Every once in a while a book comes along that elegantly crystalizes long-term historical trends missed in the madcap 24-7 propaganda juggernaut that passes for serious “news” and public discourse in the US Empire these days.
University of Wisconsin-Madison historian Alfred W. McCoy’s In The Shadows Of The American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, is such a book.
Using TIME magazine publisher and globalist Henry Luce’s famous 1941 praise – “The American Century” – as a starting point, McCoy provides his readers with an astute dive into the geopolitical contours of the past century, and hints at what is to come in the next one.
Like us here at Vermont Independent on the northeastern Green Mountain frontier, McCoy has long been a student of US Empire before the term “Empire” proved fashionable, and his cogent analysis of what he terms “the rise and decline of US global power” makes for vital reading at this pivotal historical moment. In his book’s introduction, McCoy tells an engrossing story of researching his very first book as a young historian fresh out of college. In preparing The Politics of Heroin In Southeast Asia, McCoy first comes face-to-face with the US Empire in its many subterranean “Deep State” manifestations, rubbing up against the CIA, the FBI, and the DEA – by page 26, his story hooked me. McCoy is a US historian who fully comprehends how the US Empire actually works, beyond the Kabuki theater of bipartisan electoral politics. How refreshing.
And! McCoy wastes not a word diving into his analysis of the US Empire, dividing his well-researched story into three parts. Part I, entitled “Understanding the US Empire,” sketches out the broad geopolitical contours of modern world history. McCoy begins by describing the “World Island,” also called “Euro-Asia,” – the giant “unitary landform” comprised of Africa, Asia, and Europe, an astonishingly vast 4,000 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Siberian Sea – that 20th century British geopolitical analyst Halford Mackinder called “The Geographical Pivot of History.” Only the country or countries that control this “World Island” can rule the world, McCoy observes, and the US has worked hard to do so for the past 100 years. From there, he charts the rise of the US from continental to global power, shedding light on the US government/Deep State’s 20th century use of compliant “autocrats” in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (“our S.O.B.s”) to carry out US imperial bidding. McCoy ends Part I with a deep dive into what he terms the “covert netherworld” – a shadowy global network trafficking in “arms, drugs, humans, endangered species, and copyrighted goods,” that fuels the security and maintenance of the US Empire by non elected US actors – Deep State agencies conspiring with Wall Street multinationals to ensure US global hegemony (and big profits for all players) through their “covert connections” with this network.
In Part II, “US Strategies for Survival,” McCoy turns his attention to the 21st century US Empire, tracing the rise of the “global surveillance state” (hint – Edward Snowden and Wikileaks’ “spying” revelations are but the tip of the iceberg), the manufacturing of a post-9/11 “Global War On Terror (GWOT) that “will not end in our lifetimes” (to quote US VP/Halliburton BOD member Richard “Dick” Cheney), and the arrival of torture as a fully sanctioned (?!) option within US foreign policy. He ends by describing the Pentagon’s use of 21st century “wonder weapons” that will comprise a US’ “third information regime:” armed drones, advanced space surveillance, and a “robotic command structure capable of coordinating operations across all combat domains – space, cyberspace, sky, sea, and earth.” (In case you are wondering, #1 = the creation of a “data-driven police panopticon” in the early 20th century Philippines, and # 2 = the deployment of a “computerized information regime” in 1960s Vietnam). Here, McCoy’s “big picture” command of the communications dynamics fueling US imperial development is impressive – and sobering, given the much-touted if under-reported rollout of a 5G global communication network. Brace yourselves.
In Part III, “Dynamics of US Decline,” McCoy sketches out several options for the end of the US as Empire by 2030 which he elegantly summarized here in a Nation interview with investigative journalist Nick Turse last year.
I projected four scenarios for the end of US global power by 2030, in the expectation that actual events would combine elements of each in ways that nobody could imagine. At the most benign level, the tides of geopolitical power flow toward Beijing, the US military retreats from Eurasia, and Washington becomes just one of several major powers. More malign would be an American version of the British bumbler Sir Anthony Eden, either Trump or some inept successor, blundering into an ill-conceived military strike, akin to Suez, that exposes the limits of American power. Or there could be a World War III with China that America, according to recent Pentagon assessments, might not win.
If all else fails, the crushing costs of climate change, which nobody in Washington has yet managed to add up, will redirect the roughly 5 percent of GDP now used for global defense to domestic recovery. Every modern empire is, more or less, a 5 percent proposition. During the 1950s, Britain liquidated its vast empire by diverting that imperial 5 percent to domestic social programs, and found its last imperial adventure at Suez brought its currency to the brink of collapse. It’s possible that climate change will do the same for America by 2040, forcing abandonment of overseas bases to rebuild the country.
Pick your poison. Whichever scenario seems most likely, McCoy’s overarching conclusion – that the US Empire’s days are numbered – seems unassailable. “There is little suggestion that any issues of any real significance – including endless wars, a bloated national security state, the starved eduction system, a decaying infrastructure, and climate change (alas, McCoy does not address the systematic secret geoengineering of our skies) – will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize the country’s chances in a changing world,” McCoy concludes. “Now that the American Century is ending, we can only wonder what kind of shadow it will cast across the globe for future generations.”
McCoy’s brilliant book is a tour de force, and a more compelling geopolitical case for a 2nd Vermont Republic (2VR) is hard to imagine.
And rather than “wondering,” let’s get busy up here in the Green Mountains.
And here’s more context – McCoy’s book perfectly explains stories like these: US to send thousands of extra Marines to East Asia to counter China – report | 10 Feb 2018 | The Pentagon reportedly plans a “major muscle movement” from the Middle East to East China, with thousands of extra Marines to be deployed. The goal is to “persuade Pacific nations to stand with the US” and not China. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the US plans to boost its military presence in the East Pacific with rotating deployment of Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs. An MEU is a group of about 2,200 Marines who operate from amphibious assault ships and have their own aircraft, tanks, heavy weapons, and other resources. A typical deployment lasts for seven months and may involve missions on the shore like patrols or military-to-military training.