Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Middle East 2011: Geopolitical Examples of Imperial Overstretch

This is a guest post regarding the sociopolitical situation in Middle East and the possible implications world wide. In many ways it’s a more bloody version than what’s been happening in Latin America in the last decade. Thanks Jon for the well written article!


The Middle East 2011: Geopolitical Examples of Imperial Overstretch
March 2, 2011
By Jon King, P.E.

Libya is a gigantic headache, but it is only a sideshow in the opening act.  Libya is simply one of the hair pin detonators on a geopolitical nuclear weapon waiting to go off.

Gaddafi is an unapologetic tin-horn tyrant that we have quasi-supported because he hates the Muslim fundamentalists as much or more than he hates us and when President Reagan sent that laser guided missile through his tent door as a practical form of realpolitik, Gaddafi got the message; don’t sponsor terrorism, sell Europe your oil and get rich and we won’t bomb the Hell out of you (personally).    Meanwhile we count on him to keep the Caliphate from appearing “50 miles from the shores of Europe” in the words of apparently, his only rational son, as quoted in a headline last week.

Who knows who started the Middle East conflagration, the CIA, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Osama Bin Laden, but the implications are clear.  Black Gold is the name of the game and Saudi Arabia is the largest nugget.

If Saudi Arabia falls, all Hell breaks out everywhere.  Every tyrant, terrorist, pirate, opportunist, and downtrodden Marxist is going to go balls for the wall against our worldwide interests.  They know that we can’t fight everywhere at once and if they see us vulnerable, you won’t have to wait to see them pile on.  In fact, it is already happening.  It isn’t by chance that China is choosing this moment to take concrete steps to move its trade to the Yuan.  If the Middle East goes, oil stops being priced in US Dollars, the US Dollar crashes, and there goes US worldwide economic hegemony, which means we can no longer maintain the façade of wealth and by extension consumption.  Why does China need us if we can’t pay for their goods in a “hard” currency? Especially if we renege on paying them back our debt which we will surely have to do.  Can anyone imagine a scenario under which we undergo domestic austerity in order to pay back the Chinese?  Can anyone say Wisconsin, only the “bad” guys aren’t the public unions and their collective bargaining (extortion) rights, they are the Chinese Communists.  The idea that we have the political will to pay the Chinese back at the expense of our domestic obligations is absurd and I have to believe the Chinese leadership know this.

Obama is clearly in over his head, as are his advisors.  Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard/Oxford/Stanford made that clear last week on MSNBC when he famously described Obama’s Flip and Flop then Flip diplomacy in Egypt.  Apparently, according to Professor Ferguson, when it comes to US Foreign Policy, we don’t know if on any given day Barack is in charge or Hillary is (or, as is more likely, the focus groups are).

It is apparent that the Flip, Flop, Flip is back on in Libya.  That USS Enterprise has been hovering between the Red Sea, Suez Canal, and now Libya for the last 10 days.  You can almost sense the White House desperation in the moves of the carrier – they don’t know whether to support Libya, chase supposed Iranian destroyers entering the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal (a token move against Israel and overt Iranian exploitation of supposed Egyptian and US weakness), or guard against an Iranian move against the Straits of Hormuz coordinated with an attack by the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia against the main Saudi Oil terminal at Ras Tanura. 

All of the rest of our deployed (and much newer) carrier battle groups are in and around places like Taiwan and South Korea.  We don’t dare move them because North Korea may enter the fray against South Korea at the least opportune moment if they smell enough blood in the water, or more ominously, China may move against Taiwan, or both.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Diplomatic cables were burning red hot between Washington, Tehran (via Moscow), and Pyongyang (by way of Beijing).  Probably short, terse, to the effect “you attack us or our allies while we are otherwise engaged in Libya and Saudi Arabia and you can expect a stealth nuclear cruise missile up your ass.”  Just this week, The National Geographic actually put together an article together with an almost beautiful full color picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud on the cover, authoritatively stating that a “limited nuclear war” would improve global warming.  That is downright terrifying, as the National Geographic has long been known to be aligned and largely bank rolled by the interests of the global centralized financial powers.  That article may be code for them to get the domestic green movement’s support (Obama’s base) for an Obama led limited US nuclear attack against Iran or North Korea should the whole Middle East thing spiral out of control.  It would also be a wonderful distraction and misdirection of US domestic opinion away from stringing up the bankers (Oscar winning ‘Inside Job’) and towards stringing up the greedy oil sheiks.  It would also send a stark message to a non-eurocentric and non-anglocentric worldwide commercial powers - you may have real manufacture and industry but we have carrier battle groups, space based nuclear weapons, and the will to use them in defense of our interests. 

Our military and its soon-to-be-waning prowess is the only trump card we have left.

As of now, the elderly USS Enterprise is heading to Libya to facilitate evacuations, and maybe that really is Obama’s purpose, although it should also be to secure the oil facilities before Gaddafi burns them as Saddam did to the Kuwaiti oil fields in the nineties.  Because if he burns his oil infrastructure as he has threatened to do, peak oil price increases will be inopportunely accelerated, the threat of the US Dollar going into free fall rises exponentially, the world economy is shaken to its core (as is ours), and, ironically, Muslim fundamentalists the world over will be emboldened. 

