by Phillyguy for The Saker Blog
The US emerged from WWII as the world’s preeminent economic and military power. Seven decades later, American power is in decline, a direct consequence of decades of neoliberal economic policies, spending large amounts of public money on the military and attainment of economic/military parity by Russia and China. These policies have eroded US economic strength and are undermining the role of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, key pillars of US global power. In this essay, we highlight how this situation evolved and its implications for US foreign policy and international relations.
Foundations of American Global Hegemony
The US emerged from WWII as the world’s leading military and economic power. This power was further solidified at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944, which came to be known as the ‘Bretton Woods Agreement’. This agreement: 1) pegged the value of member country’s currencies to the US dollar, which was pegged to the price of gold, and 2) created the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, later known as the World Bank. The purported goals of the Bretton Woods system were to ‘stabilize currencies and promote international economic growth’. This conference also recognized the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. 1, 2
International economic relations started to change in the mid-1970s as US corporate profits began to stagnate/decline, a direct consequence of spending lots of taxpayer money on wars in Korea and Vietnam and increased competition from rebuilt economies in Europe, primarily Germany (Marshall Plan) and Asia- Japan, South Korea (Korean and Vietnam wars) and more recently China. US policy makers responded to these economic challenges in several ways. 1) Recognizing that the government had insufficient gold reserves to cover all of the dollars in circulation, in 1971 President Richard Nixon was forced to suspend convertibility of the dollar into gold, effectively devaluing the US dollar and making it a fiat currency. 3 2) In the early 1980s, US policy makers began instituting neoliberal economic policies. Neoliberalism can be broadly defined as policies promoting free-market capitalism, deregulation, and a reduction in government spending and was widely promoted in the US by President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and in the UK by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1975-1990). 4 These policies included multiple tax cuts for the wealthy, financial deregulation, attacks on labor and poor, job outsourcing and spending $ trillions of taxpayer money on the military. 5 A short description of these policies and their impact on US society follows.
Beginning with the Reagan Administration, a number of tax cuts were enacted which reduced and/or eliminated top tax rates, corporate taxes and inheritance taxes (aka ‘death tax’; see Table 1). It should be noted that to market this legislation and ‘sell’ it to a generally uninformed American public, these bills frequently contain words or phrases in their titles which convey a positive and progressive message, such as ‘Economic Recovery’, ‘Tax Reform’, ‘Economic Growth and Tax Relief’, ‘Jobs and Growth’ and ‘Jobs Act’. After all, who is against ‘Economic Recovery’ and ‘Growth’ or a ‘Jobs Act’? However, to quote Phaedrus (Greek; circa 444 – 393 BC) ‘things are not always what they seem’. Each of these pieces of legislation was the result of massive lobbying campaigns by large financial interests- banks and corporations, with the goal of rolling back ‘New Deal’ tax and economic legislation enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the depths of the Great Depression (1933-1939) 6, 7 and ‘open up’ the economy to unregulated and risky financial schemes, which under the right circumstances can yield substantial profits, but when things do not proceed as planned, can lead to large losses, as observed during the 2008 financial collapse. An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) concluded that between 2001-2018, 65% of the benefit from these tax cuts went to the wealthiest (top 20%) households, while federal tax revenues declined $5.1 Trillion and federal deficits grew $5.9 Trillion. 8 As a result of the COVID19 pandemic, federal deficits are now hemorrhaging.
Attacks on Labor and Poor
In 1981, members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) went on strike. President Reagan declared the strike a threat to ‘national safety’ and ordered all workers back to work, under the Taft-Hartley Act (1947). Of the circa 13,000 striking air traffic controllers, only 1,300 returned to work; Reagan fired the remaining 11,345 air traffic controllers who were still out. 9 The decline in labor solidarity was readily apparent as there was little support for striking PATCO workers from other unions. As a result, this began a frontal assault on union workers and labor.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton vowed to ‘end welfare as we have come to know it’ 10 and in 1996, signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (aka TANF) program 11, which changed the financing and benefit structure of cash assistance to poor people, Predictably, these changes did not ‘end welfare’ but increased poverty. Not surprisingly, Conservatives in Congress want to use the TANF model to ‘reform’ other federal programs such as Medicaid.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), enacted Jan, 1994, created a ‘free trade’ agreement between Canada, Mexico, and US. While not fully appreciated at the time, this trade agreement would have a major impact on US industrial policy and jobs. NAFTA enabled large American corporations such as auto makers- Ford, General Motors, etc., to build manufacturing plants in Mexico taking advantage of lower wage rates and import the finished products back into the country duty free. The savings in labor costs is significant- the 2020 manufacturing wage in the US- $23/hr 12 vs $2.50/hr in Mexico 13 (90% lower) and not surprisingly, decreased labor costs boost corporate profits. On the negative side, NAFTA has: 1) led to the loss 4.5 million manufacturing jobs, with many of these displaced workers were forced to take lower paying jobs, 2) reduced growth in the export of manufactured products and services, 3) increased trade deficits with Canada and Mexico 14.
