The Fall of the US Empire – and Then What?

    Excerpt from The Fall of the US Empire – and Then What?, by Johan Galtung (TRANSCEND University Press, 2009). Reprinted with permission from the author.

    From Chapter 1: Peak Empire: The Magic is Gone

    In the beginning, the benefits by far exceed the costs. But then the costs start climbing, even not counting global warming, till a peak is reached with costs rapidly exceeding benefits. Whether we are there or not is a matter of dispute. Newly discovered deposits–the Arctic, Brazil–change the equation. So do new insights in carbon emissions and global warming. Nor is it obvious that carbon fuels are not also created deep down under very high temperature and pressure conditions, like diamonds[1]. Let us see which discourse gets the upper hand.

    But this book is about Peak Empire. Like organisms, empires have life cycles in the sense of conception, gestation, birth, growth, maturity, aging, senescence and death. Sic transit gloria mundi. Imperialism, like slavery, colonialism and warfare, are major social problems. Birth control might be the best approach, preventing empires from emerging. Failing that, euthanasia comes in as a good second. Failing that, let them die a natural death. When in coma, accord them the right of death, do not prolong their lives unnecessarily.

    This kind of organic imagery will play a role in the book. But in that image, benefits also play a role, not only the costs. Obviously, there are some benefits, to some; if not we would need a theory of human anti-rationality bordering on the suicidal. We are more concerned with the costs than the benefits of empire, like for slavery, but not blind to the benefits. As we shall use economic-military-political-cultural power, and social dimensions of imperialism, we need an understanding of the benefits along all dimensions, for the Periphery as well as for the imperial Center.

    More precise definitions and analysis come later.

    Obviously, the Center is often tempted by such major benefits as economic access to resources and markets, political support, cultural confirmation, and military bases, soldiers and alliances. And the Periphery may think in terms of being included, being in, even with a voice. At the end of the table, served the spoils, may be better than no table at all. With somebody strong to call upon to help a Periphery unable to help itself, even if that help comes at a price. And sometimes good for a stagnant culture to tap into a dynamic one, even if only at the recipient, not the creative end. These are all benefits, no doubt, to some. Systemically, imperialism spells order–hierarchial, but orderly–to Center, and Periphery, alike.

    That is already a lot. Some in the Periphery will be blind to exploitation and brutality and see benefits only. And those who benefit most will start behaving like the Center, acquiring Center tastes and idioms of all kind, looking like the members of the clubs they want to join. They will become the center of the Periphery, putting the vast majority of the Periphery below them. And they will not only be like the center of the Center but share with them the spoils extracted. An Empire starts taking shape[2].

    With the tentacles thus attached, the empire can really start sucking. The metaphor used is not an octopus, but a “tetrapus”, with four tentacles, economic, military, political and cultural. The tetrapus feeds on economic extraction, political submission-repression, military intervention, and cultural cloning[3]. On the tentacles are written hyper-capitalism, interventionist militarism, political hegemonism, and missionary exceptionalism.

    Imperialism is the sum of all these four, not, for instance, hegemonism alone, which covers only or mostly political leadership[4].

    Imperialism is actually more than the sum of the four, being a system-syndrome-structure. The four powers feed into each other for Center benefit. Military power is used to conquer land, resources, producers-consumers, to command submission, and to impose culture. But economic power can also be used to buy all of the above, political power to command them–and cultural power to convince the Periphery that to be exploited, intervened, repressed and cloned are all in their own best interest.

    Somewhere is the cost-benefit equilibrium the USA found in Western Europe for a long time[5]. But, failing to stop, costs start accumulating. Hyper-capitalism sucks the Periphery dry with humans in misery and nature depleted-polluted. Interventionist militarism engenders resistance, the higher the overkill[6]. Hegemonism fuels yearnings for autonomy, to be one’s own master in one’s own house. And missionarism, let alone exceptionalism–with a divinely mandated right to kill–stimulates old identities or creates new ones. Force engenders counter-force. Social processes are dialectic, not linear.

    The empire starts becoming counter-productive. Control costs exceed exploitation benefits, bleeding the Center and the Periphery alike. The Periphery is so weakened by the economic, military, political and cultural assaults that it cannot pay for itself. The multiple “oversucking” goes far beyond any “overstretch”. But the Center sees the Periphery as raw material for religious or secular missionarism, from their moral high ground of exceptionalism. Those in the Periphery should be grateful for the benefits, not whining cry-babies. Their conversion is worth the price–some Center and Periphery suffering.

