martes, 30 de enero de 2018

Gasoductos, geografía y estrategia

Hemos repetido varias veces que buena parte de las estrategias de los EEUU para con la Unión Europea persiguen el objetivo de "independizar" a los europeos del gas procedente de Rusia. La macana es que este gas es bastante más barato (y probablemente de abastecimiento más estable) que aquel procedente de rutas alternativas. De estas cosas habla la nota que sigue; es de Tom Luongo y apareció en su sitio web

Título: Pipeline Wars: Realpolitik meets Geography

Texto: The headlines are ablaze this month with news from all over about new pipeline projects coming into Europe.  Never one to miss an opportunity to do the U.S. State Department’s bidding in how it presents pipeline politics, published a howler of a piece about the Southern Gas Corridor (

Titled, “Is This the World’s Most Critical Pipeline?” the piece is pure marketing fluff designed to make you think that Azerbaijani gas will change the face of European gas politics.

The beginning is the most telling, “Europe wants to become less dependent on Russian gas and use more clean energy…” This is a lie.

Europe doesn’t want this as a continent, the leaders of the European Union who are aligned with the United States who view Russia as the enemy want to become less dependent on Russian gas.

Most of Europe wants Russia to supply them with natural gas because it is 1) cheap and 2) plentiful.  For geopolitical reasons the U.S. doesn’t want an ascendant Russia.  The EU technocracy agrees because a strong Russia owning more than 40% of European gas sales is a Russia that can’t be destabilized through currency and proxy wars.

Southern Gas Boondoggle

The Southern Gas Corridor is a nearly 4000km (2500 mile) gas pipeline project to bring Caspian Sea natural gas into southern Europe.  It is slated, when completed with all the side projects tying into it, between 60 and 120 billion cubic meters of gas annually (bcma) starting with an unknown amount from Azerbaijan in 2019.

That number comes from an announcement in the Financial Times circa 2008.  A better number for it is closer to just 16 bcma.

It’s estimated cost at the time of negotiation was over $41 billion.  Today, it’s $45 billion with corruption and graft likely to take that number higher.  This is the very definition of a solution in search of a problem.  It is nothing more than a $45 billion bribe to both the U.S.-favorable regime in Azerbaijan and BP who is sitting on the major Shah Deniz gas deposit with out a market to sell it to.

The U.S has been using EU countries hostile to Russia, namely the Baltics and Poland, to delay or scuttle new Russian gas projects into Europe; projects that countries like Italy, Greece and Bulgaria are screaming for.

The Real Southern Gas Route

In 2014 political pressure on Bulgaria from the EU and the U.S. scuttled the South Stream pipeline from Russia.  South Stream was to bring gas from Russia’s southern fields across the Black Sea into Bulgaria, who would have profited nicely from the billions in transit fees annually.

Since the South Stream debacle, Bulgaria has had a change in government. The people got rid of the U.S. satrap government and installed one much more hostile to geopolitical games which keep them poor.

Putin and Gazprom, the state gas company behind South Stream, quickly shifted gears and announced a re-route of it through Turkey.  The new project is called Turkish Stream and will terminate in Greece.  Hungary negotiated a spur off of Turkish Stream with Gazprom last summer.   The intervening countries all want the transit fees.

The European Union has not signed off on Turkish Stream legs inside the EU, but the first leg which will bring 15.75 bcma to Turkey will be completed this year and that gas will be used by Turkey to strengthen its relationship with Russia.

The cost for this project? Just $12 billion.  And it goes under the Black Sea.

The Nord Stream 2 Gorillia in the Room

Then let’s turn our attention to the very controversial NordStream 2 pipeline.  This is the one that would double the capacity of the existing Nordstream pipeline bringing cheap Russian gas from basically St. Petersburg to Germany.

It brings 55 bmca a year to the EU as I write this.  Nordstream 2 would double that.  It’s only 780 miles long. It will be finished by next year.

The price tag? Just under $10 billion.

And Gazprom bent over backwards to make this a European-owned project, partnering with no less than five European oil and gas majors to own half of the project.  Poland stepped in and declared the joint venture illegal and Gazprom had to go it alone.  Eventually it worked out a deal where its former partners became its financiers by getting loans directly from them to build the pipeline.  The loans were for the same amount of money they were initially going to put into the joint-venture.

The EU has done everything to stop Nordstream 2 short of simply writing a law outlawing it, which it cannot do.  And it finally threw in the towel earlier in the month.

The European Commission antitrust enquiry is effectively retracted from the DG Comp’s agenda after Gazprom agreed not to object to cross-border sales of resold Russian gas and make destination clauses flexible.

The EU legal service’s legal opinion on the applicability of the Third Gas Package to an offshore pipeline Nord Stream 2 (it found it was not) all but buried any future European Commission aspirations to block the project. The European Council chief, Donald Tusk, keeps on urging member states to adopt new EU gas rules which would specifically target maritime gas pipelines feeding the EU, however, Germany and France seem highly reluctant to go along with it.

Tusk is a Polish EU-Firster and Russophobe par excellence.  He’s also one of the most odious men in the EU hierarchy, and that’s saying something considering the company he keeps there.

The EU changed the rules during the lead up to South Stream as well, implementing new rules for pipeline ownership ex post facto of the contracts being signed and the permits issued. This is what made it easy for Bulgaria to scuttle the project.

Again, all to satisfy a United States hell-bent on keeping Russia bottled up and maintaining political control over the EU.

Politics Over People

What’s important in all of this is the massive effects that power politics plays on the economic welfare of people.  Politicians, generals, CEOs of corporatist nightmares don’t make decisions in the best interest of the people they are supposed to serve.  They make them in the interest of policy goals that more often than not do little more than waste precious capital on boondoggles like the Southern Gas Corridor project.

That project has been the goal of EU and U.S. politicians for more than a decade.  It has required an unbelievable amount of political maneuvering to get off the ground. And the final product will be less than twenty percent of its original capacity.

On the other hand, with Putin cancelling South Stream in 2014, he moved quickly on the two projects highlighted here which will be operational despite the roadblocks before the Southern Gas Corridor will be.

The goal of diversifying Europe’s gas purchases is one born of politics not energy safety.  The immense trade benefits that Russia gains from these pipelines are not things they will jeopardize over a single missed payment.

Energy security is simply a fear-mongering tool to mask banal corruption and articles like the one that inspired this response are simply cheap forms of propaganda.

