Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Hegemon Checkmated

The way a lot of otherwise intelligent and well-informed commentators are sounding, a war between the US and Iran could break out at any point. Their evidence in favor of this view consists of some US aircraft carriers that are supposedly en route to the Persian Gulf, which Iran threatened to blockade if attacked. To do so, Iran wouldn’t actually have to do anything kinetic; it would suffice for it to threaten to attack some oil tankers for their insurance coverage to be voided, preventing them from loading cargo or setting sail. That would block deliveries of close to two-thirds of all the crude oil that’s shipped by sea and cause a truly staggering amount of economic damage—so staggering that the oil-fired economies of the oil-importing nations (and even some of the oil-exporting ones) may never recover.

First, let’s look at this bit of evidence. In my view, the sight of US aircraft carriers anywhere near a well-armed potential adversary such as Iran, or China, or Russia, is a crystal-clear indication that there isn’t going to be any sort of military escalation. The math here is simple. In order to be effective in action, a US aircraft carrier has to be within 500 km of the targets its aircraft are going to bomb. That’s the typical round-trip range of the aircraft without mid-air refueling. But if said aircraft carrier approaches any closer than 1000 km of said potential adversary, it can be sunk using an entire array of modern weapons against which it has no defenses. Obviously, under such circumstances, the command of the carrier will avoid doing anything at all provocative while doing all it can to telegraph its complete lack of hostile intent.

Some claim (based on no evidence at all) that the US would actually want to have one of its aircraft carriers sunk, to use as an excuse for an escalation. But how exactly would it escalate? By having some more of its aircraft carriers sunk? Add to this the fact that the US no longer seems to build aircraft carriers. Its last effort, the Gerald R. Ford, aptly named after the “dim bulb” president, is undergoing endless repairs in the hopes that it will some day become useful for something. Add to this the fact that the US no longer has the money to build such gigantic war toys: the way things have been going, in just a few years the entire federal budget is going to be swallowed up by interest payments on the federal debt.

Apparently, it is extremely difficult for Americans to face the fact that there is a long and growing list of things they can no longer get done:

• The US can no longer get color revolutions right. The Ukraine is an out-of-control embarrassment where half the population is ready to vote for Putin while some very nasty Jewish oligarchs have pretty much bought themselves a Jewish president. And if the example of the Ukraine is tragic—it is now the poorest country in Europe—the example of Venezuela is a bit of a farce. There, a US-trained stooge by the name of Juan Guaidó has been parading around pretending to be president since April Fool’s day. These days, US talk of “regime change” only causes eye-rolls and groans.

• The US can no longer stage false flag attacks and make them stick. The fake chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Douma, which served as an excuse for Donald Trump’s last useless bombing of Syria (in which a bunch of Tomahawk cruise missiles got dropped in the sea and a bunch more got shot down by Syrian air defenses) was definitely proven to have been a fake. And the last such attempt, at causing a bit of damage to oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and attempting to blame it on the Iranians, didn’t get much traction at all, being too preposterous.

• The US can no longer pull out troops. Its troops are stuck in Afghanistan, where they no longer have any sort of mission at all now that the Taliban are once again victorious. In order to pull out they have to come up with some sort of face-saving agreement, but here there are two problems: first, they don’t know how to negotiate such an agreement; second, nobody wants to negotiate with them. And so their strategy is “fester in place.” This is very bad, because there is a chance of it evolving into “abandon in place”—stop resupplying the troops when the money runs out. Other than saving face and making the retreat look anything other than a shameful rout, there are some practical considerations to pulling out all of the equipment. There is too much of it to pull out by air. It got there via Russia, but begging Russia for help again would be too humiliating. It could perhaps be retrieved via Pakistan, but US-Pakistani relations are in terrible shape. But leaving all of the equipment in place would produce a rather shockingly well-equipped Taliban, causing an international scandal. Last, best choice is to destroy all of the equipment in place, but this would produce terrible optics both at home and abroad. But Afghanistan is just the tip of the iceberg: there are over 1000 US military bases around the world that have to be dismantled and abandoned because, as I already mentioned, in just a few short years the US will have a national defense budget of exactly $0, the entire federal budget having been swallowed up by interest payments on the national debt.

