2011: End of US Hyperpower & its War with Islamdom

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 changes in government have left the US and the UK with no choice but to deal with parties such as al-Nahda in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which right wing members of Congress had earlier lambasted as proto-terrorist organizations. In Libya, the US and NATO allied with the Muslim masses against dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and some of their new allies had been Muslim radicals earlier. Although the degree of US-Muslim polarization of the period 2001-2011 was often exaggerated (Turkey and Morocco, e.g., were American allies), the three unconventional wars (Afghanistan, Iraq and al-Qaeda), along with significant tensions elsewhere (Sudan, Somalia) did create an over-all bipolar framework.

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.

The most potent symbol of this change is Syria, where US freedom of movement in staging any sort of intervention is constrained by Russia and China.

In 1991, the US was 25 percent of global GDP. Today, it is 20 percent. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US was the only country in the top 10 global economies with a substantial ability to act alone in projecting military force in the world. Japan and Germany maintained militaries only for self-defense. France, Italy, the UK and Spain typically worked within a NATO framework (except for French interventions in Africa). Brazil was relatively inward-looking. US supremacy was announced with the Gulf War, even before the Soviet system had quite collapsed. Premier Mikhail Gorbachev was unable to protect a former Soviet client state, Iraq, from US ire. And George H. W. Bush put together a coalition of two dozen allies with a UNSC mandate to push Iraq out of occupied Kuwait, thus underlining that the United States was now the successor to the British Empire as guarantor of security in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. George W. Bush’s 2003 war against Iraq, while it lacked the legal framework that the Gulf War enjoyed, was a continuation of that assertion of American dominance on a unilateral basis (not unilateral in the sense that the US had no allies, but unilateral in the sense that none of the allies was indispensable and that the US could do as it pleased).

In 2011, China and India are in the top ten world economies (by purchasing power parity), and each is a hegemonic military power now. China can help protect Syria, e.g., and India insists on buying Iranian petroleum. Russia is likely to rejoin the top ten by 2015, and it is militarily significant. Moscow is running interference for the Baath regime in Syria in part to protect the Tartus naval base on the Mediterranean, which the Russians lease from Damascus.

The United States is no longer the hyperpower. It can no longer necessarily act unilaterally by launching a major war of aggression at will. It lacks the resources. And, it has significant challengers in some theaters. The Obama administration was only able to act in Libya because Russia and China had allowed a strong UNSC resolution in favor of intervention to be passed. Had either exercised a veto, the Libya War would have been forestalled. And, even with a UNSC resolution authorizing the use of force, Washington felt the need to lead from behind and let France, Britain and Qatar stay in the forefront, because it feared bad PR if it were perceived to be yet again unilaterally attacking a Muslim country.

A corollary is that each region of the world is now more independent of the US than it had been. Brazil defied the US on Libya and Latin America is defying the US on relations with Palestine.

The greatest trend to greater independence of the US can be seen in the Middle East and North Africa. Some regimes that were almost sycophants toward Western capitals have been swept away. Indigenous and nativist political movements, especially those based in political Islam, are doing well. Religious parties came to power in Tunisia and Morocco, forming governments and selecting the prime minister. A similar development will likely occur in Egypt, Libya and Yemen in 2012. All of these governments had been dominated by billionaire politicians and increasingly Neoliberal economic policies. The new cabinets dominated by political Islam are economic populists, but likely will not challenge the US significantly. Neither can they be depended upon, however, to do as they’re told, in the way that Mubarak could have been.

It is too early to say whether the assertion of people power, in part via the internet, in the Arab world marks a structural, long-term change in the way business is done. What can be said is that the Middle East is emerging as more independent than it had been since the 1970s.

President Obama gave a speech marking the end of the Iraq War. He should give one marking the end of the “War on Terror.” The US is not actively fighting Muslim troops in Iraq any more. Bin Laden is dead. Whatever is going on in southern Afghanistan will have to work its way out alone.

