When empires start to panic …

23 Jun

Are the stewards steering the imperial ship beginning to panic? Take the three hottest arenas of global tension. On Russia’s southwest border the US proxy war is not going at all to plan. That Ukraine is losing does not greatly trouble the hegemon. A Kiev victory was never on the cards and US policy-makers – if that’s not an oxymoron – knew it. But what does trouble those moral and intellectual midgets is that Russia, far from bleeding as anticipated, is prospering on every front that matters. 1

Then there’s Palestine. As Israel’s moral capital vapourises in a Satanic kill-fest, so does that of an underwriter whose hypocrisy, incompetence and weakness stand exposed before the world; even, in growing numbers, within a West informed by systemically corrupt media whose lies of omission do not exclude the cartographic.

The “international community” according to Western commentators

As for the third theatre, let no one underestimate the degree to which Washington is being wrong-footed in the South Pacific. See for instance my two posts this week on the Russian President’s visits to Pyongyang and Hanoi. If Team Biden had hopes, as Team Obama and Team Trump had, of leveraging Hanoi’s disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, Putin’s Hanoi stop-over of June 20 – with its tacit blessing by the Chinese – can have been no more welcome than his meeting the day before with Kim Jong Un.

Speaking of which, why that June 19 summit in Pyongyang, furnishing as it did a de facto military treaty? Since both parties are nuclear powers, the likelihood of a targeted US attack on either is still, even with Neocon hawks closer to power than ever before, vanishingly low. (Though WW3 by miscalculation remains a frighteningly real possibility.) So why a treaty in all but name? Why the uncharacteristically warm embrace Mr Kim gave the RF President at the airport in the early hours? And while we’re posing such questions, let’s step back a little to ask what’s afoot in the backyard of the world’s largest economy, also a nuclear power. The third-rate leadership of by far the most aggressive country on earth is, for reasons that could not have less to do with your security or mine, set on treating China Rising – Eurasia Rising – as an existential threat.

How’s that working out?


Ruling Class Finally Awakens to the Reality of America’s Decline

Simplicius the thinker, June 22

I’ve written previously on the panic currently effervescing through the global elites, made viscerally apparent at conclaves like the Davos forum earlier this year. But in America particularly, a deep worry is now consciously gnawing the ruling class—they can see it, feel it: that the American Empire is on its last legs, close to collapse.

This month has seen a bevy of new thinkpieces from top American deepstate figures or old-guard publications urging the changing of course, lest the country be swept away by the remorseless tide of history.

The first and most prominent of these making the rounds is that of former speech writer and White House staffer to Obama, Ben Rhodes, entitled A Foreign Policy for the World as It Is:

Rhodes remains among the political haute monde, having founded a thinktank alongside Jake Sullivan, which had many interlinkings with Soros’ Open Society organizations. That’s to say, Rhodes has his finger on the pulse of the ‘inner circles’ of the patriciate, which is underscored by the CFR’s journal offering tribune to his latest. And so it’s even more telling that he’s moved to sound the alarm against a country he feels is—as the cover art above obliges—stumbling headfirst into historic headwinds.

The article is actually quite long and detailed, so we have Arnaud Bertrand to summarize its finest points. The first bolded portion below gets to the heart of Rhodes’ startling argument—but read the rest of the bolded:

This is an interesting piece by brhodes, Obama’s Former Deputy National Security Advisor

In an immense departure from US policy to date, he advocates that the US “abandons the mindset of American primacy” and “pivots away from the political considerations, maximalism, and Western-centric view that have caused [the Biden] administration to make some of the same mistakes as its predecessors”.

He writes, and I find this a very powerful sentence, that “meeting the moment requires building a bridge to the future—not the past.” As in not seek to regain a lost hegemony, but adapt to the “world as it is” which he calls “the world of post-American primacy”.

To be sure, the piece still has strong relents of the liberal instincts to remake the world in America’s image – a leopard cannot change its spots – but at least he acknowledges the reality that the world has changed and that the US should view itself as a power coexisting with others, not THE power that needs to dominate the rest of the world. Which is a first step…

Also, significantly, he points out the insanity of “framing the battle between democracy and autocracy as a confrontation with a handful of geopolitical adversaries” when the West’s own democracies are in such sorry states today that they can hardly be called “democracies” anymore… He writes that instead of trying to constantly interfere in changing other countries’ systems, “ultimately, the most important thing that America can do in the world is detoxify its own democracy”.

The below encapsulates the core thesis, which is that America’s global primacy is over, and the only way for the country to stay afloat is to adapt to the new realities:

Yet even though a return to competent normalcy was in order, the Biden administration’s mindset of restoration has occasionally struggled against the currents of our disordered times. An updated conception of U.S. leadership—one tailored to a world that has moved on from American primacy and the eccentricities of American politics—is necessary to minimize enormous risks and pursue new opportunities.

