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Thread: The Dangerous Decline of American Hegemony

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    Philippines Avalon Member
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    Default The Dangerous Decline of American Hegemony

    "The bigger picture behind Official Washington’s hysteria over Russia, Syria and North Korea is the image of a decaying but dangerous American hegemony resisting the start of new multipolar order, explains Daniel Lazare.
    (CN) The showdown with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a seminal event that can only end in one of two ways: a nuclear exchange or a reconfiguration of the international order.

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    While complacency is always unwarranted, the first seems increasingly unlikely. As no less a global strategist than Steven Bannon observed about the possibility of a pre-emptive U.S. strike: “There’s no military solution. Forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no military solution here. They got us.”

    This doesn’t mean that Donald Trump, Bannon’s ex-boss, couldn’t still do something rash. After all, this is a man who prides himself on being unpredictable in business negotiations, as historian William R. Polk, who worked for the Kennedy administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis, points out. So maybe Trump thinks it would be a swell idea to go a bit nuts on the DPRK.

    But this is one of the good things about having a Deep State, the existence of which has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt since the intelligence community declared war on Trump last November. While it prevents Trump from reaching a reasonable modus vivendi with Russia, it also means that the President is continually surrounded by generals, spooks, and other professionals who know the difference between real estate and nuclear war.

    As ideologically fogbound as they may be, they can presumably be counted on to make sure that Trump does not plunge the world into Armageddon (named, by the way, for a Bronze Age city about 20 miles southeast of Haifa, Israel).

    That leaves option number two: reconfiguration. The two people who know best about the subject are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both have been chafing for years under a new world order in which one nation gets to serve as judge, jury, and high executioner. This, of course, is the United States.

    If the U.S. says that Moscow’s activities in the eastern Ukraine are illegitimate, then, as the world’s sole remaining “hyperpower,” it will see to it that Russia suffers accordingly. If China demands more of a say in Central Asia or the western Pacific, then right-thinking folks the world over will shake their heads sadly and accuse it of undermining international democracy, which is always synonymous with U.S. foreign policy.

    There is no one – no institution – that Russia or China can appeal to in such circumstances because the U.S. is also in charge of the appellate division. It is the “indispensable nation” in the immortal words of Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, because “we stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.” Given such amazing brilliance, how can any other country possibly object?

    Challenging the Rule-Maker

    But now that a small and beleaguered state on the Korean peninsula is outmaneuvering the United States and forcing it to back off, the U.S. no longer seems so far-sighted. If North Korea really has checkmated the U.S., as Bannon says, then other states will want to do the same. The American hegemony will be revealed as an overweight 71-year-old man naked except for his bouffant hairdo.

    Not that the U.S. hasn’t suffered setbacks before. To the contrary, it was forced to accept the Castro regime following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and it suffered a massive defeat in Vietnam in 1975. But this time is different. Where both East and West were expected to parry and thrust during the Cold War, giving as good as they got, the U.S., as the global hegemony, must now do everything in its power to preserve its aura of invincibility.

    Since 1989, this has meant knocking over a string of “bad guys” who had the bad luck to get in its way. First to go was Manuel Noriega, toppled six weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall in an invasion that cost the lives of as many as 500 Panamanian soldiers and possibly thousands of civilians as well.

    Next to go was Mullah Omar of Afghanistan, sent packing in October 2001, followed by Slobodan Milosevic, hauled before an international tribunal in 2002; Saddam Hussein, executed in 2006, and Muammar Gaddafi, killed by a mob in 2011. For a while, the world really did seem like “Gunsmoke,” and the U.S. really did seem like Sheriff Matt Dillon.

    But then came a few bumps in the road. The Obama administration cheered on a Nazi-spearheaded coup d’état in Kiev in early 2014 only to watch helplessly as Putin, under intense popular pressure, responded by detaching Crimea, which historically had been part of Russia and was home to the strategic Russian naval base at Sevastopol, and bringing it back into Russia.

