The Decline and Coming Fall of US Hegemony

"History is ruled by an inexorable determinism in which the free choice of major historical figures plays a minimal role"
' Leo Tolstoy

When I went back to Ankara in late 1992 to head the Indian Embassy, many of my friends from the Turkish Foreign Office from my 1969-73 tenure as First Secretary, were going out as ambassadors to newly independent states in Central Asia and the Baltic, following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Looking at the creation of so many new missions, a cheeky young Turkish diplomat in the Foreign Ministry said rather mischievously than hopefully, that only if United States of America broke up into 50 independent states, could he ever hope to head like them a Turkish Embassy, in north America. Turkish diplomats trace their traditions and archives to six centuries of Ottoman rule over an empire from which more than two dozen nations have emerged.

But the wish of the young diplomat is not going to be fulfilled any time soon, if ever. But still'

An editorial titled 'Collapse of U.S. economy ' in Belleville Intelligencer of 27 Feb, 2008 confirms, by now generally accepted ill health of US economy. Harry Koza in the Globe and Mail recently quoted Bernard Connelly, the global strategist at Banque AIG in London, that the likelihood of a Great Depression is growing by the day. Martin Wolf of U.K.'s Financial Times cited Dr. Nouriel Roubini of the New York University's Stern School of Business, who outlines how the losses of the American financial system will grow to more than $1 trillion, an amount equal to all the assets of all American banks.

The next domino to fall will be credit card defaults, and after that... who knows? There are so many exotic funds out there, with trillions of dollars in paper - or rather computer-screen money - all carrying assorted acronyms, and all about to disintegrate into nothingness. Over the next couple of years, scores of banks that have thrived on these devices, based on quickly disappearing equities, will fail.

The most frightening forecast so far comes from the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB), "The end of the third quarter of 2008 (thus late September, a mere seven months from now) will be marked by a new tipping point in the unfolding of the global systemic crisis.

"At that time indeed, the cumulated impact of the various sequences of the crisis will reach its maximum strength and affect decisively the very heart of the systems concerned, on the front line of which (is) the United States, epicenter of the current crisis.

"In the United States, this new tipping point will translate into - get this - a collapse of the real economy, (the) final socio-economic stage of the serial bursting of the housing and financial bubbles and of the pursuance of the U.S. dollar fall. The collapse of U.S. real economy means the virtual freeze of the American economic machinery: private and public bankruptcies in large numbers, companies and public services closing down."

"We are not experiencing a "remake" of the 1929 crisis nor a repetition of the 1970s oil crises or 1987 stock market crisis. What we will have, instead, is truly a global momentous threat - a true turning point affecting the entire planet and questioning the very foundations of the international system upon which the world was organized in the last decades."

After the end of the cold war in the wake of the two World Wars ,the decline of western hegemony over the East and South during the last few centuries, first exercised by rapacious and brutal European colonialists and then from Washington, is now likely to morph into a fall because of the new forces unleashed by the US led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The two debt financed wars have brought US economy close to a recession (Indian economy including the realty sector would also be affected, Indian officials and media still remain oblivious if not dishonest in spite of the fall in Indian Sensex). Forces and changes have been set into motion which will completely alter the existing international financial and strategic structures and result in a new dynamics. Unless of course the irresponsible leadership of USA, still with colossal powers of destruction at its command or say a reckless Israel, bomb Iran and hurl the world towards a rapid general warfare between Israel & West vs Muslim nations and masses, leading to even a nuclear holocaust and Armageddon. Verily, it would then be the last Crusade vs Jihad !

Contrary to the self proclaimed congratulatory triumphalism of neo-liberals after the collapse of Communism and Socialism in end 1980s, celebrated from house tops by the so called philosophers, think tanks and analysts with delusions of permanent world domination of Western financiers and corporate houses based on dubious theories of 'the End of History 'or 'the Clash of Civilizations' and even claims of Washington- the new Rome with absolute control planned in the 'Project for American Century ' by arrogant and historically ignorant Straussian neo-cons and their supporters; the religious, economic, scientific and historic forces and currents unleashed during the last few centuries are coalescing towards a major East-West conflagration, which will bring about results quite opposite to those dreamed up in Washington, London and Paris.

