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Will America Cope With The Fall Of It's Middle East Empire
by Ian R Thorpe.

America has suffered a second traumatic blow to its global political hegemony as the regimes it has propped up for decades in the middle east crumble. Mubarak in Egypt and Gadaffi in Libya were unsavoury tyrants to be sure but they were pro America and willing to collaborate with the west. Now on the heels of the financial meltdown we face a global oil crisis..

Will America Cope With The Fall Of It's Empire In The East.
by Ian R Thorpe.
2011-02-27
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: egypt, america, obama, libya, israel, gadaffi, rome, british, atlantic, austria, spain, africa, arab, oil, economy, financial, business, market, economy, debt, tyrant, dictator

The British Empire is now reduced to a few remote islands and a rocky outcrop in mid - Atlanic. The Glory that was Rome is of another day, as the song says. The Persians, the Babylonians and more recently the Ottoman Empire of the middle east and Austria - Hungary all collapsed in a lot less time than it took to build them. Empires come and go. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish looked dominant and little Portugal was their closest challenger. Twenty-five years later, while Portugal held its colonies in Africas, South America and Indonesia The Spanish were on their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of preventing the emergent maritime powers of Britain and Holland from muscling in on Spain's money makers. The British empire reached its fullest extent in 1930. Thirty years later, it was all over. India had gone, Canada and Australian had won autonomy and Kenya was about to become the first African nation to raise its own flag.

Today, it is not reasonable to think the United States, the world's unchallenged superpower a decade ago, will follow the same trajectory of rapid decline. America has suffered two traumas in the last three years. The first was the financial meltdown of 2008, the consequences of which have not yet to been fully understood. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the prime mortgage business and the market in toxic debt it spawned, the underlying problem was a fundamental imbalance in the economy.

For many years, America had been incapable of funding its domestic spending requirements and overseas commitments from tax revenue, duties and licensing rights without resorting to massive help from the more successful economies of the far east, particularly China, which was emerging as the only other serious claimant to superpower status and thus a global rival. China had a huge incentive to help America: it needed to sustain US demand in order to provide a ready market for its exports and thus avert a domestic crisis. This situation is the equivalent of the cold war's Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), doctrine which prevented nuclear war breaking out between America and Russia.

Unlike MAD, the informal understanding between the two economic giants is unsustainable. So far however Barack Obama has not sought to address the problem or even acknowledge it. Instead, he responded to America's crisis with the same failed policies as had caused the trouble in the first place: easy credit and yet more debt. It is certain that America will, in due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to its living standards at home and its commitments abroad. To make matters worse he pressed ahead with a set of social policies that committed his administration to insane levels of public spending.

This would have been a big deal in any case but following the second convulsive blow, the collapse of some very unsavoury regimes sympathetic to the USA in the middle east America’s global interests are under threat as they never have been before. Since 1956, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France over Suez, the Arab world has been a US sphere of influence. At first, there were promises that it would tolerate independence and self-determination. But this did not last long; America soon saw that the words Arab and democracy do not sit comfortably together and was forced to maintain middle east stability through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied with arms, military training and advice from Washington.

The momentous importance of the last few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt, arrangement appears to no longer be an option. One of the ironies of the bloody death throes of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have been smarter to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence. When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon that was about to grind to a halt Gadaffi was always a bully and a windbag rather than a smart political operator however.

In Washington, Sidi Barack Hussein Obama has uncharacteristically had little to say about the importance of these tyrant's support to the global interests of western nations and particularly America. Instead, after a lot of huffing and puffing he has chosen to present the recent uprisings as democratic and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook. Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.

That analogy may appear appropriate. Just as in 1989 the world witnessed the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so it now seems as if as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of America’s client regimes in the Arab world. It is very unlikely, however, that events will thereafter take the tidy path to democratic rule the White House is confidently predicting . In truth, far from being inspired by Twitter, a great many Arab people who have driven the sensational events of recent weeks are illiterate and do not have computer access. They have been impelled into action by mass poverty and unemployment, allied to a sense of disgust at vast divergences of wealth and grotesque corruption. All that was needed to prompt uprisings was some judicious stirring of the brown smelly stuff by organisations such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda related factions in Libya and these normally volatile and chaotic societies were primed to spontaneously combust.

So far it is too early to predict with confidence the course of events that will lead to the emergence of new regimes let alone what the political position of those regimes might be, but it seems unlikely that these liberated peoples will look to Washington and New York as their political or economic model. Early signs suggest that Russia, China and Iran are queueing to be the new best friend of whatever leaders are thrown up by the revolutions.

The big question now is whether America will take its reduced status, accept huge increases on the price of oil and the knock on effect of that throughout the economy or whether it will lash out to protect its interest and arrest the decline in fortunes. The Obama White House response gives cause for concern. American insensitivity to the cultural sensibilities of foreign nations is well demonstrated in the case of Raymond Davis, the CIA man who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore. Hillary Clinton is trying to bully Pakistan into awarding Davis diplomatic immunity to appease opinion in America. While the failing Obama administration can afford no more foreign policy fiascoes their behaviour is incredible given the sensitivity of the situation in Pakistan and its war torn neighbour Afghanistan and shows that the US government continues to regard itself as above the law. Were President Zardari, already seen by his fellow countrymen as a pro-American stooge, to comply, his government would almost certainly fall. To be replaced by what? Probably an Islamic theocracy supported by the military or an outright Islamist military dictatorship.

Or take President Obama’s decision last week to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Even though The White House is under pressure from the powerful pro - Israel lobby America itself accepts that these settlements are illegal. At a time when the Middle East is already mutinous, this course of action looks mad. Given that being sanctioned by the UN is like being attacked by a dead sheep this was certainly one where long term economic interests should have trumped short term opinion poll related issues.

The biggest problem is that Washington and US liberals love to talk of democracy, but do not understand the middle eastern mindset. The history of the Arab world since the collapse of the 800 year old Ottoman Empire in 1922 can be divided schematically into two periods: open colonial rule under the British and French, followed by America’s invisible empire after the Second World War. Now we are entering a third stage, when Arab nations will assert their independence by overthrowing autocratic rulers supported by Washington. It is highly unlikely that all of them will choose a path that the Americans want. From the evidence available, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are out of their depth and incapable of grasping the likely outcome of current events.

This is where the British, who have deep historical connections with the region, and whose own loss of empire is still within living memory, ought to be able to offer some sensible advice. So far the Prime Minister, a neophyte in foreign affairs, has not done so but to be fair to Dave the Americas and the narcissistic and egotistical Obama particularl do not have a great track record on taking advice.

The links between the US and British defence and foreign policy establishments are so close that perhaps it is no longer possible for any British government to act alone in a situation like this. If challenged, our ministers always claim that we use our influence “behind the scenes” with American allies, rather than openly disagree. This is a failed tactic. For example we hear that William Hague tried hard to persuade Hillary Clinton not to veto last week’s Security Council resolution, but was brushed aside. It is time we became a much more candid friend, because the world is changing faster than we know how to adapt.

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