Manifest Destiny — When speaking of empires throughout human history, the dominant theme is not that they come into being, but that eventually they come to an end. If one takes a map of the world and travels across its terrain through time, visions of the pendulum of power swinging from one part of humanity to another would appear.
Dynamic, transforming, and unpredictable, the empires of man have never endured forever. The dominant human empire of the twentieth century, the United States of America, has been officially different if not operationally identical to its predecessors in how it acquired, sustained, and augmented its political, social, economic, and spiritual power.
However, the veil on its “big stick”, democracy, makes analyzing the United States different from other nations because it is the father of modern democratic government. Rather than the power of the nation being vested in one person, as it was in Rome under the Caesars, the power of the United States of America is vested in its Congress, whose power comes from its people.
As the end beckons for the first decade of the twenty-first century, the American empire finds itself increasingly assailed on multiple fronts. While some view the country’s global influence as diminishing, others contend the vast geopolitical influence the U.S. will ultimately wield is in its infancy. While these views differ, the central question at the heart of each is whether the United States is in decline or not?
The question of whether the United States of America is in decline is a complex question. The possible answer is no less multifaceted. While political, social, or religious analyses are suitable dimensions of the American identity to query, its economic status may be the most appropriate.
Because economic prowess has been the fulcrum of American power and influence throughout its history, fundamental changes to this element of the U.S. identity likely signifies continued global hegemony or a diminishing “sphere of influence”.
As a de-facto empire, the United States of America has successfully combined political, economic, social, and the “police” power to unite itself internally as well as diffuse its power externally. Internally, the nation has created a tiered governmental system based on federalism where the national government, state governments, and local governments share power.
While power is shared, the federal government’s power is supreme above the others based on the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. In many ways, the diffusion of America’s “quartet of power” globally mimics the internal design and processes of its interdependent governments. While currently there is no single government whose law is sovereign across the planet, the United States has relatively achieved this through its four axis of power since 1945.
Just as 9/11 signaled a shift in the world’s geopolitical dynamics, making the U.S. dollar the world’s reserve currency in 1944 cemented America’s monetary system as the template for world’s nations. The monetary “throne” granted the United States after World War II, the rise of the military-industrial complex, the allure of the “American Dream” embedded in democracy, and the covert actions of the U.S. military and intelligence apparatuses all served to elevate America to “superpower” status. However, nearly sixty-five years since the Second World War, U.S dominance in these four areas is at least being assailed by other nations if not successfully mitigated.
In the vein of the term “blowback”, the United States is experiencing the negative repercussions of its actions that have exploited other sovereign nations economically but also its own citizens domestically. While there are a range of reasons that could support the view the United States is going into decline, thirteen reasons are offered to under-gird this view.
While the aforementioned reasons do not capture all of the macroeconomic and micro-economic elements that influence the economic condition of the United States, they do speak to the fundamentals of America’s economic health. Whether it is the problems plaguing the U.S. dollar, the credit addiction of the citizen-consumer or corporation-consumer, or the debt leverage China has on the U.S. through treasury notes, “Foolish #13” speaks to the fracturing relationship between the country, its citizens, and its companies.
This “trinity of affinity” which has enabled and reinforced U.S. hegemony economically, is splintering as credit is restricted to consumers by financial institutions but extended to companies (primarily financial institutions). Lastly, while the U.S. credit card via treasury notes has not been rescinded totally, sell of t-bills by foreigners has declined as the Federal Reserve Bank has “monetized” the debt.
What do these developments indicate about America’s health economically? Are they the normal gyrations and variances to be expected for any nation integrated with the global economy? Or is it something else? The “Foolish 13” offers some avenues for exploring these questions and perhaps Bruce Hornsby & The Range’s “The Way It Is” can tell us what is really going on?
The USA: Declining Or Still Ascending To Its “Manifest Destiny”
“Foolish 13″: Thirteen Reasons Why the U.S. is in Decline”
1. Intentional currency devaluation of the U.S. dollar by the Federal Reserve System and U.S. Treasury through artificial increase of money supply or “legalized counterfeiting”. In essence, the nation can create something of “real value” out of nothing that has no real value.
2. Decline of domestic manufacturing capacity.
3. Overuse of credit via record auctions of U.S. treasury notes to foreigners to “finance” federal expenditures.
4. The use of foreign labor by companies based in the United States coupled without-migration of foreign businesses and foreign capital from America.
5. Increasing stratification of wealth disparities primarily and income disparities secondarily within the American population.
6. The overuse of credit (HELOC, credit cards, student loans, etc), failure to budget,and increasing unemployment or underemployment undertaken and experienced by the American citizen-consumer.
7. The overuse of credit by American businesses.
8. Foreign countries like China utilizing currency-swap agreements to remove theU.S. dollar from international transactions.
9. The call from some of the BRIC nations (China & Russia) as well as the IMF to remove the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the international financial system.
10. The continuing trend of precious metals like gold and silver not only increasing in value but moving from weak hands to strong hands.
11. The continued involvement of the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and Iraq without clear signs of victory coupled with the use of Stop-Loss to “recycle” military personnel.
12. The consideration of the Congress and President to pass a comprehensive health care plan while the bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare looms.
13. The failure of the Congress and President to represent and serve the American people in the spirit of the “Founding Fathers” as well as the letter of law codified in the Constitution. In essence, exchanging the corporation for the people to be served as the true citizens of nation.
In international relations, intervention is referred to outsiders interfering with the internal politics of another state, militarily or otherwise. To preserve sovereignty and self-determination, states often times decline and prohibit any incoming international help. When we intervene, in spite of resistance, we jeopardize a state’s ability to protect its own citizens and in turn begin an inevitable war. The debate between interventions versus sovereignty has been one of the most heated debates in international relations as the fine balance between the two is seldom identified.
Where we draw the line between intervention and support/help seems blurry. Sometimes, the regimes not only decline help but also resists and prohibits all international journalists, making it very difficult to gauge the level of crisis. Consequently, when a regime’s sovereignty fa? ade is risking individual human rights, we are limited with options of action. Sovereignty cannot and should not take precedence in a state where human security is at high stakes.
Though a military intervention for humanitarian purposes seems contradictory, we are left with no other options. Do we watch thousands get killed by their “leaders” or do we strategize and risk the death of a few thousand for the death of one? The answer is not as straightforward as it should be.
What is also unclear is whether or not these interventions are based on ethical responsibility, international pressure or self-interested power status. In some cases, the lack of international media attention allows the international community to use sovereignty in their favor of not intervening.
However, in other cases, such as the 2011 Arab Spring, the issues concerning human rights, violence against youth, absence of democratic powers is widely covered on a frequent basis which makes it difficult for the international community to escape from.
The Responsibility to Protect, also known as the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty is a 108 page doctrine that states basic principles, core elements and foundations of the policy. Its existence is needed and appreciated, however still insufficient for the load of problems we face.
To intervene or not to intervene becomes a controversy that we are still unable to solve. When we do intervene, we have no way of predicting its outcome and the tragedies that follow are unavoidable. When we avoid intervention, we look at a state like Myanmar (Burma) and wonder where and why we missed our opportunity.
The implications of intervention are not clear-cut but there ought to be a way to encourage dialogue and discussion between leaders to avoid the tragedies of intervention.
Without any intervention, will the world continue to stand in willful ignorance as these atrocities continue to happen?
How do we prioritize states in need? At what point do we determine whether help or intervention is needed? Who is to decide when we should intervene? These questions have been left unanswered but we need to better ourselves and challenge ourselves to finish answering these questions. The R2P doctrine is a great start but we need to continue this dialogue and find solutions to our issues.