A smaller America could be a stronger America

August 25, 2011

By Nader Mousavizadeh
The opinions expressed are his own.

Last week, China quietly launched the aircraft carrier Varyag from the port of Dalian. The ship is expected to be deployed to Hainan province in close proximity to the strategic regions of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Amidst an atmosphere of existential gloom triggered by the debt-ceiling debacle and the deeper economic crisis, the reaction in the United States was dominated by the fear of a rising, militarist China challenging America’s global superiority. What few in the United States bothered to mention, however, is that the new Chinese carrier was built from an unfinished Ukrainian hull purchased in 1998 – and is the first and only aircraft carrier China has ever had. The United States, meanwhile, has eleven.

The real problem with the U.S. response was not, however, that it exaggerated the Chinese threat. It is that it greatly overestimates the benefits, to America, of the country’s continuing quest for global supremacy – politically, economically and militarily. To lament America’s decline from a dominant position of unaffordable and unsustainable strategic burdens is, in fact, to mistake an opportunity for a threat. For all of the past decade’s concerns around the world about the reach and military assertiveness of U.S. unilateralism, it seems increasingly clear that its principal casualty has been the U.S. itself. America is choking on the edifice of empire and the sooner it’s dismantled, the easier will be America’s return to a leading – not the leading – position as a dynamic, innovative economy.

Consider briefly what the past decade’s economic policies, military interventions and strategic priorities have brought the country: a Great Recession, debts that are fundamentally irrecoverable, a credit crisis, a housing collapse, and two wars with immense costs in lives and treasure. A country that employs more than one million people within its intelligence community, and still is surprised by the Arab Spring, is not being efficient with its resources. Waste and corruption are endemic to any enterprise of this size – and the U.S. military-industrial complex has been no exception.

Six numbers tell the story of empire’s price in stark terms: federal deficits, gross debt, military spending, infrastructure investment, income inequality and now endemic joblessness:

  • Seen over a ten-year span, federal revenue has largely stayed constant, rising from $2.02 trillion in 2001 to $2.17 trillion in FY 2011. Expenditures, meanwhile, more than doubled from $1.85 trillion to $3.82 trillion producing a deficit this year of $1.65 trillion.
  • Over the same period, gross U.S. debt has ballooned to over $14 trillion (roughly 100% of GDP) with net debt standing today at $9 trillion (of which 50% is held by non-U.S. entities).
  • Defense expenditure over the same period has risen from approximately $300 billion in the year prior to 9/11 to $700 billion in FY 2011, and the figure is hundreds of billions higher if military spending outside the Defense Department is included. The total costs (estimated and very likely low-balled) of the Wars of 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq now stands at some $1.5 trillion, financed of course entirely by deficit spending.  The result is that the U.S. now spends more on its defense budget than all other countries combined.
  • The U.S., which once led the world in infrastructure development, now spends just 2.0% of GDP in such investments, as opposed to 5% in the EU and 9% in China. Of the 30 largest infrastructure projects globally, half are in developing economies and just five are in the U.S.  A single Chinese project (the $150 billion North-South water diversion plan) involves more than double in total investment ($65 billion) of all five current U.S. projects.
  • Looking at the U.S. gini coefficient, the most commonly used measure of inequality, no country in the developed world today has a greater gap between rich and poor.  U.S. inequality is currently at levels not seen since the first decade of the 20th century – and greater even than in 1929.
  • Finally, last week’s payroll report for July showed that nearly fourteen million Americans are now out of work, and more than six million of them have been jobless for more than six months. For more than two years, the unemployment rate has been close to or above nine per cent – and if you include those people who’ve given up looking for work it’s nearly double that.

If this is what global dominance looks like, who needs it?

Not that such a recognition appears anywhere on the horizon when listening to U.S. politicians or policy-makers – from either side of the political spectrum. Instead, reactions appear divided between those on the far right who appear to wish for perpetual hegemony while blithely defaulting on the full faith and credit of the U.S.; and those on the left who are hoping that the present crisis could trigger a second “Sputnik moment” – one that will shock America into redoubling its efforts to achieve global leadership through responsible policy-making. What this hope – fanciful as it seems today – assumes is that restoring the country to its pre-eminent global position is actually a good thing for America. It isn’t.

A nation that thinks it can do anything will do everything – deploy its military to wars of questionable strategic value at a vast cost in lives and treasure; issue IOUs in the trillions to finance consumption; turn the advantage of international reserve currency status into a curse by spending far beyond what creditors are likely to tolerate in the long term; and sustain the fiction of entitlements that no serious observer thinks will be honored.

A victim of strategic gluttony, America has gorged itself for the past two decades on unbridled consumption and military expenditure. And now, like an aging prize-fighter mounting the scales in advance of a major bout only to find that he’s disqualified on grounds of weight, the U.S. will need go on a crash diet.

None of this is to ignore the unique threats and responsibilities that the United States faces today – largely, though not completely, as a consequence of its hegemonic status. 9/11 was an attack on the country that required a strong and sustained global response. Nor is it to discount the future need for the U.S. to help provide essential global public goods – in trade, economy, and security.  It is rather to say that even those challenges will be met more successfully by a rebooted and re-sized America that engages with the world as a strategic partner, and not as patron.

From Brazil to Indonesia, Turkey to South Africa, the rising pivotal powers are not looking to replace U.S. hegemony with Chinese dependency.  In fact, as they focus on strategies of inclusive growth that sustain accountability and legitimacy, the mobile networked younger generations of these countries will continue to look to America as a model in many respects.  A new partnership with a right-sized America disciplined by limitations and constraints is there to be forged – if only U.S. political leaders are willing to rethink the value of empire.

In an Archipelago World defined by the fragmentation of power, capital and ideas where the winners will be those states able to vertically integrate public and private interests, America’s present global posture is more a curse than a blessing. Competitiveness, growth, innovation, and influence are today more a function of intellectual capital and a high-tech infrastructure built to navigate a resource-constrained future. And if you’re asking yourself who will stand up for the victims of aggression and human rights abuses around the world, an exhausted, over-extended, deeply indebted America “leading from behind” it is not.

Rid of the burdens of empire, mentally and physically, the United States will remain a singular country in the world – with its openness, ingenuity, diversity, rule of law, moral purpose and ability to renew itself. An object lesson in the paradox of power, the decline of the American Empire may well be the best thing that can happen to the American Republic – and the sooner the better.


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great article… this country was founded against imperialism but look where we are… a failing arrogant nation… no more wars… we do not want to fight other people’s wars including Israel…

Posted by Ocala123456789 | Report as abusive

Excellent commentary. We can start by disengaging militarily in Europe and Asia. Stop subsidizing Israel. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible. Become more fiscally transparent: get the wars ON the books, and start disclosing the obscene payments to mercenary companies. Scrap “black” budget concepts. Get McDonalds and Starbucks OUT of military bases. Cancel the F-35. Means test for Social Security and Medicare. Reinstitute a Civilian Conservation Corps. Cancel the Bush tax cuts. Drastically reduce corporate farm subsidies. Institute tax penalties for offshoring skilled technical work.

Posted by Quatermass | Report as abusive

Sounds to me like you need to transfer to Russia or better yet find quaint little country ruled by a dictator. The first respondent has it right. America needs desperately to return to its roots and be reminded that our great country was built on collective individual desire to be the best and succeed! Instead, we have chosen a path of demanding more and more be given to our citizens. Why are there over 44 million people on food stamps? Because our illustrious leaders have conditioned a large percentage of our Nation that it’s OK to underachieve and that Uncle Sam will always be there with a handout and a hug for those who are lazy, unpatriotic leeches. Wake up America and let’s take back our Nation! This can be achieved by simply electing individuals to office who want a much smaller and less intrusive government.

Posted by RSDallas | Report as abusive

Well written commentary…

But what are the chances of the US elites buying into the premise that empire is no longer an option? We have a one party oligarchy running the the government. Their constituencies are the ultra-rich, stateless global corporations, Wall Street banksters and the Likud bloc. Whether “demopublicans” or “republicrats” our so-called leaders respond only to the highest bidders.

The corporate media plays along with the charade, providing the illusion of some great debate raging in Washington, while the elite carry on business as usual. The elections of 2008 and 2010 only confirm this — all sorts of talk about change, but business as usual.

Unfortunately it will take some sort of catastrophe or collapse to wake up the American public and “throw the bums out”.

Posted by upstater | Report as abusive

Wow! A journalist who has his eyes open and can think critically! Very rare indeed. Of course, you’ll never succeed. You probably can’t take illogical orders or say stupid things to get more readers like your bosses want. Oh well, a great flash in the pan you were!

Posted by possibilianP | Report as abusive

Sorry, pardon my ignorance. I see you are not a journalist. That explains everything. And you worked for Goldman so you’ve seen some very bad behavior.