Europe’s future is more secure with Turkish Stream and Nordstream 2 providing the people of Europe gas at half the price of Caspian gas.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Ukraine, who for three plus years have been buying re-sold Russian gas at twice the price from Germany and Poland to avoid buying it directly from Gazprom.  Schools and businesses have had to shut down simply because they don’t have the money to heat the buildings.

With this year’s frigid winter, they’ve finally relented and will begin buying gas directly Gazprom again, now that their legal challenge was settled by the Stockholm Arbitration Court.

This is what is driving European politics populist.  It, along with insane immigration, is eroding the political power of the globalists who run the EU.  Gazprom, despite all of the rhetoric, supplied a record amount of gas to Europe in 2017 and will likely increase those deliveries by another 6% in 2018.

Eventually economic reality overwhelms realpolitik.

lunes, 29 de enero de 2018

La hipocresía del Imperio

La hipocresía del Imperio conoce pocos límites a la hora de hablar de Rusia. La nota que sigue es una verdadera perla al respecto.  Es de Eric Zuiesse y salió publicada estos días en el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:

Título: The War in America's ‘Democratic’ Party over Whether to Go to War Against Russia

Texto: On January 23rd, Joe Biden virtually threw his hat into the 2020 US Presidential contest, by producing for the neoconservative-neoliberal Council on Foreign Relations, a speech, and an accompanying article in their influential journal Foreign Affairs, titled, “How to Stand Up to the Kremlin: Defending Democracy Against Its Enemies”. He made clear that no one in American politics is going to stand to Biden’s right on international affairs and the military, when (or “if,” if one still doubts that) he will enter the 2020 US Presidential contest formally. He’s already making the matter clear right now. He says in their journal:

Given Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine, NATO must continue to forward-deploy troops and military capabilities to eastern Europe to deter and, if necessary, defeat a Russian attack against one of the alliance’s member states. But the threat of unconventional and nonmilitary coercion now looms larger than ever. More than a decade has passed since Estonia became the first NATO country to see its government institutions and media organizations attacked by hackers based in Russia. In the intervening period, the risk of a far more debilitating attack has increased, but planning for how to defend against it has lagged. One step NATO members can take would be to broaden the responsibility for such planning beyond their militaries and defense ministries. The EU and the private sector need to be part of such efforts, so that Russian strikes on infrastructure can be isolated and backup systems can be put in place.”

He writes and speaks as if Russia and its allies were surrounding NATO, instead of America and its allies surrounding Russia — as if the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact had continued beyond 1991, and America and its NATO alliance had broken up and ended in 1991. Of course, that’s the exact opposite of the reality.

If Russia were massing its troops and weaponry on America’s borders, Americans would have good reason to hate Russians, but instead America and its allies are massing weapons and troops on Russia’s borders, and they not only aren’t apologizing for it, but they even have the gall to call Russia the aggressor. The US would be terrified if Russia did to America what America is doing to Russia. Biden’s article says, “The United States and its allies must improve their ability to deter Russian military aggression.” What?

America’s not already military enough? (True, “Americans Support Military-Industrial Complex Above All Else”; and, “The military" is, itself, respected by Americans above any other institution — including, the government, the press, or any church, or anything else — but hasn’t this militarism on the part of the American people now gotten out of hand? Certainly, the world seems to think so.) The US spends at least a trillion dollars annually on ‘defense’; and, even if one strips out of that, like SIPRI does in their calculations (which are designed to low-ball America’s military expenditures), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Energy Department (whose spending is 65% for military — nuclear weapons etc.), and NASA, CIA, etc., it’s still — just for the ‘Defense’ Department — $611 billion according to SIPRI, and America’s allies add to that (and SIPRI doesn’t low-ball them), Saudi Arabia’s $64 billion, and France’s $56 billion, and UK’s $48 billion, and Japan’s $46 billion, and Germany’s $41 billion, and South Korea’s $37 billion, and (here going beyond the world’s ten largest) Italy’s $28B, Australia’s $24B, UAE’s $23B, Israel’s $18B, and Canada’s $15B — then the total would still be $1,011 billion, over a trillion dollars, using SIPRI’s numbers, and this would be competing up against China’s $216 billion, and Russia’s $69 billion (both of which also are not low-balled), or $285 billion total, versus the US group’s $1,011 billion (using SIPRI’s low-balled $611B figure for the US). So, the US alone spends already around ten times what Russia alone spends on its military, and the real figure for the US — especially if its allies are included — is far higher, but Joe Biden and the other salespeople for Lockheed Martin etc., say, “The United States and its allies must improve their ability to deter Russian military aggression.” 

That’s why, this year, US federal spending is rising 8% for the military, and going down sharply for everything else (since destroying Russia takes precedence, as displayed in these figures), as follows:


TRUMP 2018 Budget:

-31% EPA
-29% State Dept. 
-21% Ag. Dept.
-21% Labor
-18% HHS
-16% Commerce
-14% Education
-13% HUD
-13% Transportation
-12% Interior
-6% Energy
-5% SBA
-4% Treasury
-4% Justice
-1% NASA
+6% Veterans Affairs
+7% Homeland Security
+9% Defense

TOTAL: $3.76T


Biden wants to top that? Apparently.

Biden describes Russia as “corrupt” 16 times, as using “aggression” 2 times, as “kleptocratic” 2 times, as “weak” 1 time, and as having the goal “to weaken and divide Western democracies internally” 1 time. He says, “Russia’s leaders have built a Potemkin democracy in which democratic form masks authoritarian content.” But he wants the public to believe that he’s no kleptocrat himself. Maybe he wants the public to believe that only his son is, who got a sweetheart Ukrainian board-membership as soon as Obama’s 2014 coup in Ukraine installed fascist Ukrainian leaders who promptly appointed, to be a powerful local governor, a certain billionaire who had hired Biden’s son Hunter Biden not only as a board member to his gas company but with shares that were thought to be potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Biden (the father) says that “After the Cold War, Western democracy became the model of choice for postcommunist countries in central and eastern Europe. Guided by the enlightened hands of NATO and the EU, many of those countries boldly embarked on the transition from dictatorship to democracy.” NATO and those other ‘enlightened hands’ also helped Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, and so many other countries that they invaded (or else overthrew by coup), and now the EU is getting the spin-off ‘benefit’ of millions of refugees from American (and US-financed, such as in Ukraine) bombing, who help to create lots of competition in the European labor-markets, especially in low-end jobs where the native workers who don’t have the connections that upper-class ones do and which connections enabled upper-class workers to obtain their upper-class jobs, will now have harder times than ever to find work, because these native workers will now be competing against all those newcomers, who don’t even speak the local language, much less have such local connections, and so will be even more desperate (and thus accept even lower wages and worse working-conditions) than those struggling natives, whose conditions will become even worse than before. 