Those are the three big changes in 2011. The US is one great power among many, now. Muslim radicalism is running out of steam. And, the Middle East is declaring independence along the lines of Brazil.

51 Responses

  1. 21 years ago, during the Gulf War, I saw this graffiti on a church in southern Mexico: “Yankee go home. Viva Iraq” . Whoever wrote that can breathe a little easier now. It’s been a long time coming.

    • Historians may one day point to our quagmire in Iraq as the event that liberated South America from Wall Street hegemony. And while Bush lost South America and Central Asia with his ignorance, now the Middle East is being peeled off. We’ve lost three major world regions, if not to democracy, at least to sovereignity.

      Unfortunately, Mexico is still too far from God and too close to the USA and its relentless drug consumption. Cheer for the Mexican people’s movement to end the drug war.

  2. Unfortunately Obama will NEVER give a speech marking the end of the “War on Terror”, any more than he is going to prosecute torturers or Wall Street banksters.

    The supporters of GWOT and the bankster class are the people that have bought and paid for Obama. He is their loyal employee.


    • A new year is coming up, and it’s an Election year in the US. That means politicians like Barack Obama are more sensitive to what people are saying and demanding. That also means you have the chance to work to get better, more “progressive” elected representatives.

      If the Democratic wing of the Democratic party can win back the House, for example, and get better control of the Senate, it can push the President (if Democratic) more to the left. Then prosecuting the banksters, torturers, and war criminals will become increasingly likely – particularly if you get involved in the political side and actively work for these things.

    • Barack Obama has explicitly, repeatedly renounced the formulation “War on Terror,” clarifying that we are fighting a war against Al Qaeda.

      And given the statements from people like David Patraeus and Leon Panetta, this administration clearly sees that war as one that can be won, and brought to a definite end. I expect we’ll see Obama announce victory in that war sometime in his second term.

  3. But you left Iran out of the picture. According to the Leveretts, “…the evidence of the damage that America’s determination to assert hegemonic dominance over the political and strategic orientation of key states in the region has done to its strategic position, in the Middle East and globally, is already overwhelming. And yet bipartisan attachment to the illusory and demonstrably counter-productive goal of Middle Eastern hegemony persists; currently, its most salient manifestation is the rising crescendo of voices advocating U.S. military action—we will call it what it would be, an illegitimate U.S. attack—against the Islamic Republic, ostensibly over its nuclear activities.” link to raceforiran.com

    • China = veto.

      Stop to think what would happen to America if China, without firing a shot, simply started dumping all its US $ denominated holdings. The current Chinese model of propping up the $ to hold down the yuan imposes a high cost on Chinese consumers for imports, but the leadership hasn’t yet felt it was worth the risk of jumping to a strong yuan model. Congressmen should stop whining for a strong yuan, unless they’re already salivating for the bribes that will come with the Chinese who will buy up everything remaining of value in our country.

      Precisely because this is soft power, we don’t know where China will choose to risk using it.

      • What, you mean our Warfighters don’t have a model for projecting this horrific threat to our freedom onto the Big Screen of the Future, and lots of contractors working diligently to produce PowerPoint slides to exobfuscate the salient maturations of synergistic response?

        C’mon, there has to be a Plan B on the shelf, other than “nuke Beijing via B-2 or Trident or Minuteman III…”

        God forbid that anyone in Power would be looking to create a playing field that is all positive-sum games (with the exception of the places where the money flows, so deep and still and fast, into the hands of those who live to create ragged-edge states of fear…)

  4. I just want to say, “Thank You” to Juan Cole for his commentary on the Middle East. History and logic are often lacking in commentaries of this sort, but Juan Cole’s are always enlightening, well-reasoned and topical (and never shallow). Thank You Juan Cole and Happy New year from Norway!

  5. Physical war against islamdom has ended. So what? From now on, we are going to see Iran being presented as a threat to Middle East and superpowers will have their new excuse to continue exploitation of Middle East.

  6. “…be at peace.”

    What a wonderfully futile aspiration.

