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The Walls Are Collapsing

Obama’s Fading Empire

by TERRENCE PAUPP

Amid rising deficits, engagement in wars in the Middle East, and a crisis of joblessness and unemployment, President Obama embarked upon a three day trip to India during the second week of November.  As it turns out the centerpiece of the president’s agenda was to push arms deals with India.  Despite his often repeated fidelity to the principles of non-violence expressed by Gandhi and Dr. King, the president proudly announced from India that he had created jobs for Americans by making weapons and aircraft deals.  However, the reality is that this continual reliance on weapons sales and the militarization of the planet is turning out to be the last gasp of Obama’s fading empire. 

In reality, the US has increasingly surrendered its manufacturing base to other nations in order to suppress the demands of labor for decent wages.  The US has been running an empire based on weapons sales and exporting violence to the Middle East in order to shore up its control of the world’s oil reserves which keeps the empire going both domestically and internationally.  Yet, the walls of the US empire are crumbling under the weight of unsustainable debt and deficit, both of which are tied to the failed efforts of US elites to maintain what was, until now, America’s global primacy. 

The problem is that its global primacy could never be sustained by military force alone for even a superpower requires a solid economic base from which to operate.  It also requires consensus on its foreign policy choices from the world community.  In the aftermath of eight years of failed Bush policies and the essential continuation of those very same policies under Obama, the US is now more committed to a failed course which includes the November 7th decision of the Federal Reserve to print $600 billion dollars out of thin air and inject it into the country’s ailing banking system.  This move alone has led to a breakdown of global consensus which, for example, inspired German Finance Minister Wolgang Schuble to sharply criticize the decision as being a repeat of previous Fed action of taking on extremely high public debt with nothing to show for it. 

The Fed’s move also led to a wider condemnation of Obama’s handling of the economy during a meeting of the G-20 on November 21st in South Korea.  Various commentators opined that the hostile reaction to the United States and to Obama is the result of decades of being lectured about the “right way” to manage economically.  This is especially the case now that the so-called “Washington Consensus” has died an ignominious death.  After preaching about the virtues of the unregulated free market, privatization, and restraining social welfare spending since the Reagan decade of the 1980s, East Asia, Russia, Argentina, and other nations have learned better.  They have come to understand that the neo-liberal economic model has failed the world and it is now failing the US itself as the austerity measures that it imposed abroad are now coming into focus at home. 

Now that Wall Street and the US military-industrial complex and big oil have bankrupted America, Obama’s own debt commission is reporting back that Social Security and other mandatory entitlement programs have to be cut in order to even begin to deal with the deficit and debt crisis.  Yet, even that will not be enough.  With over $10-trillion in debt held by foreigners, with deficits about to explode in this decade, and with the US posed to enter into an era of hyperinflation and a devalued dollar, it is now clear to the rest of the world that the crumbling walls of US hegemony are about to fall down like the proverbial Humpty Dumpty—never to be put together again.  Hence, the rest of the world knows that taking the place of US unipolarity will be a world of rising regions. 

In short, the rest of the world understands that we are at the dawn of a post-Hegemonic era, a new historical period where there will be many different centers of power and commerce that will be dispersed throughout the world’s regions.  This process is already in motion and it is evident with China’s investments in Latin America, Africa, and even Greece.  Russia as well has expanded its reach into the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as Latin America.  India and China are both contenders for taking lead roles in managing the direction of the world economy into the 21st century.  The walls of US hegemony are collapsing and a world of rising regions is about to take its place.  This is the reality of Obama’s fading empire. 

TERRENCE PAUPP is the author of, The Future of Global Relations: Crumbling Walls, Rising Regions (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009).