U.S. decline and geopolitics

Written by  //  November 15, 2012  //  Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Government & Governance, U.S.  //  No comments

Baby and the Bathwater: Petraeus and COIN
(Open Canada) The superiority of U.S. and western conventional military power means that only the stupid will challenge the U.S. on a conventional battlefield. Opponents to the U.S. and its allies will choose to fight via insurgency, which reduces their exposure, and gives them a chance to wear down the will of the democratic publics. The enemy, as they say, has a vote, and it will vote for insurgency. So, if the U.S. maintains its conventional military edge, it will confront the choice of either fighting insurgents or letting the insurgents win. If it chooses to fight them, the U.S. will need to understand their tactics and counter them –hence, counterinsurgency. Adaptability is key: As the insurgents learn and change, so, too, must the counterinsurgents.
Of course, the U.S. and its friends can simply run away from any insurgency, which would end the era of occupation. Which is completely fine. However, it means that we must stand aside and watch civil wars play out in places like Libya and Syria. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable choice. The point is simply that not all insurgencies take place in regions where we do not mind letting the various sides fight it out. Some take place closer to home (Mexico?). Some may take place near Europe, generating refugees, which may trigger a response.
14 November
America’s Farcical Decline
(Open Canada) It is not difficult to determine the winners from this increasingly bizarre and tawdry soap opera. As China carefully charts its ascent to global supremacy, as the Kremlin moves to reassemble its lost empire, and as al-Qaeda plots its next strike against the decadent West, one can only imagine their disdain for what was once – and still claims to be – “the greatest power on earth.”
Nor is it difficult to identify the loser. The United States, four year after its financial meltdown, is still mired in debt, stagnant growth, and unemployment. Its greatest metropolis has just been devastated by a storm, which, Katrina-like, its decaying infrastructure and dysfunctional government were powerless to withstand. Its bitterly fought $6-billion, seemingly endless presidential election has produced a political landscape just as divided, deadlocked, and directionless as it was before. As if that were not humiliating enough, now its vaunted military heroes look like guest stars in an episode of Desperate Housewives.
10 March
Robert Kagan: Rumours of America’s demise are an exaggeration
(National Post) In a new book, excerpted below, acclaimed foreign-policy expert Robert Kagan challenges the conventional wisdom that U.S. global power and influence are waning:
Much of the commentary on American decline these days rests on rather loose analysis, on impressions that the United States has lost its way, that it has abandoned the virtues that made it successful in the past, that it lacks the will to address the problems it faces. Americans look at other nations whose economies are, for the moment, in better shape than their own, and which seem to have the dynamism that America once had, and they lament, as in the title of Thomas Friedman’s latest book, “That used to be us.”
It doesn’t much help to point out that Americans have experienced this unease before, that many previous generations have also felt this sense of lost vigour and lost virtue. Even in 1788, Patrick Henry lamented the nation’s fall from past glory, “when the American spirit was in its youth.”
25 February
Noam Chomsky’s searing condemnation of U.S. foreign policy is a must-read whether one agrees with his views or not
The imperial way: US decline in perspective (Part II)
Imperialism is still with us, but power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world.
(Al Jazeera) While the principles of imperial domination have undergone little change, the capacity to implement them has markedly declined as power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world. Consequences are many. It is, however, very important to bear in mind that – unfortunately – none lifts the two dark clouds that hover over all consideration of global order: nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, both literally threatening the decent survival of the species.
Quite the contrary. Both threats are ominous, and increasing.

15 February
‘Losing’ the world: American decline in perspective (Part I)
American decline is real – but the US remains the world’s dominant power by a large margin.
7 February
The US in a ‘dangerous state of funk’
(Project Syndicate) Many American fearmongers would have us believe that the US is now in a dangerous state of funk – a loss of self-belief that signals the end of its world leadership. But they are wrong to claim that the decline of US military dominance will lead to the collapse of world order.
Obama’s recognition of US limitations is not a sign of cowardly pessimism, but of realistic wisdom. His relative discretion in the Middle East has allowed people there to act for themselves. We do not yet know what the outcome there will be, but “the greatest country on earth” cannot impose a solution. Nor should it.
Zbigniew Brzezinski: 8 Geopolitically Endangered Species
Meet the weaker countries that will suffer from American decline.
(Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2012) With the decline of America’s global preeminence, weaker countries will be more susceptible to the assertive influence of major regional powers. India and China are rising, Russia is increasingly imperially minded, and the Middle East is growing ever more unstable. The potential for regional conflict in the absence of an internationally active America is real. Get ready for a global reality characterized by the survival of the strongest.
5 January
America’s military strategy — Dealing with reality
(Economist/Democracy in America) THE contours of the new military strategy announced by Barack Obama at the Pentagon on January 5th have been fairly clear for some time. It starts out by acknowledging both explicitly and tacitly some painful truths. The first of these is that America’s slow-burn budgetary crisis requires that defence spending falls back to a more normal level after the fat years presided over by this president’s predecessor. … The second is that the kind of industrial-scale counter-insurgency and stabilisation operations that America has spent trillions of dollars on over the last decade are simply unaffordable and cannot be repeated. … The third is the implicit recognition that the long wars against Islamist fanatics distracted America from paying the kind of attention it should have to “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia”. Consequently, the Pentagon is now promising that “of necessity” it will “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region”.

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