    The U.S. had done something similar six years earlier when it encouraged Kosovo to break away from Serbia. But, in regards to Ukraine, neocons invoked the 1938 Munich betrayal and compared the Crimea case to Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland.

    Backed by Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dealt Washington another blow by driving U.S.-backed, pro-Al Qaeda forces out of East Aleppo in December 2016. Predictably, the Huffington Post compared the Syrian offensive to the fascist bombing of Guernica.

    Fire and Fury

    Finally, beginning in March, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un entered into a game of one-upmanship with Trump, firing ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, test-firing an ICBM that might be capable of hitting California, and then exploding a hydrogen warhead roughly eight times as powerful as the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima in 1945. When Trump vowed to respond “with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” Kim upped the ante by firing a missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

    As bizarre as Kim’s behavior can be at times, there is method to his madness. As Putin explained during the BRICS summit with Brazil, India, China, and South Africa, the DPRK’s “supreme leader” has seen how America destroyed Libya and Iraq and has therefore concluded that a nuclear delivery system is the only surefire guarantee against U.S. invasion.

    “We all remember what happened with Iraq and Saddam Hussein,” he said. “His children were killed, I think his grandson was shot, the whole country was destroyed and Saddam Hussein was hanged…. We all know how this happened and people in North Korea remember well what happened in Iraq…. They will eat grass but will not stop their nuclear program as long as they do not feel safe.”

    Since Kim’s actions are ultimately defensive in nature, the logical solution would be for the U.S. to pull back and enter into negotiations. But Trump, desperate to save face, quickly ruled it out. “Talking is not the answer!” he tweeted. Yet the result of such bluster is only to make America seem more helpless than ever.

    Although The New York Times wrote that U.S. pressure to cut off North Korean oil supplies has put China “in a tight spot,” this was nothing more than whistling past the graveyard. There is no reason to think that Xi is the least bit uncomfortable. To the contrary, he is no doubt enjoying himself immensely as he watches America paint itself into yet another corner.

    The U.S. Corner

    If Trump backs down at this point, the U.S. standing in the region will suffer while China’s will be correspondingly enhanced. On the other hand, if Trump does something rash, it will be a golden opportunity for Beijing, Moscow, or both to step in as peacemakers. Japan and South Korea will have no choice but to recognize that there are now three arbiters in the region instead of just one while other countries – the Philippines, Indonesia, and maybe even Australia and New Zealand – will have to follow suit.

    Unipolarity will slink off to the sidelines while multilateralism takes center stage. Given that U.S. share of global GDP has fallen by better than 20 percent since 1989, a retreat is inevitable. America has tried to compensate by making maximum use of its military and political advantages. That would be a losing proposition even if it had the most brilliant leadership in the world. Yet it doesn’t. Instead, it has a President who is an international laughingstock, a dysfunctional Congress, and a foreign-policy establishment lost in a neocon dream world. As a consequence, retreat is turning into a disorderly rout.

    Assuming a mushroom cloud doesn’t go up over Los Angeles, the world is going to be a very different place coming out of the Korean crisis than when it went in. Of course, if a mushroom cloud does go up, it will be even more so.


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    Default Re: The Dangerous Decline of American Hegemony

    Or, the United States could use weapons in its possession against Kim that the Chinese do not know about.

    Triumphalist articles such as this, while eager to puff up Putin and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese, have a bad habit of selling American strategic and tactical capabilities short.

    Let's see what happens. It's not enough to herald the dawn of some Wilhelmine Chinese age without recognizing the severe roadblocks that the Chinese government places in the way of its own people and reputation.

