by Dmitry Orlov, Russia Insider:
The story is the same every time: some nation, due to a confluence of lucky circumstances, becomes powerful — much more powerful than the rest — and, for a time, is dominant. But the lucky circumstances, which often amount to no more than a few advantageous quirks of geology, be it Welsh coal or West Texas oil, in due course come to an end. In the meantime, the erstwhile superpower becomes corrupted by its own power.
As the endgame approaches, those still nominally in charge of the collapsing empire resort to all sorts of desperate measures — all except one: they will refuse to ever consider the fact that their imperial superpower is at an end and that they should change their ways accordingly. George Orwell once offered an excellent explanation for this phenomenon: as the imperial end-game approaches, it becomes a matter of imperial self-preservation to breed a special-purpose ruling class — one that is incapable of understanding that the end-game is approaching. Because, you see, if they had an inkling of what’s going on, they wouldn’t take their jobs seriously enough to keep the game going for as long as possible.
The approaching imperial collapse can be seen in the ever-worsening results the empire gets for its imperial efforts. After World War II, the U.S. was able to do a respectable job helping to rebuild Germany, along with the rest of Western Europe. Japan also did rather well under U.S. tutelage, as did South Korea after the end of fighting on the Korean peninsula. With Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, all of which were badly damaged by the U.S., the results were significantly worse: Vietnam was an outright defeat, Cambodia lived through a period of genocide, while amazingly resilient Laos — the most heavily bombed country on the planet — recovered on its own.
The first Gulf War went even more badly: fearful of undertaking a ground offensive in Iraq, the U.S. stopped short of its regular practice of toppling the government and installing a puppet regime there and left it in limbo for a decade. When the U.S. did eventually invade, it succeeded — after killing countless civilians and destroying much of the infrastructure — in leaving behind a dismembered corpse of a country.
Similar results have been achieved in other places where the U.S. saw fit to get involved: Somalia, Libya and, most recently, Yemen. Let’s not even mention Afghanistan, since all empires have failed to achieve good results there. So the trend is unmistakable: whereas at its height the empire destroyed in order to rebuild the world in its own image, as it nears its end it destroys simply for the sake of destruction, leaving piles of corpses and smoldering ruins in its wake.
Another unmistakable trend has to do with the efficacy of spending money on “defense” (which, in the case of the U.S., should be redefined as “offense”). Having a lavishly endowed military can sometimes lead to success, but here too something has shifted over time. The famous American can-do spirit that was evident to all during World War II, when the U.S. dwarfed the rest of the world with its industrial might, is no more. Now, more and more, military spending itself is the goal — never mind what it achieves.
And what it achieves is the latest F-35 jet fighter that can’t fly; the latest aircraft carrier that can’t launch planes without destroying them if they are fitted with the auxiliary tanks they need to fly combat missions; the most technologically advanced AEGIS destroyer that can be taken out of commission by a single unarmed Russian jet carrying a basket of electronic warfare equipment; and another aircraft carrier that can be frightened out of deep water and forced to anchor by a few Russian submarines out on routine patrol.
But the Americans like their weapons, and they like handing them out as a show of support. But more often than not these weapons end up in the wrong hands: the ones they gave to Iraq are now in the hands of ISIS; the ones they gave to the Ukrainian nationalists have been sold to the Syrian government; the ones they gave to the government in Yemen is now in the hands of the Houthis who recently overthrew it. And so the efficacy of lavish military spending has dwindled too. At some point it may become more efficient to modify the U.S. Treasury printing presses to blast bundles of U.S. dollars in the general direction of the enemy.