Job outsourcing has acquired the acronym ‘Globalization’ implying that it is a natural form of economic evolution, enabling large corporations to make their operations more cost-effective and efficient. Not surprisingly, the reality is somewhat different. Since passage of NAFTA, large corporations from the US and other countries have moved their manufacturing to Mexico, China, India, and other low-wage platforms to reduce labor costs, take advantage of lax environmental regulation and more favorable tax policies which increase corporate profits. It should be stressed that these polices have been voluntarily enacted by large financial interests in the US and other countries based on economic decisions and the relentless drive of capitalism to maximize corporate profits. During his 2016 ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign, presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly stated that China has ‘stolen’ American jobs and been involved in massive ‘theft’ of intellectual property 15 . Indeed, China has aggressively pursued economic development and has clearly taken advantage of technology transfer by multinational corporations 16. However, China is certainly not unique as these practices are frequently used by other developing countries. For example, during the Industrial Revolution (circa 1760-1840), the developing US manufacturing base relied largely on knowledge and technologies that had been developed in Europe, primarily the UK. No doubt, some of this technology was acquired by unscrupulous methods. Thus, while Trump was correct in pointing out that many American jobs had indeed moved to China, he has repeatedly failed to acknowledge that these jobs were deliberately moved by American corporations because it is more profitable. Trump’s allegations also beg the obvious question, if large US corporations and their functionaries in government were concerned about technology transfer to China, they should not have moved their production and associated ‘sensitive’ technology out of the US in the first place. Following his electoral victory in 2016, Trump attempted to force corporations to repatriate outsourced jobs. While some US-based firms left China, little of this production was moved back to the US; the vast majority were relocated to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Mexico and other low-wage platforms 17. A fundamental axiom of Capitalism is that business enterprises always seek the highest rate of return on their capital investments. Further, US CEO compensation is typically tied to stock price. Given this reality, large US corporations have curtailed domestic business spending (i.e., investing in new plants and equipment) and instead have allocated large amounts of money for stock buybacks. The reason for this behavior is clear- investments in new plants and equipment have payback periods ranging from years-decades, while spending money on share buybacks and stock futures results in near instantaneous increase of equity prices and higher financial compensation for corporate management. No one forced the CEOs of Apple, Nike, Levis, GM, etc. to move their RD/production facilities to China or other countries. Rather, this was done deliberately to maximize corporate profits. Unfortunately, the proverbial ‘chickens are coming home to roost’. The US is lagging behind China in 5G technology because corporate CEOs have been more interested in boosting stock price and their financial compensation, rather than investing in new plants and equipment to compete with China in this technology.
The Glass-Steagall Act was part of the Banking Act of 1933, and established a barrier or ‘firewall’ between commercial banks, which accept deposits from working people and issue loans and investment banks that sell investment products, such as stocks and bonds. 7 Not surprisingly the financial industry lobbied heavily to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act; in 1999, this lobbying paid off as Bill Clinton enacted the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA; aka the Financial Services Modernization Act), which repealed the depression era Glass-Steagall Act thus loosening regulations on banking. Prior to leaving office, Clinton also signed The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) into law, which exempted over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives from regulation.
A derivative is defined as a financial security whose value is based or ‘derived’ from an underlying asset- bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates, stocks and market indexes. 18 Not surprisingly, derivatives can potentially yield a large financial reward to savvy investors. On the down side, derivatives carry significant ‘market risk’ and lead to financial losses, which can rapidly accelerate during periods of collapsing equity prices. Warren Buffett has described the $ multi-quadrillion derivatives market as “financial weapons of mass destruction. 19 As Pepe Escobar has pointed out, ‘If Tehran were totally cornered by Washington, with no way out, the de facto nuclear option of shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would instantly cut off 25 percent of the global oil supply. Oil prices could rise to over $500 a barrel or more even $1000 a barrel. The 2.5 quadrillion of derivatives would start a chain reaction of destruction.’ 20
Financial deregulation enacted during the Clinton Administration (see Table 1) have been considered a major cause of the 2007-2008 GFC. 21 As pointed out by Pam Martins-
‘The Glass-Steagall Act had kept the U.S. financial system safe for 66 years. It took just nine years after its repeal by Clinton for Wall Street to enrich its own pockets to the tune of billions of dollars, blow up the U.S. economy, and then collect an astounding and secret $29 trillion in below-market-rate loans from the Federal Reserve to bail itself out.’ 22
Unfortunately, none of the structural economic problems giving rise to the 2008 crisis were resolved and as we are now seeing, have returned with a vengeance from the COVID19 pandemic. As a result, American Capitalism confronts the deepest crisis since the Great Depression, plagued by excess capacity and slack demand, high unemployment, with millions of families facing eviction from their homes, food insecurity, loss of medical insurance and financial ruin. Debt levels have exploded- projected US government debt for 2020- $3.1 Trillion (CBO estimate), while total debt levels are projected to reach $80 trillion, up from $71 trillion at the end of last year. 23 A further indication of the severe structural economic problems confronting American capitalism is that the financial industry has been unable to recover from the Global Financial crisis of 2008 and is still dependent on taxpayer support to function. Indeed, since April, the FED has pumped circa $ 7 Trillion of taxpayer-backed funds to Wall St for share buybacks and to purchase toxic corporate debt and mortgage-backed securities. 24 Without this support, many corporations and banks will collapse. 25
Enduring Economic Power
Despite continuing economic decline, the US still wields considerable global economic power, which stems from several factors.
