The Empire’s Sea of Woes
The noose cinches.
Second-rate George H.W. Bush got a first-rate Washington send-off. For one day it interrupted the downtrend in equity markets. It may mark the US apotheosis of inflated grandiosity. Across the Atlantic, Emmanuel Macron, pretentious popinjay of Gallic grandiosity, has gotten a deserved comeuppance. Brexit, Trump’s election, and nationalist uprisings in Southern and Eastern Europe apparently insufficient warning to the globalists who would rule us, the French rioters are sending yet another wake-up call. If that’s not enough, so too are many of the nations outside the Euro-American welfare state asylum.
The crazies’ kings, queens, and courtiers face a dwindling inheritance and mounting debt, but spend lavishly to keep up appearances. Falling markets and rioting taxpayers are unwelcome reminders that the money’s running out, leaving behind a stack of IOUs that won’t be paid. The aristocracy wants to offload the pain to the peasantry, but the riots demonstrate that the peasantry has other ideas. Our betters also want to blame their sea of woes on Eurasia’s leaders, but Russia, China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are having none of that. They are, however, delighted to see the West crumbling and will do nothing to stop it.
Empire is America’s noose, hubris America’s curse. Once upon a time it didn’t matter much to the American people or their politicians what happened in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or even Europe. During the nineteenth century, for the most part we minded our own business, and what a business it turned out to be. America became the world’s industrial, technological, and commercial powerhouse.
Success may be the hardest human condition to endure. Few individuals withstand it. For empires, it’s always temporary. They fail and topple from the pinnacle with monotonous regularity. Preceding the fall is that heady feeling of invincibility, just as the those you ignored, scorned, or subjugated on the way up are putting in place their plans to take you down.
World War II left America and its satrapies at the top of the global heap. They neither recognized that their position was the result of fortuitous circumstances nor that their embrace of income taxes, central banking, welfare and warfare states, and governments’ ever-expanding interference in the lives of their citizens would eventually undercut their preeminence. Not until financial catastrophe, insurrection, and the relative progress of nations outside the empire unmistakably confronts them will they recognize that things have changed.
Donald Trump, titular leader of the empire, hasn’t gotten the news. He made some encouraging noises during the campaign and early in his administration about taking on corruption and reigning in military commitments, but it’s only been talk. He may yet get a scalp or two from the bungled attempt to depose him, but he hesitated and lost. The incoming Democrat-majority House of Representatives will stymie him at every turn.
Trump’s foreign and military policy is indistinguishable from the policy of Bush father and son, Clinton husband and wife, Cheney, Obama, and the rest of the neoconservative/neoliberal clown posse who run this country. No kerfuffle is too trivial for the US not to intervene, no hamlet too remote to send the troops and hardware. The only requirements are that the intervention projects power—Washington-speak for forcing somebody to do what they don’t want to do—and funnels money to the connected.
Trump, Pompeo, Bolton, and the motley menagerie of mendacious mendicants who run the European and Asian divisions of US Empire Inc. might want to ponder the meaning of place names, maps, and their countries’ balance sheets.
Why is the Persian Gulf called the Persian Gulf, and the South China Sea the South China Sea? Here’s a hint: proximity. The former is next to Persia, the latter China. The difficulties of far-flung interventions are magnified when your naval staging areas are proximate to nations that can put up a fight. Persia, or Iran as it’s now called, would be a lot tougher nut to crack than uncracked nuts Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Libya, no matter how many carriers we park in the Gulf. China is an economic and military superpower. Ludicrously, we’re trying to “contain” it in its own backyard while indulging in policy schizophrenia. Trump talks Let’s Make a Deal, but our northern satrapy arrests an important Chinese executive for not observing our Iranian sanctions.
Russia throws off no handy nomenclatural clues; you have to know some geography for insight into Imperial idiocy. A glance at the map reveals that the Baltic and Black Seas, and the Sea of Azov are proximate—there’s that word again—to Russia. Ukrainian grifter Petro Poroshenko, who in the rogue’s gallery of dubious US allies ranks right up there with Mohammad bin Salman, decides to tickle the bear. Russia responds and the US talks tough while parking ships and flying jets over what are essentially Russian lakes. Putin is not reported to have lost any sleep.
If hubris and stupidity don’t fell the Empire, insolvency will. France’s revolt can spread like a California wildfire. The dirty secret of the welfare state is that somebody has to pay for it. France has the highest tax burden in the developed world, but there’s a long list right behind where it is almost as onerous. Especially galling is the largess bestowed on immigrants The horror: taxpayers might get the idea that they—not the state and its wards—own their own lives. Around the globe, the French revolt could inspire those stuck with the tab to do something more drastic than vote for candidates who pledge to cut tax rates a percentage point or two.
Crashing stock markets and a global recession, or worse, would expand the ranks of the Gilets Jaunes. Crashing bond markets would drive up interest rates for profligate governments and tighten the noose, just as they’re faced with aging populations, unfunded liabilities, shrinking economies, and demonstrations and riots. Any sympathy for the ruling class rather than its victims would be woefully misplaced.
Meanwhile, the Eurasian powers are building a network of trade, telecommunications, infrastructure, and transport links spanning Halford Mackinder’s center of the world. If successful, such links could lead to unprecedented peace and prosperity in that historically troubled region.
In America, particularly in Washington, the concept of patriotism has tragically transmuted from pride in one’s country and heritage to: We run the world. SLL has said that the eventual goal of President Trump’s foreign policy is to make peace with multipolarity, leaving superpowers China, Russia, and the US dominant in their geographic spheres of influence (see “Trump’s New World Order” and “The Eagle, the Dragon, and the Bear”). Alas, SLL may be wrong. With Pompeo and Bolton whispering in his ear, it now appears Trump is trying to turn the clock back to The Ugly American1950s.
To the consternation of faux patriots like Pompeo and Bolton, the effort is doomed. Hubris won’t generate prosperity, pay debts, keep the disaffected off the streets, or challenge the aspirations of competing global powers. The imperial delusion has felled another empire. Its potentates and subalterns won’t realize it until grasping creditors and deplorable barbarians have stormed the gates. By then, it will be too late to forestall the fate that lurks as their deepest fear.
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