The new New World Order

Following the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe in 1989, the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the emergence of China as a capitalist nation, American leaders declared the United States the world’s sole superpower.

After nearly 30 years, the U.S. government is still struggling with Russia and still struggling with China.

Following the 9/11 attacks, American leaders declared a worldwide “war on terror.”  After going on 20 years, that war is still going on, with no clear goal that I can see except to not admit defeat.

It’s time for our leaders and also we, the people, to consider that we may have made a mistake, painful and shameful as it may be to admit that.  It’s time to face facts, which are that (1) the United States isn’t and can’t be the world’s sole superpower and (2) continuous economic warfare and actual warfare is not sustainable.

I read two good articles this morning about the current international situation.  One is a survey by Pepe Escobar, a Brazilian who’s a roving correspondent for Asia Times.  The other consists of constructive suggestions by Col. Andrew Bacevich, a career military officer who served in combat in Vietnam, who had a second career as a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

Both articles will tell you things about the changing balance of power that, if you’re an American, you won’t find in your daily newspaper or evening network television broadcast.


Welcome to the G-20 from Hell: World leaders wrestle with a maelstrom of complex, burning issues as they prepare for November 30 summit by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren by Andrew Bacevich for TomDispatch.

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5 Responses to “The new New World Order”

  1. Fred Says:

    Hmmm… I think we are the closest thing remaining to a super power. I guess it all depends on how you define “super”. If China or Russia or India want to have a war, it pretty much has to be near their borders. They lack any ability to project beyond their region. Britain and France can project but only in a limited way – something small like the Falklands or in support of a larger coalition.

    But if the US wants to have a war, we can have it almost anywhere in the world and crush most small to medium, non-nuclear powers. We are a bit like Victorian England in that respect, only no colonies to worry abut. Having the largest economy counts for something. Having a high individual standard of living does as well. Having the third largest population of any nation state is an advantage Victoria never had.

    So we have a few regional powers – and it is always dangerous when regional powers share borders – plus one global power.

    If you were to put the US army up against the Chinese army on a neutral paying field and take away the nuclear weapons, we lose badly. Probably ditto the Russians. In terms of manpower we are at almost preWWII levels but with a much larger population. We use technology to make sure the playing fields are never level. Highly sophisticated battlefield intelligence, command and control, communications (C3I). Unequaled air, naval, and logistical support. We use economic power to make sure the technology stays ahead of the rest of the world and is readily available.

    I do think that a “Liberal Democracy Alliance” would be a “superpower” by most definitions. That would be a combination of NATO, our western Pacific allies and a few other nations. I don’t think the US has to go it alone, nor should we. It is fabulously expensive and dangerous to do so. OTOH such an alliance would be like herding cats with nobody having authority to be the shepherd.

    The problem with this is that you could never get such an alliance to act together against anything short of a another Hitler. That gives lesser monsters an incubation period in which to grow into the new Hitler. Or Stalin. Or Mao. Plus the kind of cooperation needed to make multiple small navies or air forces or space commands as effective as a large one is an extraordinarily difficult task.

    I think the US should certainly keep enough conventional force on hand to deal with smaller threats on its own and to equal any major power. I’d hate to have to rely entirely on the nuclear deterrent.


  2. philebersole Says:

    No nation except the United States has the technological sophistication, the logistical capability or the wealth to maintain a military presence in virtually every region of the globe.

    No nation spends anywhere near as much as the United States on its military.

    But all this power and all this wealth has not given the USA the power to actually win wars.

    Fred, you say that the USA has the power to crush most small to medium-size non-nuclear powers. Can you give an example? Vietnam? Afghanistan? Iraq? Libya? Syria? Iran?

    Is the United States more powerful as a result of its military interventions? Are the American people safer or more prosperous? Are the people in the target countries any better off? Obviously not.

    What we see is China becoming more powerful while the United States dissipates its strength and allows its industry to be hollowed out. We see US policy driving Russia and Iran into the arms of China.