America drops the bombs (good, American-made bombs, of course, paid for with generous American taxpayers’ dollars — not with American kleptocrats’ profits), and Europe gets the far end of the human debris, with all these newcomers who arrive in Europe penniless because America (sometimes with help from other ‘democratic’ countries) has destroyed their homes, and killed so many of their relatives, and made these millions of people so desperate, that they’ll take any job they can get, after their social-services from European governments run out, which are paid for by European taxpayers, including those low-wage European natives, who are already suffering. 

Of course, Hunter Biden knows the benefits that well-connected people such as he have, and so maybe he’ll be able to be commissioned to advise European governments on how to teach those ‘skills’, to the millions of destitute immigrants that Europe now has. 

Even the neoconservative-neoliberal The Atlantic magazine expressed concern about Hunter’s new-found board seat, when it noted, on 7 June 2014, that, “Beltway ethicists seem to be mixed about whether this arrangement is kosher or not. What is clear is that relatives of high-level American political figures have benefited from their ties for generations now. It's practically a tradition at this point.” But wasn’t it supposed to be only Russia that’s a ‘kleptocracy’? Should one kleptocracy criticize another (if that’s what Russia is — but I’m an American, and I know that this country is)? 

Joe Biden’s Foreign Affairs article says, “By attacking the West, the Kremlin shifts attention away from corruption and economic malaise at home, activates nationalist passions to stifle internal dissent, and keeps Western democracies on the defensive and preoccupied with internal divisions.” He asserts that “To safeguard its kleptocratic system, the Kremlin has decided to take the fight beyond Russia’s borders to attack what it perceives as the greatest external threat to its survival: Western democracy.” Biden is militant about protecting such ‘Western democracy.’ He writes:

To fight back, the United States must lead its democratic allies and partners in increasing their resilience, expanding their capabilities to defend against Russian subversion, and rooting out the Kremlin’s networks of malign influence. The United States has the capacity to counter this assault and emerge stronger, provided that Washington demonstrates the political will to confront the threat. However, since the Trump administration has shown that it does not take the Russian threat seriously, the responsibility for protecting Western democracy will rest more than ever on Congress, the private sector, civil society, and ordinary Americans.”

He continues:

In contrast to the Soviet Union, however, contemporary Russia offers no clear ideological alternative to Western democracy. Russia’s leaders invoke nationalist, populist, and statist slogans or themes, but the Kremlin’s propaganda machine shies away from directly challenging the core precepts of Western democracy: competitive elections, accountability for those in power, constitutionally guaranteed rights, and the rule of law. Instead, the Kremlin carefully cultivates a democratic façade, paying lip service to those principles even as it subverts them.”

When the Obama Administration brought their ‘Western democracy: competitive elections, accountability for those in power, constitutionally guaranteed rights, and the rule of law’ to Ukraine, which already had a democratically elected President whom Obama then ousted and whom Obama had actually been preparing ever since 2011 to overthrow, all that Ukrainians got, from America’s coup, was soaring misery, and also a civil war in which the far-eastern region (Donbass), which had voted over 90% for the ousted President and refused to accept the US-installed junta, were subjected to a bombing campaign by the US-installed Government in order to eliminate those voters from the rolls so as to be able to stay in power beyond the first post-coup election.

Joe Biden is a great champion of American ‘democracy’, and he wants to help the entire world, like he and his boss had helped Ukraine.

In his article’s close, he says:

What if these recommendations are ignored? The White House seems unlikely to act. Too many times, President Donald Trump has equivocated on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even after he received briefings from top intelligence officials on precisely how Moscow did it. After meeting privately with Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam last November, Trump told reporters that Putin “said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.” Pressed about whether he accepted Putin’s denials, Trump replied: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.” Trump has made a habit of lavishing praise on Putin and even reportedly sought to lift sanctions against Russia shortly after his inauguration. We are not questioning Trump’s motives, but his behavior forces us to question his judgment. 

If this administration cannot or will not stand up to Russia, other democratic institutions, including Congress and civil society organizations, must mobilize. A starting point would be the creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine Russia’s assault on American democracy, establish a common understanding of the scope and complexity of the Russian threat, and identify the tools required to combat it. The 9/11 Commission allowed the United States to come to terms with and address the vulnerabilities that made al Qaeda’s attacks possible. Today, Americans need a thorough, detailed inquest into how Russia’s strike on their democratic institutions was carried out and how another one might be prevented.

In the absence of an independent commission with a broad mandate, the United States will be left with only the relatively narrow investigations led by the special counsel Robert Mueller, the congressional intelligence committees, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The good news is that Congress has already demonstrated its clear understanding of the Russian threat: in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, it passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act by a margin of 419 to 3 in the House of Representatives and by 98 to 2 in the Senate.”

Biden has there laid down the gauntlet against the few Democrats in the US Government who were opposed to that bill, including the 3 in the House and 2 in the Senate. (So, it passed 98-2 in the Senate, and 419-3 in the House). One of the few “Nay” votes on it happened to be by America’s most high-favorability-rated politician, Senator Bernie Sanders, from whom the Democratic Party’s 2016 Presidential nomination was stolen — and quite clearly stolen — by the Democratic National Committee, even though Sanders always performed vastly better than Hillary Clinton did in polled matchups against Trump or any other Republican. The dozens of billionaires who control the national Democratic Party thus were far more concerned to avoid having a Democratic President whom they might not be able to control, than they were to avoid having a Republican President (whom Republican billionaires always control) — for billionaires, class means even more than Party does. Democratic Party billionaires overwhelmingly prefer a Republican over any honest Democrat. Recent US history shows it. That’s why Sanders could rely only upon a “movement,” not really upon either existing Party.

However, even Sanders said (perhaps sincerely) that the reason why he had voted against the bill was that it also includes sanctions against Iran, and would therefore ease the way for Trump to renege on the deal that Obama had reached with Iran to suspend Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of US sanctions. Sanders tweeted: “I am strongly supportive of sanctions on Russia and North Korea. However, I worry very much about President Trump’s approach to Iran. Following Trump’s comments that he won’t re-certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement I worry new sanctions could endanger it.”