    But that period is over. Resistance, buoyed by self-reliance, fearlessness, autonomy and own identity in their own idiom, takes shape; violent or not. And the imperial downhill decline starts.

    When did the US Empire peak? Or, when did it start, for that matter? In the prologue, the arrivals of the settlers in Virginia in 1607 and in Massachusetts in 1620 are hinted at, with maybe ten million indigenous, and hundred of indigenous cultures, killed. The land was conquered. It was not empty, it was emptied. By the legitimation of “manifest destiny”, the US Empire became bi-oceanic, covering much of North America, the Americas dominated through the Monroe doctrine, the dying Spanish empire taken over by walking into its emptied shoes. And then came participation in two world wars for major commando positions in world politics[7].

    The peak came right after the end of the Second World War in 1945, with the whole world at the US’ feet. Hitler’s, Mussolini’s and the Japanese beaten empires were up for grabs by the victors; at the time to be shared with the Soviet Union. But the Soviet empire imploded, the Cold War ended and that obstacle disappeared.

    Henry Luce, then owner of Time, Life and Fortune, had already in 1941 announced the First American Century. Some years later, much of Europe and Asia was in ruins. The USA had 50% of the world manufacturing capacity. The US dollar was world currency. The famous “Base Bible”, JCS 570/2[8], spelt out the military implications with bases and alliances: TIAP (Tratado Inter-Americano de la Paz) for Latin America 1947, NATO 1949, the system with Japan, AMPO, 1952.[9] But the US Empire was by then beyond its peak, on a slippery downward slope. Why?

    The US Army had since 1812 always been victorious, imposing the unconditional surrender implied by a divine mandate. With enemies on their knees, the US conditions were hyper-capitalism, militarism, hegemonism and exceptionalism as Periphery of the US Empire, but entitled to establish their own sub-empires. Clearly an offer Germany, Italy and Japan could not refuse. Where was the problem?

    On the Korean peninsula. Korean resistance against the US occupier stepping into the shoes of the beaten Japanese empire started in Jeju 3 April 1948. Maybe that was the precise turning point, leading into the Korean 1950-53 war, which ended with a stalemate, an armistice, and a paranoid US hatred of North Korea. This post-traumatic stress disorder was reinforced 30 April 1975 with the USA defeated by another East Asian nation, Viêt Nam. And China.

    This is already quite far downhill. There is a US “Viêt Nam syndrome” of lack of faith in militarized politics. Naive people, like this author at the time, thought the USA had learnt a lesson about the limits to militarism. Not so. The US Army conducted its own analysis and came up with other conclusions: no slow escalation but a sharp awe-inspiring shock, a non-conscript army recruited from underclass people with a stake in war careers (education paid, green card etc.), embedded journalism (prostitution), policing protests. And wars should be financed by loans from China, Japan, European Union, the Norwegian oil fund etc.; not directly by US tax-payers.

    It paid off. Iraq and Afghanistan engendered nothing remotely similar to the massive protests against the Viêt Nam War.

    The rest is the story of desperate efforts to regain past glory and benefits, now buried in the sands of Iraq and the caves of Afghanistan, in two unwinnable wars. In the 40 days war of 1991, the US Army prevailed militarily over stupid Iraqis with uniformed army, and tanks. But by 2003 they had learnt a lesson, put up a symbolic war, shed the uniforms, mingled with civilians, fought with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide attacks, in other words guerrilla and terrorism, to counter US war and state terrorism. Force engenders counter-force. As mentioned, the process is dialectic, not linear, from modern wars to borderless postmodern warfare, at enormous costs for all involved.

    About this downhill slide, much can be said, much is being said, and more will be said, also later on in this Part One of this book. Right now let us make some comments on US comments on the “decline”.

    First, holistic thinking is not for the US mind, combining four types of power to a syndrome of factors feeding into each other. There will be reductionism to one at a time. There is much talk about the problematic Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But they are both also anti-islam, and islam will never capitulate to infidels. And much talk about the finance economy crisis as “subprime” and “credit crunch”. But the connection between military and economic declines is rarely made.

    How the USA slips in foreign policy influence is reported, like in Latin America with only Peru, Colombia and El Salvador perhaps still submitting to US will. In Africa nobody accepted AFRICOM. And the “rocket shield”, combining the search for invulnerability with very offensive US-NATO weaponry, is resisted by key European countries, so is NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, both bordering on Russia, both with serious internal fault-lines. No automatic submission any longer on any continent, not even in Australia.