1) Dollar- The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, and as of 2019, comprises 60% of central bank foreign exchange reserves; circa 90% of forex trading involves the U.S. dollar. 26, 27 The dollar (i.e., ‘Petrodollar’) is used for purchase of crude oil. 28
2) FED– The US Federal Reserve System was set up following the 1910 secret meeting of executives from large banks- J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, and Kuhn, Loeb & Co. for ten days on Jekyll Island, Georgia, which was followed by Congress passing the Federal Reserve Act (Dec, 1913), which established the Federal Reserve System as the central bank of the United States. The Chairman, currently Jerome Powell, and FED Governors are appointed by the US President. Thus, the ‘FED’ was set up by private bankers to support the interests of large banks and has effectively no public control over its actions. 29 Of the 12 Reserve banks in the Federal Reserve System, the New York FED (NY FED) wields the most power. 30 The NY FED directs monetary policy through open market operations, emergency lending facilities, quantitative easing, and foreign exchange transactions. It also stores gold on behalf of the U.S. and foreign governments, other nation’s central banks, and international organizations. FED policies, such as setting interest rates and money supply are closely followed by the European Central Bank (ECB), Bank of England, Bank of Japan (BOJ) and other central banks.
3) SWIFT– The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) system is used to conduct financial transactions between 11,000 SWIFT member institutions and is the largest financial network in the world. 31 SWIFT is described as a ‘cooperative society’ under Belgian law, owned by its member financial institutions and headquartered in La Hulpe, Belgium. Due to its dominant global economic position, the US has been able to exert a strong influence on SWIFT policies, such as enforcing unilateral US economic sanctions (effectively a form of financial warfare) on the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and other countries deemed an obstacle to US global hegemony. 32
WWII and subsequent events shaping US foreign policy
Nuclear Attacks on Japan
The twentieth century was marked by turbulence, economic depression, war and economic prosperity. Eclipsing all prior conflicts, WWII was the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in circa 75 million fatalities, with approximately twice as many civilian vs military casualties. During the war, the Soviet Union, much of Europe and Japan experienced high casualties and physical destruction. At the end of the war, the US dropped ‘Little Boy’ an enriched uranium gun-type fission device on Hiroshima, Japan on Aug 6, 1945, followed 3 days later, with ‘Fat Man’, a plutonium implosion-type nuclear weapon dropped on Nagasaki, resulting in circa 250,000 casualties. 33
While much has been written about the decision by the US to attack Japan, when the outcome of the war was all but certain, several things stand out.
1) The Soviet Union suffered the most physical destruction and casualties in WWII, a minimum of 25 million. In comparison, the US experienced circa 400,000 casualties.
2) During the war, the Soviet Union was an ally of the US/allied forces. As the war began winding down, this relationship rapidly changed, as the ruling elite, led by President Harry Truman were positioning the US as the world’s leading military power and viewed the USSR as a threat to American global hegemony. Thus, by dropping atomic bombs on Japan, the US was: i) sending an unmistakable message to the global community of US military might, and ii) also sending a warning to Stalin and the Soviet Union to not interfere with US global policies.
3) As pointed out by Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Center for Research on Globalization, as early as 1945 “the Pentagon had envisaged blowing up the Soviet Union with a coordinated nuclear attack directed against major urban areas. The Pentagon estimated that a total of 204 atomic bombs would be required to Wipe the Soviet Union off the Map”. 34
Iron Curtain & Truman Doctrine
On March 5, 1946 former British PM Winston Churchill delivered a speech at Westminster College, Fulton, MO, dubbed the ‘Iron Curtain speech’, stating
‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.’ 35 In his speech, Churchill stressed the need for the US and UK to work together, acting as ‘guardians of peace and stability’ against the menace of Soviet communism. As a representative of the [former] British Empire, Churchill was signaling that the UK would willingly serve as a junior partner to American imperialism.
In a speech to Congress March 12, 1947, President Harry Truman laid out the ‘Truman Doctrine’, whose primary goal was to ‘contain Soviet geopolitical expansion’ and more broadly, implied American support for other countries ‘threatened’ by Soviet communism. The Truman Doctrine became the bedrock of post-WWII US foreign policy and in 1949, led to establishment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Truman’s speech is considered by many to be the start of the ‘Cold War’.
Demise of Soviet Union
Between 1988–1991 the Soviet Union experienced a process of internal disintegration which began with growing unrest in its various constituent republics are subsequent political and legislative conflicts between the republics and the central government. This is not surprising considering that the country was the largest country in the world, covering a vast land mass of 22,400,000 square km2 with a diverse population of circa 290 million consisting of 100 distinct nationalities. In addition, the USSR faced near continuous hostility from the US, UK and other imperialist powers since its very inception. The collapse of the Soviet Union and ‘end’ of the Cold War was interpreted by some in the US, notably Charles Krauthammer as the beginning of a US-directed ‘unipolar’ movement and a ‘new world order’ by President GW Bush. As is usually the case in global affairs, things did not go exactly as planned- the cold war never ‘ended’ and a ‘multipolar’ world emerged.
Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
The PNAC was founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in the Spring of 1997 as ‘a non-profit, educational organization’ that had a neo-conservative philosophy with close ties to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and endorsed strong American global leadership. 36 The PNAC had a particular focus on Iraq, predating the Bush Presidency and in Jan, 1998, sent a letter to then President Bill Clinton stating:
‘We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding……We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S……That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power’. 37
In Sept 2000, ironically a year prior to 911, the PNAC would publish an influential policy document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” that would serve as a blueprint for US foreign policy in the 21st century. Summarized in its Statement of Principles:
‘As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world’s most preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievement of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?’
‘[What we require is] a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities.’
‘Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership of the costs that are associated with its exercise. America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of the past century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.” 38
The PNAC advocated: 1) increased ‘defense’ spending to ‘carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future’, 2) ‘strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values’, 3) ‘promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad’, and 4) ‘accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles’.
Many PNAC members would go on to hold high level positions in the GW Bush administration, including: Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Dick Cheney (Vice President), Eliot Cohen, Paula Dobriansky, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Richard Perle, Peter Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Zoellick, William Schneider and James Woolsey. 39 Not surprisingly, these individuals would play a major role in shaping post-911 US foreign policy.
911 and Eruption of US Military Activity
On the morning of Tuesday, Sept 11, 2001 the US experienced the deadliest attack in its history. According to the ‘official’ narrative, nineteen people affiliated with al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic group, hijacked 4 jet aircraft- 2 from Boson, 1 from Newark and 1 from Washington Dulles. Two of these aircraft subsequently crashed into the World Trade Center (WTC) in NYC resulting in the collapse of building 1 (WTC1) and building 2 (WTC2), one hit the Pentagon and the fourth crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, PA. 40 Two decades later, there are still multiple outstanding questions about 911, including what did the intelligence community- FBI, CIA know about the hijackers prior to 911, why didn’t the Pentagon immediately scramble fighter jets to intercept the hijacked aircraft, and why did steel framed buildings that had been ostensibly engineered to survive an impact from an airplane, rapidly collapse? 41
As it turned out, 911 would be a ‘watershed’ event, showcased in President George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address where he delivered his [in]famous ‘axis of evil’ speech, designating three countries- North Korea, Iran and Iraq- as rogue states that he claimed ‘harbored, financed and aided terrorists’. 42 Indeed, 911 would set the stage for US military engagements, currently stretching from the Levant, to Caspian Basin, Persian Gulf, South-Central Asia, China Sea, Indian Ocean, Horn of Africa, the Maghreb, to Eastern Europe and Russian border (Figure 1). 43, 44. These conflicts and conflict zones are summarized in Table 2.
Invasion of Afghanistan
The Pentagon has had a longstanding interest in Afghanistan, due to its strategic location in southern Asia- sharing borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to the north, Iran to the west, and Pakistan to the south and east. During the Soviet–Afghan War (1979-1989), the Mujahideen, headed by Osama Bin Laden fought a nine-year guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and Afghanistan government, receiving material and financial support from the US, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries and has been described as a ‘Cold War-era proxy war’, pitting the US against the USSR. In October 2001, immediately following 911, the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan, rapidly ‘defeating’ the Taliban, and soon thereafter, installing a new government headed by Hamid Karzai in Kabul, and declaring the country ‘liberated’. 45. It soon became obvious that this rapid ‘success’ would be short lived. Despite spending over $1 trillion of US taxpayer money and deploying more than 100K troops, the conflict in Afghanistan continues and is the longest war in US history. The Taliban currently control >50% of Afghan territory and Afghanistan has the dubious distinction of supplying >90% of the world’s heroin 46
War on Iraq
Following defeat of the Central Powers in WWI, the Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920) assembled diplomats from 32 countries, resulting in the creation of the League of Nations, denounced by Lenin as a “thieves’ kitchen” and the ‘awarding’ of German and Ottoman overseas possessions as “mandates,” primarily to Britain and France. 47 Well aware of Iraq’s large energy reserves and strategic importance, Winston Churchill managed to cobble together Basra, Bagdad and Mosul into the ‘state’ of Iraq, while at the same time, carve out the state of Kuwait, which has 499 km of Coastline on the Persian Gulf, compared with Iraq, which has 58 km. 48, 49 This was likely done to limit Iraqi coast line and access to the Gulf.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and 911 attacks provided the directors of US foreign policy considerable latitude to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy. As described above, the PNAC laid out their perspective in their 2000 policy manifesto ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’. The Bush Administration was literally infiltrated with PNAC members, led by Vice President Dick Chaney and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld who were well aware of Iraq’s large energy reserves and was ‘ripe’ for the picking. All that was missing was a ‘marketing’ strategy, using 911 as a rationale for initially invading Iraq and then attempting to widen US control of other countries in the Middle East, with the goal of governing the regions vast energy reserves and selling this to a skeptical American public. This was accomplished using corporate media and testimony by Colin Powell, a respected former four-star Army General and 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The stage would be set by a 2002 piece by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller in the paper of record (NYT), alleging that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was secretly building ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD). 