Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 was the end of the US Hyperpower

According to Juan Cole:
Some years are pivotal and serve to mark off eras of history. 2011 saw the end of American hyperpower, and it announced the end of a decade of US-Muslim conflict that began with 2001. It saw the killing of Usama Bin Laden, the virtual rolling up of al-Qaeda, the repudiation of al-Qaeda’s methods by the masses of the Arab world, and the US military withdrawal from Iraq. The upheavals of the Arab Spring and subsequent elections have led to Muslim fundamentalist parties being drawn into parliamentary politics on a Westminster model, rather than remaining sect-like corporate groups outside the body politic.


The end of the Cold War, which had stretched from 1946 to 1991, had left the political elites of the United States and Western Europe without a bogeyman or security threat on which they could run for office and through which they could funnel resources to the military-industrial complex that largely pays for their political campaigns. With Russia in steep decline in the 1990s and China still run as a small, cautious power, the US emerged as what the French called a Hyperpower, the sole superpower. US hawks were impatient that Bill Clinton seemed not to realize that he had complete freedom of movement for a brief window of time. It was the new US status of hyperpower that allowed the G. W. Bush administration to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks by launching two major wars and a host of smaller struggles, all against targets in the Muslim world.

As of 2011, the age of the US hyperpower is passing, along with the possibilities for American wars of choice, i.e., wars of aggression.
Was 2011 the year that signals the end of America as the only World Hyperpower. Al Jazeera showed an hour long program called Empire that suggests it was. Here is an excerpt from the transcript of that program (transcript here.)
Marwan Bishara

This is Empire.

Hello and welcome to Empire. I am Marwan Bishara. The United States has the world’s biggest economy, strongest military and the most influential culture. It’s the only power with a global project defended and supported by more aircraft carriers, Fortune 500 companies and most successful media-tainment conglomerates than any other. But America’s post-cold war optimism, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has given way to pessimism, forecasting a declining power and more crucially, the end of an American era. The rise of new divisional and global powers, coupled with Washington’s recent war fiascos and financial crisis have worsened the outlook for America’s future.

Countless books have gone beyond recent developments to illustrate a persistent decline with titles like Suicide of a Superpower, The Empire Has No Clothes, Taming American Power, Nemesis, The Last Days of the American Republic, Colossus, The Rise and Fall of The American Empire and Selling Out a Superpower. But how serious are the Doomsday scenarios? Is this decline temporary or reversible and what does it mean to America and the rest of the world? Well joining me to answer these questions and more are Tom Engelhardt, editor of the American Empire Project and a popular website Tomdispatch, the author of the United States of Fear. Susan Glasser, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine, former editor at the Washington Post and co-author of Kremlin Rising Vladimir Putin’s Russia And The End of Revolution. And Cynthia Enloe, professor of woman’s studies and international development at Clark University, the author of The Real State of America Atlas, Mapping the Myths and Truths of the United States and Bananas, Beaches and Bases, Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Last, but not least, Stephen Walt, professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, the author of Taming American Power and co-author of the Israel Lobby. Our starting point is US strategic overstretch.
The show itself is here:

America's relative economic decline internationally has been quite obvious for several decades. In some ways I suspect that America has been trading the existence of its middle class for the military that has substituted for the economic dominance that existed after the end of WW II. The election of Ronald Reagan as President signaled both the end of increases in real wages for workers and the sharp increase in the absolute size of the American military. That increase in the military has been the largest single reason for the deficit that the Conservatives have decried since Obama was elected President, but the deficit has occurred primarily under Republican Presidents.

Now the Wall Street banks have given the world the Great Recession and America can no longer afford to spend a third of the federal budget on a military force that is more expensive that the total military forces of every other nation in the world.

All of these trends came together in 2011. Something is going to have to change radically in 2012. In fact, it may have already changed and we are only just beginning to see what broke. As this election year plays out a lot of it will be exposed - and the fear of the changes will bring forth a lot of lies to conceal the facts. 2012 is going to be a rough year.

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