We can’t and won’t nuke civilian populations “protesting” for their democratic rights against the tyrants we have supported and installed in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.   We can, however, easily manufacture a reason to nuke Iran or North Korea.

If you haven’t noticed, Egypt’s coup against Mubarak has been “solved” by replacing him with his “mini me” military protégé.  Our interest in Egypt has not been damaged by their supposed “revolution.”  I am sure we are desperately trying to replicate that in Libya, and prevent it from occurring at all in Saudi Arabia. 

The rising price of Oil, Food, Precious Metals, Revolutions, Volatile Fiat Currencies, and War are all competing to be the first fuse to light the pile of long accumulating fuel that sets off the conflagration that begins the next sea change in world politics and economics. 

The United States is vulnerable in many ways, and powerful in others.  This promises to be a near run thing.  Ultimately, however, military power always is a derivative of economic power or plunder.  Take away that and the military power disappears.   Take away our dollar supremacy and you take away our ability to fund our military which in turn weakens our dollar….resulting in a very high stakes game of near term chicken and long term roast.

We may very well be able to partner with Saudi Arabia to suppress their masses from rebelling, we have been successful partnering with them in doing that for years, but sometime, someplace, some cog in the complex machinery that is our economic and military worldwide hegemony is going to break.  When that happens we will have reached Paul Kennedy’s famous Imperial Overstretch and for those whose dreams included a dominant United States hegemony into the 21st century, those dreams will end. 


Darryll Anderson said...

interesting article but....the ME isnt collapsing for democracy or religion, it is falling because people cant afford to live and the usa cant do anything about that. if we dont QE and inflate then we die. it is us or them and the central banks will not stop til they are whole again...screw the rest of the world.

when the starving masses finally figure out it is the usa not their leaders that are causing inflation...well...we may have a real problem.

Groundswell said...

With so much on the line, I don't get why every American ready to increase taxes on the millionaire bankers to help stabilize our fiscal situation and our economy. I know we hate redistribution, but, hell, the richest 1% of American control DOUBLE what they did 30 years ago!

David said...

@groundswell: read Denniger's comment on what happens if tax rates are raised to confiscatory levels for "the rich."

"The rich" stop earning the money. No one works just to see it taken at IRS gunpoint. Use some common sense.
The Banksters are getting rich because they are in cahoots with their government regulators. That's different, but don't expect such oligarchic criminality to end soon.

David said...

The author appears to believe the U.S. is powerful enough to do almost anything its leaders choose.

Martin van Creveld has persuasively argued that it is the MORAL component of war that is most important.

The U.S. is being bankrupted in part due to insane levels of military spending. Employing that mighty fist invites comparisons to David and Goliath, and the U.S. isn't David.

If those ruling the U.S. choose to employ nukes against people again (most of Truman's cabinet and most high military officers abhorred their use in 1945, go look it up) it will seal the fate of the U.S. Empire as the ultimate evil and consolidate the rest of the world as an enemy.

As a U.S. citizen this is NOT in my best interest.

Don Williams said...

1) TIME Magazine has an article
"Are America's Best Days Behind Us?"
about our national decline, including a set of graphics showing the enormous concentration of income in the past 3 decades and the ongoing destruction of America's Middle Class.



2) More detailed data is here:

As with the ancient Roman Republic, that concentration of wealth from global empire --as well as the destruction of the middle classes from the costs of prolonged wars -- has spawned enormous corruption that is destroying a republic.

3) The failure of the Financial Reform bill showed that The Democrats and Republicans are not really opponents any more. They both agree that their job is to prostitute themselves to their wealthy donors and to stab the rest of the country in the back.

Anonymous said...

Stopped reading at "If the Middle East goes, oil stops being priced in US Dollar..." Oil isn't 'priced' in US dollars now.

hsu said...

The reason that the middle class does not have a voice anymore is due to the decline in unions.

Money and politics go hand in hand.

Thus, the rich have always had a voice in politics.

But, for a long time, the middle class also had a voice in politics, due to union money. The 30s-60s had strong unions, which meant lots of money, which meant lots of political influence.

As much as you hate unions, they were the only reason politicians once paid attention to the middle class. And in hindsight, it's obvious to me that they are the lesser of two evils.

Anonymous said...

David said: "The U.S. is being bankrupted in part due to insane levels of military spending."

If you do your research you'll realized that military spending is only 1/5 of the spending, majority are in entitlements (social security, medicare, medicaid, etc). So even if we disband our military and spend zero in defense we are still in a hole with $1.5T deficit and $650B defense we still have a deficit of $900B and that's just for 2011.

BTW, military spending is the only constitutional spending in article 1, section 8.

Anonymous said...

hsu, do you really believe what you're saying?

