September 14, 2013
And then there was one (Tom Engelhardt , 9/13/13, Asia Times)
[F]or all his foresight, Orwell had no more power to peer into the future than the rest of us. So it's no fault of his that, almost three decades after his year of choice, more than six decades after his death, the shape of our world has played havoc with his vision. Like so many others in his time and after, he couldn't imagine the disappearance of the Soviet Union or at least of Soviet-like totalitarian states. More than anything else, he couldn't imagine one fact of our world that, in 1948, wasn't in the human playbook.In 1984, Orwell imagined a future from what he knew of the Soviet and American (as well as Nazi, Japanese, and British) imperial systems. In imagining three equally powerful, equally baleful superpowers - Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia - balanced for an eternity in an unwinnable global struggle, he conjured up a logical extension of what had been developing on this planet for hundreds of years. His future was a version of the world humanity had lived with since the first European power mounted cannons on a wooden ship and set sail, like so many Mongols of the sea, to assault and conquer foreign realms, coastlines first.From that moment on, the imperial powers of this planet - super, great, prospectively great, and near great - came in contending or warring pairs, if not triplets or quadruplets. Portugal, Spain, and Holland; England, France, and Imperial Russia; the United States, Germany, Japan, and Italy (as well as Great Britain and France), and after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union.Five centuries in which one thing had never occurred, the thing that even George Orwell, with his prodigious political imagination, couldn't conceive of, the thing that makes 1984 a dated work and his future a past that never was: a one-superpower world. To give birth to such a creature on such a planet - as indeed occurred in 1991 - was to be at the end of history, at least as it had long been known. [...]Today, almost 12 years after 9/11, the US position in the world seems even more singular. Militarily speaking, the Global War on Terror continues, however namelessly, in the Obama era in places as distant as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The US military remains heavily deployed in the Greater Middle East, though it has pulled out of Iraq and is drawing down in Afghanistan. In recent years, US power has, in an exceedingly public manner, been "pivoting" to Asia, where the building of new bases, as well as the deployment of new troops and weaponry, to "contain" that imagined future superpower China has been proceeding apace.At the same time, the US military has been ever-so-quietly pivoting to Africa where, as TomDispatch's Nick Turse reports, its presence is spreading continent-wide. American military bases still dot the planet in remarkable profusion, numbering perhaps 1,000 at a moment when no other nation has more than a handful outside its territory.The reach of Washington's surveillance and intelligence networks is unique in the history of the planet. The ability of its drone air fleet to assassinate enemies almost anywhere is unparalleled. Europe and Japan remain so deeply integrated into the American global system as to be essentially a part of its power-projection capabilities.
The imbalance is even greater because we have genuine partners across the Anglosphere, in particular, and beyond. Our enemies throughout the Long War have never had any genuine allies only partners of convenience. And our last enemy in that war--Islamicism--lacks even a single state, nevermind any allies. As importantly, given our overwhelming technological superiority, it can never hold power anywhere. In order to even attempt its proposed different model of governance it would have to make itself a target for our weaponry.
Perhaps it's time to stop referring to superpowers at all. America and its network of democratic/capitalist/protestant brethren are simply the power in world affairs. There are no rivals. That's what it means to be at the End of History.
Posted by Orrin Judd at September 14, 2013 9:00 AM
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