• The US can no longer fight trade wars. The one with China has gone spectacularly badly. All along, the Chinese strategy has been to bide for time, never agreeing to any sort of deal, while feverishly figuring out how to replace the US in its truly massive international trade. At every step of the way, the US has been there to help China while hurting its own interests. There is too much here to dig into, so here are just three highlights. First, US farmers are driven into bankruptcy because their GMO-contaminated soya is being replaced by ecologically clean Russian soya (GMOs are illegal in Russia) with major health benefits for the Chinese. Second, the sanctions against Huawei, which makes half the smartphones and much else, have cut off the US from the next major advance in network technology. And since Google’s recent decision not to support future versions of Huawei phones or to provide updates to current ones, smartphones will no longer run Android, cutting the US out of most of the smartphone market. Third, the next batch of Chinese countersanctions—a ban on rare earths exports—will put paid to US hopes for being able to maintain production for alternative energy technologies, electric cars, semiconductors and much else. Finally, Americans will end up paying for their folly in thinking that they can still stand up to the Chinese economically through much higher interest rates: China will continue to sell from its hoard of over $1 trillion in US federal debt, driving up the interest rate the US has to pay in order to continue to borrow more and more all the time (which it has to in order to avoid defaulting on its existing debt).

So, what can the US still do? The answer, I think, is obvious: the US is still perfectly capable of causing humanitarian disasters. Yemen, where a civil war is being perpetuated using US weapons and with the participation of US military advisers, is perhaps the worst case. There is also the Rukhban refugee camp in Syria, near the US military base at At Tanf, where US-supported Islamist radicals are using displaced Syrians as a human shield. There are the economic sanctions against Venezuela, which are causing considerable discomfort for the people there. To be fair, the US is causing humanitarian disasters on its own territory as well: if you look at the burgeoning homeless populations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere in the US, or explore the statistics on suicide, drug addiction and overdose deaths, or take on board the fact that over 100 million working-age people in the US are out of work, it becomes clear that the US isn’t just failing around the world but also hemorrhaging internally.

This may all sound depressing, but in fact there is something here to celebrate. It has happened numerous times throughout history that major military conflicts erupted when empires collapsed, causing horrific loss of life. But what we are observing now is something quite different: for the US, major military conflict has become unthinkable while none of the other major world powers is particularly eager to start a war and is all about economic development and cooperation. This is something for us to be quietly happy about: the erstwhile global hegemon is going down without much of a fight at all as the rest of the world moves on. Of course, you might still feel depressed about the way things within the US are going from bad to worse, but here a bit of attitude adjustment can be of great help. It’s a very special technique that people have employed for ages whenever they faced such circumstances. It’s called “not giving a shit.”

27 comments :

Unknown said...

Great article but I found the headline photo (GIF) quite offensive.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Great punchline! :O)

Unknown said...

Good news for Australia then with regards to rare earths. We currently produce 20000MT/Yr second to China at 105000MT.

Sean O'Calley said...

Great article but I found the headline photo (GIF) quite offensive. Consider it less offensive than what really is inside John Bolton's head.
This sorry process is merely the consequence of the bin-Laden schema for crushing dying empires, now in its 10th year of this particular cycle. It was simple. Lay bait in the tar pit for the hegemon to step in. When you are in Los Angeles, visit the La Brea Tar Pits. It's filled with the bones of predators that wandered into the sticky tar to eat the carcasses of dead animals trapped in the tar. One more predatory - one more carcass - one more exhibit for the museum.

Roberto said...

Ditto the gory GIF.... so distracting I had to cover it up until it disappeared as I scrolled down. Along with not giving a shit is migration to a better place. Trumps border wall as a possible anti-emigration measure. Oh well.... being a boomer in the 60s-70s was pleasant, but, much as a mafia princess finally realizes her cushy life due to Uncle Guidos apparently spectacularly successful pizza business is a predatory sham, time to wake up, smell the putrid yank coffee, and move on to greener pastures for a new, meaningfully productive and socially cooperative existence.

JPM1963 said...

The other bit of good news here is that Trump can be easily distracted. I sent a big key ring to the Whitehouse Chief of Staff and with all of the sparkle and colors, the fascination should last until Trump's exit if they jiggle them just right while making the 'good boy' noises.

Roger said...

I think the .GIF is from "Scanners" - a low-budget Canadian sci-fi film. I must admit my head feels like that some days with or without paracetamol. Anyway, although I agree with what Dmitry says, I still think that the US has a considerable capacity for mischief. I am not enough of a military hardware buff to know the vulnerabilities of a US carrier, but they were trumpeted not so very long ago as pretty much invulnerable thanks to the Aegis Combat System which was supposed to intercept any incoming projectile close range. Possibly the Navy still have confidence in these toys. Also the Neoconservatives in Washington are risk takers for the very simple reason that they are not at risk themselves and they can always retreat to academia or Wall Street if things go belly up. I am concerned that we my end up with a Cuban-style military standoff at some point which will do nothing the clear the air.

William said...

Yessss Scanners GIF! Awesome! Cronenberg is the best!

Daniehl said...

