A smaller America could be a stronger America

By Nader Mousavizadeh
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.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

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