50 This piece would form the basis of Collin Powell’s Feb 5, 2003 Speech before the UN, setting up a casus belli (Latin, ‘occasion for war’) for the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. 51 As is now well known, the piece by Gordon and Miller was essentially fabricated as was much of Powell’s UN speech. 52 As preparations for Invading Iraq were being formulated, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others estimated the costs of the conflict to be below $100 billion and ‘reassuring’ nervous Americans that Iraq’s oil ‘would cover’ the cost of the war. 53 As is now readily apparent, the Iraq war which is still ongoing, has been a strategic disaster, resulting in thousands of American casualties, killing or displacing circa 25% of the Iraq population, led to the creation of ISIS and has cost US taxpayers circa $ 5 Trillion. The extent of this disaster was pointed out in vivid detail by Thomas Ricks, former US military reporter for the Washington Post, in his 2006 book- ‘Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005. As pointed out by General Wesley Clark in his 2007 interview with Amy Goodman, US plans to invade Iraq were formulated within days after 911. In addition, these plans also included strategies for ‘taking out’ six other countries in 5 years, including Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” 43
Libya, Syria and Yemen
On Mar 19, 2011 a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, to implement UNSC Resolution 1973, which ‘demanded’ an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians and imposed a no-fly zone and new sanctions on the Qadhafi regime and its supporters. This resolution would be used by US/NATO to overthrow the Libyan government and kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would later ‘joke’ about Qaddafi’s death, commenting ‘We came, we saw, he died’. 54 In a 2016 interview with the BBC, President Barack Obama stated- failing to prepare for the aftermath of the ousting of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi was the ‘worst mistake’ of his presidency’. 55 Gaddafi’s removal plunged the country into chaos and became an international arms bazaar for radical Islamic groups, as he predicted. 56 Since 2014, the country has fractured- split between forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), supported by Turkey and Qatar and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Benghazi-based Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and supported by Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia.
The US has been intent on ‘regime change’ in Syria since at least 2007. 43 Syria occupies a strategic position in Western Asia, sharing borders with Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan (see Figure 1). Direct US involvement in the war on Syria began in 2014, with the support of US vassals- Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel, with the goal of removing President Bashar al-Assad from power, a policy which remains in effect today. Due to the loyalty of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) along with support from Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic or Iran and Russian Air Force and advisors, Syrian forces have fortified control over much of the country and Bashar al-Assad remains in power.
Yemen occupies a strategic position on the Arabian Peninsula, abutting the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Thus, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait is considered a strategic ‘chokepoint’ that can be closed during a military crisis and thus, of interest to major global powers. 57 In 2015, the Houthi Ansarullah movement overthrew the Yemeni government, led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, forcing him to flee to neighboring KSA. In response, Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS), Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, formed a ‘coalition’ consisting of circa 10 countries, including Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)- the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, along with Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco. While not directly involved in the Yemen conflict, the US, UK and other imperialist countries have provided the Saudi coalition with intelligence, logistical and material support. 58 As pointed out by HRW and others, the war on Yemen has been a humanitarian disaster, leading to massive cholera epidemics, poverty, starvation and physical destruction of the country’s infrastructure. 57, 59
2021 and Beyond
The US emerged from WWII as the world’s dominant economic and military power. This power has been facilitated by the dollar’s privileged status as the world’s reserve currency, giving Washington the ability to print money and effectively ‘weaponize’ the dollar. Since the mid-1970s, US global power has been systematically undermined from decades of neoliberal economic policies and costly wars. Since 2001, the US has been involved in conflicts in Afghanistan (longest war in US history), Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. These conflicts have been humanitarian disasters, resulting in the injury or death of thousands of American soldiers, while displacing/killing an estimated 37 million people in the affected countries. The ongoing refugee ‘crisis’ in Europe is a direct consequence of these wars, with millions of people escaping the chaos, violence and poverty that US/NATO wars have created. 60
The costs of these wars to American taxpayers have been staggering. In addition to spending circa $14 trillion on the Pentagon (2001-2020) 61, post-911 conflicts have cost taxpayers circa $6.4 trillion. 60 Despite expending astronomical amounts of financial and human capital on these wars, the American empire has been unable to extract significant imperial rent from these countries. Unfortunately, the Pentagon is incapable of extricating itself from these conflicts as doing so is an admission of failure and by extension military/geopolitical weakness. No amount of jingoistic and bellicose rhetoric from politicians in Washington or talking heads on corporate media changes this reality.
