The Fall of the US Empire
– And then What?
The founder of peace studies, 79 – year old professor and activist, Johan Galtung, makes a prognosis that American Empire will decline by the year 2020.
“To understand what is an Empire” – he spoke yesterday in Casino Syndical, invited by the Luxembourg’s Institute of European and International Studies – “you must open up for holistic thinking”. According to his simple, yet useful definition, an empire is a sum of four powers: economic, military, political and cultural. “Empire feeds on economic extraction, political submission-repression, military intervention and cultural cloning” – we can read in his
newest book, many copies of which he brought with him in his personal luggage*.
Prilog slika 1. „Jesusland“, fiktivna mapa
utemeljena na izbornim rezultatima Demokrata 2004.g.
The four powers operate in symbiosis, which means they strengthen each other:
“Military power is used to conquer land, resources, producers-consumers, to command submission and to impose culture. But economic power can also be used to buy all the above (the elite of the conquered lands – N.K.), political power to command them – and cultural power to convince the Periphery that to be exploited, intervened, repressed and cloned are all in their own best interest.” (p. 13)
And although this symbiosis of the powers can keep the empire exploiting the rest of the world for quite a long time, it can’t operate forever, according to Galtung. “Force engenders counter-force” and the costs of controlling the resistance will ultimately become higher than the benefits, not only for the masses, but for the elites themselves.
The conflict between the expansion of the imperialist system and the amount of suffering it produces are so deep, says Galtung, that they become contradictions. He lists 16 contradictions of the American empire. To name just some of them, they are:
-the economic contradiction between growth and distribution: overproduction of luxury goods and growing number of people who don’t have their basic needs met
-between the production – distribution- consumption and nature
-between US state terrorism and terrorism
-between state-corporate elites and working classes of unemployed and contract workers
-between older generations and youth (Seattle, Praha, Genova, etc.)
-between myth and reality
The foundations of the US imperialism lay in the belief that USA is a country chosen by God, a country with a special mission to carry out on Earth. As soon as there’s nobody believing in it anymore, the empire will fall down. “With military, economic and political power justified by the myths and beliefs, but unsupported by faith, the magic starts unraveling (…). Power becomes secular. Action has to be justified by controversial economic- military – political rationality. The magic is gone. And the Empire will soon follow” (p. 20).
Optimistic as his prognosis is, however, Galtung is far from recognizing that the new world order will be free from conflict. It will be based on the system of regions rather than states. No state will step into the boots of the USA, for China and India, two states often thought-of as future centers, are not interested in an imperialist project.
Regionalisation, analyses Galtung, began as a defense either against the US Empire, or against the UN veto power. Many regionalisation processes, however, such as the one in Latin America or within the Organisation of the Islamic Community, draw their force not only from pragmatic ends, but also from reaching back to more holistic systems – the indigenous ones in case of South America (you can see a very good example of it in the new constitution of Bolivia, taking indigenous values as the new, post-colonial state’s values) or the muslim community in the second case. In the best case this traditional wisdom, including Indian buddhist nonviolence and Chinese capability to protect itself from interventionism, may positively inspire the current “(…) world filled with pessimism, fear and the zero-sum games of the state and region system (…)” (p.77). This can make a path to a more peaceful, positive goals-oriented world politics.
And what will happen with the USA themselves? Galtung presents two scenarios: in the worst case scenario the fundamentalist Christian fraction will commit a fascist coup and seize the power. In the best case scenario, the downfall of the US Empire will be actually beneficial to the US Republic and its people. The US Republic will undergo a series of necessary reconstructions: economic reconstruction leading to the fulfillment of basic needs, equity and ecological positive balance; military reconstruction leading to solving conflicts; political reconstruction leading to democratization, cultural reconstruction initiating dialogue for a new cultural synthesis (new Enlightenment), social reconstruction leading to new rules of solidarity.
Despite the promises of Barack Obama, however, this reconstruction is unlikely to start during his presidency, according to Galtung. The main reason is “(…) deep structure and deep culture of an imperial state penetrated Obama’s mind, maybe at the Punahou elite school in Honolulu? And maybe more than he knows?” (p. 147). Obama doesn’t have neither the courage, nor political capital to make significant changes in the system, so the years of his presidency will be the years of stagnation and gradual, inevitable downfall of the Empire.
* Galtung, J., The Fall of the US Empire – And then What?, 2009, pp.268