    There is concern with the public opinion polls reporting the steep decline in US prestige around the world, on its way from being model to non-model to anti-model. To use the current economic crisis as an example: the USA can no longer use the Washington-based Bretton Woods system to lecture other countries on how to run their economies. This author sees the key factor as a finance economy wildly out of touch[10] with its real economy base, much like the Amsterdam black tulip fever four centuries ago. “Regulation” is a mild word for the therapy, given that China, and particularly islamic banks, seem to be the ones that have weathered the storms best, but hardly with remedies the USA will embrace.

    The basic point is the inability to connect the dots. Of course, wars channel money towards guns rather than butter and investment, and the flight into the hot air of finance economy pyramids is in part a desperate effort to regain economic strength.[11] But as the crisis becomes a depression rather than a recession, the USA becomes a cultural anti-model, like after the 1929 depression, when the Soviet Union with the petiletka, the five years plans, seemed superior, before the Moscow processes threw dark shadows on that brutal empire. No doubt, China and India, and islam, will reap similar comparative cultural benefits from US economic decline.

    Even more basic is inability to see the forest for all the trees. Fix one or two problems, and they will be reproduced by the syndrome logic. Any victory in Iraq-Afghanistan unacceptable to islam will mobilize frontlines among common muslims elsewhere in the ummah of 1.3 billion muslims. Unconditional support for zionist Israel has the same effect. And the US economy will stumble on a lack of trust because so much of it is spent on destruction, wars. It all hangs together, like the symptoms of malignant tumors, or cardio-vascular diseases, terms covering very holistic syndromes.

    Empire, imperialism are such terms, hence indispensable.

    The sucking tetrapus is dying, one tentacle after the other, and the ability to coordinate down there in the deeper recesses of the Washington conglomerate. Like the collapse of the “Washington Consensus” on the one hand, and the almost religious confession by the highest priest of neo-liberalism, the Ayn Rand disciple Alan Greenspan, on the other.[12] The paralysis of the tentacles may pass unregistered by the minuscule tetrapus brain, underdeveloped by universities relegating each tentacle to one discipline-department (economics, international relations, politics, religion), obscuring the totality.

    Second, dialectic thinking is not for the US mind either. Take another deafening silence: reflections on the enormous numbers killed, indispensable to understand possible “blowback”. We are treated to a sanitized empire, a little hegemony gone astray due to concrete persons, not to the bloodbath in its wake.[13]

    There are no children crying over the corpses of their killed parents, sacrificed on the empire altars; no parents hugging the mutilated bodies of their children. Take Fareed Zakaria, a major US commentator, in The Post-American World[14] dedicated to the thesis that what happens now is “the Rise of the Rest” (China, India, Brazil, Russia and others), not the decline of the West, the USA.

    If Zakaria is correct in saying “If America’s economic system is its core strength, its political system its core weakness”[15], in a book published just in time to miss a US economic crisis of 1929 dimensions, one wonders what US politics is like. The section on “American Power” is actually on Britain’s decline, “not because of bad politics but because of bad economics”[16] and to the strength of the US economy, “a quarter of world output for over a century”, “the most competitive economy in the world”, and an education that “produces so many entrepreneurs, inventors, and risk takers”. Like flying into the thin derivative air of CDS’s etc.?

    And, “The American military–dominates at every level-land, sea, air, space–accounting for almost 50 percent of global defense spending–without breaking the bank”. How untrue.

    Nobody is killed in Amu Chua, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance – and Why They Fall[17] either; sanitized, but with insights in another, more durable, empire.

    With no bloodshed, no dialectics: if to actio there is reactio, then to massive killing there is massive revenge, like a 9/11.

    But, staying with military power, is there not a case for Goliath[18], clumsy, oversized like Gulliver, but awesome, even when attacked by hordes of lilliputian Davids, sly, with their slings? Easily ridiculed, and surrounded by Schadenfreude when declining, even falling down, tied up, left to the vultures? Who if not for the USA will then do the dirty job of maintaining “law and order”, for the global marketplace with its center and periphery benefits?

    Equity! And, third, equity is not for the US mind either.

    Who will protect Taiwan against Beijing take-over if not the US Seventh Fleet? Answer: Beijing-Taipeh negotiating, maybe within the Nationalist party, majority in Taiwan and minority in China, but not silenced. Model: “Hong Kong, China.”[19] “Taiwan, China.” Equity.