So, the high likelihood is that whomever the next US President will be, will be continuing the lie that the overthrow of Yanukovych in Ukraine was a ‘revolution’ instead of a US coup; and, so, the economic sanctions against Russia, and the massing of NATO troops and weapons on and near Russia’s borders — both of which are ‘justified’ by the 20 February 2014 Ukrainian overthrow’s having been a ‘democratic revolution’ instead of “a US coup” — will almost certainly continue, until a hot war against Russia results. The domestic US political divisions exclude any division over the allegations that have been and are leading (since February 2014) to World War III — the US political system is virtually unanimously in favor of those clearly false allegations.

Consequently, within the Democratic Party, the ‘war’, if any, is between the vicious lie, which is blatantly psychopathic, versus the incomprehensible lie, which might simply be shockingly misinformed. But it’s the same lie, in either case. The Democratic Party is virtually united, on that lie. (And, of course, the Republican Party, likewise, is virtually united the same, regarding this same lie.)

America and its allies have been nonstop in a Cold War, supposedly against communism, but which after the end of communism in 1991 has become revealed actually to have been against Russia, even without its communism; and now it’s heading toward a hot war, because of all those ‘historical’ lies, which still are not being faced and ’fessed-to, they’ve simply accumulated as fake ‘history’, and could soon reach critical mass. For example, perhaps the most-highly-honored US ‘journalist’ and ‘historian’ on national-security issues, is Thomas E. Ricks, of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Policy, and other ‘non-partisan’ but actually neoconservative newsmedia; and he’s best known for his book and articles and interviews obsessing that the 2003 invasion of Iraq (to oust the Moscow-friendly Saddam Hussein) was a “Fiasco” because it was done incompetently — not because it was based upon lies, which Ricks and all other prominent ‘journalists’ failed to call to the public’s attention before the invasion on the basis of lies; and so they’re partly responsible for that invasion on the basis of lies — which they hid at the time and some of which lies they still haven't reported; they still hide. Ricks has even carried his neoconservatism to such a point as to praise in one article General James Mattis, General H.R. McMaster, and Eliot Cohen — three of Washington’s top neoconservatives — and to criticize the neoconservative but more cautiously so, President Barack Obama, for having fired Mattis in 2013. America honors liars and hiders of lies. And what’s at issue now is the mega-lie, which still is being hidden from the American public.

The conclusion seems inescapable, therefore, that unless and until the mega-lie, that the overthrow of Yanukovych was a ‘revolution’ instead of a “coup,” becomes publicly acknowledged by the US Government to be a lie, the march toward World War III will continue forward, on a straight line to nuclear oblivion, because the mega-lie is the foundation for ‘the restoration of the Cold War’, and the only way to stop this ‘restoration’ from metastasizing into the hot war that will end everybody, is to end the mega-lie upon which it’s based, and to do it soon enough. 

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was clearly based upon lies, but this war won’t be like getting rid of Saddam Hussein was in 2003. It will be unimaginably worse than that horror. And the only way to end the marching toward that great cliff, is to end the mega-lie, upon which it’s based. The US regime must “fess-up,” and apologize to Russia (and to the American people, and to the entire world), for this enormously dangerous fraud.

Biden is heading in exactly the opposite direction — he wants to capitalize on the fraud.

sábado, 27 de enero de 2018

Por qué migran los emigrantes?

El mapa de arriba muestra las principales rutas de acceso a Europa Occidental por parte de refugiados de Africa, Asia y Europa del Este.  Adivinen qué?  Parece que los refugiados vienen de los mismos países que la NATO (o sea, Europa Occidental junto con el Imperio) se dedica a bombardear!  Increíble, eh? La nota que sigue es de Andrew Spannaus para el sitio web Consortium News:

Título: Regime Change and Globalization Fuel Europe’s Refugee and Migrant Crisis

Texto: Right-wing populists are exploiting the migration issue in both the United States and Europe, but dismissing their arguments would be a mistake. Instead, an honest assessment of the economic and regime-change policies that fuel migration is needed, reports Andrew Spannaus.

Anti-establishment political forces in the both the United States and Europe have seized on the issue of illegal immigration, seen by many voters as a threat to both economic well-being and cultural identity, as a key component of their electoral strategies. While Donald Trump has made the wall with Mexico one of his priorities and has worked to uphold a ban on immigration from a number of Muslim nations, in Europe, numerous political parties have been following this script for many years.

Drawing on the economic anxiety of the middle class, tied to fear of being undercut by low-wage work and worries concerning terrorism and cultural changes, anti-immigrant sentiment has become a key weapon of right-wing populist forces. These forces have drawn on the narrative of governing elites that pursue their own, limited interests, while seeking to hold down the majority of society through policies that rob them of both economic opportunity and their cultural heritage.

The sentiment is significant and growing, contributing to the growth in support for populist causes in a series of recent elections in Europe – including in Germany and Austria – as well as a noticeable shift in attitudes towards immigration in the past two years, even among more moderate segments of the population.

A major factor has been the recent surge in migrants coming from the Middle East and Africa – mainly the consequence of the disastrous “regime change” wars starting with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, through to the more recent conflicts in Libya and Syria – and the resulting perception of an impossible-to-stop “invasion” that is changing the character of Europe.

International organizations that deal directly with the management of undocumented migrant flows are working actively to combat this perception. They stress not only the importance of defending the human rights of migrants under international law, but also that even with the recent peak – that exceeded one million in 2015, but dropped back to below 200,000 last year – the numbers involved are manageable.

Further, migration should not be seen as a threat, but rather as an opportunity, international organizationns stress.


This approach was discussed in depth in Vienna, Austria last month, during events for the “2017 International Migrants Day” sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which works closely with the United Nations on migration.

In opening a high-level panel discussion on Dec. 19 entitled “Perception is not reality; Towards a new narrative of migration”, OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger spoke of the need to develop a counter-narrative to that currently dominating public discussion. This involves highlighting the positive contributions of migrants in economic terms, based, for example, on the circulation of skills and knowledge among different countries.

Immediately afterwards, Gervais Apparve, Special Policy Advisor to the IOM, waded into the thorny issue of the relationship between migration and globalization. Apparve began by citing Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book “The World is Flat,” which speaks of the disappearance of barriers to trade, the exchange of resources, and the transfer of capital, creating an interconnected world. Apparve lamented that this interconnectedness has not yet been extended to the area of unrestricted mobility, which for the most part remains the province only of the well-to-do.

With this comment, the IOM representative inadvertently exposed the weakness in the approach taken by international organizations: the perceived link between migration and the economic policies of globalization in recent decades.

