I think about history a lot. And when historians look back to the beginning of this century, I’m beginning to get the sense that the only story they will be able to tell is one of US imperial consolidation. This could easily be just one part of a three-parter, but I don’t think I’m going to bother to tell the other parts of the story, because they are adequately covered elsewhere. Most know that US oil and gas is now dominant in the world, and that the US dollar is stronger than it has ever been. But few understand how much our own foreign policy disasters cleared the way for that dollar and petro-supremacy. With today’s video I lay that out…
Video Transcript after the jump…
So you guys know the United States has pretty much won right? For 30 years now we have been swimming in stories about US decline. A lot of these critiques, from the cost of basic goods like healthcare, education and housing to our shamefully declining life expectancy are 100% on point. But when it comes to foreign policy, the simple fact is that the United States has completely demolished all potential rivals. When historians look at the first two decades of this century, I think the only story they will be able to tell is one of US imperial consolidation.
This probably isn’t a good thing. All this spending on weapons and destruction has stolen resources from our crumbling infrastructure and failing health, housing and education systems. And it hasn’t made anybody any happier. Worldwide resentment of the United States is very high, and our strategy of dominance has made nuclear war much more possible than it needed to be. 21 years of using chaos to bend the world to our will was a risky and unnecessary strategy that will almost certainly come back to bite us in the end. But it’s now impossible to deny it worked.
The best way to see this is to look at the US’s most plausible rival circa 2000, the European Union. The European Coal and Steel Community started out in the 1950s as a tool of US cold war organization. But by the late 1990s the EU it was evolving into was slipping out of our grasp. The Soviet Union had been defeated, and history was over. The business of the world was now business, and the European Union was a disturbingly good competitor. With the accession of the rapidly growing Eastern European countries scheduled for 2004, Europe would have a bigger economy than the United States. With the founding of the Euro, established in 2000, the world all of a sudden had a plausible alternative reserve currency.
The true nightmare scenario was that the European power bloc would continue spreading East and add Russia’s nuclear arsenal and vast natural resources to a continent wide resistance to American power. In 2003, George W. Bush briefly made this a reality when Russia, Germany and France combined forces to attempt to block the US’s invasion of Iraq. All of that looks very distant now. And not just thanks to Ukraine. Because the past 20 years of US actions have utterly destroyed the European threat.
Now with what follows, I don’t want to imply that the destruction of EU power and independence was part of any coherent plan by the United States. Very little of it was.
The primary mission of the US government throughout this century has been selling weapons. The defense industry is a surprisingly small part of the US economy, but it’s the most important part to Washington DC, because it’s a business that is entirely government controlled. There’s a lot more money in tech, energy, finance and other sectors, but those parts of the economy are unpredictable and vulnerable to Competition and markets. With the defense industry ,Congress has complete control and endless opportunities for corruption, so DC’s highest priority is always keeping wars going, and scaring the US public enough to keep defense budgets high.
I have long condemned the US’s strategy of chaos, but over the past couple months I have come to a disturbing realization. Chaos is bad. But with two oceans as our borders, and the most self-sufficient economy on the planet, the United States is the best situated country to survive the chaos we create. The European Union’s independence has not survived.
After the 9-11 attacks, the United States had free reign to do anything it wanted. We could have inaugurated a new era of peace and prosperity. Instead we let a pack of our dumbest cold warriors work down their leftover check list. France, Germany and Russia were completely vindicated in opposing the US invasion of Iraq, a country that you can walk to from the European Union. In the first decade of this century it looked like the US was the biggest loser from Iraq, but the damage the invasion had done to Eurasia was deeper than anybody had imagined.
Even worse George W. Bush smashed the post cold war era of good feelings. He re-established the idea that military spending and conquest was what being a great power was about. Two developing countries with nowhere near the resources of the United States, Russia and China, spent the next two decades trying and failing miserably to live up to Bush’s horrifically stupid example. In 2022 the world has begun to see through the fog of Pentagon propaganda and see just how not ready for prime time these supposed US rivals are. But Bush’s example, and his war on terror, have left us with a much more chaotic world.
US financial mismanagement probably struck the greatest blow against Europe. Throughout the post world war II era, and up until 2008, European companies ran about equal with the United States in rankings of the world’s biggest companies. That hasn’t been true for a decade. And this isn’t just about US tech dominance, European banks remain much smaller than US banks today. US banks eventually recovered from their bad investments in US real estate. European banks have not. At some point in the 2010s US GDP surpassed that of the entire European Union. Today, even if the EU added Russia and Turkey, the US would still be a bigger economy.