Posted by possibilianP | Report as abusive

Have you lost your mind? Not a single recognition of any of the salient points of history and political evolution from the past 100 years. This reminds me of the old quote from Shakespeare about a …”tale told by an idiot, full of sound and furry, signifying nothing.” And this passes for some form of intellectual discourse?

Posted by Thucydides | Report as abusive

All Mr M does is stir the pot without coming up with solutions. We know these things, everyone does, but greed and power blind people

A better article would be:

America getting back to it’s core beliefs. Beliefs that it was founded on. All men are equal and created under God. Reinstitute core faith hope and love, and love of neighbor and all these problems will go away. Turn off the TV. Get off the internet. Go for a walk and figure out what is important.

Posted by cmhmp10sd | Report as abusive

Brilliantly stated, Mr. Mousavizadeh. I note your detractors complained, but failed to explain the bases for those complaints. That said, these points have been made by very many people, very many times. But they DO need to be re-stated at every turn.

I doubt that as elegant, simple and reasoned as this analysis is, the political/financial/industrial sectors can or will heed it. Color me a cynic, but I see no realistic possibility that America will do what it needs to do when it needs to do it. Rather, I believe the absurdity of our direction will continue until it all collapses catastrophically. We WILL experience a re-set, but I am skeptical it will be accomplished rationally and purposefully.

Your effort to steer the readjustment in this way is noble, good, and “ought” to be made. I would love to have my skepticism shown to be unfounded. That can only be accomplished with discourse such as yours here. So thank you.

Posted by BowMtnSpirit | Report as abusive

It is too costly to act as world police even for United State. Now it’s time to let United Nation take care of international affairs. Give United Nation resources and power to do this.

Posted by Anthony1223 | Report as abusive

Wait a minute! You don’t mean we should stop giving a couple billion each year to Israel and Egypt so they won’t shoot at each other do you? How absurd!

Or that we should cut out the billions we give Afghanistan for the meritorious cause of nation building – have you lost your mind? Then there are the extorted billions we give Pakistan lest they fail to keep a close rein on their nukes, surely you are not saying we should cut that spending back. Are you some kind of journalistic heretic?

Or you just might be a journalist with a brain. Now if you’ll go a step further and tell all those that think and sleep “green” the only way to make a difference on our environmental peril is worldwide population control, you could be a genius! But frankly I doubt you have the courage to espouse an idea that really could save spaceship earth. It’s not part of your ilk or politicians either for that matter. Oh well, so much for the wild life habitat and polar ice caps and the human species that caused it all… The sad thing is that the animals are innocent.

Posted by Truth_Teller | Report as abusive

I think this is a great article. We do need to redeploy spending from world domination efforts to domestic strengthening efforts.

Posted by M.C.McBride | Report as abusive

It is too costly to act as world police even for United State. Now it’s time to let United Nation take care of international affairs. Give United Nation resources and power to do this.

Posted by Anthony1223 | Report as abusive

Well, it all sounds good on paper however when you start comparing the numbers and facts to that of other countries they really aren’t that out of whack. And we all know how numbers can be skewed for a cause. Yeah, America’s a little off course but do you want a world without an America? I really like the way the UK is handling things and check out China! How about China for a disparity comparison? There’s no perfect answer but I’ll take my chances in the good ole US of A.

Posted by Jenesequa | Report as abusive

Not a journalist ?? I’m not a fireman but I would know if my house was ablaze. “Journalists” and “Generals” and “Politicians” are NOT the engines of change – they are the mouthpieces of status. Engines of change are the ordinary “folks”. I hope the (so called) planetary leaders are taking stock of what is happening in the middle-east. Contrary to popular belief – it’s NOT the United States of Earth. Societies are important in that they all have a CONTRIBUTION to make toward the greater good of the planet. I’m grateful that it’s not only firebrands that get a chance to speak from the pulpit. Thanks for a well done article.

Posted by SGinOR | Report as abusive

It is a crying shame that Mr. Mousavizadeh’s piece comes off as a uniquely insightful, coherent and intelligent assessment when it should be the norm, if we were not so distracted from the larger picture. It is where we are headed anyway whether we like it or not, and to the extent that we resist the new reality we will only do more damage to ourselves getting there than necessary. How long will it take us to appreciate that we can be leaner, meaner and way more agile in a downsized and reconfigured relationship with the rest of our global neighbors? Bravo for breakthrough journalism!

Posted by marimba | Report as abusive

United States of America were created by gangs and so will no longr be . The Blood of those who has been killed by American Gangs still in usa desert. America is going to end for so many reasons Hurricane,Volcanoes,Earthquake,
and chinese.
We Still remember the Indian

Posted by Million_Friends | Report as abusive

Great commentary. I agree all the way around. I’m the first of Gen X.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

U.S. leaders are NOT going to take the author’s advice for the simple reason that once you give up the ghost, as it were, on being and remaining the world’s pre-eminent superpower, you give up far, far too much in the way of military superiority, financial and economic superiority and respect and confidence, and geopolitical superiority and influence.

True, true, all these things are already slipping through the U.S.’s fingers. But as most intellectuals do, the author misses the point that the world doesn’t work by idealism, but rather by greed – hence, we’re talking about a disorderly loss of power if U.S. leaders try to give it up in an orderly fashion as the author suggests.

U.S. leaders will rather cling to power and hope they may prevent the loss of global position that is already in process. They understand that to willingly begin to give it up will only cause a cascade of loss of power as America’s decline goes out of anyone’s control and its rivals rush in to fill the vacuum.

Posted by NukerDoggie | Report as abusive

Let’s take a quick survey of other empires:

First they became strong due to domestic innovations. Then they run around the world, exploited or warred on weaker states, plundered and imported all kinds of goodies to make them empires. Finally, they spent all the good stuff they stole but can’t stop the imperial habit, and fall into ruin.

Now let’s take a look at the American empire:

First it won WW2, which left much of the world in ruin except the USA. Global exploitation came naturally, in the name of reconstruction, and America became a world power. The world’s best people arrived in USA and propelled the country to amazing heights just about all areas of human endeavors.

But then Americans started to explain this gain of power in the form of 19th century ideology of Manifest Destiny – which was used to justify invasion and plunder of the west, conquest of the native people, extermination of natural resources, because God has given the new immigrants special destiny to do so.

Renamed Exceptionism in the 20th century, which basically said America is God’s chosen country just because it won a great war, the American people therefore deserves exceptional powers. That it’s global role should be that of an all-wise director, an all-powerful policeman, that its system of government and ideals should be adopted by the whole world.

The other winners of WW2 – USSR, UK, Canada, Australia & NZ, India, China – proclaimed no such fantasy.

By the 80’s, the American self-appointed fantasy turned into delusion as Reagan, who believed America is God’s country, became president. He put what was a hard won prosperity after WW2 into imperial auto-pilot, where it cannot be challenged.

So you see there is a giant difference between other empires and the American empires. Others are founded on the raw calculus of technological & military power, exploitation, economics and trade, all designed to produce a substantial net benefit to the empire. But in order to achieve the great net benefit, no amount of brutality is too much.

America of the past quarter century of imperial rise, strangely, does not know how to do empire in a sound way. It spend, spend more, kick, bully, invade, but don’t know how to kill (i.e. kill by the millions) and plunder (i.e. steal whole country). In short, America is just too inept to be a real empire, and too dumb not to realize it. This is what you get when your grand imperial ambition is founded on glorious self-delusion and self-worship.

Posted by TomKi | Report as abusive

The root-cause of all the 6 perils are rooted starting with Reagan administration and continued to current times with ** wrongful doctrine ** of –

– no tax increases
– no regulations (another name: no big government)
– unregulated-free-trade with duty-free imports
– un-necessary wars
– 3-way job drain: offshoring, bringing H1B cheap labor, and illegals
– impede education funds (pell grants, education dept.)
– impede innovation (to replace inefficient resource use)
– political manipulation made easy

Addressing the above corrupt practices head-on paves the way to the underlying beauty of this system in the form of –

– innovation of great caliber
– most stable democratic system around the globe
– self-correcting system
– world-class education system

The choice is ours – think, speak and act in the greater interest of the future of our next generation and this great country.

Posted by Mott | Report as abusive

The Chinese work for $1.00 and hour no benes. That’s it. They will come up a little to our standard of living, and we will sink a lot to theirs. Short of war, this is it. Get used to the new normal. This is the beginning of a great national gnashing of teeth. The fight for a sliver of the pie has just begun. Social safety nets, tax cuts, military spending – all will be history soon. Make sure your kids like you. That’s who you will be living with in retirement.

Posted by urownexperience | Report as abusive

Congratulations Nader for the expertise and courage of writing such a precise analysis.

Please send a copy of it to our President, in case he is not reading it here.

Thank u, sincerely!

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

America has needed a downsizing anyways.

Posted by KyuuAL | Report as abusive

Great responses and a big THANKS for the civil discourse. Blog trolls and zealot lunatics should not be the only representation of internet opinion.

This point in human history is so important. We’ve had plenty of opportunity to see what happens when a society or monarchy or oligarchy decides it’s view is the only view.

