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America: From Lord of the Jungle to Irrelevance of the Bush
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
At the end of WW2, America was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons, the largest holder of gold reserves with the dollar backed fully by gold and its GDP amounting to nearly half that of the world. FDR had put in a social safety net, laid the foundation for liquidation of the British Empire and earned the goodwill of much of Asia. The only hurdles to be crossed were those in its backyard and at home. These were the democratic emancipation of Central and Latin America and the elimination of its domestic racial inequality. It is true that this good was achieved at the cost of a Faustian bargain with the devil Stalin by surrendering Eastern Europe, but it was a calculated selfish tradeoff to defeat the Nazi juggernaut.
Roosevelt wanted to reduce American casualties in the war and used the lend lease arms agreement to support the USSR and increase pressure on the German eastern front. The Soviet Union lost twenty million or ten percent of its population and its army bore the brunt of the fighting and reaped the rewards of boots on the ground, a lesson that the US has still not learnt as the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq prove. He left the Soviet army to soften up the German forces and that is why the invasion of France and Italy were delayed till late in the war. Then, as now the US obsession was with aerial bombing, aircraft carriers and battleships.
The misguided policies of Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy with the lobbying of the arms industry, the insanity of Forrestal and Dulles and the miscalculations of policy mavens led to the policy of perpetual war with the creation of monolithic enemy blocks, whose power was distorted and magnified to instill fear in the public and enrich the corporations on whose monetary support the vitiated corrupt democracy of America is based. Once again like the anamnestic response of a limited repertoire of any specialized human tissue, the American political organ hallucinates of monolithic ideological dragons to slay and benumbs the electorate into passive acquiescence for non-beneficial policies contrary to its true interests by feeding its paranoia.
These delusions are the first horseman of the US apocalypse. They are not restricted to imagined conspiracy of enemies or delusions about WMDs, but also extend to imaginary friends. The best examples are that Iraqis will greet us as liberators. Some others follow. There is a large faction of Iranians dissatisfied with the theocracy of Mullahs. The Shah of Iran is our bastion of stability in the Gulf. Ariel Sharon is a peace loving individual. China is trying to bully North Korea to prevent it from nuclear testing because China is our friend. Pakistan is an ally against terrorism and A.Q. Khan proliferated nuclear know-how without the knowledge of the government and Musharraf. After North Korea's nuclear test, a newly chastised South Korea will abandon reconciliation with the North and kiss and makeup with the US.
The examples of drills where school children were made to hide underneath their desks to avoid injury from nuclear bombs and broadcast advice of duck-taping the doors and windows against the recent anthrax and chemical weapon attacks prove the insanity of the advisers and their followers. The Communist menace is now replaced with the Islamist menace. Neither of these were cohesive forces until foolish US policies made them so, as the recent alignment of China and Russia, the Carter-Reagan midwifery of the Mujahedeen and the multiple US attacks on Islamic countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia and Lebanon prove respectively. Much of this is well documented in Carroll's book, 'The House Of War'.
Fiscal irresponsibility, a curse of all governments is the second of the four horsemen of the US apocalypse. Johnson, though redeemed by his passage of the Civil Rights Bill, failed to raise taxes while spending profligately on guns and butter. This led to closure of the gold window, devaluation of the dollar and imposition of wage price controls by Nixon who was done in by the demons of his paranoid psyche. He was followed by two incompetents in Ford and Carter. The losing streak continued with the 'Voodoo Economics' of Reagan who single-handedly changed America from a creditor to a debtor nation with the connivance of his vice-president and successor Bush Sr., a man whose principles were trumped by his desire for power the moment he joined Reagan's team despite the earlier words of criticism quoted above.
The implosion of the Soviet Union removed the need for European attachment to America with the taming of the big bad bear. At the crossroads of history Bush Sr. and Clinton, both lacking any vision or principles presided over the de-industrialization and deregulation of America started by Reagan and both parties which had become one in policies, catered to their corporate donors to export manufacturing jobs, thus greatly increasing domestic economic disparities, a sure prescription for the demise of democracy.
Just as Nixon's criminal presidency had set the stage for a religious incompetent to succeed him, so Clinton's hormonal shenanigans created the ideal milieu for the success of another born again, reformed sinner, this time with an even lesser endowment of intelligence or integrity, greater macho and mis-channeled aggression. To make matters worse, he was surrounded by a cabal of neo-cons formulating policy, since he had no knowledge or ability of his own. The outcomes in major world regions are discussed below. The alienation of allies and the creation of enemies constitute the third and fourth horsemen of the US apocalypse.
