The end of the American empire

year 2002.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 September 2023 Saturday 11:14
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The end of the American empire

year 2002. After the invasion of Afghanistan, in retaliation for the attacks of 11-S, the United States studies attacking Iraq and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein under the pretext - which will be proven false - that it produces weapons of mass destruction. Some of its allies do not see it clearly and France will even veto the endorsement of the UN in the Security Council. But this will not make Washington retreat, which will launch the invasion in 2003. In a conversation with Ron, a journalist from The New York Times, a high-ranking official of the George W. Bush administration states boastfully: "Now we are an empire and, when we act, we create our own reality."

Drunk with arrogance after the fall of communism and the dismemberment of the USSR, orphaned by an opponent capable of contesting its global hegemony, the empire was about to hit itself with a huge chestnut. Afghanistan and Iraq would, in the long run, be two fiascos that would ruin the US's international credibility and call into question its role as a universal superpower. Today, emerging countries, with China at the forefront, have organized to counter their pre-eminence and outline a new world order.

The American dominance of the last seven decades is the consequence of its irrevocable victory in the Second World War. But also, and above all, of a desire for supremacy with strategic lines that were defined under the presidency of Harry Truman and have lasted until today. The bible of this strategy, the document that defined the axes of the foreign policy of the new giant, has a code name: NSC-68.

Prepared in 1950 by a team led by the then director of planning at the Department of State, Paul Nitze, and entitled United States' National Security Goals and Programs, it is, according to the same US foreign service, "one of the documents most influential that the US government has written during the cold war". At 58 pages, the memorandum - declared top secret and not declassified until 1975 - described in dramatic terms the threat of the Soviet Union and raised the need for the US to address the "rapid construction of the political, economic and military strength of the free world", from the conviction that the country had "the responsibility of world leadership".

Not everyone agreed with this view, but the invasion of South Korea by North Korean communists, with Chinese and Soviet support, ended the debate. As a result, the Truman administration nearly tripled defense spending between 1950 and 1953 (from 5% to 14.2% of GDP). And he established the doctrinal basis that would lead ten years later to the failed intervention in Vietnam.

“The problem is that the US links (since then) its vital interests with its position of power in the world. As a result, military dominance becomes an end in itself," noted historian Stephen Wertheim (author of the book Tomorrow, the world) in an interview with the Washington Post in 2020.

Political scientist Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston University expressed a similar opinion in a March article in Foreign Affairs, in which he found that, “trapped by false dreams of hegemony,” Washington continued to stubbornly cling to a doctrine that does not work, and called for a new strategic approach to replace "the zombie paradigm of NSC-68". Dreams aside, the truth is that reality is no longer created by the empire. The United States remains a political, economic and military superpower. But its supremacy is contested more than ever. The resistance of the countries of the so-called Global to follow the policy of sanctions against Russia marked by Washington in retaliation for the war in Ukraine is a sign of its loss of weight.

A new world order is taking shape. And it is not exactly what former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown optimistically applauded when, forced by the financial crisis of 2008, the G-20 was activated, which brings together developed and emerging countries with the aim of coordinating economic policies and monetary It seemed that a new stage was opening based on international cooperation and the strengthening of multilateral bodies. But it hasn't been exactly like that. The G-20 remains a necessary forum, but it has not become the epicenter of that new order. And the resounding absence of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at the last summit on the 9th and 10th in New Delhi only confirms this.

Under the cover of the systemic rivalry between the US and China, a new international actor has emerged with force: it is the Brics group, with the main vocation of acting as a counterweight to the G-7 in Washington and its allies in Europe and Asia. Founded by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the group has recently expanded – in a highly symbolic gesture – with the addition of Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates United States, Ethiopia and Iran, which together make up 46% of the population and 30% of world GDP. The Brics group is heterogeneous, with disparate political regimes – mostly autocratic –, discordant economic interests and even notorious internal rivalries – between China and India – which can hardly aspire to dislodge the US from its position . But it is beginning to have enough strength to reject the American diktat and establish a new pole of power. The empire is making its last yawns.