    Most humans do not know or even want to explore what “peace” is, as far as I can see.

    Something like a quarter of the world’s economic activity is tied into an entirely futile inter- and trans- and post-national tail-chase of “threat” and “counter-threat” and little and large tit-for-tatting (“you kill some of us, so we kill some of you, so you kill some of us, so we kill some of your neighbors…”), funded by simple theft of the real wealth that would, if directed differently, make living “peacefully” possible.

    The participants in the War Market hold to no national loyalties, being quintessential New World Order “capitalists.” The “Call of Duty” seductions and popularity, not to mention what really goes on in a meatspace “war zone,” make pretty clear how deep in our individual and collective beings the pleasure of killing “the other” penetrates.

    There may be emotional (and temporary) pockets of resistance to participation in the enormous racket that is the MIC and its resource-hungry clients. But as with human cultures on the planetary scale, everything is about consumption, and a universal faith maybe best described as “MOREism.” Money, the magic carpet to satisfaction of insatiable human lusts, trumps decency and fellow-feeling and altruism every time, over the long haul. “Economic” motivations will batter emotional and spiritual motivations into the dust, usually in very short order. Good luck defeating the attraction of largely infinite tax and debt money for ever-more-foolish and deadly complexities like “autonomous battle robots” and the whole “networked battlespace” construct.

    The US War Department cadres have developed many tools to try to manage the whole Milo Minderbinder enterprise. One is a dictionary of terms and abbreviations which, if you read it, gives a fuller flavor of the idiocy of the whole. There is no entry for “peace,” per se, though there are definitions in the 2002 version (it’s updated regularly, at the cost of hundreds of millions per edition), link to blackpony.org, that include the term:

    peace building — post-conflict actions, predominately diplomatic and economic, that strengthen and rebuild governmental infrastructure and institutions in order to avoid a relapse into conflict. See also peace enforcement; peacekeeping; peacemaking; peace operations. (JP 3-07)

    peace enforcement — Application of military force, or the threat of its use, normally pursuant to international authorization, to compel compliance with resolutions or sanctions designed to maintain or restore peace and order. See also peace building; peacekeeping; peacemaking; peace operations. (JP 3-07)

    peacekeeping — Military operations undertaken with the consent of all major parties to a dispute, designed to monitor and facilitate implementation of an agreement (ceasefire, truce, or other such agreement) and support diplomatic efforts to reach a long-term political settlement. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacemaking; peace operations. (JP 3-07)

    peacemaking —The process of diplomacy, mediation, negotiation, or other forms of peaceful settlements that arranges an end to a dispute and resolves issues that led to it. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacekeeping; peace operations. (JP 3-07)
    peace operations — A broad term that encompasses peacekeeping operations and peace enforcement operations conducted in support of diplomatic efforts to establish and maintain peace. Also called PO. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacekeeping; and peacemaking. (JP 3-07)

    peacetime force materiel assets — That portion of total materiel assets that is designated to meet the peacetime force materiel requirement. See also war reserves.

    peacetime force materiel requirement — The quantity of an item required to equip, provide a materiel pipeline, and sustain the United States force structure (active and reserve) and those allied forces designated for United States peacetime support in current Secretary of Defense guidance (including approved supply support arrangements with foreign military sales countries) and to support the scheduled establishment through normal appropriation and procurement leadtime periods.

    peacetime materiel consumption and losses — The quantity of an item consumed, lost, or worn out beyond economical repair through normal appropriation and procurement leadtime periods.

    Don’tcha just love the total logicality and internal consistency of it all? How “realistic” the thinking is? But: What part of any of that indicates anything other than the presumption, well warranted given the momentum and inertia of the War Monkey on our backs, the Monkey that in Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler’s righteous formulation is “nothing but a racket,” that “peace” is anything but an aberrant condition between application and projection of “force,” and exists only by constantly feeding ever more wealth and blood into the ever-expanding complexity and futility of that insatiable “peace-keeping” bureaucracy, loyal only unto itself and its self-perpetuating, self-aggrandizing “mission?” The one that reads “We gotta be ready for ANYthing, ANYtime, ANYwhere!”?

