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Imminent Decline of Empire?


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 different ways.”

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 superpower.

-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, London.

 

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