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    Default Re: The Dangerous Decline of American Hegemony

    I dont think they are going to do that. To bring Russia and China to submission is the goal of US military not Kim. As long as this 2 countries stands in the way more countries will have the guts to defy US. Turkey a NATO member just bought some S400 from Russia. Our president curse Obama and went to China and Russia despite being a US puppet for as long as I can remember. Syria is another case there are numerous example. What the puppet military is hoping to achieve is to drag China and Russia into war which is = to world war without looking like a villain to its allies lest they will find themselves abandoned.
    What the article is insinuating is that since the puppet is out of choice it may take drastic measures that is not good for the mankind.
    This is not about who is mightier. Its the cheapest talks out there in regards.
    Last edited by Bubu; 14th September 2017 at 07:40.

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    Default Re: The Dangerous Decline of American Hegemony

    More context unfolding in the North Korean situation. The major takeaway point for me in the following article is that South Korea is the 5th largest export economy in the world. China wants those exports to run through their One Belt One Road project, which can only happen if trade networks are built through North Korea, effectively reuniting those two countries. Such a move would constitute a major blow to American influence in the area, hence all the disruptive posturing and dangerously escalating rhetoric the US and UN are directing at the situation.


    North Korea and the UN Sanctions Merry Go Round

    On 11 September 2017 the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2375 imposing further sanctions on North Korea in response to its latest nuclear test. This was the latest and ninth such resolution since 2006. There is no reason to believe that it will be any more successful in achieving its purported objectives than any of the other previous resolutions.

    The commentary in the western media surrounding the latest North Korean nuclear test treats the problem in an historical vacuum. North Korea has good reason to be distrustful of attempts to limit its nuclear program. It appears to have been forgotten by those commentators that North Korea, with Russian and Chinese assistance, fought a devastating war in 1950-1953.

    Neither North nor South Korea were blameless for the onset of that war, but it was only given a veneer of legitimacy as a United Nations operation because the United States took advantage of a boycott by the Soviet Union of the Security Council (over the refusal to recognise the Peoples Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China) to launch its grossly misnamed ‘Police action’.

    During that war, that has never formally ended, North Korea was devastated. Every town and city was reduced to rubble; its agriculture destroyed through chemical warfare; napalm was used on civilian populations; and more than three million of its citizens were killed.

    American troops have occupied South Korea ever since. Through threats, military exercises on or near its borders, blockades of its territorial waters, and a relentless propaganda war, North Korea has been in a state of effective siege ever since the 1953 armistice.

    There was a modest thaw during the Clinton administration in the 1990s, where an Agreed Framework was negotiated, which included North Korea signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The agreement provided for regular inspections by the IAEA to ensure North Korea’s compliance with the NPT.

    In return, the Americans agreed to provide light water reactors for peaceful civilian use. That part of the deal, vital for North Korea’s energy requirements, was never kept. That and other violations of the agreement led to North Korea resuming the secret enrichment of uranium.

    With some good faith on both sides it might have been possible to rescue the situation from sliding inexorably downhill to the present impasse. The advent of the second Bush administration doomed that prospect. Bush’s State of the Union address in January 2002 labeled North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” (along with Iran and Iraq).

    The North Koreans observed that the US and its “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq the following year (after a decade of punitive sanctions) on the manifestly false pretext of Saddam having weapons of mass destruction and being likely to use them. They similarly observed what happened to Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, again on the basis of false allegations. Both countries (Iraq and Libya) were destroyed by those American interventions. The disastrous repercussions will continue to flow for many years yet.

    It was in these circumstances that the North Koreans took steps to ensure that in the event of their being directly attacked they had the means to retaliate. That retaliation is not confined to nuclear weapons. The North Koreans have the capacity, through conventional military means as well as biological warfare, to inflict unacceptable damage to both Japan and South Korea. They may or may not have the means of delivering a nuclear-armed ICBM to the US mainland, but it hardly matters given their other capabilities.

    Seeing the fate that befell earlier victims of American intervention, developing a nuclear capability is from the North Korean perspective, an entirely rational response. Attempts by the western media to portray Kim as irrational is a dangerous miscalculation. One may not agree with his policies and methods, but in terms of preserving the regime and protecting his country from further devastation, Kim has no military alternative.