    For the sake of my grandchildren, I wish it were otherwise…

  7. Professor Cole,

    Its impossible to read a few initial lines of your essay and not continue till its end in one go. So much for your fluency and interesting style. I have a penchant for literary beauty. And you are always there to regale us with it in addition to educating us with knowledge, analysis and solid facts.

    I can never be your student at the University of Michigan, but every morning I get chance to talk to you in person, thanks to Informed Comment blog.

    While you dwelled on waning power of the US, I would like to know how will this play out on Palestine/Israel issue. US is the only power helping Israel sustain its occupation on Palestinian land. Its provides it with gargantuan aid in military and financial terms every year which is enabling Israel to sustain its Apartheid regime on Palestinian territories. The unquestioning aid has rendered Israel intransigent and averse to any equitable resolution of the conflict. So how would this abatement of US power bear on Israeli behavior. I am curious?

    Thanks again and happy new year.


    Edmonton, Canada

    • Unfortunately, if we choose to be foolish we can finance Israel for a long time at the cost of everything else. It’s not the US government aid anymore, it’s the earnings from foreign sales by the entire Israeli military-security-industrial complex, driven by the belief that the War on Terror continues. Consider this article from Max Blumenthal:

      link to exiledonline.com

      For a completely different angle, how many decades did the ridiculously backward economies of feudal Europe manage to maintain Crusader castles in a Palestine surrounded by a superior civilization? If your people are savage enough and crazy enough, it can be done. But that was in a world with no international law, no concept of human rights, no global media… It’s up to the rest of the world to stand up to America, and make it hurt.

  8. To follow up on Tariq, if the war on Islamdom ended when the US withdrew from Iraq, or even is expected to end soon when the US leaves Afghanistan, then when did the war on Islamdom start?

    A lot is hinging on how we’re defining the US war on Islamdom.

    It seems that this essay is based on the idea that the US war on Islamdom began with the 1991 invasion of Iraq.

    US support for Israel in 1973 as well as US direct intervention as well as its support for Israeli intervention in Lebanon in the 1980s by this accounting were not part of a war with Islam.

    It is semantic, I guess. You can define the war as starting whenever you want, and ending whenever you want.

    US policy motivations, priorities and agendas in the Middle East are not different in 2012 than they were in 2002, 1992 or 1982 as far as I can tell.

    Iraq has been destroyed and though the US was unable to install a government in Iraq that would allow an indefinite occupation, Iraq still is not able to advance regional policy objectives in line with the values of its population if those Iraqi values could conflict with the US’ priorities.

    If the US gave up on Iraq with its objectives only partially met, does that mean the war is over, or only that a single battle in a larger war has ended? Again that is a question whose answer, I guess, depends on personal taste.

    We’ll see what happens in Egypt. It is possible that the conflict between the US and the people of the Middle East will be redefined because of Egypt as the US loses the major asset of a pliant government there.

    It is also possible that as the US attempts to retain control of Egypt’s foreign policy, these attempts are opposed by Egyptians, and the next battleground between the US and the people of the Middle East will be Egypt itself.

    Or, it is possible that the people of Egypt will be happy with US control of their foreign policy if their parliament can make domestic decisions. I don’t think that is the most likely eventuality but we’ll see. And even if that happens, the conflict between the US and the people of the Middle East would still not necessarily be over.

    I agree with Tariq that it is too early to declare that the war between the West, led by the US, and the people of the Middle East is over. I expect important developments in this conflict to occur in 2012.

    • I didn’t say that the war on Islamdom began in 1991. I said being a hyperpower did. The war on Islamdom began under Bush jr.

      • I’ve actually never seen 2001 or 2003 as a major departure from usual US Middle East policy. So if 2011 put the US back to where it was in 2000 with regards to the Middle East, that is still not a good place for the people of the Middle East or, admittedly to a less intense degree, for the people of the United States.