I think the author’s point was well represented. We – all of us (not just Americans) – have allowed our individual missions to be completely corrupted. We’re so concerned with being number one (I got mine – sucks to be you) and staying alive that we have completely neglected the “crop in the field”, ie those that we intend to replace us (again – not just Americans). I take the unpopular view that each individual is not really that important. Our primary mission is to prepare the next crew to take the helm and that applies without regard to christian, agnostic, or Darwinian beliefs. And your time to be a viable contributor may end tomorrow. We (America) WILL take a hit on global influence while we get our house in order but, in the overall, we have a chance RIGHT NOW to regroup and be a better – a MUCH better participant and contributor with regard to global issues. That means not necessarily being “Top Dog” for awhile. The driver of change will be the individual members of humanity and not the Pentagon or Congress or Parliament or al-Qaeda.

Posted by SGinOR | Report as abusive

what the dear author should also heed is the fact that all good things come to an end one day. As seen over and over again in the course of the history, great powers reach a pinnacle where people start getting too pampered to work hard and too greedy for the system to sustain. The american dream, once the driving force of the development and enterprise of the american society, is now perceived to be an inborn right of every single american: two cars, a well-paid job, fancy hollidays…, these used to be affordable when Chinese and Indians were not as ambitious as they are now. the rules of the game have changed: rude awakening from “american dream”

Posted by yooni | Report as abusive

Moss-GR wote: “There is a better way. What? By returning to the U.S. Constitution as written? By returning to Traditional American Ideals? Yes those two and one more . . . by advancing towards Science. Without employing Science to reconfigure the four cornerstones of society . . . government, law, education, and medical delivery . . . the adverse consequences are inescapable.”

“Returning to the US Constitution as written?” The US is and has been throughout its history governed by the Constitution, except arguably during the Civil War. Since the Constitution is how the government in this country operates, such comments as these belie a fundmental problem in understanding what the Constitution says and how our constitutional government operates. Usually such comments from from right wingers; I don’t have any idea whether such is the case with Moss_GR. The right wing agenda tends to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution it likes and ignores the rest.

“Returning to traditional American Ideals?” Which American’s ideals are those? Who gets to arbitrate which ideals are traditionally American and which are not? This sort of fuzzy thinking also tends to be part of the right wing- about which, again, I don’t know where Moss_GR stands politically. Slavery and indentured service were a part of the traditional American Ideals for well over a century in our history. So was genocide and the deliberate destruction of indigenous cultures. “We’re all in this together” is anAmerican Ideal as is “everybody should fend for themselves and not depend on others.” Many of our “traditional American Ideals” stand in opposition to each others.

What these conversations usually implicitly include is the assumption that *my* values are the ones that should be followed, and if you don’t then you are a commie/Nazi/tree hugger/right wing whacko/etc.

As for science, on this I must agree. Observable, repeatable facts and the laws of nature that govern them must be accepted in public policy. But science is viewed with deep suspicion by the right wing who do not like having their beliefs challenged by pesky facts (the left wing, sometimes, too but less likely to be so).

Mr. Mousavizadeh overlooks some of the elephants in the living room, which he must given the brevity of the piece and the enormity of the situation. But one of them is the fundamental problem underlying much of our problems economically: the stunning gap between rich and poor, and the gigantic transfer of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the rich especially in the past 30 years. 1% of the population controls 43% of the wealth while 80% of the population control 7% of the wealth. The 19% in between hold 50% of the wealth. This is a top-heavy unsustainable situation and it will ultimately collapse with or without reference to the national debt. The collapse started in 2007 and was slightly arrested by various government interventions such as TARP and other stimulus packages, but the fundamental economic imbalances- and the lies and manipulations that protect them- remain.

Posted by Cunamara | Report as abusive

Great article.

I voted for Obama, but now realize he is the wrong man to stand up to the military.

We need a Roosevelt or a Truman — a president that doesn’t kow-tow to the military, but rather commands them. Obama is not even in that league.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

Yes. Let us hope Empire fades quickly, and that those of us who simply want to live in freedom push the imperialists out. They are our greatest enemy.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

As the economy is the basis of power the U.S. – as Japan before it – will see some relative loss of influence due to its intractable problems with that economy. This is not a new thing, but with the increase of the emerging economies gathering momentum, we might actually start seeing some sort of discussion in the international community instead of unilateral and divisive actions. America has done remarkable things in the past and we are not about to forget its role in the second world war, but times have changed and the world would now be best served by a United States giving a more mature and credible performance than what we have been seeing the last 30 or 40 years. A more cohesive society, for example, should help.

Posted by Lambick | Report as abusive

Who says these fifteen million long-term unemployed people have given up looking for work? All that’s happened is that they are no longer counted in the official unemployment rate reported by the United States Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of course, in their “unofficial” employment rate, the BLS reports about thirty million unemployed including under-employed and long-term unemployed. I wonder why they have these two statistics?

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive

Brilliant and right on target.

I like the phrase that America needs a “reboot”. Not only do we need a reboot but we need a new operating system and a new administrator to run it.

We have a bloated, slow moving, resource wasting, corrupted and non-effective core of over paid bureaucrats and ordinary citizens who feed off of the few remaining hard working taxpayers. As more and more Americans move from the private sector payroll to the public sector payroll our society will remain in a downward spiral. There is a point at which the spiral decline will end. It is a called a system crash. No longer sustainable.

It is time we install a new operating system on a lean and mean machine.

Our current system is nothing like our founding fathers envisioned. We have over 40 million Americans on food stamps, millions drawing unemployment, millions in federal housing plus millions more receiving some type of subsidy.

The time has come to clean House. The House of Representatives.

Posted by Bretfox | Report as abusive

Because of our bad judgements and poor policies in government, it may be time for us to pull back. It also shows how ineffective the American people have been in selecting our government leadership.

Posted by primal | Report as abusive

Wonderful essay Mr. Mousavizadeh. I agree with TomKi for the most part, except we are like every other empire, but can’t agree with Moss_GR because after all, Imperialism is a Traditional American Ideal:

Imperialism gave us many of our western states, by stealing them from Mexico (Mexican-American War); it gave us Hawaii (coup), Puerto Rico and The Philippines (Spanish American War) all the American protectorates in the Pacific (Samoa, Palau, Guam, etc.) after taking them from the Germans and Japanese, and provides us with 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries (DoD Base Structure Report 2003).

I would certainly call the acquisition of the above territories exploiting the weak. Also, we were one of the first nations to benefit from the Industrial Revolution in part because of our “unlimited” natural resources.

So, unless TomKi was being sarcastic, there isn’t a very big difference between the U.S. empire and many others. The U.K. (lording over the great unwashed), China (the Middle Kingdom [re]acquired quite a bit of its empire in the 20th century (Manchuria, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang)and the U.S.S.R. all thought of themselves as a special, exceptional nation above all others.

Posted by Andvari | Report as abusive

I still believe that the rebel, freedom seeking spirit will sustain this country that has defeated a few expantionist tyrants. It is so simple to analize and critisize while benefitting from the gift horse. Give me a break.

Posted by mdblitz | Report as abusive

Hi there, my global citizen friends,

It has been a really bad one year or so with the global financial crisis dragged on for more than 3 years now, the unrelenting natural disasters and rioting in certain parts of the world, it is time for all of us to really stop, reflect and think profoundly what have happened, what human being has done so far. One of the causes that I immediately strike me is Greed. Greed for power and money. Human being is self destructive when this element comes in play. By arriving at this conclusion, I have also noted the current government system and financial system are fundamentally based on this greed for power and money element. Government is the only organisation that is big enough and has the power to build a nation or equally right destroy a nation. May be a more accountable and responsible government system is overdue. I guess to make the government more accountable and responsible, the people should be able to have a more effective and timely say. This would include voting out bad eggs more easily. Each and every citizen should be able to vote electronically on a regular basis based on the performance of their government not just in the general election. The current financial system especially the banking system is also fundamentally flawed as it basically encourages people to take on debts and using other people money(OPM) in irresponsible way. I guess we human being tend to be outsmarting itself and become the victim of its own making. The sad part is nobody really bother to even think along this line let along bothering the consequences.

Posted by myglobalvoice | Report as abusive

Truly brilliant. Elegant and insightful analysis of the cost and benefits (or lack thereof) of American “power”. We waste trillions on an illusion, while millions go without the basic healthcare that the rest of the world takes for granted. Forget the thousand page studies, congressional debates, and all the rest. This opinion lays out the problem (and the solution) in a nutshell. If only we had a government with the brains to realize it.

Posted by Jehosephat | Report as abusive

We are following in the same path that lead Russia into bankruptcy, Trying to run the world, and neglecting our own needs. While we spend trillions chasing oil supplies, China and others are becoming self sufficient through investments in fuel free renewable energy. While we neglect our infrastructure and our people, we spend too much money improving the infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, because we blew it all up. For the cost of one patriot missile, we can buy one 2MW wind turbine. One produces safe fuel free electricity for 30 years, the other is gone in seconds and destruction that needs repair is the result. Multi-national corporations get hand outs but have allegiance to no country. Their profits are sent overseas and hidden in tax shelters. We give capital gains tax breaks under the guise of spurring investments, but with no requirement to invest in our country.