The Trump administration has accelerated US global isolation by exiting or contemplating leaving: Paris Climate Accord, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA; Iran Nuclear deal), Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Open Skies Treaty, UN Human Rights council, World Trade Organization (WTO) and several other agreements. 62 At the same time, China has been actively negotiating multiple trade agreements, including: $400 billion comprehensive energy and security agreement with Iran 63; Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 15 Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia and is the largest trade deal in history 64; EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment 65. Significantly, the US is not a party to any of these agreements and trade will be conducted using regional currencies, excluding the dollar. Not surprisingly, these trade deals are exacerbating tensions between the US, China and other countries. 66 US economic decline has now progressed to the point where the very survival of the American Empire depends on continued money printing to prop up Wall St and large banks, subsidize the military and war. This was recently summarized by economist Richard Wolff- “The Federal Reserve is sustaining US capitalism — directly by loaning to corporations and indirectly by loaning to the federal government — to run a huge deficit, excess of trillion dollars… The federal government is not an intrusion; the federal government is the only thing that keeps private capitalism from a complete bust… And what do we know about this way that the Federal Reserve is keeping capitalism going? It’s funding the most extreme inequality in a century of American history.” 25
Thus, the US is stuck between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’. The very functioning of the American state- keeping Wall St. and large banks solvent and funding the Pentagon and ongoing wars, requires continued public support- i.e., providing unlimited amounts of ultra-cheap money from the Treasury, as laid out in a recent presentation by FED chair Jerome Powell. 67 Indeed, anytime there is so much as a hint that interest rates are going up, equity markets fall. These policies have become so ingrained and accepted as the ‘normal’ functioning of the state, that they were not addressed by Donald Trump or Joe Biden, during the 2020 campaign. The problem is that this is further undermining the strength of the dollar and jeopardizing its role as the world’s reserve currency 68, readily seen from the rising price of gold, which increased 25% last year. History tells us that over the last 700 years, world reserve currencies maintain their position on average 100 years. 69 At this point, the dollar has been the reserve currency for 77 years. 70 As the global economic vise continues to tighten, American foreign policy is becoming increasingly reckless and bellicose, while debt levels continue rising, putting increasing downward pressure on the dollar. When the dollar crashes the American Empire will crash with it. The American ruling elite are courting a rendezvous with disaster.
1. Bretton Woods Agreement and System by James Chen Apr 30, 2020; Link:
2. Launch of the Bretton Woods System- The international currency system became operational in 1958 with the elimination of exchange controls for current-account transactions By Robert L. Hetzel Federal Reserve History; Link: https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/bretton_woods_launched
3. Nixon Ends Convertibility of US Dollars to Gold and Announces Wage/Price Controls- With inflation on the rise and a gold run looming, President Richard Nixon’s team enacted a plan that ended dollar convertibility to gold and implemented wage and price controls, which soon brought an end to the Bretton Woods System. By Sandra Kollen Ghizoni, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Aug 1971; Link: https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/gold-convertibility-ends
4. The Politics of Privatization: How Neoliberalism Took Over US Politics By Brett Heinz; Sept 8, 2017; Link: http://www.faireconomy.org/the_politics_of_privatization
5. Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems- Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative? By George Monbiot Apr 15, 2016; Link: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot
6. New Deal by History.com Editors Nov 27, 2019; Link: https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/new-deal
7. Glass-Steagall Act by History.com Editors Aug 21, 2018; Link: https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/glass-steagall-act
8. Federal Tax Cuts in the Bush, Obama, and Trump Years Report July 11, 2018 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy; Link: https://itep.org/federal-tax-cuts-in-the-bush-obama-and-trump-years/
9. Labor Day: Ronald Reagan and the PATCO Strike by David Macaray HuffPost Aug 20, 2017; Link: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/labor-day-ronald-reagan-and-the-patco-strike_b_59a6d604e4b05fa16286beb1
10. How Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform Changed America- Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign placed welfare reform at its center, claiming that his proposal would “end welfare as we have come to know it.” By Mary Pilon Aug 29, 2018; Link: https://www.history.com/news/clinton-1990s-welfare-reform-facts
11. The Real Lessons from Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform- The 1996 creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program effectively killed cash assistance. Now, Republicans want to use it as a model for the rest of the social safety net. By Vann R. Newkirk II Feb 5, 2018; Link:
12. United States Average Hourly Wages in Manufacturing-1950-2020 Data; Link: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wages-in-manufacturing
13. Mexico Nominal Hourly Wages in Manufacturing- 2007-2020 Data; Link: https://tradingeconomics.com/mexico/wages-in-manufacturing