Globalization, Migration and Paranoia

There is a widespread, and understandable, reaction against the disappearance of barriers in areas such as trade and the transfer of capital, which have had negative effects for many in the Western world. The reduction of regulations on commerce and finance has often allowed large corporations to exploit low-cost labor and prioritize short-term financial gain over stable investment. The result has been a race to the bottom in numerous sectors, entailing job losses, instability and poverty for the (former) middle class.

Yet, the attempt to create a positive attitude towards migrants from impoverished areas by linking their plight to globalization can inadvertently stoke fears that migration is part of a deliberate process to lower the living standards of wide segments of the population, creating competition for scarce resources among those who are unable to access the massive wealth being concentrated near the top of society.

The organizations that seek to combat negative views of migration seem reluctant to recognize that aiming to build a positive narrative by emphasizing benefits rather than risks is not enough. Indeed, changing negative views without dealing with the underlying political and economic problems that fuel the current turmoil could prove impossible.

In political terms, the relationship is obvious. Opposition to political elites, as well as “political correctness,” is often linked to distrust of the elites’ economic policies. Indeed almost all of the populist groups that promote anti-immigration views also draw on economic discontent. In Europe, they attack European Union economic policies, just as outsiders attack Wall Street in the United States.

Although their solutions may be circumspect, it would be a mistake to call anti-establishment forces insincere, or to dismiss them as lacking serious policy proposals. Instead, the issues they raise should be tackled directly.

If governments ignore the issues, they contribute to the image of a political class refusing to admit mistakes, an image all too easily exploited by right-wing populists. The elite’s head-in-the-sand approach confirms the criticism from outsiders that status quo politicians are avoiding accountability and blocking change, which opens the door to whomever effectively identifies the problems felt by the population, regardless of whether they propose valid alternatives or not.

Reality-Based Discussion

On the issue of migration, moving towards what the international community calls a “reality-based discussion,” i.e. avoiding exaggerated fears that fuel racist attitudes and closure, will be difficult without facing head on the negative effects of economic globalization in recent decades, as well as the results of foreign interventions and regime change wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

As Swiss parliamentarian and chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration Filippo Lombardi recently stated, policymakers must “honestly assess the political mistakes of recent years,” which have destabilized so many countries and created the conditions for mass migration from Africa and the Middle East.

“Only such an honest and responsible approach can lead to solving the crisis we are now facing,” he said.

Seeking to shift the overall view of migration from negative to positive, the new narrative of the international community is based on several assertions: first of all, that migration is perfectly normal, it has always existed, and neither can nor should be stopped. Indeed, the overall number of migrants to Europe, including those who move for work, study or family reasons, remains at a level of over two million per year; thus a few hundred thousand undocumented arrivals should be entirely manageable in this context.

The goal expressed by many participants in the Vienna event, for example, is to eliminate the distinction made between those who come through official channels, and the migrants who arrive undocumented, making the dangerous journey through Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Sea. This is not an easy sell with public opinion at this time though, as in the latter case the cost of the migrants’ survival is covered by the public welfare system, in the hope they will eventually be integrated into society and the work force.

This brings us to another argument: that migrants actually provide a positive contribution to the economy, with many European countries’ low birth rates lagging below replacement levels and the population aging rapidly. An influx of younger workers from other nations contributes to rebalancing the workforce in demographic terms, thus avoiding a situation in which the ratio of active workers to retirees becomes so low as to call into question the sustainability of pension and welfare systems.

Beyond Narratives

While the aging of European populations is a problem, here again there are some hidden assumptions that indicate the need for a deeper policy shift, beyond simply “changing the narrative.” Demographic surveys confirm that people marry and put off having children in part due to economic circumstances. Improving the financial prospects of young workers, or getting them out of the ranks of the unemployed, could have a rapid impact on birth rates and population trends in general.

It is also somewhat cynical to claim that poor immigrants provide a positive economic contribution based on the fact that they are willing to work low-wage jobs. It’s one thing to encourage the fruitful exchange of skills and knowledge among different populations, or celebrate diversity as a way of enriching culture; it is quite another to undermine wages by ensuring a vast pool of desperate workers available at any time.

This contradiction brings the discussion back to the economic policies associated with globalization, putting both low-wage European workers and migrants in the same boat, so to speak. Playing destitute migrants against unemployed Europeans is not a recipe for social cohesiveness; rather, it shows the deeper policy problems facing the Western world as a whole.

A return to an approach based on promoting a decent standard of living even among those doing labor-intensive jobs, could go a long way towards reducing the fears in European nations regarding the arrival of undocumented migrants. Extending such an approach globally, by making a serious commitment to combatting poverty in the least developed countries around the world, would also change the equation for many migrants, making migration a choice rather than a necessity in order to survive.

Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of, that provides news and analysis to Italian institutions and businesses. He has published the books “Perché vince Trump” (Why Trump is Winning – June 2016) and “La rivolta degli elettori” (The Revolt of the Voters – July 2017).

viernes, 26 de enero de 2018

Patologías del colapso

Según el artículo que posteamos hoy, en los EEUU han ocurrido once episodios de tiroteos en escuelas en los últimos 23 días; casi uno cada dos días. ¿Alguien se enteró? El acostumbramiento a episodios como este parece ser parte del paisaje cultural de estos días en el corazón del Imperio. Algunos han comenzado a tomar nota. La nota que sigue es de Umair Haque para el sitio web Medium (

Título: Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

Subtítulo: The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State

Texto: You might say, having read some of my recent essays, “Umair! Don’t worry! Everything will be fine! It’s not that bad!” I would look at you politely, and then say gently, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think we’re taking collapse nearly seriously enough.”

Why? When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline —shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on— we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse —strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough —but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse —it just doesn’t happen in any other country— and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life —and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right— and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world —most of Asia and Africa— one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America —especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” —mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs— is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison —and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

Why would people abuse opioids en masse unlike anywhere else in the world? They must be living genuinely traumatic and desperate lives, in which there is little healthcare, so they have to self-medicate the terror away. But what is so desperate about them? Well, consider another example: the “nomadic retirees”. They live in their cars. They go from place to place, season after season, chasing whatever low-wage work they can find —spring, an Amazon warehouse, Christmas, Walmart.

Now, you might say —“well, poor people have always chased seasonal work!” But that is not really the point: absolute powerlessness and complete indignity is. In no other country I can see do retirees who should have been able to save up enough to live on now living in their cars in order to find work just to go on eating before they die —not even in desperately poor ones, where at least families live together, share resources, and care for one another. This is another pathology of collapse that is unique to America —utter powerlessness to live with dignity. Numbers don’t capture it —but comparisons paint a bleak picture.