What are our dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan doing for our needs? How well are our efforts at policing the world being appreciated by others? http://www.thenation.com/blog/161378/aro und-globe-us-military-bases-generate-res entment-not-security

We have been told that the terrorist hate us for what we have, but actually they hate us for what we do. Bombing civilians is no way to win friends and influence enemies. Bribing warlords just provides money for them to buy the knives they use to stab us in the back. We need some real analysis of military effectiveness and some real accounting of our modern military needs.

One point in this article struck a cord; referring to the rule of law and traditional ideals, where have those ideals gone? Where is the respect for the rule of law? That seems to be in effect only for the “little people”.

Posted by aligatorhardt | Report as abusive

Hubris brings down so many empires. Rather than regroup and rebuild the nation we engaged in massive over reach. Holding onto an empire voraciously consumes lives and treasure. We can no longer control the world. That time has past. We can however thrive in it.

Posted by neruda1 | Report as abusive

Yes, but not likely any time soon – and certainly, not as a result of policy from the top.

The elites of both parties will work hard to keep this terminal patient alive. For a while, they’ll try to fund military empire on the backs of the poor, the old, the sick, the young – not to mention the country’s physical infrastructure.

Inevitably, however, reality will force their hand.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

These United States intellectual and academic institutions are why we go to war. Not to solve other peoples quandaries yet to invest into a collective of people who are more diverse, efficient and intelligent. We the people who created the idea of a nation not bound by worldly laws and desires

Posted by coreyspofford | Report as abusive

In general, I think this is a pretty clear-eyed assessment of the situation. We are building schools, roads, infrastructure on the other side of the planet while our own infrastructure at home falls into disrepair. All in the name of “opening markets” and keeping the great pyramid scheme going (some call it progress or globalization). Like a junkie who has to get worse before he gets better, maybe a major breakdown is good for us in the long run. Doesn’t feel great right now, but in the end, I agree, a smaller America might be a better America. It’s a position that could be called isolationist, or even defeatist, but sometimes less is more.

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive


Anybody who knows a bit of US history, like you, would detect a good dose of sarcasm in my piece.

The facts speak to the bottomline: As an empire in the classical sense, America has failed. The country loves the idea of superpower but denies any imperial ambition. I call this the America Oxymoron. It acted as world conqueror but does not have the necessary intellectual and executive competence. The Bush 2 era brought this absurdity to new height – a bunch of 19th century cowboys from Texas running around the Middle East with guns blazing, expecting a Hollywood movie finish. They and their money cronies just about bankrupted the country. The imperial net benefit is most negative and has trickled down to the middle class. Do not expect solutions from these kind of people.

Posted by TomKi | Report as abusive

We need to reshape our whole society, but not in the Dominionist way, but through a Third Constitutional Convention. Our world is thoroughly upside down. People who claim to know the necessity of their deadly activities. Psychopathy and Sociopathy are rewarded in our society, but Honor, Integrity, Productivity and Safety are always expected, but these people do not get a break on the Inflation upon Food, Medical, and Utilities (Monopolies). Even without a Third Constitution, we each can behave not to exploit but to creatively participate. Machiavillianism is lauded, but it does not create a beautiful world, but one of constant war and fretting. Love is the answer, for now.

Posted by WillElectrician | Report as abusive

Man you guys are all idiots. You slap the Imperial label on the U.S. as a simplistic way to win an argument and look smartish at the same time. Stop being so intellectually lazy.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

That is what America seeks to bring to the world, and that is why no benefits of Empire are immediately apparent; because America seeks no Empire, merely freedom and liberty for all mankind.

Is it America’s right or obligation to do so (unilaterally or otherwise)? That point can be fairly argued by either side, but don’t pretend that the U.S. is conquering nations in order to pillage their economies, China currently does a far better job of that simply with money. And the next time there is a crisis in the world, notice which country everyone else immediately turns to with demands that the wrong be righted.

America’s altruism is enormously expensive for America, and 11 aircraft carriers is not enough to do the job everyone expects of it. From an isolationist point of view, the U.S. could eliminate its defense budget and be much better off economically and it is economies that win wars and cold wars.

The far right in the U.S. makes the mistake of thinking that Ronald Reagan ‘defeated’ the Soviet Union. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was 50 years of economic competition that defeated the Soviet (that and the courage of Gorbachev). Now we face the same competition with communist China, only this time without the advantage of containment policy. Another aircraft carrier group won’t defeat communism in China, only a strong economy will.

And “Empire?” Puhlease!

Posted by PapaDisco | Report as abusive

There’s always Empires Anonymous

Posted by toca-aqua | Report as abusive

I can accept much of what the author has to say, but there are some notable exceptions.

First, it doesn’t matter that America has a 11 to 1 advantage in aircraft carriers when specifically considering the Taiwan/Formosa problem due to the proximity of the island to China and the fact the neither China or America wants to go to war over this issue. In the short term, the new Chinese aircraft carrier simply adds an exclamation point to China’s claim on that island and it will be even more useful in adding an exclamation point to China’s claim that the oil beneath the South China Sea is not in international waters.

Second, America’s surprise over the Arab Spring was feigned. As Mr. Mousavizadeh inadvertently points out, the converse is unlikely.

Something akin to the Arab Spring was a major consideration in the neo-con reasoning behind the most recent invasion of Iraq. When we were not welcomed as liberators as the neo-cons had hoped and the war dragged on for several years, the fomenting and/or aiding and abetting of the Arab Spring was delayed but not completely abandoned. Because the regime in Iran has thus far survived and has not moved away from its tipping point, America’s efforts in that region have surely not drawn to a close.

Third, if Iran develops nuclear weapons, the current regime will be emboldened to exert control over the Strait of Hormuz not just for profit, but as part of an overtly stated goal to weaken and subdue the West. The consequences of that strategy would be catastrophic.

There is also a genuine possibility that Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry could suddenly fall under the control of Jihadists. It seems to me that America has a legitimate interest in preventing these situations. If not America, then who? Though I’m not at all certain that we are proceeding in a best possible manner, neither am I certain that I have a better plan.

As the author points out, many of the rest of America’s problems can indeed be attributed to the avarice and hubris of a too powerful America.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

Excellent article quantifying things which clarifies why empires fail. The US is repeating the history of overreach going back to the Macedonians, Romans, French, British, Germans, Japanese, Soviets and many in between. If we can pull back before imploding, we may again be the first in history to succeed in a great experiment. Can America redirect its values so that the good of the many again outweighs the wants of a few, as our founders envisioned?

Posted by kolea | Report as abusive

Thanks breezinthru for those salient points. However why are these problems just the US’s? Doesn’t Iran and Pakistan pose a threat to others? And why does Israel need to find a solution to their legitimate concerns when the US ensures that business as usual will suffice for now? I’m sorry, but if those are reasons to have the world’s police force, why aren’t we in all the conflicts of the world? The answer is usually oil (with Pakistan and Afghanistan being a notable exceptions). But while our crusade in Iraq toppled Saddam and freed the oil for the private sector, it did nothing for the American people. Rather than continue to build up our military for protecting our “interests” (read “oil” for the private sector), we should be using our resources to build us up internally and extend our hand diplomatically through nation building. It’s far cheaper, threatening, and more successful.

Posted by LEEDAP | Report as abusive

Brilliant!! China, Russia, India, Brasil, Iran , the SCO. ect.. are the answer!

Posted by boldie | Report as abusive

Beautifully written and thought provoking article. Thank you!

Posted by rhill | Report as abusive

Our historians say history is a mirror reflecting yourselves and your future. Leaders should therefore learn from history. The present situations in America reminds of the beginning of downfall of most of our ancient powerful dynasties.
Hope American leaders study history. It is a great nation.
By the way, I am a Chinese.

Posted by Kailim | Report as abusive

I’m not intelligent enough to refute the way the statistics are used to support the article, but it seems to me that when one uses only percentages of GDP and # of large projects to compare infrastructure spend, you’re leaving out some important information. Information like how much healthier our infrastructure is currently compared to EU and China etc.

I personally think we should dedicate big $$ into restructuring the inefficient, archaic & bloated government bureaucracy.

Posted by tougar | Report as abusive

Thoughtful article. Good comments make me hesitate to offer one that might not be up to this high standard but this one thought might be useful.

For three generations now the leadership of the USA for better or worse have piled armament to the skies. They did not do this to protect the workers and the peasants. This has been done to procure their own hegemony and dominion.

World War II made us the heirs not only of the defeated empires, but also of those of the British and French allies. Since then we have fought dozens of large and small colonial wars and the Cold War against various attempts by different parties to threaten that heritage.