The modus operandi of diverting the attention of the electorate from real and important issues to emotionally charged ones like abortion, gays and race has led to hyping immigration and derailed relations with Mexico. The Washington Consensus economic policies led to the bankruptcy of Argentina and election of Kirchner who has allied with Chavez. The meddling by financing coups and recalls in Venezuela have increased the popularity of Chavez and his populism. He has allied with Castro and Cuba and uses Venezuela's financial clout to enlarge an anti-US block in the Americas. Similar policies have led to victories of anti-US president in Bolivia and may do so in Nicaragua and Ecuador. Mercosur trading block is expanding and most major countries have refused to sign a free trade agreement with the US. All the major countries are cuddling up to China and some are buying Russian arms (Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela ). There are plans afoot to develop major gas and oil transmission pipelines in South America independent of any US partners.
France and Germany are keeping their distance and signing up major energy deals with Russia and transmission pipeline deals with Russia's Gazprom. Spain and Italy replaced their pro-American leaders with mildly antagonistic ones. Some of the countries are dragging their feet against sanctions on Iran. NATO countries are unwilling to commit any troops for Iraq and reluctant to increase their commitments to Afghanistan. Public opinion polls in some European countries list the US and Israel as the top two threats to world peace. The EU has condemned the US for torture and rendering of prisoners and Germany and UK have publicly asked to close down the Guantanamo prison.
US policy of interference and intimidation with natural resource exploitation has led to countries seeking nuclear weapons as a deterrence from US aggression. US support of autocratic and corrupt rule in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan has alienated the Muslim street and made it easy to recruit terrorists. Israel's unjustified destruction of Lebanese infrastructure and Palestinian land and water grabbing has strengthened Hezbollah, helped elect Hamas and increased terrorism and recruits for suicide bombing.
The foolish misadventure in Iraq has depleted the US military capability and manpower and cost half a trillion dollars and over 20,000 US casualties. Iran is unperturbed by the tall talk of the current US administration because it knows that the US is in a quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan and its troops could become hostages or sitting ducks to be shot at in the event of hostilities. The unprovoked war in Iraq has caused oil prices to jump by over 50%, enriching the coffers of Iran and other oil rich states known to funnel contributions to Jihadi groups. It has put a heavy burden on all oil consuming nations, thus increasing their poverty and depleting their wealth. Thus all sympathy and respect for and trust in the US is lost in much of the world.
Running huge trade deficits with China has made it one of the biggest lenders to the US. The extra money allows China, a potential rival to increase its military spending and gives it a lever over US foreign policy in general and that towards Taiwan in particular. The refusal to talk to North Korea has led to its nuclear test and weapon acquisition, just as will happen with Iran. Furthermore, it is likely to lead to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea opting for nuclear weapons. This would remove Japan from under the US nuclear umbrella and make it much more independent and less willing to continue financing the US trade and budget deficits.
Every year the US government increases its debt by one and a half trillion dollars, eight hundred billion in trade deficits and seven hundred billion in budget deficits. The lies of Bush about the deficit being reduced to two hundred fifty billion conveniently omits the huge surplus from social security that is used up and replaced with IOUs and other off budget items like appropriations for the war and hurricanes. The rising interest rates and debt can add up to an extra hundred billion dollars in debt servicing every year, leading to a debt trap ultimately. They also hamper the US Federal Reserve from raising interest rates to counter inflation for fear of making the country declare bankruptcy like Argentina or leading to a collapse of the dollar. Thus the Fed Chairman will be constrained to act even more irresponsibly than his predecessors have done.
The US has no options left in Afghanistan and Iraq and will have to withdraw ignominiously as it did in Vietnam. The worsening civil war is worrying loyal Republican Senators like Warner of Virginia and foreign policy pundits like Brzezinski and Mead are already talking of declaring victory before a pullout. The military options against Iran and North Korea are out of the question for fear of massive casualties, destruction and starting a world war. Sanctions against Iran or North Korea will not be supported by China and Russia, both of whom want to curtail US power. Oil sanctions against Iran would send the world economy in a tailspin. Thus the US has little influence in the Middle East, East Asia, its backyard of the Americas and is rapidly losing its domestic fiscal solvency and influence over Europe. The unthinking policies of the current US administration on top of the prior fiscal irresponsibilities are on the verge of relegating the former lord of the jungle to the irrelevancy of the bush, pun intended.
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