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OT| The Decline and Fall of the American Empire: Four Scenarios for the End of the American Century

Discussion in 'ATI' started by Bruce Morgen, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Bruce Morgen

    Bruce Morgen Guest

    Submitted fwiw, sans endorsement
    of any kind whatsoever:

    The Decline and Fall of the American Empire: Four Scenarios for the End of the American Century by

    by Alfred W. McCoy

    Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Posted: December 6, 2010 12:22 PM

    Crossposted with TomDispatch.com.

    A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as
    the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming
    of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and
    global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the

    Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that
    they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go
    truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the
    Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and,
    in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

    Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that
    year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of
    so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this 21st-century imperial
    collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or

    But have no doubt: When Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily
    reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen
    European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact
    on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools,
    political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

    Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global
    power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no
    later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II,
    will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

    Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that
    America's global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic
    reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic power
    now under way, roughly from West to East" and "without precedent in modern history,” as the primary
    factor in the decline of the “United States' relative strength -- even in the military realm.” Like
    many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for
    American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique
    military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.

    No such luck. Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind
    China (already the world's second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India
    by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied
    science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America's current supply of
    brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger

    By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying
    empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents
    Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By
    that year, however, China's global network of communications satellites, backed by the world's most
    powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent
    platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or
    cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.

    Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d'Orsay before it, the White House still seems
    to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle and partial. In his State of the Union
    address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place
    for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea
    that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy's prophecy that we are going to be a
    great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly,
    writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign
    policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China's economic and military rise, dismissing
    “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power
    was underway.

    Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their
    cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65 percent of Americans believed the
    country was now “in a state of decline.” Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military
    allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China.
    Already, America's closest economic partners are backing away from Washington's opposition to
    China's rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy
    New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World
    Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”

    Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged
    global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's
    wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to
    suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could
    reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today).
    The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War
    III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even
    collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.

    Economic Decline: Present Situation

    Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of
    economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological
    innovation, and the end of the dollar's privileged status as the global reserve currency.

    By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with
    just 11 percent of them compared to 12 percent for China and 16 percent for the European Union.
    There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.

    Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was
    still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing
    fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400 percent increase since 2000. A harbinger of further
    decline: In 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the
    Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based
    competitiveness” during the previous decade. Adding substance to these statistics, in October
    China's Defense Ministry unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful,
    said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.

    Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and
    innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25 to
    34 year olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010. The World Economic
    Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its
    university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the
    sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as
    once would have happened. By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical
    shortage of talented scientists.

    Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar's role as the
    world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S.
    knows best on economic policy,” observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the
    International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world's central banks holding an astronomical $4
    trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to
    end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”

    Simultaneously, China's central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global
    reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as
    signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued,
    “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”

    Economic Decline: Scenario 2020

    After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long
    expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world's reserve currency.
    Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued
    Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under
    pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas
    bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.

    Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other
    powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and
    cyberspace. Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in
    real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over
    remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right
    patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority
    and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as
    the American Century ends in silence.

    Oil Shock: Present Situation

    One casualty of America's waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding
    by America's gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world's number one energy
    consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for more than a century. Energy specialist
    Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global

    By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world's natural gas supply, which will
    potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the
    mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia
    and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”

    Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum
    reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil
    disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP's sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone
    saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what
    Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.

    Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers.
    Even if fossil-fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are
    almost certain to rise -- and sharply at that. Other developed nations are meeting this threat
    aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources. The
    United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources
    while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports. Between 1973 and
    2007, oil imports have risen from 36% of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66 percent.

    Oil Shock: Scenario 2025

    The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the
    global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock. By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when
    prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill. Angered at the dollar's
    plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a
    “basket” of yen, yuan, and euros. That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further. At the
    same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis
    stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the yuan. Meanwhile, China pours
    countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran's exploitation of
    the world largest natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.

    Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the
    Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new
    Gulf alliance and affirm that China's new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol
    the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman. Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to
    cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by
    the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a
    homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.

