16 December 2014

US capricious policies demonstrate decline

. @iwallerstein. #Iraq. #Iran. #Syria. #TortureReport.


American historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein, best known for his analysis of the crisis of the modern world system, i.e. of postindustrial capitalism, has responded aptly to one New York Times piece that declared the US problem in the Middle East to be its conflicting policies.

Immanuel Wallerstein sees the US's growing capriciousness, signaled by conflicting policies in the Middle East, as further evidence of its precipitous decline as the hegemonic power since it first achieved that status in 1945. Writing in a commentary titled "US Standing in the Middle East" from his widely syndicated column at his website, Wallerstein states that America's 2003 aggression against Iraq was a failure that "transformed a slow decline into a precipitate decline". What we are seeing now is still, in many ways, fallout from the catastrophe of the US regime's failed aggression in Iraq.

In what appears to be a reference to the United States' repeated rhetoric about the need for its global leadership role, Wallerstein states that "U.S. public opinion is torn between the glories of being the “leader” and the costs of trying to be the leader". The United States fails to meet the costs of its aggression and capricious actions, relying on other countries to pay for "90% of its costs" in the examples of the two Gulf Wars. The donors mentioned by Mr Wallerstein are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Japan.

In Wallerstein's assessment, the United States was not happy with the end of the Cold War but "dismayed" by it, as it destabilized the bipolar world order that it formerly balanced its credibility on to justify control over its two-thirds of the international community. This is a striking point, considering the apparent return to Cold War-mode relations between the US and Russia (also China?) over the American-induced crisis in Ukraine. Further, Wallerstein describes the US's penchant for military intervention around the world not as a manifestation of its supreme military or moral position, but as evidence that the US is aware of its declining status and is desperate to restore (the appearance of) its global primacy.

All of this points to an increasingly geriatric superpower, rather like Senator John McCain himself, who is arguably the personification of what Uncle Sam has become since it attained the nuclear status needed dominate the world in 1945. Indeed, as Wallerstein points out, the United States is no longer a special power but simply a nostalgic, crumbling regime whose confused leaders seek to bathe in past glories but know not how to begin.

In their confusion, the present regime in Washington lashes out at the world - at anyone - in hope that its next battle might be the one to restore its appearance of dominance. Such efforts are futile. From dust, this super power emerged, and to dust it will return.

Visit Immanuel Wallerstein's website for further commentary.

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