in Iraq may be found, but it will be hard to "incredibly costly to compensate for (overall) failure in the Gulf."
Afghan/Pak (Afghanistan and Pakistan), however, is "radically different," reflecting a "very uncertain strategic posture." America's interests are "limited" compared to the Gulf. China and Russia are powerful rivals with strategic interests of their own.
What Afghan/Pak/Iraq have in common is there's "no credible end state to the fighting....that can give the US a credible grand strategic victory or stable outcome." Like Iraq and the Gulf, it will be "at least a decade" before stable governments, economies and security structures are possible. Even then, they're unlikely.
Afghanistan's outlook is even more tenuous than Iraq's. Winning in any form requires propping up and financing its government for years, maybe always. The country's had decades of war and instability. Its economy ranks "201st" in terms of per capita income, and poverty and overall need levels are extraordinarily high. At best, it will be well over a decade before Afghanistan makes real progress with sustained US help. Increasingly, however, it looks more like an unwinnable black hole, draining America's resources.
Pakistan complicates matters. Dealing with "Al Qa'ida and the Taliban in the FATA-Baluchistan areas are only the tip of the iceberg." Its government is corrupt and incompetent. Its military and intelligence structure have "strong Islamist elements." Its economy and social structure are crippled and semi-feudal. "Its security is shaped by the threat from India, growing internal religious tensions, and additional problems with Deobandi extremists, and hostile movements in Baluchistan and the Sind."
Pakistan is better off than Afghanistan, but it's also more dependent on US aid. It doesn't signal failure, but it does mean major challenges for the foreseeable future. As with Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington "can only influence - not shape - (its) future." Its present government may not survive. It's unclear whether any amount of US aid will work. It's unknown if America will serve Pakistan's interests if it keeps fighting. It's also uncertain whether its government will "abandon its efforts to manipulate Afghanistan (and) use it against India." It's unclear as well whether its military is willing to fight.
Moreover, its government may fall, and its military only does enough to maintain US aid as long as Pentagon forces remain in the area. Resolving its future and stability will be uncertain until "at least 2020." Maybe much longer or never.
Yet the Obama administration "seems to deliberately avoid projecting the need for a lasting commitment to either Afghanistan (or) Pakistan, and providing anything approaching an estimate of the cost of sustaining the war and dealing with its aftermath." Increasingly, its plan appears ah hoc, shifting commanders instead of addressing policy failures and changing them. Larger force levels and more violence and killing aren't solutions. So far, they've made conditions worse, not better.
Also consider the costs, already unsustainable, with no end of spending in sight. Eventually, Congress will tire of funding them, especially with no tangible successes.
"The US and its allies are pursuing a largely mythical Afghan development plan which lacks core credibility in peacetime, much less in war. There is no development plan for Pakistan. The US is effectively paying an open ended mix of bribes to a country whose economy is now crippled by a catastrophic flood, and whose main security interest is India, not the war the US wants it to fight."
Washington has failed in its planning and execution efforts. However, even if correctly done, the prospects for winning and withdrawing would be "negligible. The challenges are simply too great, and the timelines for credible change are too long....The US cannot afford to allow this situation to continue."
The Iraq/Afghan/Pak wars "raise grand strategic questions about what the US could have accomplished (with a fraction of the money devoted to) build(ing) regional allies" and other productive undertakings. Choosing open-ended wars "for the wrong reasons....is not an experience we should repeat." Moreover, cutting losses and getting out of today's mess is essential, putting greater emphasis on diplomacy than warmaking. "After what soon will be ten years of fighting, it is time we not only learned this, but acted on the lesson."
A Final Comment
America's Iraq/Afghan/Pak wars are unwinnable, highlighted in an earlier Afghanistan article, accessed through the following link:
No matter. America wages permanent wars for an unwinnable peace. Enemies are fabricated as justification. War profiteers benefit. The public is duped and betrayed. Two earlier articles explained, accessed through the following links:
Moreover, since WW II, all US wars have been illegal, what neither the Pentagon nor CSIS reports addressed. All international laws and treaties, including the UN Charter, automatically become US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Clause 2.
Moreover, the Charter's Chapter VII empowers the Security Council alone to determine the existence of threats to peace, breaching it, or committing an act of aggression, as well as if military or other action is necessary to restore international peace and stability. It lets nations use force solely under two conditions:
-- by Security Council authorization; or
-- under Article 51 that permits the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."
In addition, both houses of Congress, not the president, have exclusive power to declare war under the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 - the war powers clause. Nonetheless, that procedure was followed only five times in US history, last used on December 8, 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
In 1973, Congress addressed the issue, passing the War Powers Resolution. It requires the president to get congressional authorization for war or a resolution passed within 60 days of initiating hostilities. Its Section 4(a)(3) also states:
"In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which the United States Armed Forces are introduced.... (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge the United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation; the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, setting forth" necessitating circumstances, a request for "constitutional and legislative authority," and the "estimated scope and duration of the hostilities involved."
In 1991, Congress gave GHW Bush authorization to attack Iraq (the Gulf War). It didn't authorize GW Bush in 2001 or 2003. Yet he went to war anyway, violating international and US laws. As a result, the Iraq/Afghan/Pak wars are illegal. The president, supportive congressional members, other culpable officials, and military high command are war criminals.
Those issues are out of sight and mind in the Pentagon and CSIS reports, yet they're more important than any others, and may only be belatedly addressed when America's end time arrives.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.