The suicidal American empire is rapidly collapsing, but his death would cause unacceptable collateral damage

Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the United States as a child and lives in the Boston area.

He is one of the best known thinkers the new yorker dubbed “The Dystopians” in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular RI contributor (on file). These theorists believe that modern society is heading for a discordant and painful crisis.

He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America’s will be worse). He’s a prolific author on a wide range of topics, and you can see his work by searching for it on Amazon.

He has a huge following on the web and on Patreon, and we invite you to support him there, because Insider of Russia Is.

His current project is to organize the production of affordable houseboats to live in. He himself lives on a boat.

If you haven’t discovered his work yet, take a look at his RI article archive. They are a veritable treasure trove, full of invaluable information about the United States and Russia and their relationship.

There are many behaviors exhibited by those in positions of power in the United States that seem disparate and strange. We watch as Trump imposes sanctions country after country, dreaming of eradicating his country’s structural trade deficit with the rest of the world. We see just about the entire US Congress falling on top of each other in their attempt to impose the toughest possible sanctions on Russia. The Turks, a key NATO country, are literally burning US dollars and smashing iPhones in a fit of anger. Faced with a new suite of Russian and Chinese weapons systems that largely neutralize the United States’ ability to dominate the world militarily, the United States is setting new records in the size of its already outrageously inflated defense spending but obviously ineffective. Against the backdrop of this feeding frenzy of military contractors, the Taliban are steadily advancing in Afghanistan, now controlling more than half the territory and preparing to mark “null and void”, in a repeat of Vietnam, on the longest United States war. A growing list of countries should ignore or compensate for US sanctions, especially sanctions against Iranian oil exports. In a signal moment, Russia’s finance minister recently said the US dollar “is unreliable.” Meanwhile, US debt continues to gallop higher, with its biggest buyer flagged as a mysterious, possibly entirely non-existent “Other”.

Although it may seem like a manifestation of many different trends in the world, I believe it can be said that it is only one thing: the United States – the imperial overlord of the world – standing on a ledge and threatening to jump, while his Imperial vassals – too numerous to mention – stand below and shout “Please don’t jump!” Of course, most of them would be perfectly happy to see the overlord collapsing and freezing to the sidewalk. But here’s the key point: if this were to happen today, it would cause unacceptable levels of political and economic collateral damage around the world. Does this mean that the United States is indispensable? No, of course not, nobody is. But going without it will take time and energy, and as this process unfolds the rest of the world is forced to keep him on life support, no matter how counterproductive, stupid, and demeaning it seems.

What the world needs to do, as quickly as possible, is dismantle the imperial center, who is in Washington politically and militarily and in New York and London financially, while somehow safeguarding the principle of empire. “What?!” you might exclaim, “Isn’t imperialism bad? Well, of course it doesn’t matter, but empires allow for efficient, specialized production and efficient, unhindered trade over great distances. Empires do all sorts of bad things – up to and including genocide – but they also provide a level playing field and a method to keep petty grievances from escalating into tribal strife.

The Roman Empire, then Byzantium, then the Tatar/Mongol Golden Horde, then the Ottoman Sublime Porte all provided these two essential services: unhindered trade and security.– in exchange for a certain amount of constant plunder and looting and some memorable incidents of genocide. The Tatar/Mongol Empire was by far the most streamlined: it simply demanded “yarlyk” (tribute) and crushed anyone who tried to rise above a level at which it was easy to crush them. The American empire is a little more nuanced: it uses the US dollar as a weapon to periodically expropriate the world’s savings by exporting inflation while wiping out anyone who tries to evade the US dollar system.

All empires follow a certain trajectory. Over time they become corrupt, decadent and weakened, and then they crumble. When they collapse, there are two ways to go. One is to go through a dark age of a millennium, as Western Europe did after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Another is for a different empire, or set of cooperating empires, to take over, as happened after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. You may think there is a third way: that of small nations that gently cooperate and successfully collaborate on international infrastructure projects that serve the common good. Such a pattern may be possible, but I tend to have a yellowish view of our simian natures.