This is the theme which recurs again and again throughout the new zeitgeist taking over political discourse in the stricken Beltway—panicking neocons are exhorting each other: we’re in a fight for our lives, if we don’t accept the new realities, we’ll drown!

Publications like Foreign Affairs are where the elite address not us, but each other, in the long-standing tradition of euphemism as secret-coded language of their ‘interior world’ of the deepstate and outlying political class. Here Mr. Rhodes adeptly navigates the nuances of this privileged cant when he declares that the Rules Based Order has fallen:

But lodged in the creases of his appeal are the keys to the game: why is the Order dead? He answers: because countries previously vassalized by strict obedience to the Hegemon are now, for once, acting independently and making—quelle surprise!—sovereign decisions. And thus is translated the secret message of the inter-elite argot: the ‘Rules Based Order’ was nothing more than a veil for line-toeing slavery, and it’s now finished forever.

He spells it out even more clearly in a fittingly titled section toward the end:

Again the laundered speech; allow us to translate: “Our primacy has come to an end because the world has woken up to our sham. All the current conflicts we’re engaged in—are ones in which we have no actual legal justifications to be involved. Now our gig is up and the world has seen our blatant hypocrisy and double standards, including our own citizens, who now refuse to die for our globalist greed!”

Finally, in the end comes his reasonable surmise:

None of this will be easy, and success is not preordained, since unreliable adversaries also have agency. But given the stakes, it is worth exploring how a world of competing superpower blocs could be knitted into coexistence and negotiation on issues that cannot be dealt with in isolation.

Did you hear that? That’s the ghostly death knell of the U.S. establishment tolling in the night. For once, without uttering its repelling name, they have in essence invoked multipolarity as the sole workable solution going forward. They acknowledge America’s power has reached its natural end, its final logical conclusion, and only working together with other superpowers remains a viable policy moving forward.

* * *

  1. The 2019 Rand Report, Extending Russia, is cited at some length in my post of January 2022. See Kazakhstan: why is the steppe on fire? I know of no other document so fatal to the lie of an “unprovoked Russian attack on Ukraine” than this.

5 Replies to “When empires start to panic …

  1. This article gives me hope, although bearing in mind the awfulness and incompetence of those “in charge” in Washington, not much hope.
    My small amount of optimism comes from the fact that an insider like Ben Rhodes has written this, voiced this, acknowledged what us thinking types have known for a long time.
    On the pessimistic side, WW3 happening by miscalculation is my biggest fear, made even more frightening by the fact that there’s now a senile but lifelong bloodthirsty warmongering psychopath in the Oval Office, with the bunch of brainless muppets running things on his behalf. (And if he dropped dead tomorrow, not impossible, step forward President Kamala Harris!).
    You’d have to burst out laughing, if things weren’t so bleak for so many, at the suggestion of America’s resilience of it’s democracy and economy. I’m sure all the homeless and destitute US citizens, and those slaving away in soul destroying jobs for lousy wages feel comforted by this!
    Also, to me, the “cold war” was an invention of the western powers, Churchill among them, to justify the obscene expansion of the MIC. So I give no credit for prevention of WW3 to those who invented the cold war out of thin air.
    One also has to adopt a hollow laugh at the suggestion that this former hegemon use “diplomacy” going forward. Blinken, Sullivan, Kirby? Can’t remember the names of the rest. They’d have to look the word up but would still be bewildered.
    Finally, almost certainly PM a week on Thursday Starmer, has been a creature of the US empire for many years. Maybe someone should tell him the game’s up.
    I predict that within a year of his arrival in Downing Street he’ll be almost universally despised by the people of this country, with millions experiencing acute buyer’s remorse. This gives me small comfort in a world with not much comfort to go round.
    Anyway, good work thanks.

  2. Also just meant to say, re US “democracy”. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but democracy is premised on the informed consent of voters, and US voters, I think much more so than over here, are the most duped on the planet. Industrial strength propaganda swallowed whole by millions.
    Jimmy Dore was just saying in a video I saw earlier, a couple of his friends, who believe everything MSNBC tells them, one was adamant he’s well informed, because he reads two newspapers every day, one being The New York Times! I forget the other one.

    • As I phrased it more than three years ago in a quote I’ve with shameless self-plagiarism recycled many times since:

      I can think of no more cogent argument for insisting that Western democracy is ninety-five percent bogus than that (a) democracy implies consent, (b) consent is meaningless if not informed, and (c) informed consent implies truly independent media. That last we do not have when they are [as Chomsky notes] “large corporations selling privileged audiences to other corporations”.

      The only comeback I ever get is from readers demanding to know why I rate the “bogus” as low as ninety-five percent!

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