And don’t get me started on the Euro. The still not quite resolved crisis of Greece, European demographics, and the EU’s continued inability to act as if it has a unified financial system have largely taken the Euro out of the running as a dollar competitor. People still own it as a reserve currency, but nobody thinks it’s replacing the dollar anytime soon.
The financial subjugation of the EU wasn’t the only result of US policies this century. We also managed to dismember the Union as well. To their eternal shame, two European governments helped create the conditions that made Brexit possible.
Popular mythology still holds that it was David Cameron’s Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy’s France that led the way in the 2011 destruction of Libya. This is of course nonsense. Scooping out the heart of North Africa’s economy, creating a lost economic decade for the continent, and a decade worth of profitable military intervention in the Sahel would have been impossible without US military power. But British and French window dressing were useful to the US destruction of both Libya and Syria over the past 10 years. The old West European imperial powers weren’t immune to that same ruinous mid-power “me-tooism” that have turned Russia and China into such a joke this century.
With Libya and Syria, the two main gateways to Europe destroyed, the human consequences of US foreign policy, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Somalia, were set free to roll towards Europe. This Refugee crisis smashed what little unity and good will the EU had after the financial crisis. This was enough to provide a slim victory to the Leave party in the Brexit referendum, robbing the EU of one of its biggest economies, and essentially giving the United States a massive colony right off the coast of Europe.
Chaos is a ladder, and the US is good at climbing it. Another great weapon against the EU was ginning up fear of the more chaotic world we had created. Hilariously, because of domestic nationalism, Russia and China have been eagerly complicit in building the fiction that the world’s chaos was anybody’s fault other than that of the United States.
Washington, DC wants Russia and China to look strong for the purposes of expanding the US defense budget. And Moscow and Beijing want Russia and China to look strong for domestic political purposes. So everybody’s been blabbing about a multi-polar world and American decline as both of those possibilitues have been receding further and further into the future. It’s been a perfect storm of propaganda that we have only begun to see through now in 2022. But the veil didn’t start to lift until Russia blundered into ending European independence for another generation.
After the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the 2008 financial crisis, and the 2015 refugee crisis, Europe got weaker, but it also got more and more interested in getting away from it’s toxic dependence on the United States. In Iran and Russia policy the EU kept trying to go its own way, and stubbornly held on to the idea that Russia would cooperate against the US if Germany just bought enough energy. And it probably would have worked too if it weren’t for Donald Trump.
The United States has worked hard to use Ukraine to divide Russia and Europe for a generation now. But before Trump we always acted with a consciousness that we were playing with nuclear fire and could only push Russia so far. All that went out the window in 2016.
Enraged by Trump’s election and looking for scapegoats, the Democrats and the National Security State launched an anti-Russia mania that made all prior red scares look rational and restrained by comparison. Despite Trump’s friendly rhetoric, the Republican war mongers in the Trump administration launched a massively aggressive package of sanctions on Russia and arms packages for Ukraine. We forget this, but Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on a platform of making peace with Russia. His efforts were completely sabotaged by Democrats who saw a sinister Russian behind every potted plant, and a Trump administration that dragged Ukraine into a plot that eventually got the US president impeached. This chaos was terrible for Ukraine, terrible for Russia, and terrible for Europe. But it’s worked out pretty well for the United States.
In February 2022, after 6 years of US propaganda openly proclaiming we already were with Russia, that gave Vladimir Putin an inflated sense of its own capacities, Russia invaded Ukraine. As I and a few others predicted, the result has been abject humiliation for Russia. But people who read already knew Russia was a joke. What’s much more important is how much weaker this invasion has made Europe.
Europe’s energy diplomacy with Russia is over. The chances of a Russian attack on NATO were always slim, and are now zero, but honor and European human rights pretensions now demand that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine be crushed. Europe simply can’t do that without the United States. With every European country arming up, and the Russian arms industry completely discredited, Washington DC now has a defense industry gravy train that makes the war on terror look like peanuts.
Even though Europe is in infinitely less danger today, with The Donbass being threatened rather than Berlin, Europe is now just as US dependent as it was in the 1950s, and it will be for the next generation. The United States broke everything. And we won.