When did John lose his head of hair? That guy is probably the only person in the world that one could say he knows how horribly evil he is and actually values his evil rather than, like most human beings, somehow is able to rationalize his actions as (deep down) good for the world and all its creatures.
I agree with Roberto's view that life has been easy as a boomer of that huge cohort of spoiled brats and that we need to move on to more socially productive existences . . . even after spending so much time failing to smilingly pay a fair share of taxes to maintain the wonderful infrastructure built by and left for us by that great war generation of socially generous workers after WWII.
I am so embarrassed about how badly our generation has frittered away the wealth created and passed on to us from our previous generations.

Zoltar said...

It's true: things in the USA have gotten to the point at which any alternative to not giving a shit is simply irrational.

jal said...

The "law makers" have just been briefed on the "bad" Iran.
(The mouse attacking the elephant. hehehe)

I did not "see" any evidence that was presented.

Pamela Storer said...

Agree re the exploding head - I put my thumb over it until I'd scrolled past :-)

I'd add, it interested me somewhat, that Russia never said anything, given the very offensive round after round of sanctions America has loaded on it, about the fact that all American Boeing aircraft are made useing Titanium from Russia.
Then, a couple of days ago - President Putin did. He just, you know, mentioned it!!!

I wonder if anyone in Wah-shin-tun has the brains to pick up on the subtlety.

Lon said...

Additional essential point about fiscal health is that with over 60% of US annual budget, the USA economy is dependent on the war industry to help its economy to tread water. The Pentagon operates under the " use it or lose it" paradigm with Congress, so has become its own lobbyist for foreign relations disasters. We are locked into fascist war time economy that is increasinly refleced in loss of civil rights.

get rid of the splattering head please

Elmo said...

U.S. withdrawal options

The Taliban should offer (in consecutive stages) to U.S. forces, 3 withdrawal options from Afghanistan,
Stage 1 option: Withdraw completely, sans (without) weapons, with only the clothes they are wearing.
Stage 2 option: Withdraw completely, sans (without) clothes, with only the underwear and boots they are wearing.
Stage 3 option: Withdraw completely, sans (without) underwear and boots, stark naked.
Unstated Stage 4 option: Rot/die in place.

Subsequently, these should become standard consecutive withdrawal options, put to all U.S. forces in all of their foreign bases, and all of their foreign operations locations.

When these options are complied with, the world can begin a peace restoration process for the whole of humanity.

Elmo

Dmitry Orlov said...

And just like that... it's over. The Pentagon declares victory in the Persian Gulf. John Bolton's (in)credible intelligence that Iran was readying an attack (of which no evidence ever existed) caused the US to do somethingorother so now Iran isn't going to attack any more. Victory! We're likely to see much more of this sort of nonsense as the Pentagon retreats into a land of makebelieve where high-ranking officers rock themselves to sleep while visions of sugar-plums and trillion-dollar defense contracts dance in their heads as the entire world learns to ignore them and moves on. https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-05-21/pentagon-declares-victory-non-war-iran-put-attacks-hold

Nathan said...

Come on Dmitry! We all know America has military superiority. We saw the SHIELD aircraft carriers that can float around and also take to the skies. And then turn invisible. Suck on that Russia...
Oh wait. A single incendiary head arrow caused all sorts of problems for that floating carrier, and then America responded by launching a nuclear strike on NYC from the floating carrier.

I wonder if the average US warhawk or politician, or president, can tell the difference between Disney/Marvel and other MSM outlets these days... I'm struggling myself.

Unknown said...

I think that the exploding head is quite appropriate for the times we're living in. It signifies, to me anyway, what is happening when people FINALLY wake up to what is really going on in this country, much less the rest of the world. So, for those that find it offensive --- you really are not prepared for what is headed our way.

Just John

Sean O'Calley said...

New Threat - Red Army Mobilizes! (Actually, not the Reds, not the Army, nothing new.)
Stopping imaginary threats every news cycle with inaction is what the US Military is the new diplomatic specialty! THe FlashNews of the day is from Washington (CNN) - For the second time in two days, US F-22 stealth jets intercepted Russian bombers and fighter jets off the coast of Alaska, North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement.
The sneaky Soviets have entered the "Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone" which extends over 300km. along the Alaska coastline. Russia has ground-based military forces and air-support bases within 80 km. of the land of United States in a region called "Eastern Siberia."
the intercepted Russian bombers and jets "remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.." The Russian bomber flights (in the area) were restarted in 2007 as part of Moscow's efforts to bolster the capabilities of its armed forces.
Just as Whitney Houston prepares to go on tour seven years after her death as a hologram, the US Military holds the line against propeller-driven Russian Tu-95 bombers, and several Russian Su-35 fighter jets with an international range of threat (over 80km!) while Washington sleeps.
Perhaps Mr. Bolton can threaten to take-over Greater Diomede Island, which is the tip of the spear threatening America's Lesser Diomede Island. (or is it the other way around?) Like Iran and Venezuela, Putin will be forced back on his heels. Another Trump victory, just before the Memorial Day celebration!