How did America’s elderly end up cheated of dignity? After all, even desperately poor countries have “informal social support systems” —otherwise known as families and communities. But in America, there is the catastrophic collapse of social bonds. Extreme capitalism has blown apart American society so totally that people cannot even care for one another as much as they do in places like Pakistan and Nigeria. Social bonds, relationships themselves, have become unaffordable luxuries, more so than even in poor countries: this is yet another social pathology unique to American collapse.

Yet those once poor countries are making great strides. Costa Ricans now have higher life expectancy than Americans —because they have public healthcare. American life expectancy is falling, unlike nearly anywhere else in the world, save the UK —because it doesn’t.

And that is my last pathology: it is one of the soul, not one of the limbs, like the others above. Americans appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die, in all the ways above. They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by the four pathologies above: their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity,or having to numb the pain of it all away.

If these pathologies happened in any other rich country —even in most poor ones— people would be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and certainly moved to make them not happen. But in America, they are, well, not even resigned. They are indifferent, mostly.

So my last pathology is a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich —but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.

Perhaps that sounds strong to you. Is it?

Now that I’ve given you a few examples —there are many more— of the social pathologies of collapse, let me share with you the three points that they raise for me.

These social pathologies are something like strange and gruesome new strains of disease infecting the body social. America has always been a pioneer —only today, it is host not just to problems not just rarely seen in healthy societies— it is pioneering novel social pathologies have never been seen in the modern world outside present-day America, period. What does that tell us?

American collapse is much more severe than we suppose it is. We are underestimating its magnitude, not overestimating it. American intellectuals, media, and thought doesn’t put any of its problems in global or historical perspective —but when they are seen that way, America’s problems are revealed to be not just the everyday nuisances of a declining nation, but something more like a body suddenly attacked by unimagined diseases.

Seen accurately. American collapse is a catastrophe of human possibility without modern parallel . And because the mess that America has made of itself, then, is so especially unique, so singular, so perversely special —the treatment will have to be novel, too. The uniqueness of these social pathologies tell us that American collapse is not like a reversion to any mean, or the downswing of a trend. It is something outside the norm. Something beyond the data. Past the statistics. It is like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs: an outlier beyond outliers, an event at the extreme of the extremes. That is why our narratives, frames, and theories cannot really capture it —much less explain it. We need a whole new language —and a new way of seeing— to even begin to make sense of it.

But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model —extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue— then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food —junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk— that America has fed upon for too long.

jueves, 25 de enero de 2018

La estrategia del caos

La pérdida sostenida de “poder blando” (persuasión por propio peso, diplomacia, influencia cultural, etc.) por parte del Imperio va de la mano con la militarización exacerbada de conflictos en todo el globo. El mapa de arriba muestra la distribución de bases militares y personal de los EEUU a escala planetaria. Rocanrol es lo que toca, chicos: habrá que hamacarse. La nota que sigue es de Nicholas Davies para el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:

Título: A National Defense Strategy of Sowing Global Chaos

Texto: Presenting the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States on Friday at the Johns Hopkins University, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a picture of a dangerous world in which U.S. power – and all of the supposed “good” that it does around the world – is on the decline.

Our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare – air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace,” he said. “And it is continually eroding.”

What he could have said instead is that the United States military is overextended in every domain, and that much of the chaos seen around the world is the direct result of past and current military adventurism. Further, he could have acknowledged, perhaps, that the erosion of U.S. influence has been the result of a series of self-inflicted blows to American credibility through foreign policy disasters such as 2003 invasion of Iraq.

There were also two important words hidden between the lines, but never mentioned by name, in the new U.S. National Defense Strategy: “empire” and “imperialism.”

It has long been taboo for U.S. officials and corporate media to speak of U.S. foreign policy as “imperialism,” or of the U.S.’s global military occupations and network of hundreds of military bases as an “empire.”  These words are on a long-standing blacklist of “banned topics” that U.S. official statements and mainstream U.S. media reports must never mention.

The streams of Orwellian euphemisms with which U.S. officials and media instead discuss U.S. foreign policy do more to obscure the reality of the U.S. role in the world than to describe or explain it, “hiding imperial interests behind ever more elaborate fig leaves,” as British historian A.J.P. Taylor described European imperialists doing the same a century ago.

As topics like empire, imperialism, and even war and peace, are censored and excised from political debate, U.S. officials, subservient media and the rest of the U.S. political class conjure up an illusion of peace for domestic consumption by simply not mentioning our country’s 291,000 occupation troops in 183 other countries or the 39,000 bombs and missiles dropped on our neighbors in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan since Trump took office.

The 100,000 bombs and missiles dropped on these and other countries by Obama and the 70,000 dropped on them by Bush II have likewise been swept down a kind of real time “memory hole,” leaving America’s collective conscience untroubled by what the public was never told in the first place.

But in reality, it’s been a long time since U.S. leaders of either party resisted the temptation to threaten anyone anywhere, or to follow through on their threats with “fire and fury” bombing campaigns, coups and invasions.  This is how empires maintain a “credible threat” to undergird their power and discourage other countries from challenging them.

But far from establishing the “Pax Americana” promised by policymakers and military strategists in the 1990s, from Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney to Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, the results have been consistently catastrophic, producing what the new National Defense Strategy calls, “increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing, rules-based international order.”

Of course the drafters of this U.S. strategy document dare not admit that U.S. policy is almost single-handedly responsible for this global chaos, after successive U.S. administrations have worked to marginalize the institutions and rules of international law and to establish illegal U.S. threats and uses of force that international law defines as crimes of aggression as the ultimate arbiter of international affairs.

Nor do they dare acknowledge that the CIA’s politicized intelligence and covert operations, which generate a steady stream of political pretexts for U.S. military intervention, are designed to create and exacerbate international crises, not to solve them.  For U.S. officials to admit such hard truths would shake the very foundations of U.S. imperialism.

Opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran – the so-called nuclear deal – from Republicans and Democratic hawks alike seems to stem from the fear that it might validate the use of diplomacy over sanctions, coups and war, and set a dangerous precedent for resolving other crises – from Afghanistan and Korea to future crises in Africa and Latin America.  Iran’s success at bringing the U.S. to the negotiating table, instead of falling victim to the endless violence and chaos of U.S.-backed regime change, may already be encouraging North Korea and other targets of U.S. aggression to try to pull off the same trick.

