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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
AmeriKKKa is still the dominant power in the world and needs to be opposed as such
December 24, 2016
Bloomberg a few days ago published an article all but announcing the end of U.S. hegemony.(1) “One of President Barack Obama’s most important legacies is a sense that the U.S. is no longer the dominant global power: It can be ignored.” The article raises the idea that “the post-Cold War decades of Pax Americana” (which many view as continuing in the present day) have come to an end. It may have more weight than some other articles like it. People trust sources like Bloomberg to provide accurate information and informative pieces relevant to business, financial, investment and even political decision-making.
Columnist Bershidsky cites as evidence the absence of the United States at the trilateral Syria talks in Moscow including Iran and Turkey. Turkey is described as “an increasingly nominal U.S. ally.” Also discussed are Russia’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia and economic relations with Qatar. Russia is seemingly put in the same category as China and Britain, two very different countries, as countries “ignoring” the Americans in certain issues. At the same, differences are seen between EU members. “Most of the remaining EU members are far less pro-American than the U.K., and American influence in the bloc is on the wane.”
The article seems to advise Amerikans on how to proceed in the supposed new, post-dominance era. It at the same time seems to suggest a harmony between investor interests and U.$. hegemony. But, if u.$. hegemony were to end, that would be a good thing for investors with interests on more than one continent. There is a basis for a variety of countries, even rich countries and close allies of the united $tates, to pursue a course independently of and in contradiction with the amerikans. What the article on Bloomberg is responding to is, more, evidence of a process that could, if sustained over a long period of time, end u.$. hegemony. It is the not the absence of hegemony itself. The united $tates can still be hegemonic while not getting everything it wants and, for example, viewing its military as being overextended. The united $tates even may allow itself to settle on or fall to a more manageable and sustainable level of hegemony though continuing and deepening crisis will still exert contradictory pressures in this regard.
Bershidsky discusses Russia’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia on limiting oil production as if the united $tates might have been strongly opposed to the cut itself. The view that the oil output cut could be risky for Saudis but benefit u.$. oil producers isn’t addressed. Some seem to instinctively and revealingly view any agreement involving both Iran and Saudi Arabia as a threat to u.$. interests. However, Saudi Arabia continues to prop up the petrodollar standard. It is still by far the number-one oil exporter in the world and still sells oil for u.$. dollars – not the Chinese yuan, the Canadian dollar, or another SDR currency – as Iraq started doing again after being invaded by the amerikans. Diversification for Saudi Arabia increasingly seems to mean selling Aramco back to foreigners including Americans, borrowing money, and spending petrodollars on investments outside the country that don’t contribute much to the development of capital in Saudi Arabia, whose industrial and wage structure development has never followed a First World pattern. Saudi Arabia is struggling under u.$. hegemony and doesn’t rival the united $tates apart from oil sales. Much of the competition with the united $tates in that area is both caused by and causing problems extremely difficult to solve.
Qatar’s investment in Rosneft is a good sign as discussed in a previous article.(2) It is a deal like many others that may not be in amerika’s interests as a buyer or seller of products or assets, made despite the united $tates’ attempts to shape so-called freedom in the world economy to suit its interests. The “Bloomberg View” article itself describes the deal as “murky” as many things involving second-tier u.$. ally Qatar seemingly are. Qatar is neither a NATO member nor a designated “major non-NATO ally” of the united $tates, but Qatar has cooperated with the united $tates extensively.
Turkey is still a NATO ally of the united $tates, but clearly Russia and Turkey have improved their relations. U.$. hegemony, though, doesn’t mean the united $tates can’t a lose a certain level of relationship any more than it means it can’t add several allies. NATO itself is an illustration of this in the last two decades. Most of the world’s people live in countries that have not been close allies of the united $tates at any time since World War II, and major disagreements between NATO countries are nothing new.
Over the decades and in recent years there have been incidents involving the u.$. military directly, and countries other than China, that didn’t result in war.
After taking so much in the Middle East since 9/11, the united $tates has room to give on some issues. Hegemony never meant total control, and u.$. hegemony has existed concurrently with rivalry, antagonism including war, and u.$. defeats in some battles, for decades.