14. NAFTA’s Legacy: Lost Jobs, Lower Wages, Increased Inequality; Link: https://www.citizen.org/wp-content/uploads/nafta_factsheet_deficit_jobs_wages_feb_2018_final.pdf
15. The White House is only telling you half of the sad story of what happened to American jobs by Linette Lopez Jul 25, 2017; Link: https://www.businessinsider.com/what-happened-to-american-jobs-in-the-80s-2017-7
16. China, Saudi Arabia and the US: Shake Up and Shake Down. By Prof. James Petras Global Research, Dec 04, 2017; Link: www.globalresearch.ca/china-saudi-arabia-and-the-us-shake-up-and-shake-down/5621487
17. Why bringing manufacturing jobs to the U.S. from China is “highly unlikely” by Victoria Craig Marketplace Morning Report Aug 27, 2020; Link: https://www.marketplace.org/2020/08/27/trump-manufacturing-jobs-china-trade-war-deal/
18. Derivative By Jason Fernando Dec 5, 2020; Link: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/derivative.asp
19. What are the Main Risks Associated with Trading Derivatives? By J.B. Maverick Apr 3, 2020; Link: https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/070815/what-are-main-risks-associated-trading-derivatives.asp
20. War on Iran & Calling America’s Bluff by Pepe Escobar April 24, 2019; Link: https://consortiumnews.com/2019/04/24/pepe-escobar-war-on-iran-calling-americas-bluff/
21. Bill Clinton – 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis – TIME; Link:
22. The Bizarre Action in U.S. Treasuries Is Linked to the U.S. National Debt and the Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: Aug 29, 2019; Link: https://wallstreetonparade.com/2019/08/the-bizarre-action-in-u-s-treasuries-is-linked-to-the-u-s-national-debt-and-the-repeal-of-the-glass-steagall-act/
23. World economy engulfed by “debt tsunami” by Nick Beams Nov 20, 2020; Link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/11/21/debt-n21.html
24. The Fed Man Song (to the music of Beatles ‘The Taxman’) by Jack Rrasmus Nov 16, 2020; Link:
25. Capitalism is on life support by Richard Wolff Democracy at Work Jan 4, 2021; Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYrgFU-P63g
26. IMF Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER); Link:
27. Why the US Dollar Is the Global Currency By Kimberly Amadeo July 23, 2020; Link: https://www.thebalance.com/world-currency-3305931
28. The Rise of the Petrodollar System: “Dollars for Oil” By Jerry Robins Thu, Feb 23, 2012; Link: https://www.financialsense.com/contributors/jerry-robinson/the-rise-of-the-petrodollar-system-dollars-for-oil
29. Federal Reserve Act; Link: https://www.federalreserve.gov/aboutthefed/fract.htm
30. Federal Reserve Bank of New York By Investopedia Staff Dec 18, 2020; Link: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/federal-reserve-bank-of-new-york.asp
31. SWIFT; Link: https://www.swift.com
32. SWIFT and the Weaponization of the U.S. Dollar- The U.S. has used the system as a stick before. Continuing down this path could trigger de-dollarization and an ensuing currency crisis. Saturday, Oct 6, 2018; Link: https://fee.org/articles/swift-and-the-weaponization-of-the-us-dollar/
33. The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Link:
34. “Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”, 204 Atomic Bombs against 66 Major Cities, US Nuclear Attack against USSR Planned During World War II When America and the Soviet Union Were Allies. By Prof Michel Chossudovsky Global Research, Oct 27, 2018; Link: www.globalresearch.ca/wipe-the-ussr-off-the-map-204-atomic-bombs-against-major-cities-us-nuclear-attack-against-soviet-union-planned-prior-to-end-of-world-war-ii/5616601
35. The Sinews of Peace (‘Iron Curtain Speech’) Mar 5, 1946; Link: https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1946-1963-elder-statesman/the-sinews-of-peace/
36. Project for the New American Century Oct 16, 2019; Link: https://militarist-monitor.org/profile/project_for_the_new_american_century/
38. Rebuilding America’s Defenses- Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. A Report of The Project for the New American Century By Donald Kagan, and Thomas Donnelly Sept, 2000; Link: https://cryptome.org/rad.htm; https://archive.org/details/RebuildingAmericasDefenses
39. List of PNAC Members associated with the Administration of George W. Bush; Link: https://gyaanipedia.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_PNAC_Members_associated_with_the_Administration_of_George_W._Bush
40. The 9/11 Commission Report- Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States; Link: https://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Exec.pdf
41. Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth; Link: www.ae911truth.org
42. President Bush cites ‘axis of evil,’ Jan. 29, 2002 By Andrew Glass Politico Jan 29, 2019; Link: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/29/bush-axis-of-evil-2002-1127725
43. “We’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran.” Interview with General Wesley Clark Global Research, Feb 06, 2018; Link: https://www.globalresearch.ca/we-re-going-to-take-out-7-countries-in-5-years-iraq-syria-lebanon-libya-somalia-sudan-iran/5166
44. A Timeline of the U.S.-Led War on Terror- In the wake of the attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush called for a global “War on Terror,” launching an ongoing effort to thwart terrorists before they act. By History.com Editors May 5, 2020; Link: https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/war-on-terror-timeline
45. A timeline of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan since 2001 AP July 6, 2016; Link:
46. Washington’s Twenty-First-Century Opium Wars: How a Pink Flower Defeated the World’s Sole Superpower- America’s Opium War in Afghanistan by Alfred McCoy Tom Dispatch Feb 21, 2016; Link: https://tomdispatch.com/alfred-mccoy-washington-s-twenty-first-century-opium-wars
47. The First World War – A Marxist Analysis of the Great Slaughter by Alan Woods June 2, 2019; Link: https://www.marxist.com/first-world-war-a-marxist-analysis-of-the-great-slaughter/16.-the-treaty-of-versailles-the-peace-to-end-all-peace.htm