The importance of petroleum in warfare and economy had become obvious even before the Second World War. By 1940s, the British who dominated the Middle East and still ruled over India, realizing the importance of oil and the strategic importance of Middle East as lifeline to India, had created military alliances with most of the countries of the Middle East including Iran to protect oil wells from the Soviet Union. The British created a weak and dependent Pakistan as a bulwark against any USSR overture into the Gulf. After the Second WW, USA was formally anointed the leader of the Western Christian nations although after the end of the First WW the financial power centre had started shifting towards the Wall Street from the City of London, but the latter still has great leverage for manipulation.

From 1950s onwards, USSR made inroads into many Arab states led by secular, and nationalist leaders like Gamal Nasser of Egypt. West used religion and conservative and hereditary rulers to counter the egalitarian waves of socialism sweeping the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The battle lines for influence and control between the West and USSR (and China) saw many ups and downs. An epochal change occurred when Iran was lost in 1979 and US ally the Shahenshah was overthrown by Khomeini led Shia revolution, threatening the Sheikhdoms and Kingdoms in the region. Western world and its frightened allies in the region, taken aback, encouraged and helped financially and militarily Saddam Hussein to douse the leaping flames from the volcano of Shia revolution with its belief in martyrdom. Iran and Iraq lost over a million young men; the 1980s Iraq 'Iran war only protected the vested interests of the West and its allies in the region.

From the Middle East, Western strategic lever to manipulate and control the region and its resources extended into South Asia through an axis between the USA, Saud dynasty, obscurantist Wahabi clerics and Pakistan military. This axis along with support from other Muslim countries and even China fathered, nurtured, trained and financed with arms and billions of dollars, the present monster of militants and Jihadis to battle and force out the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The nurseries of terrorism were left behind intact which morphed into Al Qaeda and Talibans, the latter with full support from Pakistan and the Gulf's Arab rulers and US acquiescence, which wanted a 'stable' Afghanistan for its Multinationals' pipelines to carry energy from central to South Asia and beyond. That project remains unfulfilled.

For his cooperation, Pakistan President Gen Zia-ul-Haq was suitably rewarded with money and military aid which emboldened Islamabad to carry out an invasion in Kargil in India. With abundance of arms, Pakistan acquired a Kalashnikov culture of violence while increased opium production in Afghanistan, with Pakistan as an exit route left millions of it citizens addicted to the drug. Gen Zia Islamized Pak polity and completed nuclear bomb program with acquiescence and even support form the West.

But Al Qaeda chief Osama Ben Laden, chosen for the Jihad in Afghanistan by the Saudi rulers nurtured dreams of taking over Muslim states gone astray and conquer other peoples too. The victims were India and newly independent central Asian states like Tajikistan  Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Arab states which had supported and sent volunteers to fight in Afghanistan.

In its strategy to defeat the Christian West and the Crusaders in the Middle East, even on the sacred soil of Arabia after the 1991 US led war on Iraq, Al Qaeda first attacked US missions in East Africa. But the stunning events of 9/11 showed up the fundamental contradictions in the US-Saudi 'Pak axis, with 14 of the 19 hijackers being of Saudi origin, led by an Egyptian and Al Qaeda's octopus like tentacles deeply embedded in Pak military, ISI and the establishment.

The hyper power USA then mounted an invasion of Afghanistan, the objective being to control the region and extending into central Asia with its resources. But the strains and stresses in the Crusader-Jihadi axis became even more acute after the US led illegal invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, angering and pitting Muslim masses all over the world against USA, UK and other western nations in the backdrop of continued illegal occupation and encroachments on Palestinian land by Israel since 1967 and daily killings of Palestinians telecast on channels like Al Jazeera and others.

This is acutely true in US-Saudi relations with the latter being the leading Sunni Muslim state, protecting the holy Islamic shrines in Mecca and Medina and blessed with vast oil resources. With increasing public support for Al Qaeda inside the Kingdom, Riyadh is now in a quandary. Its power and prestige have been eroded as a result of its rival Shia power Iran's strengthened position in Iraq and the region, just the opposite of what Washington had foolishly hoped for. President George Bush did not even know the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam and Ahmet Chalebi, a wily Iraqi, exiled after the 1958 overthrow of the Hashemite dynasty, had sold to the willing in the Pentagon the charade that US troops would be welcomed with flowers by the Iraqis. No body ever cared to read the history of Iraq or the region.

