That the US Empire is falling with the structure so laboriously built in the Middle East crumbling is clear even if there will be fall-back positions. But the US Republic is also in bad shape, with the threat of government shutdown March 5, like in 1995. Why? Because the US polity is inadequate to the challenge.
And the challenge is formidable, with a US 14.1 trillion debt, 94 percent of US GDP and 7percent of a world GGP of about US$200 trillion. Small comfort that it was 122 percent after WWII: as Kenneth Rogoff points out (Washington Post, 23-02-11) the labor force was young, the USA was the world’s leading manufacturer, personal savings were high, demand after depression-war was high. Result: 57 percent economic growth in six years. And there were sharp defense cuts, having won WWII.
Today’s profile is the opposite: the labor force is aging, Asia and Europe pass the USA in manufacturing except arms, households are in deep debt, consumer appetites are modest, inflation is low. And no war has been won, to the contrary, the USA is losing everywhere. With Dow Jones in the 12,000s and growth sluggish a little incident can burst the finance and the dollar bubbles. Shortselling US bonds?
With a military budget above half of the federal budget the Ron Paul warfare or welfare might muster 100 in congress for a cut of a third, a half. But the military-industrial complex, MIC, has become a military-industrial-congress complex, MICC, through lobbying (and psy-ops?) For Republicans no military cuts, force=power=respect; for the Democrats the strong link to Israel adds to that. Neither is up to the challenge of solving US conflicts nonviolently. Victory is still No. 1 on the agenda; and increasingly elusive.
The Paul solution is near, but unattainable. What then? Of the two approaches, decrease spending and increase income, the former, the Republican, is near and attainable, but not a solution.
Cutting federal-state-local public budgets means cutting jobs when jobs are what is most needed. Yet the Republican House majority due to Obama’s incompetence in handling his political capital, has only their old responses: less government, lower taxes, the military sacrosanct; Bush junior’s privatization, tax cuts and ruinous wars that brought USA close to bankruptcy notwithstanding. Add to this blocking health insurance from covering abortion when they should focus on making the US$2.5 trillion-1/6 of the GNP-health care more efficient. They even cut the US Institute for Peace, a soft arm of US foreign policy, saving $42 million, or three hours of the Afghan war.
Had the USA been on a multi-party track, with social democrat and green parties and not two survivalist 19th century parties, the idea of stimulus to those most in need would come easy. Lifting them up from misery into generating some income-which multiplied by their millions would mean general growth-would help growth. But this option is lost in the entitlement debate, a US term for social democrat solidarity, and has few spokespersons anyhow. Like the green manufacturing of green technology, for the USA and for export. China does both; a one party system based on intellectuals more up-to-date than a two party system not living in the 21st century.
The system, catering to the rich, not the poor, is inadequate to the challenge, and local US democracy for self-reliance has not taken off the ground. From the Democrats there has been one sign of life: the Midwest revolt-predicted in this column two weeks ago-hit the USA in the form of denying state legislatures a quorum by being in a non-disclosed refuge. Hardly a sustainable strategy, but the right of collective bargaining and 12,000 public servant jobs are at stake. They may have benefitted disproportionately from that right, but that is an argument for reopening negotiations, appealing to the joint interest in keeping the US Republic afloat.
In the meantime the Empire is sinking, adding to the problems.
An empire props up local elites to deliver cheap resources and facilitate investment, like Mubarak’s son Gamal working for Bank of America, like Arab autarchies supplying cheap gasoline pre-73, later below $100/barrel. No longer so. With gas prices up, and no public transport, spending for real growth goes down. A new war for oil?
An empire props up local elites to control by repression and killing. No longer so. Nobody in Somalia and Yemen will do that job for the USA, nor in Tunisia, nor in Egypt. Nazi-Germany relied on Mussolini for that job in Italy; he was deposed by an alienated military, leaving fighting to the Germans. Can the USA afford that?
An empire props up local elites to spread their world views on business-economics, on who is friend or foe; like when CIA used a Tunisian ambassador to Poland-Ben Ali-as go-between with Walesa-Solidarnosc. No longer so. A new deal of new cards is coming.
Propping up?-by doing nothing when these elites rob and torture their own people. The USA did not protest when the post-shah Khomeini regime killed their common enemy, the communists, nor when, say, PLO autocrats get at “fundamentalists”. New regimes will get at their exploiters, repressors, alienators. Islam will be in; but not so dramatic as after the Shah westernization-zoroasterism.
There is Islam and Islam. Maybe in Iran correct faith matters; in Saudi Arabia, stability-the USA is obligated to defend the Royal House against its people-in Egypt, more morally correct behavior; in Turkey, Islam compatibility with democracy-parliamentarism is basic.
Can the USA handle this variety? There is no way back to the past. Successors may up the ante, Khomeinis are not for sale. Some new Irans will emerge, but also some Turkeys, and USA-Israel would be wise not to reject the latter. And to have MexUSCan Mexico-US-Canada as a fall-back US position, lifting the social bottom up.
Prof. Johan Galtung is acting rector of the TRANSCEND PEACE UNIVERSITY: An All-Online educational facility for academic Peace Studies. Born in 1930 in Oslo Norway, Prof. Johan Galtung holds a PhD in mathematics from 1956 and a PhD in sociology from 1957. He is widely known as the pioneering founder of the academic discipline of peace studies. He has served as a professor for peace studies and peace research at the universities of Olso, Berlin, Cairo, Belgrad, Paris and Hawaii, just to name a few, and has mediated in about 50 conflicts between states and nations since 1957.