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     Nov 14, 2006
A war the West can't win
By W Joseph Stroupe

We are not concerned here with the implausible scenario of a Soviet-style collapse of the American superpower, perhaps induced at the hands of the rising East. Nor is it about the destruction of the US. Rather than thinking in such unrealistic black-and-white terms, the reader should consider whether the current US global position of dominance is at risk, not the existence of the US as a superpower.

Too many persons have become captive to thinking merely in

terms of of black and white - the US destroys Russia and/or China, or conversely, they destroy the US. Or, the US economy collapses in ruins or else it upholds its global dominance, with no consideration given to any eventuality somewhere between those two ends.

The US need not be destroyed or suffer a collapse as did the Soviet Union in order to lose its top global position. It could well come about with a sufficient and permanent loss of US global political, economic and military leverage (the ability on the ground on an ongoing basis to successfully seduce and/or otherwise compel the world's players either to align with or else refrain from opposing US interests and goals), as the reader will see in the analysis that follows.

One must consider that most of the vectors potentially leading toward a loss of US global dominance are traveled by insidious progression, not all at once in a dramatic event. Such vectors lead to the incremental loss of the key underpinnings of the current US global position in preparation for more dramatic developments at the very end of the US-led unipolar order.

Hence, any shift of the US out of its global position would be accomplished simultaneously along the paths of multiple vectors undermining all its key underpinnings (the political, the economic, the energy security, the ideological, the military), not simply the military one alone. Furthermore, the cross-dependencies among all such underpinnings are extensive, such that the weakening or loss of one results in the compromising of the stability and potency of all the others.

Finally, there currently appears to exist insufficient understanding and appreciation of the principles, techniques and the potency of the asymmetric challenge as it applies to accomplishing a shift of the US out of its global position. The reader should avoid confining his/her thinking only to the overly rigid conventional concept of the boxing match, that is, a direct head-to-head contest between two opponents who are nearly equally matched to each other in size and power, and consider instead the proven concept of asymmetrical challenge, which the author will present in detail as it applies to mounting East-West rivalry.

It isn't yet fashionable to speak openly of a world subdividing itself again into two camps - those aligned with the US and those aligned with the Russia-China axis at the core of a new rising, multifarious yet coherent pole of the East - with the dividing line between the two camps consisting of the contest for control over global strategic resources.

Despite all the relevant signs pointing precisely in that direction:
  • The deepening accord in all key spheres between Russia, China, India, the other rising powers of the East and the key resource-rich regimes of the world.
  • Steadily rising East-West tensions, the ever-more divergent interests between East and West.
  • The increasingly incompatible approaches to global issues and problems resulting in an ever-widening chasm between East and West.

    The fact that the chasm between East and West can only be "bridged" superficially, merely papered over by ostensibly meaningful agreements that in fact embody very little of real substance (such as those agreements on North Korea, Iran, democratic reform and economic liberalization issues.)

    Still, the rising of any new coherent pole of the East and the thriving of a new Cold War between East and West isn't generally accepted as a reality by most observers - not yet, anyway. Additionally, neither are the rising powers in the East seen by most observers as able to mount a truly serious challenge to US global dominance any time soon. Despite its current troubles, the US is still generally seen as the global colossus that no challenger can successfully "do battle" with, as it were.

    Why are the clear developments signifying the building beneath the surface of a neo-Cold War and what will be proven here to be the grave and impending threat posed by the rising East to the current US global position still being widely overlooked, at least publicly, at this advanced juncture in global developments?

    Illusions about global dominance
    Fashionable new theories that teetered on the brink of the supposed global absolutism of US power arose after 1991 in the post-Soviet period, in the heady days of the aftermath of the astonishing disappearance of the once-feared Soviet Empire, leaving only one superpower to dominate the globe:

    The new theories purported to describe and explain the supposed ushering in, not merely of a new unipolar configuration for the ongoing world order, but of a brand new American-made fabric for the international order itself - the de facto, virtual global totalitarianism of the US superpower - wherein virtually all global authority and leverage in every sphere - military, economic, political, ideological, moral and diplomatic - was seen for all practical purposes as vested in the US, in virtual perpetuity, as "the only superpower left".

    The new fabric was seen as the de facto global ideological, economic and military totalitarianism of US democracy, and it was declared that from 1991 forward the world order would have to be defined in terms of that new international, but US-made fabric. According to the new thinking, the world order would continue for the foreseeable future to be unquestionably US-centric and US-dominated almost by default.