One cannot go anywhere in this town (Washington) without hearing from the leading personalities of both parties that the Great Depression, version I, was not ended by Roosevelt’s New Deal but instead by war. The USA has already launched the Third World War and is presently moving to strategically dominate all remaining supplies of oil outside of Russia, and the penetration of the ‘Stans threatens even that.

US leadership are now in position to force their host society here in the homeland to accept any burden in the levying of permanent war and they find willing fifth columnists in every other country. Not since the 1930’s has the foremost military power in the world shown such an appetite for war, nor has it ever had better opportunities to conquer.

In fact the famous story is told of Hjalmar Schacht going to Hitler just after Munich to tell him that the Reich’s economy would soon sink under the military burden. Hitler’s response was to fire the Reichsbank president and accelerate plans for war.

Posted by ChrisHerz | Report as abusive

America went bonkers on defense spending when Ronnie was elected in 1980, so it has been three decades now. The Cold War was won by Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II by supporting the human rights movement in eastern Europe. Subsequent Republican presidents have invented threats to justify it.

This article also misses the point that our eleven aircraft carriers are used mainly to protect China’s oil supply line from the Middle East.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

Lee Iacocca, a well respected and highly regarded US businessman, warned – in the 70’s – that ‘if America
does not smarten up, we will end up as a country
of ocean to ocean hamburger stands “!! HELLO!!!

Posted by Left1eNoonan | Report as abusive

Well, I am not much of an expert on anything I suppose, but it seems to me that as long as the rest of the world is willing to try and make money off of money loaned to the U.S., money which will probably never be repaid anyway and money which is then used to carry out its foreign policy, the powers that be in the U.S. are probably going to stay on their current trajectory. I figure when the rest of the world finally gets fed up with U.S. dominance they will quit lending it money and that will be the end of it.

Posted by botmfedr | Report as abusive

While I agree that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wasted vast resources, blaming them for our economic woes is completely off the mark. Nowhere in this piece is mentioned the real cause of our economic decline – trade policy that has effectively turned America into a host for hordes of overpopulated, export-dependent parasites feeding on America’s market. It’s no mere coincidence that, since 1975, the last year that we had a trade surplus, the growth in our national debt has exactly matched the growth in our cumulative trade deficit, now approaching $11 trillion.

The grand experiment with “free” trade that began with the signing of the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947 has been a complete failure, culminating with the trade imbalance-triggered collapse of the global economy in 2008. It’s time for the U.S. to withdraw from the World Trade Organization and return to managing trade in its own best interest – making smart use of tariffs as it did prior to 1947 to build itself into the world’s pre-eminent industrial power.

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive


Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

In answer to your first two questions, Iran indeed poses a threat to Israel, Sunni Muslim countries and the rest of what is considered “the West.” If Israel is left to deal with the problem, the only effective tool they have is a nuclear warhead. The Sunni Muslim countries would be helpless against a nuclear-armed Iran and the rest of “the West” would either have to resort to nuclear weapons or succumb to Iran’s supremacy when the new high cost of oil staggers their economies and hobbles their conventional military forces.

Pakistan would add India to this list and subtract Sunni Muslim countries which would still probably result in a nuclear exchange that in the end is in no one’s interest.

Your third question actually answers itself as evidenced by the continuing strife in that area.

In answer to your last question, military force consumes vast amounts of cash, life, and diplomatic capital. We have finite quantities of these resources, thus military force should only be employed as an extension of foreign policy and then only reluctantly so employed.

It is within the scope of America’s foreign policy to reduce the likelihood that a WMD might be detonated, particularly a detonation targeting America’s assets around the world or on American soil. It is also within that same scope to ensure America’s access to the energy it needs to sustain itself.

So the question arises again, if America is unwilling to take actions to ensure its future survival, then who will do so?

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

I can’t think of anything stated in the article I could disagree with…too bad the author isn’t on the Supercommittee. You hit the nail on the head time and time again…

Posted by mtowner | Report as abusive


Your question “If not America, then who?” is a not very successful effort (except among the interventionists) to disguise the fact that the last $3T the U.S. spent making the world safe for democracy in fact removed the only secular regime standing between Iran and the more pro-western Arab countries in the Gulf, not to mention Israel. And due to the genius of the President at the time, we did it will the full knowledge (since they publicly announced it) that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons. They are now happily selling at least the nuclear technology, if not the weapons themselves, to Iran and who knows who else. Did I mention that the U.S. also let Bin Laden escape during that time?

We would have been better off doing nothing at all rather than spinning our wheels and spending our money on the wrong thing. But if you insist on “doing something”, make sure it is with a smart (i.e., non-Republican) President.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

It is time for the USA to do a cost benefit analysis on many things.
1. The low marginal reserve rate which allows banks to create money to loan the government that then needs to pay in real money. Time to increase the minimum marginal reserve rate and take back the “coining on money” to the federal government – banks do not have the same priorities.
2. Cost of having so dysfunctional corporate tax rate. How is it that every citizen is required to report and pay taxes on all income regardless of where it was earned or stored while corporations can hide it or delay taxes on it for ever? This encourages companies to take jobs out of America. It is fine to allow a “no double taxation” clause so corporations do not pay 2 taxes in countries for the same dollar but it needs to be real.
3. It is time to rewrite the tax code from scratch, no grandfathered in exemptions, no loopholes, in this day of computers and government reporting it should be easy to have a 1 page Income Tax Form with limited tax rates.
4. A benefits analysis of what the US gets for its aid dollars. Be it to the UN, Israel, Egypt, etc. what does the US give and what does it get back for it in terms of real value, new tech, bases for the military, etc. It should be easy to see which investments (aid) are costing more than they are returning.

Posted by Eric.Klein | Report as abusive

Thanks for the long version of your Obama vote.
A gallon of Windex could not make you any more transparent.

Posted by USA2012 | Report as abusive

History has show that save from the elites the population of the home country suffer enormously. The economic and social costs of maintaining an empire eventually become enormous and overwhelm the State. In the 1800’s the poverty in London and many other parts of Britain was worst than most of its client states.

The USA would do well to look at the fate of the British, Russian and Roman Empires. It may be too late and America could be entering the inevitable final chapter.

Britain fell from being the most powerful country on the planet to its knees in a matter of 50 years.

Posted by ZimbaZumba | Report as abusive

Keep drinking that Kool_Aid PapaDisco. Your “altruism” is perceived as heartless and bloody subjugation by a Palestinian. The hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Congo, El Salvador, Chile, among the Lakota and Arapahoe and Cherokee and Nimiipu, and in so many other places and times might just have a different view than you.

We need bridges, not tanks. We need education, not drug wars. We need discourse and rational decision-making, not references to the superiority of our Constitution. America must turn her gaze inward, look into the mirror, and see who we truly are. While this may be construed as isolationism by some, an introspective and compassionate assessment of our strengths, virtues and value cannot be achieved without a frank acknowledgment of our crimes and dysfunctions. The peoples of this world are trying to say this to us, but we haven’t been listening. It seems too troubling and painful; we would rather believe, as you apparently do, that we always have been, and always will be, a virtuous people.

We can be a great people, but we need to quit minding everyone else’s business, first. It must start here.

Posted by BowMtnSpirit | Report as abusive


Posted by boldie | Report as abusive

I am always skeptical of advice from someone from the ME. The adviser has his own agenda.

Recently we have had a taste of the world without Pax Americana – not a pretty sight.

Far better to reduce spending in other areas. Here are the KEY elements.

Entitlements are 58% of the budget and growing. Military 20% and flat to declining. It is obvious where the cuts should be.

As the libs always say: let’s have an adult discussion, so yes, Mr Mousavizadeh, let’s look at the situation objectively. If the military budget was cut to zero entitlements will still consume the entire US budget in 15 years or so.

Honestly I think these people get into these positions less through competence and more through connections and affirmative action.

Posted by eleno | Report as abusive


1) The federal government makes all sorts of breaks for itself, in order to spend money to create jobs. It may not be good financial sense in the long run, but it helps prevent depressions in the short run, which is good politics at least.

2) That may be a good idea, but it does not have anything necessarily to do with taking jobs out of the country.

3 and 4) These are both political decisions of long standing that you can’t reverse overnight. You would have to convince the various special interest groups that it is in their interests to do so; good luck.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

America’s stance on stopping the proliferation of Nuclear Bombs in rogue nations as probably kept us all alive in the west and beyond. To question the USA’s commitment to this is the usual unthought out diatribe.
There economic problems facing America are to do with the changing tides of the world economy and the businesmens desire to find ever cheaper ways to supply consumers demands. We need emerging economic nations to succeed but the Wests ever dependance on credit is an ill that needs to be addressed. We cant have it all ways high currency values, continious supplies of unlimited credit and higher labour costs. The people in lower paid eastern cultures earn less, save more but have high growth. We earn more, borrow more, and have low growth and high unemployment.