    How about the Middle East? Things will happen to the joint US-Israel Empire deep-freezing what the English-French treachery eked out of the Ottoman Empire. The USA neither apologizes, nor possesses the “good offices” for mediation, being so identified with Israel as to back Israeli warfare.[20] Answer: Helsinki style Middle East conferences aiming at an equitable confederation for Israel and five Arab neighbors, within international law. Model: The 1958 European Community. A Middle East Community.[21] Equity.

    How about Kashmir? The US Empire did not solve Kashmir, nor did it prevent war India-Pakistan. Answer: an Indo-Pak condominium and a Kashmir community for all seven or so parts.[22] Equity.

    Who will protect Norway against Russia when Arctic oil fields are opened up? Answer: negotiations, building on a millennium of peace producing, good neighbor, relations. Equity. And, leave the oil where it is, it has produced enough damage already.

    See 50 Years: 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives[23] for more, for the past see Pax Pacifica[24], and Part Two of this book. Goliath, retire.

    Answers must be found within regional and global peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding, not by calling on an US empire in an irreversible, if not linear, decline. Because the magic is gone.

    There is that intangible quality to an empire at its peak, beyond naked militarism sustaining exploitation and submission. The Romans ran the Roman Empire with it,[25] adding a millennium (476-1453) for the Eastern branch. The British had it. Even the Soviet empire possessed some magic, some time.

    What is this magic? Maybe imperial ability to project a sense of mission beyond self-enrichment and -aggrandizement. For that they have to prove that those who are imperialized are at a higher level than those out there not included, maybe even refusing to be, outside the limes, the Wall. The Romans called them barbarians. So do the Chinese, surrounded by the Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western varieties.

    The Spanish, greatly legitimized by the Spanish born Pope Alexander VI and his decree, the Bolla Papale of 4 May 1493, made their empire a community of the believers. So did the Muslims long before them, with their incredible expansion, reaching Baghdad around 700, founding the Sultanate of Delhi in 1192; but then massacred in Baghdad 1258 at the hands of Djenghis Khan’s grandson Hulagu in cooperation with the Pope.

    The British, like the French, Belgians, Dutch, Germans and Italians, and the Americans, were on a mission civilisatrice, spreading their civilizations to those short on that commodity. Curiously, to be civilized included willingness to trade on the terms stipulated by the imperialists. And the imperializers also made it clear that the God of their variety was on their side, somebody you better respect. Or else.

    For the Soviets substitute History with capital H for God; with Marx as the Revealer and Lenin as St Paul in the marxist-leninist faith. And the USA–all of the above. Backed by both the Judaic, the Christian and English[26] sense of chosenness the USA saw itself like Israel, justified in claiming exceptionalism, above the laws for ordinary nations, an indispensable nation ushering in a full-scale End of History, not merely one more stage of that process.

    There is a problem in laying on the mission that thick. With divine backing come military, economic and political implications: unconditional surrender of any Other, closing all deals to their own advantage, extracting obedience wherever. Fine, but what if they start losing, like not winning in Korea, losing in Viêt Nam, and not winning in Iraq and Afghanistan? What if the deals encounter massive resistance? What if obedience has to be extracted with bribery[27] , CIA covert, and Pentagon overt, interventions, well covered by John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hitman?[28]

    The USA, being almost interchangeable with God, should be obeyed as such, not because of the “I give something to you, you something to me” tricks of ordinary countries. Bargaining, bribery and intervention make it look like the mandate has been withdrawn and the Chosen have become Unchosen. The lustre becomes less shiny. There will be desperate efforts “not to look weak”. Some small comfort can be derived for a short while from seeing others as chosen by Satan, the Evil one, even organized in an Axis.

    With military, economic and political power justified by myths and beliefs, but unsupported by faith, the magic starts unraveling in any tetrapus tentacle. Power becomes secular. Action has to be justified by controversial economic-military-political rationality.

    The magic is gone. And the Empire will soon follow.


    [1] See F. William Engdahl, “War and ‘Peak Oil'”, Global Research, 26 September 2007;

    [2] This is in brief outline the essence of “A Structural Theory of Imperialism” with the two centers growing together at the expense of the periphery of the Periphery, the latter often being the indigenous.