First, the government union are not middle class because these people don't pay taxes they get paid with taxes. Filing income tax return at the end of the year is just a check provided by the government to take back the excess they doled out.

Second, the taxpayers are private workers working for corporations and companies or self employed, and the higher paid of these people are called middle class and better educated, they're not union members. Most union members in the private sector are hourly wage workers.

Remember the tax payers are the private sector and the tax payee are public sector (government workers).

Anonymous said...

I think Hsu's point was that unions enabled regular folks to have a decent life. I remember when I was a kid, the janitor at our school could raise a family. Not anymore, its a $10 an hour job. Is that a good thing for America? EXTREME inequality is a very bad thing for democracy and the economy. Everytime its happened, we've crashed.

Don Williams said...

1) The REAL US Military budget is more like
$1.2 Trillion when you add up all the pieces --
interest on the percentage of federal debt incurred
by military budgets, Department of Energy nuclear
program, Homeland Security budget, Intelligence
Community budget, care for veterans of combat,etc.

2) A huge chunk of federal spending is almost $600 Billion
PER YEAR in INTEREST on the federal debt. Most of that
massive debt was incurred by the last three Republican
presidents spending excessively on military operations
and programs while cutting taxes for the rich.

3) The USA military spending is more than the the next
23 Major military powers COMBINED -- and most of those major
powers are our NATO allies and Japan. Our budget alone accounts
for 43 percent of the world's military spending. Who are we planning
to fight -- the Martians?

4) Meanwhile the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says
our excessive debt is the greatest threat to US National Security:

5) We don't spend to defend the USA --we spend to extend a global
Empire in which the huge profits flow to a favored few while the
huge costs are dumped off onto the average American. Assuming
the American isn't in prison or unemployed because his boss threw him
away like used toilet paper in order to move manufacturing to

We are spending almost $35 for every gallon of gasoline we get
from the Middle East. That SUBSIDY for Big Oil is taken off our
income tax, not paid at the pump. The pump price is keep absurdly
low to bankrupt any entrepreneurs who try to develop alternatives
to Big Oil.

We spend over $1 Trillion per year on the military --
much of it to protect Big Oil's foreign investments --
but almost NOTHING on research to develop alternative energy supplies.

6) Meanwhile, most Americans will die before their time due to lack
of medical care rather than any terrorist swimming the ocean from

Don Williams said...

A lot of Americans will also die before their time due to lack of police protection.

We need regime change here in the USA --not in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to rebuild the USA --not foreign countries.

gaga said...

The Mad Dog's response to bombing his tent was to blow up a PanAm airliner, hardly a response the author claims.

And his blithe comments about sending a stealth nuclear cruise missile is equally misguided. Such a blatant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty will allow the other nuclear powers to legally supply non nuclear powers with weapons and justify their demands to develop them.
There is no technical reason why other states cannot develop nuclear bombs, its purely legal; remove that and the US will find many of its enemies armed and willing to use them.

hsu said...


Government unions don't pay taxes? Huh? When did that happen?

All of the cops I know pay taxes. As do all of the firefighters I know, as do all of the school teachers I know - they all pay taxes.

And while I don't have any friends working at the dept of motor vehicles, or for the IRS, I'm sure they all pay taxes too.

Nobody is exempt from taxes - even the president pays taxes.

Anonymous said...

Basically the article amounts to "If America is weakened we're going to got apeshit!"
But that already happened with the 9/11 coverup, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the banking bailout. The U.S fading from power will be ugly but necessary if it is to have a political future.

Anonymous said...

I thought America's economy was enfeebled partly because America lost its manufacturing capability. Aren't the jobs going overseas because overseas workers can do the same jobs as Americans for less, or a better job than Americans for less? I was under the impression that unions make sure that the labor of American workers is overvalued and that American workers receive too much money. If the best the man can do in the many years of his life is become a "janitor" that earns "$10 and hour", then I think the sad sad truth is that if he needs heart surgury, he deserves to be a wage slave for the hospital/health insurance company, and that he doesn't deserve the benefits that a union could give him. Chinese workers live humble, frugal lifestyles and still manage to save, while American workers band together and demand more than what they need because Americans are greedy and arrogant and spiritually dead (I KNOW that chinese workers are humble people, bless them).

Don't quote me on this but I think Ron Paul is aiming to reduce the minimum wage which I think will bring back the manufacturing jobs. In my eyes that's how he's acknowledging the fact that Americans are uncompetitive. The bright side to this is he probably won't have to reduce it by that much, since apparently the average Chinaman's wage has been increasing all this time, and the American wage reduction will be offset by Mr Paul's program to let young people opt out of paying social security.

Seriously, if someone ANYONE can refute me and present a good argument that we can have unions as they currently are and an economy that's growing again that would be extremely sweet because that's basically "having the cake and eating it too".

I guess I should tie this back to the article... Whatever that has to be done to revitalize the American economy should be done. When that's taken care of the U.S. will have better footing in every aspect of its dealings with foreign countries.

Ferfal may God save you and your countrymen during Kirchner's second term. Take care!