    We the American people must force our government to give up the goal of world domination. Our government temporarily has the power to spread death and destruction through many parts of the world, with very little blowback so far (the 9/11 attacks were the exception). But it does not have the power to make foreign people do what it wants them to do.

    The US “deep state”—the Pentagon, CIA, NSA and other parts of government that make policy in secret—are disconnected from reality.

    The articles by Pepe Escobar, a radical leftist, and Andrew Bacevich, a conservative, describe realities that are being ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fred Says:

    Yes, we can crush (conventionally) anyone we need to in third tier countries any time we want. The thing is we generally don’t want to. We fight wars in a civilized manner – if such a thing can be said to exist. We are also extremely averse to enemy civilian casualties as well as our own troops. That automatically ties a hand behind our back. Fighting with a hand behind your back while still winning in war is very expensive.

    Having Rumsfeld and Cheney schilling for the Iraq war did not help our there one bit. Bush should have listened to Colin Powell more. (Always listen to a soldier over a bureaucrat when it comes to war.) That doesn’t mean the capability to do what we did was bad. We just shouldn’t have done it – which is an entirely different issue.

    Technology continues to advance. Today’s foot soldier is a half million dollar investment in training and gear. When I was young they sent you thru basic and handed you a rifle.

    We are also paying a great deal to control the seas. And, outside of a few areas, we do. And have been the dominant naval power in the world since the Battle of Midway. If we do not control the seas then someone else will. It is the nature of power and power abhors a vacuum. We probably don’t need 7 carrier battle groups to keep the sea lanes open against any challenger but that is an argument over quantity and not quality.

    Our nuclear forces have seen huge reductions since the Cold War when each side held 50K nuclear weapons at each other’s throats. We can probably see a lot more reduction but I wouldn’t want to see huge cuts without concurrent modernization and without reductions on the Russian side.

    It is impossible to compare US military expenditures with totalitarian states. When they aren’t deployed, American soldiers can look forward to a comfortable life with full benefits. Doubly so if they are married and can get base housing. Civilian employers like to hire ex-military so you need re-enlistment bonuses. If we don’t treat soldiers well, they will leave. We don’t have the luxury of using conscription to avoid paying a living wage.

    Conditions are not so benign elsewhere.

    The competition isn’t paying tens of thousands of engineers a hundred thousand dollars or more annually to develop their technology. They don’t then pay hundreds of thousands of highly skilled workers middle class US wages to to build their gadgets. We don’t have the option of saving money by stealing their technology because they develop very little on their own.

    Vast sectors of their military budgets are state secrets. The Chinese Chengdu J-20, Shenyang J-31, and the Russian SU-57 would all certainly seem as expensive to produce as a US F-22 but it doesn’t seem to have discouraged them from trying. Good luck finding a line item in a budget for these.

    It is easily argued that the only reason western Europe and Japan get to spend so little on national defense is because the US spends so much. If we downsized our military to the size of France’s, without a huge European expansion NATO would be a joke. Russia would be free to take back its western republics and then the old Warsaw Pact at its leisure. Do we really want to see a rearmed Germany in response? Japan would have to rearm – and maybe go nuclear – as protection from Russia and China. South Korea and Taiwan might just join them.

    Are we stronger for our military adventures? In a very important sense we are. The military has a very powerful organizational memory. They learn from successes and they learn from failures. Tactical and strategic doctrine improves. The green lieutenants and captains of one conflict become the battle hardened majors and colonels of the next. Another set of “What do we do if…?” questions has answers. We don’t want to make the mistake of the Second World War where we essentially dismantled the entire military and then had to build our conventional forces from scratch for the Korean War.

    Overwhelming US military superiority creates a more stable and peaceful environment. Major global and regional wars become less likely. There will always be small wars here and there – the world is too big a place to prevent that. No two major nation-states are in existential struggles nor have they been since the end of the Cold War and I like that. I think all the nuclear states like it as well.