    [3] A major factor here, of course, is educational and scientific attractiveness; people flocking to the Center to get knowledge about Center knowledge and its production.  It belongs to an empire beyond its peak that the attractiveness decreases, as when Newsweek, 22 November 2004, reports that “For the first time in more than three decades, foreign enrollment in U.S, higher-ed institutions decreased last year, according to a report from the Institute of International Education.  International Herald Tribune, 22 December 2004, “U.S. universities face greater competition from abroad” reports “Chinese applications to U.S. graduate schools fell 45 percent this year”.

    The New York Times, 3 May 2004 reported “U.S. is Losing its Dominance in Science”; the percentage of patents is falling; so is the percentage of scientific articles (from 61 percent in 1983 to 29 percent in 2003, according to Physical Review); and Senator Edward Kennedy told Meet the Press 23 April 2006 that China is graduating 650,000 engineers and India 350,000 as against the USA 72,000.

    [4] Wikipedia defines hegemony as “consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force–and related notions of empire–a power that can dictate the policies of all other powers in its vicinity”.  Bob Woodward reported in The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 that Bush found even hegemony a problematic word, a Washington-loaded word. Not strange that Ron Paul was alone among the key primary candidates using the term, talking about “too much American Empire” (CNN, 3 September 2008), and the many bases in the many countries as something the USA cannot afford.  On another occasion he said, “Let me see if I understand this correctly.  You people want to go out and borrow millions of dollars from the Chinese communists in order to give the money to the unelected dictator of Pakistan while you’re continuing to kill people in Iraq for the sake of democracy”.  A very sophisticated analysis of Empire in its many dimensions with tentacles sucking at very different places; far beyond hegemony.  The commentator added: “What was amazing was that you could tell from the faces of the other candidates that they didn’t see anything odd about that.”

    [5] For an analysis, see Geir Lundestad, The United States and Western Europe since 1945–From “Empire” by Invitation to Transatlantic Drift, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.  The book shows clearly the intellectual-political danger in dealing with a phenomenon, “Empire” with or without quote-unquote, only regionally, not globally-holistically. The US Empire in Asia has major impact on the US Empire elsewhere, including the equilibrium with minor oscillations in Western Europe.

    [6] Since there is much George Bush, a Republican, in a book mostly dealing with 2000-2009, the bipartisan character of overkill should be pointed out, by quoting a Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, a Democrat: “When asked by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes about the alleged death of half a million Iraqi children as a result of sanctions, Albright said calmly, ‘We think the price is worth it.’ However, while she now admits that her answer was a political mistake, she does not seem disturbed by the level of casualties inflicted by the sanctions, nor does she seem aware that the sanctions are a major reason neither the United States, nor the UN has received a warm welcome in Iraq, even among Saddam’s Shiite opponents”, The Nation, 23 February 2004. “Devaluing Life”, Peter Singer, The Namibian, 17 February 2006, has causes and consequences: “His [Bush’s] consistent pattern of readiness to inflict civilian casualties… suggests that Bush and other pro-life American leaders have less concern for the lives of innocent human beings… than they have for human embryos.” In the USA, there is some safety in not yet being born.

    George Kennan’s famous statement from 1948 falls in the same category: “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population… Our real task… is to maintain this position of disparity… We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction” (quoted from Rich Perlstein, “Chinese Mirrors“, The Nation, 25 June 2007.

    [7] See Gore Vidal, The Golden Age, New York: Doubleday, 2000.  Somebody has said that if he were not such a brilliant writer, he would have been one of the leading US historians. His thesis actually goes further.  Both Wilson and Roosevelt wanted to join the wars in order to set up an international regime they could dominate.  But US public opinion was against, so they had to provoke the Germans (First World War) and the Japanese (Second World War) into attacking in order to be able to enter.  Tragedy: the US Senate did not ratify the League of Nations, and Roosevelt’s day of death (12 April 1945) came well ahead of the United Nations day of birth (24 October).