As for populism, which the Bloomberg article views as revealing a change in the united $tates’ place in the world: Real leftists for many years critiqued the populist and labor movements of European countries and tried to nudge public opinion away from fascism and toward anti-amerikanism. There was and is still a possibility of European countries’ becoming both more united and less pro-amerikan. Real leftists rejected the reactionary demands of not just the imperialists, or the so-called working/middle classes in the united $tates, but all of them regardless of ethnicity or culture. Real leftists supported Chican@, First Nations and New Afrikan nationalism, but didn’t target just white amerikans. Real leftists condemned antisemitism (a hysteria supporting u.$. or Euro-Amerikan hegemony depending on the context) but also saw problems with attacks focusing on “elites,” “the establishment,” the particularly rich, or foreign, domestic or transnational capitalists, in a country like the united $nakes. Real leftists opposed the gender and sexual culture chauvinism that began with whites but promised to include non-whites in exchange for patriotism against Muslims. There was a reason for all of that. Now, some people say the problem is or isn’t just the “racist” and “sexist” white working class, or act like they had opposed that class all it along, while alternating between criticizing fascism/populism and making statements leading to the same things.
Obama ran as a “change” candidate with little experience, who could unite various groups who had little in common except u.$. privilege and a sense of superiority or specialness. Obama’s leadership was based on “values” amerikans supposedly still shared after invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Sure of their “values” after eight years of Obama presidency, some sense that amerikans can afford to be more pragmatic in foreign policy. U.$. hegemony still exists and can continue with a new style.
A real disappearance of u.$. hegemony would eventually manifest economically, not just in more diplomatic or military losses while remaining predominant in influence. U.$. GDP has been in the news again recently due to a revised growth rate calculation for the last quarter.(3) The overall growth rate for the year ending in December, while less than the global growth rate, may end up being more than than the 2016 GDP growth of many First World countries including Canada, France, Italy, and Japan.(4) Although, there may not be a similar story about u.$. productivity in terms of output per hour or worker.(5) It isn’t enough that the united $tates maintain the extremely high productivity it enjoys as a large OECD country even among other OECD countries. Even if other countries’ productivity increases while long-term u.$. productivity growth remains stagnant, a sustained decrease in where the united $tates ranks in terms of productivity would be stronger evidence of a change in amerika’s position globally.
This leads this writer to: there are various differences between colonialism and neocolonialism, one of them being that in neocolonialism the majority of international exploitation takes place through hidden transfers in trade – a matter of relevance to GDP, productivity growth, and rankings reflecting economic aspects of dominance. The exploitation would happen even with a free market and free trade, but the recent u.$. blacklisting of Chinese shopping website Taobao for alleged intellectual property infringements is an example of how the u.$. government exercises dominance, reinforces part of the united $tates’ exploitation of countries, and compels compliance and cooperation.
Another difference involves the levels and kinds of control and influence one country can have. Neocolonialism has always involved a degree of real autonomy. No definition of “neo-colonialism” includes complete, direct, exclusive control by a single country or entity. Even the concept of hegemony involves an idea of consent to the relinquishment of control, or defending a perceived stake in the status quo without being forced to. Though it has a false aspect, there is an identification with the interests of the hegemonic power. There is deference to the hegemon’s leadership, but there can still be differences. Many countries are struggling amid and against this dominance and pursuing their own interests where they don’t see them as being congruent with the united $tates’, but the u.$. entity continues to be dominant as an imperialist superpower at a world level – more controlling and influential than any other state with a majority of countries. Certainly it is no less dominant than it was when it was sometimes called a “hegemonic” power already (not just hegemonist) in the 1970s along with the once-socialist, then-imperialist Soviet Union that still existed then. (Even when the Soviet Union existed and was more of a threat to u.$. interests than it was by the late 1980s, many were targeting either the Soviet Union or the united $tates as the top threat globally. Even if the majority-exploiter united $nakes were to experience a massive loss of influence relative to Russia or another country with an exploited working class, China, it might still be necessary to target the u.$.)
