Pandemic upheaval against America's most preferred despots in the Mideast and North Africa, military overextension in Central Asia and economic stagnation have threatened to split asunder the hegemonic shield U.S. planners designed during the early bright of the Cold War, including policies that led to the rise of anti-American sentiment and violent pan-Islamic jihadism.
Reminiscent of the "Evil Empire's" sudden collapse in 1989, grassroots democracy movements are spreading at a frightening pace overseas, perhaps signaling an American Berlin Wall-type moment in terms of dominating its "far abroad", as Tom Engelhardt suggested recently in the Asia Times:
Today, "people power" is shaking the "pillars" of the American position in the Middle East, while - despite the staggering levels of military might the Pentagon still has embedded in the area - the Obama administration has found itself standing by helplessly in grim confusion.
As a spectacle of imperial power on the decline, we haven't seen anything like it since 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. Then, too, people power stunned the world. It swept like lightning across the satellite states of Eastern Europe, those "pillars" of the old Soviet empire, most of which had (as in the Middle East today) seemed quiescent for years.
It was an invigorating time. After all, such moments often don't come once in a life, no less twice in 20 years. If you don't happen to be in Washington, the present moment is proving no less remarkable, unpredictable, and earthshaking than its predecessor.
He also claims America's outlook immediately after the Soviet fall is also an underlying cause of current woes, as U.S. leaders presumed an unrivaled pax-Americana was on the horizon. One will no doubt hear the word "conspiratorial" bandied about to describe Engelhardt's linking of these events and daring to assert the U.S. "mined its own positions" during the Cold War -- policies for which they are now paying for dearly.
However, Engelhardt's premise is not based on machinations of ivory tower leftists but derived from historical government documents produced during the early days of WWII, such as the War and Peace Studies Project of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where government officials, corporate leaders and foreign policy experts planned to establish a "world order" dominated by the United States -- a set of principles that have shaped U.S. policy ever since.
These planners outlined a strategy to "achieve military and economic supremacy for the United States within the non-German world". The planners also said that the U.S. "must cultivate a mental view toward world settlement after this war which will enable us to impose our terms, amounting perhaps to a pax-Americana." It is no coincidence that the people who designed the aforementioned strategies are the same people who will benefit from them the most -- primarily those who are part of corporate-military centers of power.
America's Cold War Manichean worldview resulted in a CIA coup in Iran during the 1950's that ousted a democratic regime and replaced it with the Shah, directly leading to the Iranian revolution.
As a result, animus toward the Great Satan spread throughout the entire Muslim world. A classic illustration of the fact that "they" do not hate us because they hate our freedoms, as George W. Bush once postulated -- the truth is, they hate our policies.
Cold War strategy and corporate interests forced the U.S. to back tyrants and unpopular monarchs in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which has fed an ever-burgeoning anti-Americanism that has manifested itself on the Arab street.
Another reason the U.S. is on the verge of losing the Middle East is because of its post-Cold War hubris and cowboy diplomacy, as it flexed unilateral muscle by launching its own excursions, such as the invasion of Iraq. Nobody should be fooled in thinking that Bush's "democracy agenda" has anything to do with the current Mideast movements because these anti-authoritarian mass uprisings have erupted despite Bush policies, not because of them.
On the economic front, hyperpower arrogance caused the U.S. to aggressively pursue neoliberal globalization, reckless free trade and domestic laissez-faire policies that eventually melted down the global economy in 2008.
Meanwhile the American empire's defense spending has outpaced economic growth levels, which is amazing considering after World War II the world owed the U.S. a mind-boggling amount of money as the U.S. rescued the European and Japanese economies. Half a century later, America is deep in debt and the "economic supremacy" the U.S. planners had envisioned is at risk, because the U.S. is in jeopardy of being surpassed by an emerging China.
The biggest financial drain on the U.S. economy is the war in Afghanistan, a country that also contributed heavily to Moscow's economic implosion. Russians likely smirk at this irony, considering the U.S. helped inveigle the Soviets to invade Afghanistan, which was the last thing Moscow wanted to do, per documents rescued from the Politburo after the communist collapse. According to President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, the U.S. wanted to "give Russia its Vietnam".
Indisputable proof exists that the U.S. fanned the spread of pan-Islamic extremism dating all the way back to the 1950s and 1960s, and helped facilitate the rise of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood because they shared a mutual disdain for the "godless" communists. Through the Asia Foundation -- a CIA front -- the U.S. funded radical Islamic movements at Kabul University which led to Afghanistan's traditional moderate version of Islam being replaced by the fundamentalism we see today.
For more than a decade after the 1979 Soviet invasion, the CIA financed the mujahideen who became the warlords that helped Afghanistan spiral into civil war that ultimately made conditions ripe for the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
As a result, violent Islamists have replaced the Soviets as America's primary adversary, which helps to justify an out-of-control defense budget and the establishment of military bases around the world.
By creating a mission to establish global dominance, the U.S. created a self-fulfilling dialectic that has resulted in nothing but perpetual war, economic malaise and violent extremism. America needs to change course quickly, because as the Taliban movement gains strength and the U.S. loses its grip on the Middle East, the death knell continues to ring - louder and louder.