    [8] This document, presented to President Roosevelt in autumn 1943 as a global study of bases, for an “International Peace Force”, is also known as “The Base Bible”.  The bias toward the Pacific Hemisphere is clearly shown: of the 75 foreign bases proposed, 53 were in the Pacific and 22 in the Atlantic area.  See Hayes, Zarsky, Bello, American Lake: Nuclear Peril in the Pacific, Penguin, 1986, 1987. There is a predecessor for this type of thinking by the US military: “Between WWI and WWII, the United States developed and approved as official national policy three major war plans: a) War Plan ORANGE against Japan, b) War Plan GREEN against Mexico, and c) War Plan RED against the UK–Special Plan VIOLET for interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean–War Plan WHITE for suppressing internal insurrection by US citizens, but it was not developed or approved… Germany was colored black, but there was never any War Plan BLACK… War Plan Red was the largest… a war with the UK would begin by US interference in British Commonwealth commercial trade… the British navy would take the Philippines, Guam, Hawai’i and the Panama Canal.  In exchange for these losses, the US would invade and conquer Canada, which was color coded CRIMSON… It was not a plan of defense.  The US would start the war, and even should Canada declare neutrality, it was still to be invaded and occupied.”  See Floyd Rudmin, “Plan Crimson: War on Canada“, CounterPunch, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1, 4-6. Thus thinks an Empire.

    [9] In “A Four-Star Foreign Policy”, The Washington Post, 28 September 2000, by Dana Priest and Alice Crites, US regional Commanders-in-Chief, CINCs, of the Southern, European (included Africa), Central and Pacific Commands are referred to as “pro-consuls”, wielding considerable and rising clout.The Central Command, focused on the Middle East, comes in addition to the other three already in the JCS memorandum.

    [10] Particularly the CDS, the infamous “credit default swaps”. As to the magnitude of the costs, Joseph Stiglitz’ work is basic, the problem in quoting is that he goes on counting. US wars are financed in many ways: [1] by paying in dollars to be spent buying US products, including (often used) military “goods” (“U.S. leads the World in Sale of Military Goods” by Frida Berrigan, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 12 September 2005), also by dictatorships, and for use against their own people.  That means a US vested interest in warfare all over the world to help pay for their own. [2] by borrowing money, from China, Japan, EU, the Norwegian oil fund, etc., who have to be controlled lest they start selling (Todd Zaun, “Japan goes abroad to find buyers of its bonds”, International Herald Tribune, 15-16 January 2005), gambling on “yield increases as the inflation rate rises… We should have been long doing this.” [3] by printing money with the obvious long term inflationary effect. Inflating the dollar might help servicing the debt. [11].

    [12] Washington Post reports that when asked by the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Henry A. Waxman,”You found that your world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?”, Greenspan responded, “Absolutely, precisely”. Strong words.

    See Michael Cox, “September 11th and U.S. World Hegemony–Or Will the 21st Century be American too?”, in International Studies Perspectives 2002, Number 3, pp. 53-70, contrasting hegemony with uni-polarity, not with empire, in favor of the former–with no killing, but some “winning wars”, and much “capability”.  In the same vein, Lars Mjöset, in “The Turn of Two Centuries: A Comparison of British and U.S. Hegemonies”, Chapter 2 in D. P. Rapkin, ed., World Leadership and Hegemony (Boulder, Colorado, and London: Lynne Rienner, 1990) mentions the economy, trade, monetary aspects, but security focuses on the big power alliance systems.  He concludes with “Japanese financing of the U.S. budget deficit, increasing technology transfers from Japan to the United States, and modification of the Japanese stance on rearmament” (p. 46)–all of that happens, but insignificant relative to the independent, not client, role played by China. [13].

    [14] New York: Norton, 2008.

    [15] Op. cit, p. 109.

    [16] Op. cit., p. 180.

    [17] Doubleday, 2008.  An empire according to Chua succeeds as long as it is tolerant, with intolerance comes decline and fall. In that case the US Empire should have declined from the very beginning, as little tolerance was observed in the Anglo relation to reds (first nations, killed or driven into reservations) blacks (slaves), browns (Hawai’ians, occupied, annexed, diseased, deprived of land and culture), Cuban blacks, Filipino indigenous, etc.  The center of US academia does not live up to its key mission, to deliver an image of the world with truth as the hallmark of research.  Thus, Harry Magdoff, who died recently at the age of 92, was the author of the superb The Age of Imperialism (1969) and the co-editor of Monthly Review, marxist, since that year.  A brilliant outsider, doing the job.  The USA would have benefitted from more search, research and re-research in this field.