    The leverage of all the other, lesser powers (if exercised independent of, or in opposition to the US) was seen as a perpetually insignificant factor unworthy of serious consideration.

    According to the new global absolutism theories, the US was ushered into a unique position such that the position itself inherently and automatically guaranteed the US possession of virtually inviolable global dominance.

    Wherever this absolutist view was not explicitly stated, it was (and to a considerable extent it still is) almost always implied and assumed. Hence, when Russia and China began dispensing their "multipolar" ideologies embodied in their numerous joint statements on the world order starting in 1996, most observers snickered at the prospects for actually putting an end to US global dominance any time soon.

    There is still a great deal of snickering going on today because, while on the one hand the illusory concepts of a global American empire and the supposed global ideological absolutism (totalitarianism) of American-style democracy have been thoroughly discredited and prevented from achieving realization (by the global rise and bolstering of authoritarian regimes and "sovereign democracies"), on the other hand the illusions of a perpetual global totalitarianism of the US military and of the US economy have maintained until now their tenacious grasp on the minds of all too many observers, though ever more serious doubts are arising of late.

    According to these and related popular theories, overwhelming US global economic, political, ideological and military power and leverage doom to ultimate failure any attempt by lesser powers, even acting collectively, to actually free the world order from US domination anytime soon. Those fashionable new theories declare the US cannot actually be shifted out of its position of global dominance any time soon for the simple reason that the US will not permit any other power or group of powers to rise to the level of becoming a match, and therefore a real threat, to the US.

    Notwithstanding the current US troubles on the world stage, across the globe few observers truly see the US in grave jeopardy as respects its global position. And any who do claim to see it in such jeopardy are still not taken very seriously.

    While China and Russia are certainly rising and their strategic cooperation is rapidly deepening, both powers are still widely seen as mini-sized as compared to the US, and both are also still widely seen as inordinately dependent on the US economy and US wealth.

    Militarily, the two powers are seen as a long way off from being able to mount a serious challenge to the US. Even the Russia-China axis itself, and the wider rising East, still struggle with the compelling tendency to continue to see themselves in this very light - standing very small in the enormous global shadow of the US.

    Consequently, the persuasive new theories that arose in the post-Soviet period to explain the supposed arising of a fundamentally brand new, deeply entrenched unipolar world order have gained wide acceptance and continue to have a profound effect on the thinking of persons across the globe.

    The US is still widely seen as an enormous colossus whose global position cannot be gravely endangered except by another colossus of at least equal size - and no such rival colossus is evident. Instead, it is the multifarious rising East, a comparatively mini-sized and complex (not monolithic) creature, that is taking up its position on the world stage as challenger to continued US global dominance. Could the American Goliath really be at risk from comparatively mini-sized challengers in the East? Most observers have more than a little difficulty envisioning how and why such a challenge should genuinely be taken seriously.

    Not in accord with the facts
    But the new theories touting supposed US global absolutism have not, in fact, enhanced the ability of those embracing them to correctly analyze and forecast global developments. Quite to the contrary, as developments do keep steadily advancing deeper into a global realignment of key powers away from the US and toward the East, and along the trajectory of the rapid rise of the East and the equally rapid decline of the actual leverage of the West on the global stage, and toward the arising of a neo-Cold War rivalry between the two sides over control of global resources, the new theories are getting incrementally pushed ever closer to the trash bin of mistaken analysis and irrelevancy.

    Those (the majority of observers) who still hold to the selfsame new theories keep trying to force-feed global developments into the idealistic, theoretical, fashionable mold that increasingly fails to match what is actually happening across the globe. This has the effect of fogging up the issues, the true condition of East-West relations, the ability to identify the genuine and persistent forces still governing those relations even after 1991. Consequently, the real meaning of ongoing developments gets clouded.

    Actual global developments are not tracking along lines that are even remotely in accordance with the new theories. The US, bogged down in two rapidly mounting military-economic-geopolitical quagmires (Iraq and Afghanistan), facing numerous and simultaneous new quagmires (such as Iran and North Korea), facing a rapidly approaching day of economic reckoning for all its short-sighted, self-diminishing economic policies and facing also a world insidiously disconnecting itself from the US as the only global economic engine and suffering an unprecedented degree of international disdain and isolation, is in real strategic trouble on the global stage.

    Simultaneously, the East continues its meteoric economic and geopolitical rise with a clear stance as a determined opponent to continued US global dominance. How is it that the US is truly wedged in a predicament of strategic trouble rather than merely experiencing a temporary downturn, as so many still assume?