We are equipped with MonkeyBrain 2.0, which has very useful built-in functions for imperialism, as well as auxiliary support for nationalism and organized religion. These we can rely on; everything else would either be a repetition of a failed experiment or an untested innovation. Sure, let’s innovate, but innovation takes time and resources, and those are exactly the two things that are missing right now. What we have in permanent surplus are revolutionaries: if they succeed, expect a reign of terror, followed by the rise of a Bonaparte. That’s what happens every time.

Lest you think the United States is not an empire – a crumbling empire – consider the following. The United States’ defense budget is larger than that of the next ten countries combined, but the United States cannot prevail even in a militarily weak Afghanistan. (That’s because so much of his defense budget is trivially stolen.) The United States has something like a thousand military bases, essentially garrisoned all over the planet, but with an unknown effect. He claims the entire planet as his dominion: No matter where you go, you still have to pay US income taxes and are still subject to US laws. He controls and manipulates the governments of many countries around the world, always aiming to turn them into satrapies ruled from the US Embassy compound, but with results ranging from unprofitable to embarrassing to deadly. He is now failing in virtually all of these things, threatening the entire planet with his untimely demise.

What we observe, at all levels, is a kind of blackmail: “Do what we say, or more empire for you!” The US dollar will disappear, international trade will come to a halt, and a dark age will set in, forcing everyone to toil in the mud for a millennium, mired in futile and endless disputes with neighboring tribes.

None of the old methods of maintaining Imperial dominance work; all that remains is the threat of falling and leaving a huge mess for the rest of the world. The rest of the world is now tasked with quickly creating a situation where the American empire can safely receive a knockout blow, without causing collateral damage – and that’s a huge task, so everyone is bound to earn weather.

There are a lot of military postures and there are political provocations all the time, but these are secondary spectacles which become an unaffordable luxury: there is nothing to gain by these methods and much to lose. Essentially, all arguments are about money. There is a lot of money to lose. The total trade surplus of the BRICS countries with the West (US + EU, essentially) exceeds a trillion dollars per year. The SCO – another group of non-Western countries – comes up with almost the same numbers. It is the quantity of products that these countries produce for which they do not currently have a domestic market. If the West evaporated overnight, no one would buy these products. Russia alone had a trade surplus of $116 billion in 2017, and in 2018 so far it has increased by 28.5%. China alone, in its trade with the United States alone, generated a surplus of $275 billion. Add another $16 billion for its trade with the EU.

These are big numbers, but they are far from enough if the plan is to build a turnkey global empire to replace the US + EU in due course. Also, there are no takers. Russia is quite happy to have abandoned its former Soviet dependents and is currently investing in building a multilateral and international governance system based on international institutions such as the SCO, BRICS and EAEU. Many other countries are very interested in coming together in such organizations: more recently, Turkey has expressed interest in transforming BRICS into BRICTS. Essentially, all of the postcolonial nations of the world are now being forced to give up some of their recently gained independence, essentially snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Supreme Global Overlord vacancy is unlikely to attract qualified candidates.

What everyone seems to want is a humble, low-budget, cooperative global empire without all the corruption and with far less life-threatening militarism. It will take time to build, and the resources to build it can only come from one place: by gradually bleeding the US + EU dry. To do this, the cogs of international trade must keep turning. But that’s exactly what all the new tariffs and sanctions, slashing and political provocations are trying to prevent: a ship loaded with soybeans is now circling the Pacific off the coast of China; steel I-beams are rusting on the wharf in Turkey…

But it is doubtful that these attempts will work. The EU has been too slow to recognize how pernicious its dependence on Washington has become and will take even longer to find ways to break free from it, but the process is clearly underway. For its part, Washington runs on money, and since its current antics will tend to make money scarce even faster than it otherwise would, those who stand to lose the most will make Washingtonians feel their pain and force a change of course. As a result, everyone will be pushing in the same direction: towards a slow, steady and controllable imperial collapse. All we can hope for is that the rest of the world manages to pull together and build at least the scaffolding of a functioning Imperial replacement in time to avoid collapsing into a new post-Imperial Dark Age.

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