    Two important books in this tradition are Emmanuel Todd, After the Empire, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002 and Samir Amin, Beyond US Hegemony?, London: ZED Books, 2006; both strongly recommended.  They speak best for themselves.  However, from the perspective of this book they are too economistic, not in the sense that the analysis of the economy is not valid, but in the sense that military, political and cultural power recede into the background (but see Amin’s “The clash of political cultures”, pp. 17-21).  Todd narrows his analysis further to a focus on fertility, making Tony Judt, in his review in “Anti-Americans Abroad“, The New York Review of Books, 1 May 2003, conclude that “the link he claims to have uncovered between fertility and regime collapse has gone to his head” (p. 26). Blind forces are at work, rather than concrete policies to build, and maintain, the empire, using all four power types, ultimately resorting to crude and brute military force.  Had the empire been only economic, some policy changes might solve problems, like less focus on trade.  But the full power play, and display, add up to a strength that ultimately becomes its weakness: too many cracks, too many vulnerabilities, too many contradictions.  More holistic is “Alternatives to Empire”, by Muzaffar, Camilleri and Pargeter, in Just Commentary, May 2007: “Put simply, the US-led Empire, understood as a complex structure of political, economic and military power, is in considerable difficulty, a situation that carries economic risks but also considerable opportunities.”  Also see Michel Collon, “What will the US foreign policy be tomorrow?”,

    [18] See Michael Mandelbaum, The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the 21st Century, Public Affairs, 2006.  Some government; given the numbers killed, wounded, bereaved and displaced in Iraq alone.  Admittedly, however, valid for some insensitive “Allies”, high up on the world ranking system, on insensitivity, and on a good portion of racism and regionalism (eg. anti-muslim), protecting them against taking in such “costs” (read “enormities”).

    [19] For details see 50 Years: 100 Conflict & Peace Perspectives, TRANSCEND University Press, 2008, chapter 37, pp. 110-11.

    [20] This position, in my view, is not due to the “Jewish lobby” but to the fact that Israel and the USA came into being the same way: through divinely mandated settler colonialism, driving the people living there out, into reservations or extermination.  There were other countries with that genesis: Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand–all dominions in the British Empire, and all, like Israel and the USA, produced by that empire and settled by the British–with the exception of Israel.  South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are now leaving the club of automatic support for Israel, making the power structure more naked.

    [21] For details, see 50 Years: 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives, TRANSCEND University Press, 2008, chapter 16, pp 46-55.

    [22] For details see 50 Years: 100 Conflict & Peace Perspectives, TRANSCEND University Press, 2008, chapter 49, pp. 144-45.

     TRANSCEND University Press, 2008,[23].

    [24] London: Pluto, Boulder CO: Paradigm Press, 2005.

    [25] “The Roman empire–extended Roman citizenship to ruling groups and non-slave peoples throughout the empire.  Combined with a vision of the empire providing peace and prosperity for all created that intangible but essential moral element called legitimacy”, Walden Bello, “The Economics of Empire“, International Movement for a Just World, May 2004.

    [26] On the English sense of having “been uniquely selected by God”, a “covenanted people, like ancient Israel”, etc., see Jeremy Paxman, The English, A Portrait of a People (New York NY: The Overlook Press, 2000), pp. 93ff.  The Puritans, then, bestowed this grace on their promised land in Massachusetts, USA.  For the English story, see Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781-1997 (New York: Knopf, 2008), William Roger Lewis, The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization (Tauris, 2007) and N. B. Dirks, The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). For a summary, consider this quote from Cecil Rhodes of Rhodesia and Rhodes scholars fame: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories” (  Ricardo’s comparative advantages!
    Lord Kitchener can also serve as a summary.  After the 1898 Omdurman massacre of the Mahdi uprising, the Empire was his, with the task of crushing the Boer uprising in South Africa, burning their farms, and massive use of concentration camps for women and children.  First World War commander-in-chief, his ship was struck by a German mine, and he drowned near the Orkneys.  Sic transit.

    [27] In a CNN interview 2 March 2009 US Representative Neil Armstrong, chairperson of one of the House Armed Services Committees, said that the “surge” was US bribery not to kill Americans, not a military operation.

    [28] San Francisco CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2004.

    Excerpted from The Fall of the US Empire – and Then What? by Johan Galtung. Copyright © Johan Galtung, 2009. All rights reserved.

    Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, was born in 1930 in Oslo, Norway. He is a mathematician, sociologist, political scientist and the founder of the discipline of peace studies. He founded the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (1959), the world’s first academic research center focused on peace studies, as well as the influential Journal of Peace Research (1964). Author of many essays and books on peace, he is the holder of the Right Livelihood Award 1987 and the Norwegian Humanist Prize, 1988. He has helped found dozens of peace centers around the world.

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