48. Paris 1919: How the Peace Conference Shaped the Middle East; Link:
49. The Impact of Western Imperialism in Iraq, 1798-1963 By Geoff Simons Dec, 2002; Link: https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/169-history/36399.html
50. Threats and Responses: The Iraqis; U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts By Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller NYT Sept. 8, 2002; Link:
51. Colin Powell Still Wants Answers- In 2003, he made the case for invading Iraq to halt its weapons programs. The analysts who provided the intelligence now say it was doubted inside the C.I.A. at the time. By Robert Draper NYT Jan. 11, 2021; Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/16/magazine/colin-powell-iraq-war.html
52. Lie After Lie: What Colin Powell Knew About Iraq 15 Years Ago and What He Told the U.N.- The evidence is irrefutable: Powell consciously deceived the world in his 2003 presentation making the case for war with Saddam Hussein. By Jon Schwarz
Jon Schwarz The Intercept Feb 6, 2018; Link:
53. The cost of the Iraq war Mar 19, 2013; Link: https://www.registerguard.com/article/20130319/OPINION/303199842
54. The Libya Gamble- A New Libya, with ‘Very Little Time Left’. The fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi seemed to vindicate Hillary Clinton. Then militias refused to disarm, neighbors fanned a civil war, and the Islamic State found refuge. By Scott Shane and Jo Becker NYT Feb. 27, 2016; Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/politics/libya-isis-hillary-clinton.html
55. President Obama: Libya aftermath ‘worst mistake’ of presidency BBC April 11, 2016; Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36013703
56. Coups and terror are the fruit of Nato’s war in Libya- The dire consequences of the west’s intervention are being felt today in Tripoli and across Africa, from Mali to Nigeria by Seumas Milne The Guardian May 22, 2014; Link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/22/coups-terror-nato-war-in-libya-west-intervention-boko-haram-nigeria
57. Strategic Importance of the Indian Ocean, Yemen and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait by Phillyguy for The Saker Blog Aug 5, 2020; Link: https://thesaker.is/strategic-importance-of-the-indian-ocean-yemen-and-bab-el-mandeb-strait/
58. Ending the Yemen war is both a strategic and humanitarian imperative by John R. Allen and Bruce Riedel Brookings Monday, Nov 16, 2020;
59. U.S. War Crimes in Yemen: Stop Looking the Other Way- The State Department warned for years that the U.S. was complicit in war crimes in Yemen. No one put a stop to it. Foreign Policy in Focus by Andrea Prasow Sept 21, 2020; Link:
60. Costs of War Brown University; Link: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar
61. U.S. military spending from 2000 to 2019; Link: https://www.statista.com/statistics/272473/us-military-spending-from-2000-to-2012/
62. Here are all the treaties and agreements Trump has abandoned By Zachary B. Wolf and JoElla Carman, CNN Fri, Feb 1, 2019; Link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/politics/nuclear-treaty-trump/index.html
63. A China-Iran bilateral deal: Costs all around- Beijing sees an opportunity in Tehran’s international isolation – but may not realise the tangle it is entering. By Jeffrey Payne Sept 2, 2020; Link: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/china-iran-bilateral-deal-costs-all-around
64. China signs huge Asia Pacific trade deal with 14 countries By Jill Disis and Laura He, CNN Business Tue Nov 17, 2020; https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/16/economy/rcep-trade-agreement-intl-hnk/index.html
65. The Strategic Implications of the China-EU Investment Deal- The EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment is a win for China, and a blow to transatlantic relations. By Theresa Fallon Jan 4, 2021; Link: https://thediplomat.com/2021/01/the-strategic-implications-of-the-china-eu-investment-deal/
66. EU–US tensions mount after EU signs trade deal with China by Alex Lantier Jan 4, 2021; Link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/01/05/euch-j05.html
67. Fed chief pledges massive support for Wall Street will not cease by Nick Beams Jan 16, 2021; Link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/01/16/powl-j16.html
68. Is the US Dollar’s Role as the World’s Reserve Currency Under Threat? International Banker. Sept 30, 2020; Link: https://internationalbanker.com/finance/is-the-us-dollars-role-as-the-worlds-reserve-currency-under-threat/
69. 3 Major Signs That Precede the Fall of World Reserve Currencies- Economics by Graham Smith Oct 24, 2019; Link: https://news.bitcoin.com/3-major-signs-that-precede-the-fall-of-world-reserve-currencies/
70. 75 Years ago the U.S. Dollar Became the World’s Currency. Will that last? By Greg Rosalsky Jul 30, 2019; Link:
Figure 1 and Tables 1, 2
Figure 1. Map of Western Asia and Middle East. Source: https://ian.macky.net/pat/map/easa/easa.html
Table 1. Major economic legislation since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
|1981||Economic Recovery Tax Act||Reagan|
|1986||Tax Reform Act of 1986||Reagan|
|2001||Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA)||GW Bush|
|2003||Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (JGTRRA)||GW Bush|
|2010||Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act||Bush/Obama|
|2012||American Taxpayer Relief Act||Bush/Obama|
|2017||Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)||Trump|
|1993||North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)||Clinton|
|1996||Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA)||Clinton|
|1999||Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA; Financial Services Modernization Act)||Clinton|
|2000||Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA)||Clinton|
Table 2. US involvement in conflicts and conflict zones since 911.
|Eastern Europe/Russian Border||Clinton- Trump||1997-Present|
|China Sea/Western Pacific||Obama/Trump||2011-present|