        The United States, as you mention elsewhere, was in important ways the adversary of the people of the Middle East even before George W. Bush’s political career began. That conflict certainly does not end because US ground forces are out of Iraq.

        It is personal taste, but I consider the similarities in US Middle East policy in 1990, 2000, 2003 and 2011 as more important than the differences.

  9. The U.S. was hardly looking for a “bogeyman” after the fall of the USSR in 1991. It didn’t need to, as it was the sole super power at the time. And it certainly wasn’t preparing for a war against “Islamdom.” In 1991 George H.W. Bush sent U.S. forces into Somalia for the purpose of clearing a way for food and supplies to reach those in need. Under Bill Clinton the mission morphed into a conflict with Somali warlords who were preventing supplies from reaching the population. After the “Blackhawk Down” incident, the U.S. withdrew, hardly the action of a “hyperpower” throwing its weight around. In the mid-1990s the U.S. entered the Bosnian conflict to protect Bosnian Muslims against Serbs after the Europeans demonstated complete paralysis in the affair. That conflict ended with Richard Holbrooke’s Dayton Accords in 1995. In 1999, the U.S. led the NATO war against Serbia to protect Kosovar Muslims from ongoing ethnic cleansing. These are hardly the actions of a country attempting to turn Islam into a “bogeyman.”

    The U.S. had no choice but to attack Afghanistan and remove the Taliban from power after Al Qaeda’s attack against the U.S. No country can expect to be immune from the consequences of harboring forces that attack another country, and Afghanistan was no exception.

    To concentrate on only those U.S. actions that one perceives to be a U.S. “War with Islamdom” and ignore all the actions the U.S. has taken in support of Muslims is disingenuous, one-sided, intellectually dishonest, and unworthy of a serious scholar and commentator on international affairs.

    • First of all, I didn’t say that the US was looking for a war on Islamdom in the 1990s.

      I said that the US politicians missed the Soviet threat, which they did– the war industries hated the peace dividend and the Right gnashed its teeth at a Democrat being in the presidency. Being a hyperpower is only fun if the domestic public does not notice it doesn’t need a trillion dollar war budget any more.

      The US sanctions on Iraq went beyond punishing a regime to punishing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

      While a US attack on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was justified in 2001, a 15-year-long military occupation of Afghanistan was not.

      The Bush administration cynically deployed raw feelings about 9/11 to gin up a war on and long occupation of Iraq. And, it increasingly attempted to create Islam as a bogeyman, with buzz words like Islamofascism and phony prosecutions and security alerts. It ruled by fear and needed someone for us to fear, vastly exaggerating a few al-Qaeda types into a global threat to the world’s sole superpower.

      • And the U.S. deserves no credit for the actions it has taken in support of Muslims since 1991, as noted in my post? Where is the balance?

        • You know, if you do some things to people, it rather erases in their minds any previous good deeds. Demanding that Arabs of all people be grateful to the United States is a bit rich.

        • And let’s not forget that Islamic terrorism did not begin with the 9/11 attack against the U.S. There was the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombing of the American Embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, the attack against the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, plus numerous other attacks and provocations such as the Al Khobar Towers bombing.

        • I didn’t say Arabs should be grateful. My point was we should exercise some balance. I said nothing about what Arabs should or should not do or think.

      • The war in Afghanistan might be considered justified, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a monumentally stupid decision, carried out badly, and dropped on the back burner the moment the Bush Administration could figure out an even flimsier rationale for going in to Iraq.

      • Juan; what about the reports that the Taliban leaders were willing to hand over OBL if they were supplied substantial evidence of his involvement in the attacks of 9/11/01? If those reports are true, does that not make the war on Afghanistan illegitimate?

        • The Taliban were bought and paid for by Bin Laden and weren’t going to hand him over. That’s ridiculous.