Posted by ascolipisceno | Report as abusive

Oh yeah? Well I say bring back the British Empire. To hell with your nationalism and cultural relativism. I would give up my citizenship in the USA to become a British citizen to see it done. Hail Britainia! Imagine Britain, Canada, USA, Philippines, Australia, India and a few others united under one banner. We would fear nothing.

Posted by Cranberries | Report as abusive

I agree that value should be more emphasized on military installment, but I hope the US would not back off from its active intervention policy in the international politics. The 1930s UK, facing serious financial strain, was an example for not intervening enough, at the end the price was even higher to intervene, at the expense of millions of lives in the world. Remember, North Korea is still largely unpredictable.

Posted by history_student | Report as abusive

Excuse me Eleno, but where do you get those numbers? Here is the budget . http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

After 40 years of mandatory deductions from my paychecks, do try to tell me that my Social Security has not been paid for.If it was mismanaged and spent on other things, then look to the embezzlers for the money. The military costs also include those that are not in the regular budget, which are harder to find, but look to appropriations bills for some of them.

Posted by aligatorhardt | Report as abusive

To eleno,

When exactly has Pax Americano ceased, decreased, or even flattened out? We have been just as intrusive in the last 20 years as anytime since WWII. And your statement “Military 20% and flat to declining” This statement is absolutely misleading. First, it has not declined. Second flat would indicate only that Defense spending has increased just as much proportionally speaking as everything else combined.

Just give two numbers to prove your point. First, total defense spending in 2000 and then total in 2011. Hint Try table 3.2 here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/His toricals. Make sure to throw in the “veterans benefits and services” and interest for the accumulated debt accumulated by overspending the military since Reagan. Graphed on the wiki for your viewing pleasure http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_bu dget_of_the_United_States.

We need to cut Everywhere. We need a balanced budget Amendment and More, we need to reduce the deficit. Taxes will absolutely need to be raised and big time. The upper tax brackets need to be returned to post WWII levels (try top brackets at 90%+ on for size). And yes we will likely head into a deeper recession and product prices will increase (which needs to happen, to bring jobs and money back home from China). When any family lives off a credit card for as long and deep as we have, how can we expect to continue the same life-style when we must, not only give up the credit card, but off pay the huge bill?

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive

Excellent article. It reminds me the AA saying, an alcoholic will never accept he or she has a problem until it touches the bare bottom. I believe American people still not at the bottom yet and until then, they will realize the huge problems this country has to face. The biggest issue still to come its in the near future with the young generations. With an obese, drug addict and drop outs of school youth.

Posted by Milkas | Report as abusive

Disingenuous article. A mishmash of numbers, statistics and metaphors which prove nothing. Does having 11 aircraft carriers (10 shortly) mean the US overspends on its military? Maybe, but you haven’t even tried to prove it. A thoughtful look at the 7th Fleet’s resources versus the strategic imperative in that region would generate a more balanced view than you espouse.

Regardless, military spending is set for a long stagnation if not outright decline and you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. The U.S. is currently relatively secure in its geopolitical position after having kept the ME divided through Iraq and Russia contained through Afghanistan.

Meanwhile we have stayed 1-2 generations ahead in fighter aircraft, significantly increased the usefulness of unmanned drones, designed and begun building the next generation of aircraft carriers, and restructured the ground forces to fight limited wars. A new attack helicopter, ballistic missile submarine and “future soldier” equipment will have to wait. The non-submarine Navy will be the stress point as the current fleet is really quite mature technologically.

Posted by jeremycjohnson | Report as abusive

An excellent article, but it fails to recognize that the type of democracy practiced in the western world is anachronistic. Once elected our representatives toe the party line, succumb to lobbying by big business, or pursue self-interest. In today’s digital world, with instant communications, the idea of elected politicians remaining representatives is out-of-date. Instead all major tactical and strategic decisions should be decided by the voters informing their elected delegates of their will. It would take out egotism, lobbying, and other debilitating influences out of politics, and decisions would truly reflect the will of the people

Posted by IRATESCEPTIC | Report as abusive

Let’s see entitlement programs (all of which do NOT work, i.e., are in the red) soak up 60% of the budget, are spending that cannot be controlled and budgeted for in their current form, and the author says defense spending is a problem? Defense is roughly 30% of the budget, can be controlled and strictly budgeted. While I agree there is waste that can be trimmed. We are economically doomed as a nation if we do not tackle entitlements. We are also doomed if we give up our military dominance. Only a fool believes that we can as a nation exist under our own will without sufficient military power to, first, prevent other nations from directly imposing their will, and secondly, influence events globally to ensure our survival into the future. Anyone who believes “diplomacy” works on it’s own, in a vacuum is dead from the neck up. In the end, those with power get their way. If you don’t want to live in the most powerful nation in the world then please move somewhere – you have a myriad of choices – but please don’t subject me and my family to the fate you so readily, and naively desire. In fact, giving up our military supremacy will subject half of the world to a state of insecurity they haven’t known since WWII. Look at the European nations. They have done what this auther professes, and they are STILL broke. Why? ENTITLEMENTS! They have tiny defense budgets, inadequate to even defend themselves because they have relied on OUR power. If we can no longer be relied upon, then the world will enter an era not unlike what occured after the fall of the Roman Empire. I believe it was called the “Dark Ages”.

Posted by beofaction | Report as abusive


Re Iran:
Please remind yourself that the US has thousands of nuclear bombs, Israel has hundreds, and they both have repeatedly threatened to nuke Iran.

Please remind yourself that there was the democratically elected Mosaddeqh government in Iran before the West, principally the US CIA, engineered a coup in favor of our puppet, the Shah. Please remind yourself that the Iranian Revolution, bringing in Khomeini, was a substantial improvement in democracy, and was in response to our dictator.

Please remind yourself that we have a huge military-industrial-security complex looking to feed itself and its benefactors, the self-seeking US richies (and probably others). Please remind yourself that the neocons have as a principal target, Iran, and that the neocons are largely composed of people who have worked for Israel or are Zionist Israel believers. Please remind yourself that the Israeli Lobby largely dominates US ME policy. Please remind yourself that it is the interests of these forces to have the Iranian bogeyman. Why recklessly repeat the canard that “Iran indeed poses a threat to … “the West.””, or even Israel (unless it was stupid enough to attack Iran).

Over the years, I have watched the ever-louder propaganda in US media against Middle-Easterners. Evidently, the objectives of this result from a synergy between several forces in the US: (1) richies trying to get richer and more powerful, through oil and the military; (2) Israeli supporters of the idea that Israel should get to take over whatever portion of the ME they like, consequently rejecting those who disagree, such as the Arabs, Iranians, and other so-called anti-Semites; (3) Those US religious leaders who exploit Evangelical Christians to support Israel takeover of Palestine to get to the Rapture.

Thus, before we get too much married to the idea of US hegemony because we need to protect the US, Israel, and the world, from Iran, it would behoove us American people to figure out some more peaceful approach that recognizes and respects some aspects of Iranian culture, that realizes that we do not really know they are a real threat, that appreciates their multi-millennial culture. It is clear that our military and covert approach in the world has failed.

One more point: We largely created the Islamic fundamentalist movement in Afghanistan and in the whole ME/SE border region, to fight the Soviet Union. It was somewhat successful, but our unprincipled behavior not only created, and still creates, havoc in the ME, but came back to bite us in the form of 9/11. We need better ways, that are good for the American people and others, and that properly represent our principles. Whatever world leadership we exert, should not be by brute force, completely undemocratic, contradictory military and covert action, but by good example. That means, remaking out country to something we can be proud of. That means resting control of the country from our self-serving “realist” war-buck richies and religious adventurists.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

I’m reminded of the strategic withdrawal of the Roman Empire from Britain. The British were Romanised in the sybaritic sense but, once the legions left, they were defenceless. I’m sure their soothsayers were also confidently predicting ‘peace in our time’ like Mousavizadeh does. But like him, I’m sure they had their own prejudices which bore little relation to reality.

Europe’s armed forces are a bad joke. Yugoslavia showed that was the case a few years ago and now Libya is showing that things are even worse. The French and British airforces are pretty well exhausted by a few weeks of operations against the tinniest of tin-pot dictators who has literally no defences against them. They no longer have the resources to maintain a serious presence in theatre for more than a few days even in the presence of zero opposition. In Afghanistan it is not to belittle the efforts of the British soldiers on the ground if one points out that projecting overseas a brigade is pathetic compared with the armies of old.

The vaguely socialist agenda of all European politicians [including the supposed ‘conservatives’] is predicated on a ludicrous world-view which in turn is based on ignorance of truly awe-inspiring dimensions. One is reminded of the dinosaurs in the days before the meteorite struck. They actually rejoice in the idea of American strategic withdrawal. Whom the gods would destroy, truly, they first make mad.

Posted by JohnWL | Report as abusive


You have rambled on about a variety of events, not necessarily accurately, but you have not explained why we should bankrupt ourselves to protect Europe or anyone else other than ourselves. And that does not require the huge defense budgets that we have had for the past 30 years.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive


I needn’t remind myself of the things you mention. I am fully aware of them and I mostly agree with your implied point of view.