But how will the U.S. justify its global military occupation, illegal threats and uses of force, and trillion-dollar war budget once serious diplomacy is seen to be more effective at resolving international crises than the endless violence and chaos of U.S. sanctions, coups, wars and occupations?

From Bhurtpoor to Baghdad

Major Danny Sjursen, who has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and taught history at West Point, is a rare voice of sanity from within the U.S. military.  In a poignant article in Truthdig, Major Sjursen eloquently described the horrors he has witnessed and the sadness he expects to live with for the rest of his life.  “The truth is,” he wrote, “I fought for next to nothing, for a country that, in recent conflicts, has made the world a deadlier, more chaotic place.”

Danny Sjursen’s life as a soldier of the U.S. Empire reminds me of another soldier of Empire, my great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Goddard.  Samuel was born in Norfolk in England in 1793, and joined the 14th Regiment of Foot as a teenager. He was a Sergeant at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  During 14 years in India, his battalion led the assault on the fortress of Bhurtpoor in 1826, which ended the last resistance of the Maratha dynasty to British rule.  He spent 3 years in the Caribbean, 6 years in Canada, and retired as Commandant of Dublin Castle in 1853 after a lifetime of service to Empire.

Danny’s and Samuel’s lives have much in common.  They would probably have a lot to talk about if they could ever meet.  But there are critical differences.  At Bhurtpoor, the two British regiments who led the attack were followed through the breech in the walls by 15 regiments of Indian “Native Infantry.”  After Bhurtpoor, Britain ruled India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh) for 120 years, with only a thousand British officials in the Indian Civil Service and a few thousand British officers in command of up to 2.5 million Indian troops.

The British brutally put down the Indian Mutiny in 1857-8 with massacres in Delhi, Allahabad, Kanpur and Lucknow.  Then, as up to 30 million Indians died in famines in 1876-9 and 1896-1902, the British government of India explicitly prohibited relief efforts or actions that might reduce exports from India to the U.K. or interfere with the operation of the “free market.”

As Mike Davis wrote in his 2001 book, Late Victorian Holocausts, “What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre.”

And yet Britain kept control of India by commanding such loyalty and subservience from millions of Indians that, in every crisis, Indian troops obeyed orders from British officers to massacre their own people.

Danny Sjursen and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and other post-Cold War U.S. war zones are having a very different experience.  In Afghanistan, as the Taliban and its allies have taken control of more of the country than at any time since the U.S. invasion, the U.S.-backed Afghan National Army has 25,000 fewer troops under its command than it did five years ago, while ten years of training by U.S. special operations forces has produced only 21,000 trained Afghan Commandos, the elite troops who do 70-80% of the killing and dying for the corrupt U.S.-backed Afghan government.

But the U.S. has not completely failed to win the loyalty of its imperial subjects.  The first U.S. soldier killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018 was Sergeant 1st Class Mihail Golin, originally from Latvia.  Mihail arrived in the U.S. in November 2004, enlisted in the U.S. Army three months later and has now given his life for the U.S. Empire and for whatever his service to it meant to him.  At least 127 other Eastern Europeans have died in occupied Afghanistan, along with 455 British troops, 158 Canadians and 396 soldiers from 17 other countries.  But 2,402 – or 68%, over two-thirds – of the occupation troops who have died in Afghanistan since 2001, were Americans.

In Iraq, an American war that always had even less international support or legitimacy, 93% of the occupation troops who have died were Americans, 4,530 out of a total of 4,852 “coalition” deaths.

When Ben Griffin, who later founded the U.K. branch of Veterans for Peace, told his superiors in the U.K.’s elite SAS (Special Air Service) that he could no longer take part in murderous house raids in Baghdad with U.S. special operations forces, he was surprised to find that his entire chain of command understood and accepted his decision.  The only officer who tried to change his mind was the chaplain.

The Future of Empire

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have explicitly told Congress that war with North Korea would require a ground invasion, and the same would likely be true of a U.S. war on Iran.  South Korea wants to avoid war at all costs, but may be unavoidably drawn into a U.S.-led Second Korean War.

But besides South Korea, the level of support the U.S. could expect from its allies in a Second Korean War or other wars of aggression in the future would probably be more like Iraq than Afghanistan, with significant international opposition, even from traditional U.S. allies. U.S. troops would therefore make up nearly all of the invasion and occupation forces – and take nearly all of the casualties.

Compared to past empires, the cost in blood and treasure of policing the U.S. Empire and the blame for its catastrophic failures fall disproportionately – and rightly – on Americans.  Even Donald Trump recognizes this problem, but his demands for allied countries to spend more on their militaries and buy more U.S. weapons will not change their people’s unwillingness to die in America’s wars.

This reality has created political pressure on U.S. leaders to wage war in ways that cost fewer American lives but inevitably kill many more people in countries being punished for resistance to U.S. imperialism, using air strikes and locally recruited death squads instead of U.S. “boots on the ground” wherever possible.

The U.S. conducts a sophisticated propaganda campaign to pretend that U.S. air-launched weapons are so accurate that they can be used safely without killing large numbers of civilians.  Actual miss rates and blast radii are on the “banned topics” blacklist, along with realistic estimates of civilian deaths.

When former Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari told Patrick Cockburn of the U.K.’s Independent newspaper that he had seen Iraqi Kurdish intelligence reports which estimated that the U.S.- and Iraqi-led destruction of Mosul had killed 40,000 civilians, the only remotely realistic estimate so far from an official source, no other mainstream Western media followed up on the story.

But America’s wars are killing millions of innocent people: people defending themselves, their families, their communities and countries against U.S. imperialism and aggression; and many more who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time under the onslaught of over 210,000 American bombs and missiles dropped on at least 7 countries since 2001.

According to a growing body of research (for example, see the UN Development Program study, Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping-Point for Recruitment), most people who join armed resistance or “terrorist” groups do so mainly to protect themselves and their families from the dangers of wars that others have inflicted on them.  The UNDP survey found that the final “tipping point” that pushes over 70% of them to take the fateful step of joining an armed group is the killing or detention of a close friend or family member by foreign or local security forces.

So the reliance on airstrikes and locally recruited death squads, the very strategies that make U.S. imperialism palatable to the American public, are in fact the main “drivers” spreading armed resistance and terrorism to country after country, placing the U.S. Empire on a collision course with itself.