  10. I agree with almost everything you said, except that I believe you underestimate the importance of Palestine on the continuation of the American-Muslim conflict, which in large part is also responsible for the rejection of American imperialism in the Middle East.

    By acting as Israel’s unqualified supporter and enabler of its Apartheid / colonial policies, the US is uniting the entire Middle East against it in rejection of its hegemony. Since there is no end in sight of this conflict, the war between America and the Arab / Muslim world will continue and perhaps even get worse, if for that alone, for Palestine is the heart of the Arab world and a symbol of their humiliation by the neo-colonial West, and something which all Muslims, from Morocco to Indonesia, agree on.

  11. So, a multilateral world? And with all the major powers bellicose. What happens as the climate disasters continue, I wonder? Food for corvids or starvation for corvids?

    “It is too early to say whether the assertion of people power, in part via the internet, in the Arab world marks a structural, long-term change in the way business is done.”

    Media have made a change globally in the 20th and early 21st century, and this is so far both positive and negative. I think, though, that the largest changes are likely to come through the pervasiveness of communications technology. 77% of the world now has cell phone numbers. 77%. *Forget* keeping the lid on ideas. It’s over. We live in one world now.

    • Sort of a return to the multipolar situation of, say, the Concert of Vienna after the Napoleonic Wars. I suspect multipolarity is more stable than bipolarity or hyperpower hegemony. Lots of potential checks.

      • I think, Juan, that you’re right if the world economy is growing, but The Raven is right if ecological degradation reverses food production and oil has peaked. In such a calamity, hegemons simply take and redistribute the resources of others to maintain their survival (and thus civilization), but in a multipolar world, it could go Mad Max in a hurry.

      • Didn’t the end of the Napoleonic Wars usher in a whole series of smaller wars in Europe, while revolution and unification of nation-states lead eventually to the two world wars? Are we perhaps repeating that pattern on a larger scale, with larger cultural regions forming into political entities: Western Europe, Russia & Slavic Europe, Arab/Islamic Middle East and Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, US & Canada, Latin America?

        It sounds like a recipe for much conflict and, indeed, there are conflicts at the borders of all of these regions. If this is the new world order, I think we are very much at risk of a third world war. Conflict within the regions also seems likely. We are seeing conflict within Western Europe right now, as Germany and France seek again to assert power over all of Europe.

        And, still, there is climate change and ecological destruction.

        • I think there are cycles of big wars and small wars. I might be prejudiced to that view because I was in Univ. of Michigan conflict studies where frequency and size of wars are quantitatively assessed. But I believe there’s a narrative that explains this history. Sovereigns want wars to be private poker games between themselves, so we have periods dominated by proxy wars and limited border wars, professionals and mercenaries, little involvement by the citizenry, etc. But during such times politics becomes detached from the concerns of the masses, held back until they break like a dam into a flood of ideology: the 30 Years’ War, the French Revolution, the World Wars. In each cataclysm, all the characteristics are reversed, populaces are decimated, empires overthrown. Afterwards, the surviving rulers get together at a resort and swear they’ll never let that happen again, and impose new restrictions on what they can justly fight each other about.

          I think the dam is about to break again. The technological side of that is covered by my reply to Paul below. The social side is seen in the mass demonstrations worldwide. I think we will look back fondly on the small wars of recent years, but they merely protected a dysfunctional status quo. If the forces of change are funneled by rising authoritarian powers, we might have the kind of wars you fear. If instead they herald an age of mass involvement and revolution, the nukes might not come out and we could have some very positive developments if we’re willing to pay a substantial price.

  12. Professor Cole,
    You proclaim 2011 as the year that United States has become one power among many, yet you do not bring any data or evidence to back up that claim. The United States remains the predominant superpower in the world today; the facts and figures tell the whole story. The US today accounts for 23% of the world’s GDP according to the World Bank (2010 current dollars) and 26% according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (). Defense spending and capabilities remain far greater than the combined power of other nations. According to the 2011 IISS Military Balance, the U.S. accounts for 42.8% of world military spending, with regional hegemons China and India checking in at 4.7% and 2.3% respectively. The international will to intervene in Syria simply does not exist as it did in Libya—with little US or European interest in Syria (e.g. oil), comes little likelihood for intervention.

