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Martial Arts

Empire–On the Slide

Farooque Chowdhury

Disarray, it seems, is pervading all around the Empire. It's, probably, the perception of at least a part of conservatives in the US.

To Republican Senator John McCain, diplomatic efforts to end the Syria crisis is "a total collapse", Palestine-Israel peace talks are "finished", and Iran talks "will collapse, too".

All the three points of contention—Syria, Israel-Palestine and Iran—are too delicate to handle. In a waning single pole world, it's not easy to impose whatever one likes.

In case of Ukraine, the senator's observation is: US is talking strongly and carrying a small stick, in fact, a twig. But it should be a big stick and soft talk.

But big sticks sometimes turn useless. And, sometimes, space is not available for maneuvering a big stick. In Vietnam, the Empire had a big stick. And, the Empire has learned its lesson of big stick there.

Republican Senator Bob Corker's tone was not also different. He said: "We ended up jumping in Syria's lap. We now sit in the back of the bus as Iran and Russia really drive policy in Syria."

Senator Bob Corker is correct, but partially. The back seat was chosen earlier. Opting for back seat in Syria intervention case is not for the first time. The first case of back seat choice was during Libya intervention. And, choice of back seat was not optional; it was a reality.

An intervention has been made in Syria, and the interference was planned and prepared long time ago, and price of the intervention, armed and brutal, is being paid by the people of Syria. Back seat there provides a few opportunities.

The senator was recognizing reality at a congressional hearing as he said, "On the major issues, the administration is failing very badly".

It was an assessment of reality the Empire is now facing around the world. The reality is not full with hopes for the Empire. Rather, it carries signs of emerging competitors to the Empire.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, it seems, also was not sure. At the congressional hearing, responding to senator McCain, he said: "Sure we may fail." He went further: "I may fail".

On the question of Iran, the secretary of state was "not predicting success". He repeated: "I'm not". He said on the Iran issue: "We have no illusions about how tough this is."

But, he was bold again as he said: "I don't care."

He said: "But I know we have an obligation to go through this process before we decide to go to war."

So, one finds both: a determined tone, and a desperate tone in a desperate environment.

The hearing was not an easy one as the secretary of state was surprised by the Republican Senator's highly personal criticisms. Failures made the senator angry.

In the broader world, the reality is turning tough.

A Reuters report said: Troubled Mideast peace effort compounds US policy woes in the region. An AFP report quoted Kerry: Israeli settlements led to peace talks stalemate.

Russia and Iran, it was reported, are going to make an oil-for-goods deal. To the camp that now clearly stands opposed to Russia, the deal, if finalized, would be a challenge to them.

To the further east, the prevailing wind is not for an easy-sailing.

General Chang Wanquan, China's defense minister asserted: No one, not even the United States, could contain China's military ambitions. "With the latest developments in China, it can never be contained."

The assertion followed incidents initiated by others—the Empire and its allies. US arms sales to Taiwan is not a single incident to cite.

Japan's military posture and preparation are not easily accepted by its neighbors. It smells militarism. The country's moves with the Diayu islands create reasons to get annoyed. Moreover, Chang said, "Japan is making provocative comments on China, and China is exercising restraint to the maximum."

China's establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, the measure China considers necessary to protect sovereignty and security, and borne out of self-defense, is a common international practice. The step—the ADIZ—conforms to the UN Charter.

But the US flew two B-52 bombers through the ADIZ without notifying China.

It's the Empire's rejection of a country's right to protect sovereignty and security. It's an old story. The new is the issue in an old zone of tension.

Japan also rejects China's right.

So, the US B-52s were flown in support of Japan.

In this environment of provocation-rejection-tension, Chuck Hagel, the US defense secretary, expressed hopes to create a framework to "manage competition" between the US and China. To the US secretary of defense, "peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century" is important for the US.

But, one will find encircle and contain China strategy being carried forward. And, the Empire plays a pivotal role in the moves related to the strategy.

While making an address in the National Press Club in Washington DC John Foster Dulles referred to his one speech in Paris and said: "[T]he United States would have to undertake an agonizing appraisal of basic foreign policy in relation to Europe."

That was in 1953, and that was a December day, and that was a different Europe, and that was a different world.

Now, it's March-April days in 2014, and a lot has changed.

There is no Warsaw Pact now, and the Empire is expanding its military presence in Europe. It faces a challenge, the biggest since the end of the Cold War, there. It's not only in Ukraine.

In today's new situation in Europe, the US again faces the same task: A reappraisal.

So, Derek Chollet, the US assistant secretary of defense, said: The US may "re-examine [its] force posture in Europe and [its] requirement for future deployments, exercises, and training in the region". Chollet was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee.

Public pronouncements, in many times, differ from real actions.

The Empire has already strengthened its military presence there in Europe. As reinforcement, Washington has already deployed six F-15s to the Baltics. In Poland, it has sent 12 F-16s and three transport planes. The USS Donald-Cook, the guided-missile destroyer, and its sister destroyers are now sailing to the Black Sea.

Days ago, Poland's prime minister informed: NATO will boost military presence within weeks. Russia has not got answers on NATO troops in eastern Europe.

It's a show of force. And, it's escalation of tension.

More than 65,000 US soldiers are already on the European continent. None, China or Russia, has deployed troops in another continent.

To the Empire, these are required for its "vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace". The US assistant defense secretary has mentioned the vision.

The Empire has its own vocabulary. It defines definitions.

