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After Hegemony: America’s Global Exit Strategy

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14 Dec 2012
By Kenneth Weisbrode

What will America look like in a post-American world? The National Intelligence Council, with its just-released Global 2030 forecast, has become the latest voice to join the chorus of those who see U.S. hegemony giving way to a leading but less-dominant position. It is worth considering what the loss of hegemony is likely to mean for America in terms of its trade, influence, reach and voice in international forums. What impact will these and any other consequences have on the way America engages with the world, as well as on its ability to provide the kinds of leadership that make it a hegemon? And how will all this affect the ways Americans live?

Examinations of hegemonic decline have historically focused on the world beyond the imperial center. The barbarian invaders get most of the glory and attention, with the subjects of historical empires who lived in what is called the “metropole,” that is, the imperial center or “homeland,” as understudied as the nature of these places following a hegemonic collapse. In fact, the fate of some more-recent metropoles has been relatively positive over the long run. Austria, Turkey, Britain and even Russia continue to survive as viable countries. Some of them even thrive and may offer useful lessons. Austria, for example, is a small, prosperous, secure and mainly conservative imperial successor state. So is Japan. The question is how Americans will cope with such a changed condition.

A loss of hegemony generally means a loss of access to markets and resources. In the case of the U.S., that would include the loss of global reserve status for the dollar, with implications for trade, government borrowing and interest rates. It will cost Americans more to get what they want, and, at the same time, they will have less to spend. As a result, they will have to do much more to live within their means.

This will make it more difficult to influence or even inspire other societies to follow America’s lead, but it won’t be impossible. Elements of the American character — creativity, pragmatism, adaptability — may continue to serve the country and other nations well, if under different circumstances. Adjusting to those changed circumstances will require a more collaborative and empathetic approach to the way Americans interact with the world.

Speculating about the American future in these circumstances requires a more precise understanding of the effect that global hegemony has already had on the United States and the global system. From the country’s founding to the peak of the industrial era,  some Americans went out of their way to abjure the idea and the reality of hegemony, deliberately eschewing international engagement in the name of what was later called exceptionalism. In the 20th century others did the reverse, also in the name of exceptionalism. Now, in the 21st century,  Americans seem to be doing both at the same time, while coping with ever more serious challenges at home and abroad.

These challenges will likely be exacerbated by a loss of hegemony. At home, it is likely to be accompanied by a decline in prosperity, with potential implications for domestic civility. The proportion of Americans who now live in poverty, currently at 15 percent, will probably increase. National cohesiveness may deteriorate when Americans realize that the cultural, ideological and economic foundations of national “success” are actually much weaker than they imagined.

Abroad, it will further constrain the effectiveness of America’s military as a tool for advancing American interests. America’s relative decline has already nurtured the increasingly widespread perception that the use of American military power limits American influence over the long term. Whereas hard power underwrote soft power — and sometimes vice versa — during America’s hegemonic rise, during its fall the two appear to be at cross-purposes. This reversal is consistent with much of the history of imperial decline.

How will Americans respond to such a world, in which U.S. influence, already limited, is no longer advanced by its military dominance? And if it is true that, as Henry Kissinger said recently, America will remain powerful but not hegemonic, how do you preserve one while losing the other? Will Americans, and the rest of the world, be content with an Austrian or Japanese future for the U.S.? That is hard to imagine. But the alternatives, perpetual empire and national disintegration, are too awful to contemplate.

If today’s preoccupation with decline is any indication, some Americans are in search of something like a grand global exit strategy. It may be better to imagine instead a post-hegemonic condition that retains some of the fruits of American exceptionalism — namely the exportability of its culture and technology — while multiplying the incentives, both domestic and foreign, against the frequent use of military power and other heavy forms of coercion. Time may be running out to shape these two goals in unison.

It is difficult to say what this will mean in practice. Making the world safe for a hegemonic retreat has always been, to some extent, a fantasy: a pre-emptive concession that is too clever by half. Even America cannot dictate the world’s reaction, least of all that of its adversaries and challengers. There also is no fixed or predictable pattern of retreat. Sometimes imperial states, even hegemons, simply just disappear, leaving only the successor states behind.

Kenneth Weisbrode is a diplomatic historian at the European University Institute and author of “The Atlantic Century” (Da Capo).

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Are George Soros, The IMF And The World Bank Purposely Trying To Scare The Living Daylights Out Of Us?

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Over the past couple of weeks, George Soros, the IMF and the World Bank have all issued incredibly chilling warnings about the possibility of an impending economic collapse.  Considering the power and the influence that Soros, the IMF and the World Bank all have over the global financial system, this is very alarming.  So are they purposely trying to scare the living daylights out of us?  Soros is even warning of riots in the streets of America.  Unfortunately, way too often top global leaders say something in public because they want to “push” events in a certain direction.  Do George Soros and officials at the IMF and World Bank hope to prevent a worldwide financial collapse by making these statements, or are other agendas at work?  We may never know.  But one thing is for sure – many of the top financial officials in the world are using language that is downright “apocalyptic”, and that is not a good sign for the rest of 2012.