    Smaller is possible and perhaps desirable but I don’t think even our competitors want to see massive US military cuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fred Says:

    Vietnam? Westmoreland should have been court-martialed and LBJ never re-elected for how they handled that conflict. Just because the French wet their pants was no reason we had to as well.

    We won that war in one important way. If for every dollar we spent on Vietnam the Soviets spent 1 cent supporting the North, we came out ahead on the deal. I believe that was part of the calculation.

    OTOH we did crush North Korea a bit earlier. Even when a major player, China, entered the war we still kept South Korea intact without throwing around nukes. That was a good thing and took longer and cost much more because the military was not so impressive when the North invaded.

    Afghanistan? Was never a need to “crush” them. Again politics overrode military judgement making the job more difficult but we eventually got Bin Laden and Al Qaeda was taken out of the game. Hopefully the lesson has been learned. No massive attacks on US soil since then. Yes, we are safer.

    Iraq? I’d say they were pretty crushed. Twice. Took longer than necessary the second time because Cheney, Rumsfeld,, were still thinking in cold war terms and this wasn’t the cold war. Should we have gone in? *NO!* But the results were not all negative. One less tin pot dictator wanna-be Hitler messing up the region. Bush thought it would lead to a pro-freedom uprising throughout the Mideast. I could have told him he was wrong. Costs outweighed the benefits but there were still benefits.

    Iran? They are more of a second tier country. I have no doubt we could defeat them in a knock down drag out fight but we have no reason to. I cannot conceive of any possible reason or benefit to sending the US Army into Iran. Though if they decided to take an embassy and I were President, they could expect continuing retaliation from me until they found a reason to go to the negotiation table.

    Syria? No national interest there. They don’t have any oil. Should not have encouraged uprising unless we were serious about it. Israel preferred the existing stable government (even if evil) because it could be negotiated with over the chaos that is there now. We could crush them but why would we want to? You break it, you buy it. Besides, might piss off the Russians since we waited so long.

    Libya? We don’t have any interest in Libya except to see that their WMDs were neutralized. That happened because of the invasion of Iraq. If they want to murder each other, none of our concern.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. philebersole Says:

    Anyone who believes that world domination is a worthwhile goal is either a moral monster or someone who does not realize the implications of what they were saying.

    Adolf Hitler had a goal of world domination. Joseph Stalin was believed, rightly or wrongly, to have a goal of world domination. In both cases, the world united against them.

    The same thing is starting to happen now as Russia and China join forces and extend help to Iran and other countries that the United States threatens.

    The neoconservative U.S. policy carried out since 9/11 has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, and created a refugee crisis that, among other things, is destabilizing the governments of Europe.

    What does it mean to crush a nation? Can a nation be crushed by destroying its infrastructure and slaughtering its people. That was done to North Korea in 1950-1953, and yet the same regime is not only still in power, but has nuclear weapons.

    Was Al Qaeda crushed? Was the Taliban? They’re stronger than ever and new we have ISIS, which probably never would have come into existence except for the invasion of Iraq.

    The Allies after World War One thought they could crush Germany. But Germany came back stronger and more malevolent than ever. Germany became a peaceful nation only after the United States helped the Germans to rebuild and rejoin the family of nations.

    U.S. alliances with democratic nations do contribute to a more stable world, to the extent that they are defensive alliances.

    But elsewhere in the world, U.S. policy consists of aiding some dictators, arming warlords, terrorists and guerrillas to overthrow other dictators, killing people who might be deemed a threat and waging economic warfare against nations whose rulers displease American neoconservatives, but which by no stretch of the imagination are a threat to the United States.

    We Americans cannot afford to be blind to this. We are storing up bad karma (so to speak) that will come back to us—or if not to us, to future generations.

    The path forward for the United States is for us Americans to accept the fact that we are one nation among many, to strive to uphold and abide by international law and to build up our own economy and society rather than trying to crush others.

    Liked by 1 person

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