So, it demarcates borders and standardizes international order. It expands NATO and its military presence. It seeks "peace" by deploying destroyers and war-planes, and by escalating tension.

It defines, as its interests dictate, people's spontaneous demonstration and orchestrated mob action, stirring up unrest and indigenous protest, agent provocateurs and real protesters, civil war and intervention, suggestion for democracy and dictation. All beyond its definitions are lies.

So, it castigates "pro-Moscow uprisings", "psychological warfare", Moscow's "19th century behavior". And, so it foments interference, intervention; hires progressive-appearing writers and wages psychological warfare; befriends forces with backward ideas and creates civil disturbance. Everything and all actions are "fair" with the Empire.

So, the Empire finds "changes [in] Europe's security landscape", "instability on NATO's borders", "challenge to the international order".

Thus the Empire finds rationale in 78 days of NATO bombing in Yugoslavia, Kosovo's independence, armed actions by neo-Nazis, storming of Ukraine legislative assembly. It thus doesn't find hate-politics of neo-Nazis. And, it thus fails to perceive long-term implication of fanning neo-Nazism in Europe.

But, what would have happened had China or Russia stationed their troops in another continent or sent their warships to the water closer to Empire's sphere? What would have been the propaganda?

There is no universal moral standard although some scholars look for it. The Empire has its own moral standard with the backing of its own philosophy, which is dictated by its economy. Laws are interpreted by it. And, these, the Empire demands, have to be accepted by all in the world.

But signs of change are emerging.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is trying to forge closer ties with a number of Asian countries.

A Reuters report said: Russian state-controlled oil producer Gazprom Neft has received positive responses from Asian clients about the possibility of using euros as a settlement currency instead of the dollar. Gazprom Neft's 95 percent of buyers are ready to do drop dollar.

This—drop dollar—is not an immediate possibility. There is the vital issue of political connection with the Empire and its allies.

Christian Science Monitor said: Despite Crimea, few in Europe want to boost defense spending.

Europe is struggling with its unemployment, austerity measures.

As part of the Empire's pivot strategy it is deploying part of its resources to the Asia-Pacific region while Pentagon faces budget cuts. But a new theater—Europe—emerges.

Citing critics' argument a Reuters report mentions a perception that the US foreign policy is in disarray, and it weakens the US.

Discussions on the US dollar's losing of its status as the world's leading reserve currency and the end of the Empire's hegemony are not now new.

Foreign policy or external relations stand on internal reality, where interests mingle, confront, dominate and subdue, and these tensions get reflected in related institutions and, to put it briefly, activities. An internally weak reality can't sustain externally, and makes confusing moves.

Recent two external cases—Egypt and Libya—are shows of utter confusion on the part of the Empire. There are other confusing cases also. The Empire encounters fleeting moments in these two cases. In the future, a few repetitions of confusion in the Asia-Pacific should not make anyone dumb.

The biggest problem the Empire faces is from within, the society it stands on.

Anyone can cite the fact of disparity in the society. There is the question of immigrants. An economy relies on immigrants but it can't assimilate them, can't tolerate them. A seemingly strange reality!

The fact of racial discrimination can be cited if one likes to ignore the fact of disparity.

The society and the economy, after hundreds of years, have not been able to resolve the issue of racial discrimination. Should not one compare this fact of discrimination with other societies, especially Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua? Is there racial discrimination in Cuba and Venezuela? How much democracy can be practiced with hatred to a part of humanity?

Problems in the Empire are deeper. Those are political in nature, but essentially economic.

Barack Obama, the US president, recently accused the Republican party of using voting restrictions to keep voters from the polls. The GOP was also accused of jeopardizing ballot box access for millions of black Americans and other minorities.

Take notice: It's a case of millions.

The US president said: "The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today ..." "Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote", he said.

President Obama was delivering a speech at the National Action Network conference. He cited examples of voters turned away because they didn't have the right identification or because they needed a passport or birth certificate to register.

Is it essentially disenfranchisement? And, does it go hand-in-hand with democracy?

The president of the strongest power on the earth said: "About 60 percent of Americans don't have a passport. Just because you can't have the money to travel abroad doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to vote here at home."

In the British colony of India, voting right was determined on the basis of property. But those have left more than half-a-century ago.

Yes, the economy, the biggest debtor in the world, is twice bigger than its nearest rival. And, it's a democratic country. The country won its democracy long ago.

The US president was indirectly accusing the Republican Party: "What kind of political platform is that? Why would you make that a part of your agenda, preventing people from voting?" Obama said: "But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don't have."

In Bangladesh as also in India millions of voters have their voter identity cards. Then, is it a contradiction within the dominating global reality?

Should one ignore the US president's opinion? Is it possible to ignore? It should not be, and it's not possible. Is there any scope to take it casually? No, there's no such scope. The president's opinion is on voting process in the state.

What would have been the reaction of mainstream commentators and analysts had the chief of the state of China or of Russia made similar comments about respective political system? Had not been the state dissected by the mainstream media and academia?

One may be tempted to compare the fact with Bangladesh although there are scholars seeking advice on democracy from the Empire, and there are organizations carrying on democracy-work with assistance from organizations from the Empire, and there are organizations from the Empire carrying out the task of teaching democracy in societies in the periphery. Bangladesh is in the periphery of the global system.

The strange fact is: These facts are not discussed by the mainstream.

In such a situation, the case of the Empire is a show of disarray, and disarray doesn't appear all the moments, and disarray signifies something internally, and disarray carries significant message for the world abroad.

Frontier
Vol. 46, No. 44, May 11 -17, 2014