Middle East developments
Not inviting the united $tates to the Syria talks this week is an example of the kind of thing the world needs to do with another Middle East country that has been invaded with amerikan-made jets: Palestine. That is the case particularly when a vast majority of Palestinians themselves consider u.$. leaders, including Obama, to be duplicitous or not-serious about the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict.(6)
At the time of this writing, the UN Security Council has just passed a resolution against settlement construction and expansion in Palestine. The resolution “underlines that [the Security Council] will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.” It says that the “establishment” of settlements in “the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem,” is a “flagrant violation under international law.”
The resolution calls on “both parties” – in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sustained and exacerbated by the united $tates, which plays a dominant role – “to observe calm and restraint.” The united $tates claims that it never supported the resolution, but declined to veto it. Parts of the resolution are similar to the Quartet report that Palestinians and others were having problems with months ago.(7) Obama reportedly made the decision about abstaining very late. Regardless of what anyone’s intention was, the resolution doesn’t specify any consequence for Israel. It was passed at the end of Obama’s presidency after Trump had publicly opposed it. That was after Trump was accused of antisemitism by Democrats and liberals, many of whom have long had problems with both Jews and Muslims, secretly and otherwise. Democrats may have seen an opportunity to play the innocent opposed by the Republicans. The idea that Obama, supposedly the best the u.$. entity had to offer in terms of leadership on the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ever really supported the two-state solution was increasingly hard for many to believe.
One of the effects of the u.$. abstention will be to prop up u.$. international leadership by reinforcing the idea that the united $tates has been supporting the two-state solution and that the world may be able to wait for a Democrat to be elected to the u.$. presidency four or eight years from now. Structurally any resolution that passes the Security Council has to do so with the united $tates’ approval or abstention, but Resolution 2334 doesn’t criticize the united $tates in any way and will contribute to the notion that the united $tates is an innocent mediator that wants stability in the Middle East. The statement about settlements was made in a way that reflects and contributes to u.$. hegemony, and in a way that abstaining from a vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood, or a vote to give the Palestinians full UN status as a member state, might not have. Palestinians now have to make the best of this. If it is true that Palestinians colluded with the amerikans as some are alleging, there may be reasons to think about that in a critical way despite celebration of the UNSC decision by people who used to be pessimistic about any UN diplomacy. The present writer has never spoken in favor of following the amerikans.
Israel now looks like the pariah, not the amerikans, who gave Israel a $38 billion aid agreement and F-35 fighter jets, play Middle East countries off against each other, for decades hampered opposition to settlements globally understood to be illegal, and may soon have an ambassador to Israel who directly funded settlement activity. The united $tates could have offered to veto the resolution if there were progress on releasing intifada hero, two-state solution supporter and national unity figure Marwan Barghouti. In any case, the resolution passed, and Barghouti is still in prison. Narcissistic opportunist Obama may have just provoked Trump to support settlements, and the proposed embassy move to al-Quds, more. According to CNN, “Before the vote, a Palestinian official said, “We have nothing to say about this. No President has troubled Palestinians in the UN more than President Obama.”“(8) Understand it: up until a few hours ago, Palestinians were saying that Obama was no better than other u.$. presidents. Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela, and close u.$. ally New Zealand, supported the resolution after Egypt came under pressure for sponsoring it.
The united $tates’ abstention from this particular resolution will have limited effect. Any stronger resolution might be vetoed by the united $tates. But hopefully more Israelis will come to see they can’t rely on the amerikans. Neither the amerikans, nor the Security Council in which the amerikans have veto power, can be trusted by Israelis or Palestinians for peace or security in the Middle East. Bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy need to take place outside structures in which the amerikans have a necessary role of some kind.
New Zealand supported putting the settlement activity resolution to a vote. Another “Five Eyes” member, Australia, has contradictory interests with respect to the united $tates and China, discussed in the media.(9) If even Australia and New Zealand can take positions divergent from those of the united $tates, so can Israelis. They may find better partners for security in China and Russia, which have less desire for conflict in the Middle East than the united $tates does. Relying on the already-dominant and powerful united $tates, and being a giant military outpost for the amerikans and a mask and a shield for their pro-conflict, pro-violence strategy in the Middle East, is a losing strategy. The amerikans benefit while the left-wing Zionists are unsuccessful in opposing settlement activity in the West Bank and Israel consolidates its status as a pariah.