NoobishPineapple said...

We in the United States are lucky that our Satanic usury empire, is going out with a whimper and not a shout. We once were a land of freedom and opportunity, where immigrants could settle in the West, dig up some silver, and have it struck into dollars by the US Mint. Our economy was based on honest money for honest work.

But, over the years, our banks, our government, and other trusted institutions became corrupted. By 1971, our money become based on oil that wasn't even ours. It was in the hands of a cruel and backward Saudi-Arabia. We made a deal with the Devil to arm Saudi jihaddies in exchange for them selling their oil in dollars. At this point, the dollar was no longer backed by gold, silver, or anything else of real value. The only thing it was backed by was pure violence. A violence whilded in our name, by Islamic extremists, forcing the world to use our counterfeit money, in order to obtain vital energy.

If a nation is capitalist, and it's money is backed by violence and lies, it ultimately becomes a dishonest and violent nation and society, where honesty and hard work is for suckers.

As an American, with no place else to go, I can't leave this corrupt, sinking ship, of a wicked usury empire geographically, but, I'm working on leaving it in other ways. There are some new, disease resistant fruit and nut trees that I've planted in my yard. They are growing very vigorously and I will probably never have to spray them. It looks like I'll have a bountiful harvest of plums this Summer. If all goes well, I'll be getting about 9 bushels of fruit and nuts every year, within about three years. No need for seeds, watering or fertilizer. I'm using my spare income to get out of debt, stockpile food, fuel, and all kinds of other supplies that me and my family will need in the future. I'm also learning to repair things around the house when they break. I'm involved in Ham radio too, so that I'll be able to communicate independently.

We can all do what Russia is doing at the micro level. We can work to become as independent as possible from the banking system, by directly providing ourselves with our means of survival, our shelter, food, and self defense. Our culture and community too.

Thank you for being such a great inspiration Dmitry. Your books have inspired me a lot to use my current resources wisely to prepare for the future. Also, to disengage from our current national evilness, to the extent possible.

Robin Morrison said...

The .gif rhythm's off. It explodes too fast.

Unknown said...

@Noobish Pineapple

Your misty-eyed account of the early days of opportunity, in typical fashion, omits all mention of slaughter and relocation of indigenous peoples that was necessary for bearded white men from Europe to be able to dig that silver and gold out of the ground. We prosperous USA-ans stand on the shoulders of steel-eyed murderers. Is it any wonder we find ourselves in this predicament?
By: EdBrad

Denis Frith said...


This article deals with the decisions being made about using systems made of irreplaceable materials and irreversibly using energy capital largely from the store of fossil fuels. Rational discussion about what will happen in the future needs to take that reality into account.

the blame-e said...

Just got through reading "The Fate of Empires," by Sir John Glubb. A PDF file is attached. 26-pages of pure gold. The pamphlet is part of the public domain. You aren't stealing anything by downloading it.

Funny thing here is that that the truth is not just the American Empire that is in the final stages of collapse. The banksters have gone and created a global banking financial empire. This empire is in the same condition as the United States -- over-whelmed by debt, broke, busted, and bankrupt.

This time we are not just talking about the end of the Roman Empire, or the Spanish Empire, or the Romanov Empire, or the British Empire, or the United States Empire -- this time it's the whole enchilada.

The end always comes down to the same thing -- empires always price themselves out of existence. People get tired of having more and more of their heavily taxed income confiscated for stuff they never wanted or approved of. That, and the streets are never paved with enough gold.

http://people.uncw.edu/kozloffm/glubb.pdf

PatOrmsby said...

@Roberto,
Your mafia princess analogy is just precious! I'll share it around.

James said...

Interesting article, but there is nothing to celebrate.

The problem I see is that after the Empire collapses involves the question of what will be left and will it be salvageable? Global warming, pollution, war, monocultural agricultural devastation of the environment and other ills have produced a scenario where pretty much every species of useful life on this planet is now endangered.

Not metaphorically, but literally...recent findings show that a massive and continuous reduction in the global biomass of insects is now occurring, those animals that are at the base of the food chain. In other words, it is not just biodiversity that is at threat, it is the global biomass of every useful plant and mineral. Moreover this is without the threat of nuclear war, or other standard apocalypse scenarios.

James said...

I meant to write in my second last sentence that what is at threat is the global biomass of every useful plant and animal, not every useful plant and mineral.

John M said...

Did not like the exploding head, I think it was meant to be Bolton? Cheap and nasty and definitely inappropriate for an otherwise interesting article. Please don't repeat. Thanks.