The U.S. effort to delegate war in the Middle East to Saudi Arabia is turning it into a target of global condemnation as it tries to mimic the U.S. model of warfare by bombing and starving millions of innocent people in Yemen while blaming the victims for their plight.  The slaughter by poorly trained and undisciplined Saudi and Emirati pilots is even more indiscriminate than U.S. bombing campaigns, and the Saudis lack the full protection of the Western propaganda system to minimize international outrage at tens of thousands of civilian casualties and an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis.

The need to win the loyalty of imperial subjects by some combination of fear and respect is a basic requirement of Empire.  But it appears to be unattainable in the 21st century, certainly by the kind of murderous policies the U.S. has embraced since the end of the Cold War.  As Richard Barnet already observed 45 years ago, at the end of the American War in Vietnam, “At the very moment the number one nation has perfected the science of killing, it has become an impractical instrument of political domination.”

Obama’s sugar-coated charm offensive won U.S. imperialism a reprieve from global public opinion and provided political cover for allied leaders to actively rejoin U.S.-led alliances.  But it was dishonest.  Under cover of Obama’s iconic image, the U.S. spread the violence and chaos of its wars and regime changes and the armed resistance and terrorism they provoke farther and wider, affecting tens of millions more people from Syria and Libya to Nigeria and Ukraine.

Now Trump has taken the mask off and the world is once again confronting the unvarnished, brutal reality of U.S. imperialism and aggression.

China’s approach to the world based on trade and infrastructure development has been more successful than U.S. imperialism.  The U.S. share of the global economy has declined from 40% to 22% since the 1960s, while China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in the next decade or two – by some measures, it already has.

While China has become the manufacturing and trading hub of the global economy, the U.S. economy has been financialized and hollowed out, hardly a solid basis for future growth.  The neoliberal model of politics and economics that the U.S. adopted a generation ago has created even greater wealth for people who already owned disproportionate shares of everything, but it has left working people in the U.S. and across the U.S. Empire worse off than before.

Like the “next to nothing” that Danny Sjursen came to realize he was fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospects for the U.S. economy seem ephemeral and highly vulnerable to the changing tides of economic history.

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

In his 1987 book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, historian Paul Kennedy examined the relationship between economic and military power in the histories of the Western empires who colonized the world in the past 500 years.  He described how rising powers enjoy significant competitive advantages over established ones, and how every once-dominant power sooner or later has to adjust to the tides of economic history and find a new place in a world it can no longer dominate.

Kennedy explained that military power is only a secondary form of power that wealthy nations develop to protect and support their expanding economic interests.  An economically dominant power can quickly convert some of its resources into military power, as the U.S. did during the Second World War or as China is doing today.  But once formerly dominant powers have lost ground to new, rising powers, using military power more aggressively has never been a successful way to restore their economic dominance.  On the contrary, it has typically been a way to squander the critical years and scarce resources they could otherwise have used to manage a peaceful transition to a prosperous future.

As the U.K. found in the 1950s, using military force to try to hold on to its empire proved counter-productive, as Kennedy described, and peaceful transitions to independence proved to be a more profitable basis for future relations with its former colonies.  The drawdown of its global military commitments was an essential part of its transition to a viable post-imperial future.

The transition from hegemony to coexistence has never been easy for any great power, and there is nothing exceptional about the temptation to use military force to try to preserve and prolong the old order.  This has often led to catastrophic wars and it has always failed.

It is difficult for any political or military leader to preside over a diminution of his or her country’s power in the world.  Military leaders are rewarded for military strategies that win wars and expand their country’s power, not for dismantling it.  Mid-level staff officers who tell their superiors that their weapons and armies cannot solve their country’s problems do not win promotion to decision-making positions.

As Gabriel Kolko noted in Century of War in 1994, this marginalization of critical voices leads to an “inherent, even unavoidable institutional myopia,” under which, “options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”

After two world wars and the independence of India, the Suez crisis of 1956 was the final nail in the coffin of the British Empire, and the Eisenhower administration burnished its own anti-colonial credentials by refusing to support the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt.  British Prime Minister Anthony Eden was forced to resign, and he was replaced by Harold Macmillan, who had been a close aide to Eisenhower during the Second World War.

Macmillan dismantled the remains of the British Empire behind the backs of his Conservative Party’s supporters, winning reelection in 1959 on the slogan, “You’ve never had it so good,” while the U.S. supported a relatively peaceful transition that preserved Western international business interests and military power.

As the U.S. faces a similar transition from empire to a post-imperial future, its leaders have been seduced by the chimera of the post-Cold War “power dividend” to try to use military force to preserve and expand the U.S. Empire, even as the relative economic position of the U.S. declines.

In 1987, Paul Kennedy ended The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers with a prescient analysis of the U.S. position in the world.  He concluded,

“In all of the discussions about the erosion of American leadership, it needs to be repeated again and again that the decline referred to is relative not absolute, and is therefore perfectly natural; and that the only serious threat to the real interests of the United States can come from a failure to adjust sensibly to the newer world order.”

But after Kennedy wrote that in 1987, instead of accepting the future of peace and disarmament that the whole world hoped for at the end of the Cold War, a generation of American leaders made a fateful bid for “superpower.”  Their delusions were exactly the kind of failure to adjust to a changing world that Kennedy warned against.

The results have been catastrophic for millions of victims of U.S. wars, but they have also been corrosive and debilitating for American society, as the perverted priorities of militarism and Empire squander our country’s resources and leave working Americans poorer, sicker, less educated and more isolated from the rest of the world.

When I began writing Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq in 2008, I hoped that the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq might bring U.S. leaders to their senses, as the Suez crisis did to British leaders in 1956.

Instead, eight more years of carefully disguised savagery under Obama have squandered more precious time and good will and spread the violence and chaos of U.S. war-making even farther and wider.  The new National Defense Strategy’s implicit threats against Russia and China reveal that 20 years of disastrous imperial wars have done nothing to disabuse U.S. leaders of their delusions of “superpower status” or to restore any kind of sanity to U.S. foreign policy.

Trump is not even pretending to respect diplomacy or international law, as he escalates Bush’s and Obama’s wars and threatens new ones of his own.  But maybe Trump’s nakedly aggressive policies will force the world to finally confront the dangers of U.S. imperialism. A coming together of the international community to stop further U.S. aggression may be the only way to prevent an even greater catastrophe than the ones that have already befallen the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.

Or will it actually take a new and even more catastrophic war in Korea, Iran or somewhere else to finally force the United States to “adjust sensibly to the new world order,” as Paul Kennedy put it in 1987?  The world has already paid a terrible price for our leaders’ failure to take his sound advice a generation ago.  But what will be the final cost if they keep ignoring it even now?