    One of the greatest dangers at present is that with the ramped up belligerent rhetoric on both sides, the risk of either party doing something foolish, or making a fatal miscalculation leading to a wider war, in exponentially increased.

    It was with this background that Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin proposed the genesis of a roadmap to a peaceful resolution of a very dangerous situation. The two presidents issued a joint statement following Xi’s visit to Moscow in early July 2017.

    Their proposal was that North Korea should immediately freeze its nuclear and missile programs, and that the US and South Korea should simultaneously freeze their large scale military exercises directed at North Korea. The US and South Korea would also immediately cease the installation of the THAAD missile system which, American claims to the contrary, is manifestly directed at China and Russia.

    Xi and Putin went on to say that military means to resolve the issue should not be an option. Instead, the UN Resolutions should be fully implemented; North Korea’s reasonable concerns should be respected; and that every effort should be made to resume a dialogue aimed at achieving a lasting peaceful resolution of the issues.

    These proposals would strike most reasonable people as eminently sensible. Instead of welcoming the opportunity to take steps to reduce tensions and lower the risk of an all out war that would be disastrous for all parties, the Americans responded with a series of barely coherent Presidential tweets and more belligerent and frankly stupid rhetoric from the US’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley.

    The Foreign Ministers of Russia and China, following a meeting in Manila on 6 August 2017, reiterated the call for the “double freeze”. Mr Lavrov pointed out that the July joint initiative created “a roadmap for the gradual restoration of trust and provide conditions for the resumption of the Six Party talks.” Mr Wang for his part pointed out that “the purpose is to pull the peninsula nuclear issue back to the negotiating table, and seek a final solution to realise the peninsula’s denuclearization and long term stability.”

    Again, these suggestions were ignored by the Americans, and barely reported in the western media, as was also the case with the North Korean leadership indicating their willingness to negotiate a resolution of the issues. Reporting a willingness to negotiate does not square with the relentless portrayal of Kim as totally irrational.

    In an article published on the Kremlin website Putin warned that the two sides (US and North Korea) were “balancing on the edge of a large scale conflict.” He noted that efforts to pressure North Korea would prove “futile”, and that the only tenable solution to the standoff should be a dialogue without preconditions. Provocations, pressure and bellicose and offensive rhetoric, he said, is “the road to nowhere.”

    Putin made similar comments at a press conference on 5 September 2017 following the BRICS meeting in Xiamen, China. Ramping up the military hysteria in such circumstances, he said, is senseless. It could lead to a global planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. The way to restore North Korea’s security was “the restoration of international law.”

    The BRICS summit, an enormously important geopolitical and economic development, was almost completely ignored by the western media. It was immediately followed by the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. That conference was notable for a number of reasons, not least because it was attended by North and South Korea, as well as Japan.

    The spirit of the meeting was clearly one of “strategic cooperation” as stressed by both the Japanese and South Korean Foreign Ministers, and also economic cooperation that would link both Koreas into China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

    South Korea’s President Moon invited Russia to jointly develop what he called building “nine bridges of cooperation”. These nine bridges included gas pipelines, the Northern Sea Route, shipbuilding, agriculture and railway linkages. South Korea is presently isolated from both the BRI and the EAEU and the logical physical connection would be via North Korea to link up with the rapidly developing high speed rail links from China to Europe. As the world’s fifth largest exporter, such economic and other linkages make eminent sense for South Korea , but it would be all but impossible unless the North Korean problem is solved.

    All of the parties in Vladivostok, as in Xiamen a few days earlier, see the integration of North Korea into the economic cooperation and development of the BRI and EAEU that is transforming Eurasia’s future as a viable route to a secure future for North Korea.

    The great stumbling block, as it has been since 1945, is the United States’ insistence that the rest of the world play to its rules alone. The most recent threats from Washington only serve to emphasize the magnitude of the task ahead. As the above points make clear, there is a peaceable alternative and if it is to occur then Eurasia will need to make its own future free of the outside influences that have bedeviled its progress.

    Written by James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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