The idea that Israel could meet the definition of a hegemonic power in this situation is absurd. Some continue to promote the idea of Israeli global dominance, but Israel has never been more than a second-rate imperialist country depending on a foreign sponsor. The appearance of the united $tates uniting with other Security Council members by abstaining does not somehow mean Israel, or a Security Council member that isn’t the u.$., is now the dominant power. There is still a dominant power in the world that is also the #1 threat to peace, and that is the united $tates. It isn’t the I$raeli entity by itself, Russia, Saudi Arabia, or China. Palestine is not it, and neither is Iran for reasons that should also be obvious.
One theme in the Bloomberg article is the idea of “less democratic” countries working against the united $tates. The author views “horse-trading” as an alternative to Obama’s supposed emphasis on “values” “without strong action to back it up” (as if the united $tates’ involvement in Libya, Yemen, and many other countries, during Obama’s presidency wasn’t enough). It is doubtful that somebody else would have led the united $tates into a large-scale direct, physical military conflict with nuclear-armed Russia, as the article itself suggests. It is implied that the united $tates needs to be more flexible about working with countries that are culturally and politically different from it, including Russia. “Give and take” is viewed as a way to “secure” u.$. interests. The united $tates has long worked with a wide variety of countries, though. Adjustments could take place without affecting the united $tates’ overall position in the world. There are certainly different ways, involving more or less preference for Israel or Russia, to defend or stabilize a position that is good enough for the united $tates.
Bershidsky finds it remarkable that Iran, Russia and Turkey “feel empowered enough to assume their role in an area where perhaps the biggest threat to the West, the Islamic State, operates.” Islamic nationalism opposing the united $tates, or pan-Islamism with Iranian-Saudi cooperation against the amerikans, would be a good thing. But ISIS no longer claims to belong to a particular nation, opposes Islamic unity as the amerikans do, unites with the amerikans in some areas, and is an ultra-sectarian armed ideological purity movement threatening multiple Middle East states. It is condemned by majorities in just as many Middle East nations including Palestine. Some claim ISIS threatens Israel the least, but ISIS threatens Middle East states more than it does Western countries thousands of kilometers away. ISIS doesn’t endanger the u.$. entity, which does not care about Jews except for votes and collaboration in the Middle East. The united $tates doesn’t care about peace more than Israelis do. That hegemonic entity has allowed and caused various conflicts to develop in the Middle East that may result in another war that no state in the Middle East wants. ◊
1. “The U.S. is now a country that can be ignored,” 2016 December 21. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-12-21/the-u-s-is-now-a-country-that-can-be-ignored
2. “Fatah congress gives Marwan Barghouti a boost,” 2016 December. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-12-09-news-Fatah-congress-Marwan-Barghouti.md
3. “US economy grew at strong 3.5 pct. annual rate last quarter,” 2016 December 22. https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/us-economy-grew-strong-35-pct-annual-rate-44344930
4. “Global growth warning: weak trade, financial distortions,” 2016 September 21. https://www.oecd.org/eco/outlook/OECD-Interim-Economic-Outlook-September-2016-handout.pdf
5. “U.S. productivity in third quarter fastest in two years,” 2016 December 6. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-us-productivity-in-third-quarter-fastest-in-two-years-2016-12
6. “December PSR poll shows a vast majority of Palestinians don’t believe in Obama,” 2016 December. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-12-21-news-Dec2016-PSR-poll.md
7. “Quartet report: one-state reality versus one-state fantasy,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-30-news-one-state-solution.md
8. “US abstains as UN demands end to Israeli settlements,” 2016 December 23. http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/23/politics/israel-official-rips-obama-un-settlements/index.html
“UN resolution criticizing Israeli settlements gets delayed,” 2016 December 22. https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-12-22/un-resolution-criticizing-israeli-settlements-said-to-be-delayed
9. “Navarro as Trump trade chief shows complexity of Canberra China ties,” 2016 December 22. http://www.atimes.com/article/navarro-trump-trade-chief-shows-complexity-canberra-china-ties/