This article originally appeared on Club Orlov
The story is always the same: a nation, by a combination of fortunate circumstances, becomes powerful—much more powerful than the others—and, for a time, dominates. But lucky circumstances, which often boil down to a few advantageous geological quirks, be it Welsh coal or West Texas oil, come to an end in due course. Meanwhile, the former superpower is corrupted by its own power.
As the endgame approaches, those who are still nominally in charge of the empire’s collapse resort to all sorts of desperate measures – all but one: they will refuse to consider the fact that their imperial superpower is at its end and that they should change their habits accordingly. . George Orwell once offered an excellent explanation for this phenomenon: as the end of the imperial game approaches, it becomes a matter of imperial self-preservation to engender a ruling class for special purposes – a class incapable of understanding that the end of the game is approaching. . Because, you see, if they had any idea what was going on, they wouldn’t take their jobs seriously enough to keep the game going for as long as possible.
The impending imperial collapse can be seen in the increasingly poor results the empire is getting for its imperial efforts. After World War II, the United States was able to do a respectable job helping to rebuild Germany, as well as the rest of Western Europe. Japan also fared quite well under US tutelage, as did South Korea after the end of fighting on the Korean Peninsula. With Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia all badly damaged by the United States, the results were much worse: Vietnam was an outright defeat, Cambodia went through a period of genocide, while the surprisingly resilient Laos – the most heavily bombed country on the planet – recovered on its own.
The first Gulf War went even worse: fearing to undertake a ground offensive in Iraq, the United States discontinued its usual practice of overthrowing the government and installing a puppet regime there and left it in limbo for a decade. When the United States finally invaded, it managed – after killing countless civilians and destroying much of the infrastructure – to leave behind the dismembered corpse of a country.
Similar results have been achieved in other places where the United States has seen fit to get involved: Somalia, Libya and, most recently, Yemen. Let’s not even talk about Afghanistan, since not all empires have managed to achieve good results there. The trend is therefore unequivocal: while at its peak the empire destroyed to rebuild the world in its own image, as it neared its end it destroyed simply to destroy, leaving in its wake heaps of corpses and smoking ruins. .
Another undeniable trend has to do with the efficiency of spending money on “defense” (which, in the case of the United States, should be redefined as “offense”). Having a richly endowed army can sometimes lead to success, but here too something has changed over time. The famous American spirit of dynamism that was evident to all during World War II, when the United States eclipsed the rest of the world with its industrial might, is no more. Now, more and more, military spending itself is the goal – no matter what it accomplishes.
And what he achieves is the last F-35 jet fighter that can’t fly; the last aircraft carrier that cannot launch planes without destroying them if they are equipped with the auxiliary tanks they need to carry out combat missions; the most technologically advanced AEGIS destroyer that can be taken out of action by a single unarmed Russian aircraft carrying a basket of electronic warfare equipment; and another carrier that can be scared out of deep water and forced to anchor by a few Russian submarines on routine patrol.
But Americans love their guns, and they love handing them out as a sign 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; those they gave to Ukrainian nationalists were sold to the Syrian government; those they gave to the government of Yemen are now in the hands of the Houthis who recently overthrew it. And so the effectiveness of lavish military spending has also diminished. At some point, it may become more effective to modify US Treasury printing presses to blast wads of US dollars in the general direction of the enemy.
With the strategy of “destroy to create” which is no longer viable, but with the blind ambition of still trying to impose itself everywhere in the world which is somehow part of the political culture, all that remains is the murder. The main tool of foreign policy becomes political assassination: whether it’s Saddam Hussein, or Muammar Gaddafi, or Slobodan Milošević, or Osama bin Laden, or any number of lesser targets, the idea is simply to kill.
While targeting the leader of an organization is a favorite technique, the general populace gets its share of the kill as well. How many funerals and weddings have been swept away by drone strikes? I don’t know if anyone in the United States really knows this, but I’m sure those whose loved ones were killed remember it and will remember it for at least a few centuries. This tactic is generally not conducive to creating a lasting peace, but it is a good tactic for perpetuating and aggravating conflict. But it is now an acceptable goal, because it creates the justification for increased military spending, allowing more chaos to be generated.
Recently, a retired American general went on television to say that what it takes to turn the situation around in Ukraine is just to “start killing Russians”. The Russians listened to this, marveled at his idiocy, then went ahead and opened a criminal case against him. From now on, this general will not be able to travel to an ever-increasing number of countries around the world for fear of being arrested and deported to Russia to stand trial.
This is largely a token gesture, but non-token gestures of a preventative nature are sure to follow. You see, my fellow space travelers, murder happens to be illegal. In most jurisdictions, inciting others to murder is also illegal. The Americans granted themselves the license to kill without verifying that they were not exceeding their authority. So we should expect that as their power fades, their license to kill will be revoked and they will find themselves reclassified from global hegemonies to mere murderers.
As empires crumble, they turn inward and subject their own populations to the same mistreatment to which they subjected others. Here, America is not exceptional: the number of Americans murdered by their own police, with minimal repercussions for those who kill, is quite staggering. When Americans wonder who their enemy really is, they need look no further.
But this is only the beginning: the precedent has already been set for the deployment of American troops on American soil. As law and order break down in more and more places, we will see more and more American troops on the streets of American cities, sowing death and destruction as they did in Iraq. or in Afghanistan. The last license to kill to be revoked will be the license to commit suicide.