    With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which
    U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025. All the
    elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region --
    logistics, exchange rates, and naval power -- evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover
    only an insignificant 12 percent of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry,
    and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.

    The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights,
    making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been
    declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With
    thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return
    for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal
    pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas

    Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on
    the American Century.

    Military Misadventure: Present Situation

    Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military
    misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems
    to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by
    occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even
    from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that
    only accelerate the loss of power.

    Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into
    military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships
    to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be
    massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige
    by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the
    hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to
    100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting
    disasters large and small in this guerrilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.

    Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014

    So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon
    outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and
    tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis
    abroad are multifold.

    It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan
    is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a
    blinding sandstorm. Heavy losses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war
    commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are
    believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with
    devastating cannon fire.

    Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long
    trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. Taliban fighters
    then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the
    country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S.
    helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.

    Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new
    oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers
    of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and
    refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize
    oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of
    pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly
    denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America's
    Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.

    World War III: Present Situation

    In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western
    Pacific, once considered an American “lake.” Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such
    a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain's
    global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the
    U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways
    of Asia and the Pacific.

    With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long
    dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the
    South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing's official
    Global Times responded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea
    issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”

    Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack…
    [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the
    continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare
    capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the
    information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the
    powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and
    another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides
    toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and
    reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.

    To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new
    digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic
    surveillance. Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid
    capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or
    favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of
    space drones -- reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a
    resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.

    Last April, the Pentagon made history. It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly
    launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet. The X-37B
    is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of
    space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.

    World War III: Scenario 2025

    The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish
    scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort
    of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can
    gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to
    imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.

    It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best
    Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the
    Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens
    suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand's operations center in
    Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the
    distinctive digital fingerprints of China's People's Liberation Army.

    The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics
    aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima
    Strait between Korea and Japan. It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous
    400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea,
    effectively disarming this formidable weapon.

    Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident
    that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in
    California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above
    the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China's 35 satellites.
    Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an
    arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to
    fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits. The launch codes are suddenly

    As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those
    second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware's devilishly complex code, GPS signals
    crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets
    begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly
    aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States
    loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the
    military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III
    without a single human casualty.

    A New World Order?

    Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend
    points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington
    now seems to be envisioning.

    As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the
    cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally
    forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race
    to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making
    military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.

    Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above
    will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such
    negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic. They will combine in thoroughly unexpected
    ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy
    into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.

    As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order. At
    one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled
    out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts,
    regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for
    global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to
    succeed the U.S.

    In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations,
    multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a
    single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of
    national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would
    assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban
    and rural wastelands.

    In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up.
    He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to
    two billion by 2030) will make “the 'feral, failed cities' of the Third World… the distinctive
    battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the
    empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk
    enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with
    suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”

    At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020
    and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers
    like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to
    the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.

    Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the
    international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world
    order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would
    dominate its immediate region -- Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria
    in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control
    of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons,
    controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.

    All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that
    Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will
    not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.

    If America's decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already
    frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term
    problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.

    If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high. Congress and the
    president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up
    the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our
    bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies,
    will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might
    maximize our country's role and prosperity in a changing world.

    Europe's empires are gone and America's imperium is going. It seems increasingly doubtful that the
    United States will have anything like Britain's success in shaping a succeeding world order that
    protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.

    Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A TomDispatch
    regular, he is the author, most recently, of Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the
    Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009). He is also the convener of the “Empires
    in Transition” project, a global working group of 140 historians from universities on four
    continents. The results of their first meetings at Madison, Sydney, and Manila were published as
    Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State and the findings from their
    latest conference will appear next year as “Endless Empire: Europe’s Eclipse, America’s Ascent, and
    the Decline of U.S. Global Power.”

    Copyright 2010 Alfred W. McCoy
    Bruce Morgen, Dec 7, 2010
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