    The claim of broad Middle Eastern independence and extrication from United States influence also does not hold up under scrutiny. While Tunisia and Morocco express independent thoughts, the power players in the Middle East among Arab States remain Saudi Arabia and Iran. In an effort to provide strategic counterbalance with Iran, the U.S. has doubled down on its relationship with Saudi Arabia, sealing a $30 billion arms deal to sell advanced jets two days ago ().

    Sadly, the United States will continue to prosecute war in the Middle East for the indefinite future. The advent of drone warfare has largely moved this conflict out of the public eye, but strikes in Yemen have killed al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki. These attacks continue to sow hatred for the United States and create an environment for the next generation of terrorists.

    In conclusion, the numbers show that the United States clearly remains the world’s military superpower. The U.S.’s Middle Eastern strategy has evolved as well, now focusing on containing Iranian influence through sanctions and counterbalancing. The new year brings the possibility of military confrontation with the Iranian regime, as well as a continued war on terror with seemingly no boundaries.

    • Firstly, the US dollar is grossly overvalued, which is actually hurting our economy just as the overvaluation of the British pound hurt the British empire after WW1. It creates an illusion of strength while perpetuating ruinous trade deficits.

      Secondly, the size of our war spending may prove the evil of our intentions, but not the size of its effectiveness. I have been saying for 20 years that the US war machine is a vast waste of taxpayer dollars, a relic of the Cold War, ready to be ruined by newer ideas of combat. Iraq damn near ruined our army, despite being in ruins itself. Afghanistan is more of the same. Would-be opponents adapt to the high-profile successes of great powers. The Iraqis beat us while in an all-out war with each other. In fact after 2005 they appear to have already realized that we could not conquer them, and instead turned to internecine warfare, each faction taking US handouts when mutually convenient, to prepare for the great prize: a post-occupation regime that would reward one ethnic group with all the oil money. If they had shown any unity after the April 2004 uprisings, I think we would have been defeated on the ground by the next year.

      That is a horrible statement on the utility of US military forces. Don’t imagine that it has not been heard. The US war machine is built to destroy any normal government that defies it, but then what? Non-state actors can point to a string of successes from Mogadishu to 9/11 to the bankrupting of the USA in Iraq. Whenever we destroy a government, we find we cannot replace it and end the war, only the people can.

      Meanwhile, many people have warned that the Persian Gulf is a trap for the US Navy due to cheap Chinese anti-ship weapons; as they grow in sophistication, more and more of the world’s maritime chokepoints will be off-limits to us. Wars of a type which the US prefers to fight still prove to be difficult or impossible.

      Our imperialists crowed of a revolution in military affairs. This is it. Americans are cowardly, spoiled, increasingly reliant on a redneck fanatic-Christian caste of hardened warriors to do our dirty work (if not foreign Hessians), and worst of all, we have completely outsourced civilian high-tech production to poor countries that increasingly defy our will. Don’t you see, all our drones and killer robots and communications gear built in tiny lots at exorbitant profits by GOP-crony contractors in Red States will be copied by the Chinese for 1/5 the cost in ten times the quantity, if they ever prove themselves worthy? We called ourselves the Arsenal of Democracy when we took middling-advanced weapons technology and mass-prodcued it on an unprecedented scale in an America full of factories. China is the only country on Earth that could do that now, if it chose. But if they’re really smart, and as mean as I am, the Chinese should be figuring out how to improve the pathetic weapons that our opponents are already beating us with. Imagine a $10,000 cruise missile that can deploy from a van on a highway, or a robot torpedo that knows the sound of every ship in the sea and lurks in the Gulf of Sidra, biding its time, or a guided mortar shell that can destroy helicopters (yes, that one exists). What if every Chinese sweatshop that makes RC-trucks and planes for your kids were to just add explosives and sell them to the kids of the next country we invade?

