Decline Of Empire?
By Ramzy Baroud
12 April, 2006
The miscalculated policies of
the US administration in the Middle East are quickly depleting the country’s
ability to sustain its once unchallenged global position. Winds of change
are blowing everywhere, and there is little that Washington’s
ideologues can do to stop it.
The above claim is increasingly
finding its way into the realm of mainstream thinking, despite all attempts
to mute or relegate its import. A recent speech by US Republican congressman
and chairman of the House of international relations committee, Henry
Hyde was the focal point of analysis by Martin Jacques in The Guardian.
"Our power has the grave liability of rendering our theories about
the world immune from failure. But by becoming deaf to easily discerned
warning signs, we may ignore long-term costs that result from our actions
and dismiss reverses that should lead to a re-examination of our goals
and means," Hyde said.
In his poignant analysis
— decoding Hyde’s deliberately implicit thoughts —
Jacques argued, "The Bush administration stands guilty of an extraordinary
act of imperial overreach which has left the US more internationally
isolated than ever before, seriously stretched financially, and guilty
of neglect in east Asia and elsewhere."
Ironically, the invasion
of Iraq with its "thousands of tactical" mistakes —
as recently admitted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice —
was meant to solidify and ensure the US’ post Cold-War global
dominance. According to Jacques, as inferred from Hyde’s notable
speech, "It may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline."
It can also be argued that the US adventurism in Iraq has provided the
coveted opportunity to other countries to further their national and
regional interests without the constant fear of US reprisals.
In a recent interview, MIT
professor Noam Chomsky, known for his sharp criticism of US foreign
policy particularity in Indochina, Central and Latin America, delineated
a new global political reality that is being forged as the US stubbornly
insists on fighting a lost battle in Iraq. "What’s happening
is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere. Since
the Spanish conquest, the countries of Latin America have been pretty
much separated from one another and oriented towards the imperial power.
For the first time, they are beginning to integrate and in quite a few
That integration is evident,
according to Chomsky, not only by examining the rise of the Left in
these countries and the almost immediate alliances — economic
cooperation, for example — that these popular governments have
achieved. There is a simultaneous rise of the political relevance of
the indigenous Indian population in Bolivia, and the opportunities it
represents to the Indian population of Ecuador and Peru. Moreover, there
is a noteworthy South-South integration that is already breaking regional
boundaries and significantly undermining the overpowering grip of the
IMF, which has played the infamous role of the unfair middleman between
the rich and hapless poor.
China and India, on the other
hand, continue to achieve astounding economic growth with China’s
economic might and relevance to soon surpass that of the US. In fact,
there is an intense diplomatic clash underway between the US and China,
since the latter has dared to violate the understanding of the Monroe
Doctrine of 1823, which gave the US alone the right to manage its Latin
American domains. For the first time, says a BBC analysis, a foreign
country has challenged American influence in the region, and successfully
so. Indeed, China is upgrading its economic relations with Brazil —
both increasingly formidable economic powers — in ways that will
eventually help Brazil break away from a domineering US hold.
These are all part of the
"warning signs" to which Hyde was refereeing in his speech.
While there are indications that Washington is finally waking up to
this grim reality, which it has helped create, there are no signs whatsoever
that a fundamental change of course in US foreign policy in the Middle
East is taking place: the destructive war in Iraq rages on; the self-inflicting
damage of unconditionally backing Israel in its endless colonial ambitions
perpetuates; and the same detrimental policy line used with Iraq is
employed, almost identically with Iran. US policy planners are as ever
insistent on following the same destructive course that has compromised
their nation’s global standing.
Instead of paying attention
to these woes, the Bush administration is trying to recover some of
its Southeast Asia losses by signing a nuclear treaty with India, an
action that reeks of double standards and miscalculations. The administration
has also lifted the ban on sales of lethal arms to Indonesia in recognition
of its "unique strategic role in Southeast Asia," despite
protests from human rights groups.
Despite Bush’s recent
‘historic’ trip to India and other top officials’
hasty attempts to reassert America’s global dominance, there should
be no illusions that the US’ chief foreign policy debacle starts
and ends with the Middle East — especially its ‘special’
relationship with Israel. While the latter has served the role of the
client state since its establishment on ethnically cleansed Palestinian
territories, this relationship was significantly altered in recent years,
with the pro-Israeli lobby taking centre stage, not simply by influencing
US foreign policy toward Israel, but eventually by directing it altogether
in the region.
The rise of the neoconservatives
helped create the false impression that the US and Israeli policies
are one and the same, including their mutual interests in maintaining
Israel’s military "edge" over its neighbors, which eventually
led to the invasion of Iraq. While the neocons are washing their hands
of any responsibility in the Middle East impasse, the Bush administration’s
arrogance is stopping it from immediately withdrawing its troops from
Iraq and reassessing its relationship with Israel.
The world is changing, yet
the US government refuses to abandon its old ways: militaristic, self-defeating
and overbearing. Indeed, the US must remold, not only its policies in
the Middle East, but also its hegemonic policies throughout the world.
For once, the US administration needs to tap into its sense of reason,
and discern the "warning signs", that should lead to "the
re-examination of [its] goals and means." A first step is to bring
the troops home, and with them the entire doctrine that unrestrained
violence and perpetual wars can further the cause of an already distrusted
-Veteran Arab American journalist Ramzy Baroud teaches mass communication
at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus.
His most recent book, Writings on the Second Palestinian Intifada: A
Chronicle of a People’s Struggle has been published by Pluto Press,