Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Losing' the world: American decline in perspective, pt. 1

American decline is real - but the US remains the world's dominant power by a large margin.

By Noam Chomsky


"Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated - Japan’s attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example. Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead. Right now, in fact.

At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops.....

Gauging American decline

With such lessons in mind, it is useful to look at what is highlighted in the major journals of policy and opinion today. Let us keep to the most prestigious of the establishment journals, Foreign Affairs. The headline blaring on the cover of the December 2011 issue reads in bold face: “Is America Over?”....

The January 2012 issue features yet another call to bomb Iran now, before it is too late. Warning of “the dangers of deterrence”, the author suggests that “sceptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to US interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease - that is, that the consequences of a US assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.”........

The concentration of wealth and American decline

Despite such victories, American decline continued. By 1970, the US share of world wealth had dropped to about 25 per cent, roughly where it remains, still colossal but far below the end of World War II. By then, the industrial world was “tripolar”: US-based North America, German-based Europe, and East Asia, already the most dynamic industrial region, at the time Japan-based, but by now including the former Japanese colonies Taiwan and South Korea, and more recently China....."

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