However, when it comes down to nukes, it is better, if possible, to avoid a situation where they will likely be used. Who has the most or who can most completely destroy the other becomes a moot point.

For the record, I was one of the scorned, non-flagwaving Americans during the last invasion of Iraq, though I’m a former army officer. That doesn’t mean that I am opposed to all use of military force. I just think it should be wielded reluctantly and judiciously.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive


Sorry for the pedantic tone, and thank you for the response.

On nukes: It seems that we are the ones who are risking the nuclear confrontation with Iran, and more or less forcing them into the nuclear arena. To me, it is completely wrong-headed, and plain stupid. And the people who are leading us towards this confrontation are some of the most destructive people in the world. There motivations need to be understood and exposed.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive


I think the reason that Iran started to develop nukes was to defend (or offend?) against Saddam. Whatever our other mistakes, we removed him. And they routinely threaten Israel with destruction. Do you think they would do that if they merely wanted to defend against them?

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

I think using the word empire is a bit harsh. That being said there are many points of this article that I fully agree with. America cannot economically afford to be the self appointed world’s policeman. We do need to share this role. More importantly our garden needs some serious attention in order to make it green and prosperous again. The rich need to pay more and our expenditures must be cut to recognize economic times. Defense does need to be cut but is a relatively small expenditure in comparison to debt service costs and our financially unsound entitlement programs such as social security and medicare.

Posted by OONR | Report as abusive

Sobering, the US public has lives in a fantasy world.

Posted by KingofChina | Report as abusive

Glenn Beck publicly predicted the Arab Spring.

Posted by randydutton | Report as abusive

Progressivism, and yes, globalism where America seems to want to protect everyone from themselves, is the root cause of our military adventurism and gluttonous spending.

Posted by randydutton | Report as abusive


As I understand, Iran’s “destruction of Israel” means to Iranians (as Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated) a vote of all people in Palestine, as a unit, to see what kind of government they want. That is, a vote by all people, Israelis, Palestinians with right-of-return, and the Palestinians of the Israeli occupied territories. At the moment, we effectively have one apartheid country in which substantially less that one half the people “democratically” rule over the rest of Palestinians.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

I don’t believe I would say three cheers. Military spending is not simply a quest for dominance. It is part of national DEFENSE and that means being prepared. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these countries are our friends or mean us no harm. Just because America is falling flat on its face and pretending like it doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean other nations are not taking notice.I have no problem with stepping back on global dominance, I do have a problem with the assertions of this article that it all has to do with rich people and military spending. We need an advanced, strong and prepared military, we need to stop sending our money overseas, tax the rich, and me more fiscally responsible about our handout programs.

Posted by poufen | Report as abusive

Intellectualism turned upon itself? I don’t think so. When something sounds too ridiculous to be true, it probably is. When Franklin was asked, as he exited the Constitutional Congress, “what kind of government do we have?”, his answer resonated, “a Republic, if you can keep it”. Can we, if we can’t see through this sort of mush? God help us.

Posted by ThinkWithMe | Report as abusive

While I agree with the overall gist of the article (i.e., it’s impossible for the US to remain #1 across the board when the competition has 5x as many people), I think there are some problems with your reasoning.

On one hand, you mention that US has exceptionally low infrastructure spending, and signal that the Chinese dedication to this will inevitably provide a benefit to the Chinese people. Yet a few paragraphs earlier you suggest that America’s bloated intelligence community is prone to corruption on account of its size. So if the Chinese are spending huge amounts on infrastructure, surely the level of corruption is that much higher as well, right? The North-South water diversion project you bring up is an especially bad idea in my understanding of it, and has led to many forced demolitions and much destruction of the environment. Chinese infrastructure projects also are immune from public scrutiny and debate. The US certainly doesn’t want higher infrastructure spending, if this is what it involves!

The second point you ignore is that part of America’s attractiveness as a culture is due to the economic and military might behind it. Many people find capitalism and democracy attractive because they see how it can create a superpower. The Chinese government is very clearly anti-democratic and opposed to free speech. With the inevitable decline of the American Empire, I fear that other countries looking for a role model will thin Chinese censorship and brutality against dissent are the key to a prosperous economy and a powerful military. China may not even attempt to spread these ideals evangelically, but with the rise of China, the attractiveness of censorship and repression are certain to rise.

Again, I think the US must pass the baton sooner or later, and it’s best to do so gracefully. But I am genuinely fearful that the Chinese model of handling dissent will become more desirable than the American model of a free press and rule of law, if only because the Chinese economy and military will have grown in strength.

Posted by Andao | Report as abusive

The world situation is a fluid thing. Someone in Washington should be able to understand that. Or maybe not as it appears.

Posted by georgesmiley | Report as abusive

Free press and rule of law? you might want to check up on that and actully READ the so called patriot act.

Posted by georgesmiley | Report as abusive

TO beofaction,

The characterization of the western Europe defense budgets as “tiny” is exaggeration. France, UK, GE, are all 50 -60 billion per year. For comparison Lybia was at about 1.5b and Iraq at 9b. US is pushing 700 billion.

Western Europe can protect itself no problem. It is not as if they are in danger of being invaded. Now Kuwait and Dubai, etc those are different stories. Saudi Arabia is probably safe now that we took out Iraq. What a coincidence.

So how do we correct entitlements, of which the lion’s portion is healthcare related? We cannot simply stop giving people healthcare, can we? Could we sit by and watch our American family suffer and die? Does that make for a safe and stable society? Also, the idea that we can balance healthcare related costs (via spending cuts alone) without directly controlling associated costs just doesn’t add up (costs inflate greatly every year). This is why i believe that it is only a matter of time before we are forced to try an the socialized medicine experiment.

To JohnWL

Outside military forces did not take down the Roman Empire. Before it was sacked by invaders, Rome had destabilized from within because of an ever increasing wealth disparity. The poor and slave class (Meek) grew larger and larger and became more and more frustrated at dying in the streets while the rich top 1% were hand-fed on their pillows. The Meek (many of which were/became Christians) indeed inherited Rome, and directly helped to bring down the Roman Empire. The rich forget that their greatest fear is most often realized through their own greed and narcissism.

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive

If we do not return to the RULE OF LAW very soon, it will be even more devestating as it will give everyone and their pet a good reason to break the law and only brute force will be able to handle the break down of the social order. The RULE OF LAW has been violated repeatedly to favor the bankers over the past few years and there seems to be no end in sight. Continue reading at http://scare2012.blogspot.com/

Posted by linushuber | Report as abusive

As someone who was an aide to the guy who presided over a number of genocides and actively involved in enabling one in Bosnia, the author of this piece should be well aware of what happens when the world acts “multi-laterally” without US leadership.

Take just one of your so-called factors, “investment” in infrastructure. China has been spending more? So what, it is coming from a lower base and China now has a nice new shiny high-speed railway from Beijing to Shanghai that, when it is not killing people who travel on it, is competing with two other rail links and air links. In fact to even get people on it they are having to screw the migrant workers who take the slow train.

As for the morons who call for a halt to aid to Israel and Egypt – but wierdly not the highest per capita recipients of international aid, the Palestinians – even if it was not used to buy US arms it is a trivial amount of money in terms of US expenditure.

Mr Mousavizadeh, stick to making sure no one stops a group hacking hundreds of thousands of people to death with machetes, sounds like it is more in line with your skill set than “analysis”.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

ConstFundie, that is laughable. The UK had difficulty fighting a collapsing corrupt Argentina. NATO – aka France and a very very reluctant US – took 5 months to overthrow a mickey mouse dictator. You honestly believe they would have held the USSR off with out a US umbrella?

How is Saudi safer with a caged Saddam gone and a Iran-friendly Iraq replacing it?

Andao, the Chinese government opened the credit spigot and over the last two years State directed lending was over 24trillion RMB, most of which will never ever get paid back, and generated “growth” of less than 5 trillion RMB. That sound like a model that is going to replace the US?

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

xcanada2, there are well over 5 million Israeli jews. Even accepting the wildly inflated PA figures and assuming that Israeli Arabs are in the same boat as Palestinians in the West Bank and that Israel still magically “occupies” Gaza there are 4.5 million Arabs in what was the mandate of Palestine. Now I know facts are not important to anti-Israelis but 5 is not less than 4.5.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

Well written and strognly argued and what most people may miss it is written with empathy for the US and its people. Countries do not change unless they have to! The realization of ‘have to’ only happens painfuly slowly and only after all myths and rationalizations have been exhausted, that is to say, when even a common man can see them for the cliche’ they have become. Unfortunately for us Americans, it means that our country’s economic and political power has to erode much more before a general acceptance of reality sets in. Politicians only move when people want them to, not one second before.

Posted by reality3 | Report as abusive

America is scaring themselves for nothing, making China the ghost and forgetting that their biggest enemy is themselves by living beyond their means and spending themselves into oblivion.