Right now, George Soros is saying things that he has never said before.  Just check out what George Soros recently told Newsweek….

“I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”

Later on in that same article, Soros is quoted as saying that we could soon see the U.S. government using “strong-arm tactics” to crack down on rioting in the streets of major U.S. cities….

As anger rises, riots on the streets of American cities are inevitable. “Yes, yes, yes,” he says, almost gleefully. The response to the unrest could be more damaging than the violence itself. “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.”

It almost sounds like George Soros is anticipating the same kind of a breakdown of society that many survivalists and preppers are getting ready for.

So how bad are things going to get?

Well, George Soros is publicly warning that the coming financial crisis could end up being even worse than 2008.  Just check out the following quotes from him that appeared in a recent Businessweek article….

Billionaire investor George Soros said Europe’s sovereign-debt woes are “more serious” than the financial crisis of 2008 and that the world faces the prospect of a “vicious circle” of deflation.

“We have a more dangerous situation now than in 2008,” Soros, 81, said in response to a question at an event in the southern Indian city of Bangalore today. “The crisis in Europe is more serious than the crash of 2008.”

But George Soros is not the only one issuing these kinds of warnings.

Once again, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has made a speech in which she openly warned that we are heading for a repeat of the “1930s”.

She told an audience in Berlin on Monday that the globe is facing “a 1930s moment, in which inaction, insularity and rigid ideology combine to cause a collapse in global demand”.

During the speech she called for a trillion more dollars to support financially troubled governments, and she made the following statement….

“It is not about saving any one country or region. It is about saving the world from a downward economic spiral.”

As I wrote about the other day, the World Bank has also been using apocalyptic language about the global financial situation.  In a shocking new report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, it warned that Europe could be facing financial collapse at any time, and it instructed the rest of the world to “prepare for the worst.”

The lead author of the report, Andrew Burns, said that the “importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough” and that if there is a major financial crisis in Europe the entire globe will be deeply affected….

“An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09.”

So should we be alarmed that George Soros, the IMF and the World Bank are all proclaiming that a financial nightmare could be just around the corner?

Of course we should be.

Whether their motives are pure or not, they are telling the truth about the global financial situation in this case.  As I have written about so frequently, there are a whole host of signs that indicate that we could be on the verge of a major global recession.

A lot of folks in the investment world are warning that hard times are about to hit us as well.  For example, the following is what legendary investor Joseph Granville recently told Bloomberg Television….

Joseph Granville, whose “sell everything” call in 1981 sparked a decline in U.S. stocks, said the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) will drop toward 8,000 this year because of waning momentum and volume.

“Volume precedes prices,” Granville, 88, a technical analyst who has been publishing the Granville Market Letter from Kansas City, Missouri for about 50 years, said in an interview on “Street Smart” on Bloomberg Television. “You are seeing much lower volume. That tells you that prices are going to go much lower, much lower than most people think possible and very few people have projected.”

Considering all of the warnings out there, it only seems prudent to prepare for the worst.

But unfortunately, a lot of people are just going to leave their holdings sitting out there like a dead duck, and they are going to be absolutely devastated by the coming financial tsunami.

Those that believe that the United States can somehow escape the coming financial storm don’t really know what they are talking about.

In fact, there was very troubling news for the U.S. dollar just the other day.  It was announced that India will start paying for its oil from Iran in a currency other than U.S. dollars.

But this is just another sign that the rest of the world is starting to reject the U.S. dollar.  For decades, the U.S. dollar has been the reserve currency of the world and this has given us a tremendous advantage.  Unfortunately for us, that is now changing.

U.S. newspapers are not talking about what is going on, but mainstream newspapers in Europe are.  Right now, some of the biggest countries in the world are working on plans to quit using U.S. dollars for the buying and selling of oil.

The following comes from a recent article in The Independent….

In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.

This is a very big deal, and if this gets pulled off it is going to have devastating consequences for the U.S. dollar and for the U.S. economy.

But of course when it comes to troubles for the U.S. financial system, there are a whole host of issues that could be talked about.

An environment for a “perfect storm” is developing, and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is about to happen.

Fortunately, there are some researchers out there that are working hard to sound the alarm bells.  For example, the following quote comes from a recent interview with Gerald Celente….

I believe that we have to watch out for something along the lines of an economic martial law. The European system is in collapse. The financial system in the United States is just as tenuous, if not more, and I believe they will not admit there will be a financial crash but rather they will use a geo-political issue to get the people in a state of fear and hysteria whereby they’ll then call a bank holiday or devaluation of the currency, or a hyperinflation of the currency, and blame it on somebody else.

It would be wise to listen to what experts such as Gerald Celente are saying.

Now is the time to take stock of where you are at and to make plans for the coming year.

Just because things have “always” been a certain way does not mean that they will continue to be that way.

Just because certain things have “always” worked in the past does not mean that they will continue to work in the future.

Our world is experiencing fundamental changes.  It is changing at a faster pace than we have ever seen before.  The way that we all live our lives five or ten years from now will be vastly different from how we live our lives today.

This will be a very challenging time to be alive, but it is also going to be a very exciting time to be alive.

So what do all of you think is going to happen in 2012?

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