      That is the nightmare of future war, waged by the infinite armies of poor children – in ghettoes and in factories – in a failed global economy against the murderous bigoted warriors of Tennessee and Alabama. It doesn’t matter how much money we spend. We will lose everything, and then the war will come home.

  13. My 2 cents, I would like to see Dr. Paul run against the “O”, with that perpetual gadfly somewhere in the mix, Ralph Nader who I’m speaking of. But this time, the “O” will have to put up or slink back into the shadows, from whence he came. The U.S.A. can no longer afford to be the cop on the bear, regardless of what the neoconservative & Israeli politicians & their U.S. sycophants in Congress think. These people need to realize that the other 300 million citizens of the U.S. want a life to live in which the plutocracy can’t give, due to the greed factor that they have adopted. The Police may have won the present rounds by ejecting the OWS from the parks, but they don’t stand a chance in the coming year when the heat gets turned up. “O” should consider doing a Texas two step, like LBJ did in 68, by getting out while the getting is good. The plutocracy attitude of let them eat cake, will bring the same result that occurred when “Marie” uttered those words. Of course, it might feel good to see how they react when the roles are reversed, and reversed they will be. Let’s just hope the destruction isn’t like when the Bolsheviks did their thing.

    • Ron Paul is the ultimate priest of infinite, unregulated, unimpeachable greed as the solution to every human problem. He worships a 19th century in which the “state’s-rights” National Guard was routinely ordered by governors owned & operated by robber barons to shoot down strikers in the streets. He denounced Lincoln for saving the Union. So even 1865 is too communistic for him.

  14. Paul was from Tarsus, but the Russians dock in Tartus.

  15. The Taliban were bought and paid for by the Saudi and Pakistani governments and they very nearly handed bin Laden over to Prince Turki al Faisal a few years before 9/11.

    “Why do you think they did those things?”

    Bin Laden’s focus didn’t settle on the US until just after the start of the first Gulf war when the Saudi royals refused his offer of an Aghanistan like mujahideen resistance against Saddam Hussein, preferring the military dominance of western forces and allowing them to stage for war on Saudi soil. This was bin Ladens turning point.

  16. Oh and as far as the end of US hyperpower. In many respects I agree and I also agree a multipolar world will likely be a bit more stable. But keep in mind the US still maintains a virtual global military hegemony via it’s massive blue water navy.

    • The US had that superiority in the Cold War but still conceded sphere of influence to the Soviets. Hyperpowers don’t concede.

      • Primus inter pares, meaning similar to Britain during the Great Power era. I think that’s right, if we’re talking about 1919-39 rather than the Pax Britannica. Our empire and economy are in a similar state of decline to the later era. Britain’s own costly intervention in Iraq was 1919-1932. Ours actually has gone worse.

        • I just don’t buy this. The difference between Britain and France, Germany, or Japan in the inter-war years was much, much less significant than the difference between the US and our nearest competitors today. Any two other great powers, working together, could have certainly won a war against Britain alone in 1930. If Russia and China together went to war against the United States alone today, the outcome would be a certain American victory.

          We might not be where we were in 1993, but we’re a lot closer to that than to first-among-equals.

        • It isn’t about who could win a war if one were fought. It is about whether the spheres of influence of other powers are acknowledged and largely respected.

          The US could not have gone to war against Iraq in 1975 because it was then a Soviet client, any more than the US would have intervened in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Bipolarity limited US scope of action. That limitation was removed around 1990 and until this year.

          Multipolarity can as effectively limit the scope of action as bipolarity. So we are not back to 1993, but right smack in 1968 or 1975, only the limitation is not a single other superpower but a gaggle of nuclear rising powers with their own spheres of influence and key interests that we typically will not contest, because of the potentially high cost.

          Thus, the US will not try to prevent China from importing Iranian petroleum, and it will not bomb the Russian-made Bushehr nuclear reactors.

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