Posted by CSLim | Report as abusive

This is a biased article. Without proper knowledge of North America. World has to fear China’s rise. China can never have values and standards that US have in every field of expertise. How do you think US can be challenged merely on the basis of economy ? What about the world standards set by US in every field of science, technology, medicine etc. Whatever has been achieved till now by emerging economies is by only copying the west(Literally in every field). Innovation and the best brains attraction of US that’s what gives it cutting edge. To achieve that China has to wait for 2000 years with communist regime but it could be cut short to 200years if they could change to liberal Democratic system. But wait a moment When people will start flocking at the China’s borders for better life…..

Posted by Rangeela1 | Report as abusive


Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive

It is very difficult to estimate the effect of “being a superpower” on GDP. However, it is clear that a lot of American privileges, like the ability to print dollars and exchange them for real working hours of other nations, like the ability to choose “mainstream” economic dogmas and then press them on other nations, like access to oil, like being at the recipient end of the rest of the world’s “brain drain” etc., has to do with the nation remaining THE superpower. Downgrading to “one among the many” would probably mean a GDP drop of some 20%.

Posted by tk2 | Report as abusive


I did mention, and add in the additional 4.62 million Palestinian refugees [UN number, see WikiPedia] who have UN mandated right-of-return. That makes 9.1 million versus 5.0 Jewish Israelis. Also, you presume that all Jewish Israelis would vote of a pure Zionist Israel rather than a truly democratic one-state Israel-Palestine. Not to mention, the large numbers of Israelis that have dual citizenships, and live in Israel only part time. (I have heard 300,000 in California, although that seems awfully high).

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

xcanada2, how exactly does “apartheid” Israel rule over Palestinians who don’t live in land currently under Israeli control or claimed control – ie Gaza? By UN mandated ight of return you mean the non-binding GA resolution that also calls for them to be settled in the countries they are already in?

As for the vote we can see how many Israelis would vote for one state “solution” by the results of the Knesset for non-Zionist parties. It is less than 13% – and that is pushing the definition of non-zionist – and that includes the 20% of voters who are not Jews.

Every single one of your claims are simply laughable and most trivially proven false.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

To Andao,

There couple misunderstands that plaque your analysis of the world view.

1)I lived in US most of the year but travel overseas frequently to tell you that the current status of “Freedom of Press” in US is just a wish rather than fact. Practically, the media is monotonous even though in legal terms we are allowed to say anything we want but in reality not so. Many information or news feed start to disappear when that particular information or news feed start to generate a momentum opposite of the media’s view(which in effect s our government pushed views.) The relations between our media and our government is a subtle one, not like the boss telling a slave to do this or that but rather when our government expresses an opinion, our media will follow suite AUTOMATICALLY mostly WITHOUT critically think over the logic of the view. In some cases, I found that the anchorman actually knew it’s wrong but never the less sided with the our government.

2)The censorship of China is not what the west media want you to believe. While I read news from at least from 3 countries over three continents everyday, I found US main stream media is the ONLY one trying to push viewers to an opinion. The technique is to overwhelm you ONLY with evidences that support their views but intentionally ignore ALL evidences that counter it. For example, last month a bullet train rear ended another in China. The US media is fast to say the government is censoring the information and try to sway viewers to feel the Chinese media are all government controlled and that they are muted by the government. I can tell you this is propaganda, I can still read NEW articles from television in China criticizing the management of transit department as of today! News and “negative” opinions are all over the news channels the whole month when it happened in China and mind you that those news are publicly broadcasted so you can see them in PPS(a streaming website) which collects all these news from various TV channels and rebroadcast them on internet. I wonder why the US news channels did not receive such info(are they censored by our own government or they choose to ignore these facts?) May be China is not as open as US when it comes to political views but we can have our share of censorship when it goes to torture and war-the standard US government respond is that it’s national security-ZIPPED. Our government did so many things we don’t even know about and our media covers them up INTENTIONALLY and WILLINGLY.

Posted by ClearMind | Report as abusive


Checking into number of Israelis moving to US, I find 265,000, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerida
This is not the same as dual-citizenship, living part-time in the US, but it makes the 300,000 in California look unlikely.

Nevertheless, total Palestinians in the area, either in the Occupied Territories or with UN supported right-of-return, is around 9.1 million.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

The Roman Empire fell long ago, but the city of Rome still exists, and is quite a nice place to spend time.

Posted by effoff | Report as abusive

America is a constitutional democracy, not an empire. There is no emporer. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon all came and went while Ghadafi, Assad, Hussein reigned. Arabs like this author villify America as if it were an evil person, but this hatred is misdirected. It is not a person, it is a political construction. The blame for Arab oppression lies with Arab dictators, which should be obvious. They try to deflect it to the West, but this deception no longer works. This editorial is a perfect example of Arab scapegoating to avoid responsibility. Look within, Mousavideh, your problems are of your own making.

Posted by Chazzmatazz | Report as abusive

The article is, of course, agreeing with everything Ron Paul has been saying for decades, and people say he’s radical? Sensible is more like it. The only reason some people throw derogatives at Dr. Paul is because they’d rather buy into the media slander than bother to do the research.

Posted by revisinator | Report as abusive

Are you kidding me! While there is no arguing that US defense spending has been on the rise it pales in comparison to domestic entitlement programs that coddle it’s citizens with every conceivable “right”. Strategic involvement and defense of US interests is not the reason for American financial ills. Gap between rich and poor…please….go visit India for a look at a gap between the rich and poor.

Posted by Genrule | Report as abusive

xcanada2, I’ll take that as the closest you’ll come to admitting that Israel doesn’t in fact lord it over a majority non-jewish land.

Stick to spouting nonsense to similarly clueless people and then you can safely avoid the facts.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

Surprising how often discussions turn sour when Israel is mentioned. The issue at hand is that the U.S. is having its foreign influence reduced due to a waning economy and just can’t get used to it.

Posted by Lambick | Report as abusive

Lambick, the US foreign influence is being reduced because it is currently run by a team ideologically determined to reduce said influence. Hence the phrase “lead from behind” which sounds perfectly sane to someone who buys into a constrained US being better for the world.

The author of this piece used to work for the UN, in particular he worked for a scumbag who presided over 4 genocides during a time when there was a US president who also was pragmatically inclined to ignore foreign affairs, until they intruded on him.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

To Danny_Black,

England completely decimated Argentina, even though the UK was attacked by surprise and thousands of miles from the UK, and 200 ish miles from Argentina. Further, the US had NO involvement in that war except for logistical support. Tell me how many US troops were killed? 0

Are you saying that the UK’s efforts were laughable because their ‘tiny’ budgeted military defeated Argentina within a few months. They lost 255 people according to the wiki, how does that compare to our decade + wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?

My point is that Western Europe is not in danger of invasion. Russia was recently caught feeding some of their army dog food for crying out loud. Surely, you do not believe that Russia could mount a successful invasion of France, Germany, or the UK. Russia’s defense spending is 53b, which is less than UK or FR.

IMO, the greatest danger to the free world nations is currently socio-economic in origin.

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive

ConstFundie, the argentinian army barely fought, with a few notable exceptions the army mostly surrendered when the British turned up. Their airforce was “unlucky” to have missed some more of the boats with exocets.

In Korea and Vietnam, the allies were facing an enemy fighting a total war. In Iraq, the allies lost 4,000 troops in 8 years as opposed to 255 in just over a month of fighting. From recollection, Afghanistan is an even lower casualty rate.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

There is no American Empire.

Posted by Bagwa | Report as abusive

First of all, just because the Author’s name sounds different does not mean he is Arabic. Second, his view makes sense. All corporations know that downsizing is the name of the game to become leaner and more efficient. What the author is suggesting is that if America realize that its golden age is over and start triming its fat by becoming smaller militarily and shedding its egotistical view of superpower status, America can remain a superpower still by virtue of its becoming more efficient and becoming less burdened by debt and thus remain very influential in the economic, political circles. Right now, because of its economic woes and political division, America has becom a laughing stock in the developed world and a running joke in the developing world. Investors point to Italy and Spain and even Greece for their faults of accumulating huge debts. But American debt dwarves all those countries debts put together. The only reason why America stayed afloat is because it kept printing money and by countries such as Japan, China and even Russia buying up American bonds. Please give some actual thought to what this article is trying to say rather than bashing it in the face just because the Author’s name is not western sounding and the view expressed is different from the mainstream.

Posted by blacktryst | Report as abusive

Great article, and it’s extremely important that Americans come to understand the degree to which they have been misled by the military/industrial complex – so presciently diagnosed by President Eisenhower – and its own vision of “manifest destiny” gone wild.

I have found it very helpful in life to work with people as a friend, and never a bully. While we have done good things, and our efforts in ex-Yugoslavia were appropriate, most our other uses of force in the last twenty years were just plain wrong.

Posted by jfxwsr | Report as abusive