US invasion and occupation has divided Iraq into at least three parts, Shia, Sunni and Kurdish; it now appears difficult to hold them together. Apart from exposing the hollow claims of the US success of its 'Surge ' and stability in Iraq, the current fighting between the puppet government Iraqi troops and Mahdi army, the Moqtada 'as Sadr militia, specially in Basra and Baghdad is "a result of an attempt to impose Colombian-style democracy on the unstable country. Iraqi PM Maliki's goal, shared by the like-minded allies among the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties that dominate his administration, and with U.S. approval and air support, is to kill off the opposition and then hold a vote." Moqtda is fighting to retain control for provincial elections in October, as "the winners of those elections will determine the future of the Iraqi state. Control of the country's oil wealth, and how its treasure will be developed, will also be significantly influenced by the outcome of the elections."

Washington which had coerced President Gen Pervez Musharraf after 9/11, under threat to bomb Pakistan back to stone ages (some ally?), to align Islamabad in its so called 'War on terror' wanted Pakistan to destroy Al Qaeda, Pushtun Talibans and Muslim Jihadis in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with whom Saudi Arabia, Pak Army, ISI and the establishment have umbilical connections since their holy Jihad against atheist Soviet Union in Afghanistan during 1980s. (Israel now wants PLO to destroy Tehran aligned Hamas-originally incubated by Mossad to counter Al Fattah.)

US has lost the war on the ground in Iraq and NATO is in disarray in Afghanistan. At the end of 'Operation Iraqi freedom ' transmuted into a 'war on terror', really the mother of all battles for oil, raw materials and strategic space in west, south and central Asia, the frontiers in the Middle East and even Pakistan are likely to be redrawn, but not by the West but by the movements, militias and peoples of the region. Say by Shias in south Iraq and Pushtuns in Pak-Afghanistan border who might obliterate the Durand Line officially, to begin with. But West has invested too much in the region and its prosperity depends on it. It is unlikely to give in or give up without a bloody fight.

The Kingdom of Afghanistan was accepted as a defacto buffer state by the British and Russian empires at the end of 'the Great Game' in Central Asia in 19th century. By the end of the 20th century, the British and Russian empires in Asia had vanished and many new states have emerged out of them. Thus the very raison d'etre of that buffer state no longer holds good. The Afghan territory is under control of different armed groups, foreign and local, with Washington installed President Hamid Karzai, with US mercenaries as his bodyguards, barely controlling the city of Kabul. Look at new states sprung from former Russian and British empires now, at Europe after the two world wars and at the end of the Cold War. State and national boundaries are always waxing and waning, some times changing drastically. So what is new if Pakistan breaks apart. Little effort has been made by its leaders since 1947 to even develop a territory based nationalism. China would not escape further problems in Tibet and may be even in Xinjiang.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, USA went about methodically in dismantling Russia and its near abroad and succeeded, with ample help from a naive Gorbachev and an often drunk or drugged Boris Yeltsin. The 9/11 assaults on US symbols of power was exploited by the Bush administration to spread its tentacles to Afghanistan and beyond in central Asia. For USA the Cold War never really ended and all means were employed to push Western military arm NATO to encroach into and encircle Russian strategic space. In central Europe it was carried out by dismantling Yugoslavia, an Orthodox Christian Slav nation like and friendly to Russia and by aligning Georgia and Azerbaijan to Washington. US franchised street revolutions failed in Belarus but succeeded in Serbia and Georgia and partially in Ukraine. When USA tried the same in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbek ruler Islam Karimov expelled the Americans from the air base and Kyrgyzstan placed new restrictions. The eastward movement of NATO has resulted in the creation of Shanghai Corporation Organization which is now promoting military coordination and collaboration among its members and possibly even a formal military alliance in future to counter NATO.

In its backyard Latin America, USA maintained its dominance under Monroe doctrine except for defiant Cuba under Fidel Castro. But Washington is losing its sway and total control, led against it by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other leaders who represent and implement aspirations of their people and not of the old elites in cahoots with corporate interests in USA and Europe. US attempt for a colonial style control of its oil has been brought to a halt by fierce Sunni Iraqi resistance; full Shia resistance would also emerge. Defied by Iran and even forced to engage with it, there are limitations to what Washington, now caught in the Iraqi quagmire, can do in Latin America. With a defiant nuclear North Korea, and China, an emerging economic power house, the policies of Japan, the second economic industrial power in the world which can quickly transmute its formidable industrial base into a lethal military machine, the situation in East Asia remains pregnant with many unpredictable possibilities. But certainly the US writ and influence are on the wane everywhere.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:


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