    US global leverage collapsing - permanently?
    The degree of leverage the US is now actually able to successfully exercise on the global stage to seduce and/or otherwise compel the world's players to align with its interests and goals has severely and strategically collapsed from what it was only five years ago when the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred. Its formerly overwhelming degree of global power and leverage is quite literally a thing of the past. How so?

    Not Europe, nor Latin America, nor Central Asia, nor the Middle East, nor South and Southeast Asia any longer feel obliged to take the US line as they used to, whether willingly or under the compulsion of formerly overwhelming, multi-dimensional US strength.

    Significantly, that former overwhelming leverage was the guarantee, the insurance policy that no new arrangements independent of, or in opposition to the US, ones that might undermine and endanger its global position by weakening, circumventing and undermining its key underpinnings, could ever be formed, enacted or could thrive. That all-important (to the US) insurance policy has already been canceled.

    While the US is distracted and suffering worsening strategic trouble on the world stage noted above, the East and the bulk of the rest of the world are passing it by as the formerly unquestioned global economic and geopolitical center and constructing an ever wider, ever deeper web of ties and alliances in every key sphere (energy, economy, security, diplomacy, ideology), a complex that largely excludes the US.

    That complex increasingly includes key European, Latin American and Asian states that used to be close US allies but which are now incrementally realigning with the East. The former depth of cooperation in every sphere the US used to enjoy around the globe after 1991 has turned appallingly shallow and virtually meaningless. The new complex of ties and alliances is thriving on a monumental level without US blessing or direct participation - and the US, in the face of the enormous collapse of its actual global leverage, can do little or nothing to undermine it.

    Those who calculate that current US troubles are merely a temporary downturn in US power and influence wrongly assume the world has kept "pristine" the vacuum created by the current absence of potent US leverage, that the rest of the world is somehow keeping that vacuum safe for the US alone to re-occupy when it gets beyond its current troubles.

    They have entirely miscalculated in this, for the simple reason that the rising East and other of the world's key players have rushed into the vacuum, ingeniously capitalizing on US misfortunes by putting in place the durable new arrangements (the web of alliances and ties spoken of above) centered around the rising East that will effectively block the US from ever recovering any meaningful portion of its lost global leverage. Once a vacuum is created and subsequently gets filled by something new and potent, as this one is being filled, then it's simply too bad for the party attempting to recover its losses.

    The US is already suffering a real and verifiable permanent downscale of genuine consequence on the world stage. While still a colossus, it isn't remotely as massive as most observers apparently assume that it still is. Consequently, the new theories asserting the virtual perpetuity of overwhelming US global power and dominance are inordinately based in unfounded assumptions, wishful thinking and outright fantasy.

    But what of the common argument that says current US troubles are little different from those it encountered during the Vietnam/Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) embargo era when it faced much the same kinds of challenges in the military, economic, energy, diplomatic and geopolitical spheres all at once, and from which it is assumed the US has entirely recovered? Why should anyone believe current US troubles are leading to a permanent and consequential loss of its global leverage?

    Those making such arguments are in absolute denial about how fundamentally different the global situation and US troubles are now as compared to those in the Vietnam/OPEC embargo era:

  • In the early-to-mid 1970s, the US was only 36% dependent on foreign oil imports as compared to its current 60% dependency. Therefore, during the same period in which the US appeared to fully recover from its Vietnam/OPEC embargo era troubles it was in reality simultaneously forfeiting to foreigners an even larger, majority chunk of its energy independence, and along with it its entire strategic energy security.

  • In the aftermath of the OPEC (Organization of Petroleim Exporting Countries) oil embargo of 1973/1974, the US created and established the global liberal oil market order that now dominates and that features high supply liquidity and fungibility of oil via the buying and selling of highly liquid oil futures contracts.

    This is in contrast to the former rigidity, much lower supply liquidity and the ability to enact the targeted embargo that resulted when the more rigid bilateral long-term supply contract ruled during the 1970s. To prevent the reviving of the ability to enact a targeted embargo, the US entirely relies on unwavering global adherence to the current liberal oil market order. Therefore, that liberal order is the single point of failure for the US and its economy.

    Russia, China, India and the rest of the rising East have never fully trusted nor supported that liberal order, are not members of

    (Continued on Page 2)

  • Russia and China create their own orbit (Nov 11, '06)

    China's four-play (Nov 11, '06)

    Kyrgyzstan caught in US-Russia squeeze (Nov 7, '06)


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