The economic powerhouse of the 20th century emerged stronger from the Depression. But faced with cultural decay, Hubris wars, extrajudicial assassinations by the infamous White House Murder INC, cronyism, decay, utter corruption at the Top/down..., structural weaknesses and reliance on finance, can the US do it again?
America clocked up a record last week. The latest drop in house prices meant that the cost of real estate has fallen by 33% since the peak – even bigger than the 31% slide seen when John Steinbeck was writing The Grapes of Wrath.
Unemployment has not returned to Great Depression levels but at 9.1% of the workforce it is still at levels that will have nerves jangling in the White House. The last president to be re-elected with unemployment above 7.2% was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The US is a country with serious problems. Getting on for one in six depend on government food stamps to ensure they have enough to eat. The budget, which was in surplus little more than a decade ago, now has a deficit of Greek-style proportions. There is policy paralysis in Washington.
The assumption is that the problems can be easily solved because the US is the biggest economy on the planet, the only country with global military reach, the lucky possessor of the world's reserve currency, and a nation with a proud record of re-inventing itself once in every generation or so.
All this is true and more. US universities are superb, attracting the best brains from around the world. It is a country that pushes the frontiers of technology. So, it may be that the US is about to emerge stronger than ever from the long nightmare of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The strong financial position of American companies could unleash a wave of new investment over the next couple of years.
Let me put an alternative hypothesis. America in 2011 is Rome in 200AD or Britain on the eve of the first world war: an empire at the zenith of its power but with cracks beginning to show.
The experience of both Rome and Britain suggests that it is hard to stop the rot once it has set in, so here are the a few of the warning signs of trouble ahead: military overstretch, a widening gulf between rich and poor, a hollowed-out economy, citizens using debt to live beyond their means, and once-effective policies no longer working. The high levels of violent crime, epidemic of obesity, addiction to pornography and excessive use of energy may be telling us something: the US is in an advanced state of cultural decadence.
Empires decline for many different reasons but certain factors recur. There is an initial reluctance to admit that there is much to fret about, and there is the arrival of a challenger (or several challengers) to the settled international order. In Spain's case, the rival was Britain. In Britain's case, it was America. In America's case, the threat comes from China.
Britain's decline was extremely rapid after 1914. By 1945, the UK was a bit player in the bipolar world dominated by the US and the Soviet Union, and sterling – the heart of the 19th-century gold standard – was rapidly losing its lustre as a reserve currency. There had been concerns, voiced as far back as the 1851 Great Exhibition, that the hungrier, more efficient producers in Germany and the US threatened Britain's industrial hegemony. But no serious policy action was taken. In the second half of the 19th century there was a subtle shift in the economy, from the north of England to the south, from manufacturing to finance, from making things to living off investment income. By 1914, the writing was on the wall.
In two important respects, the US today differs from Britain a century ago. It is much bigger, which means that it benefits from continent-wide economies of scale, and it has a presence in the industries that will be strategically important in the first half of the 21st century. Britain in 1914 was over-reliant on coal and shipbuilding, industries that struggled between the world wars, and had failed to grasp early enough the importance of emerging new technologies.
Even so, there are parallels. There has been a long-term shift of emphasis in the US economy away from manufacturing and towards finance. There is a growing challenge from producers in other parts of the world.
Now consider the stark contrast between this economic recovery and the pattern of previous cycles. Traditionally, a US economic recovery sees unemployment coming down smartly as lower interest rates encourage consumers to spend and the construction industry to build more homes. This time, it has been different. There was a building frenzy during the bubble years, which left an overhang of supply even before plunging prices and rising unemployment led to a blitz of foreclosures.
America has more homes than it knows what to do with, and that state of affairs is not going to change for years.
Over the past couple of months, there has been a steady drip-feed of poor economic news that has dented hopes of a sustained recovery. Optimism has now been replaced by concern that the United States could be heading for the dreaded double-dip recession.
In the real estate market, which is the symptom of America's deep-seated economic malaise, the double dip has already arrived. Tax breaks to homeowners provided only a temporary respite for a falling market and millions of Americans are living in homes worth less than they paid for them. The latest figures show that more than 28% of homes with a mortgage are in negative equity. Unsurprisingly, that has made Americans far more cautious about spending money. Rising commodity prices exacerbate the problem, since they push up inflation and reduce the spending power of wages and salaries.
Macro-economic policy has proved less effective than normal. That's not for want of trying, though. The US has had zero short-term interest rates for well over two years. It has had two big doses of quantitative easing, the second of which is now ending. Its budget deficit is so big it has led to warnings from the credit-rating agencies, in spite of the dollar's reserve currency status. And Washington has adopted a policy of benign neglect towards the currency, despite the strong-dollar rhetoric, in the hope that cheaper exports will make up for the squeeze on consumer spending.
Policy, as ever, is geared towards growth because the great existential fear of the Fed, the Treasury and whoever occupies the White House is a return to the 1930s. Back then, the economic malaise could be largely attributed to deflationary economic policies that deepened the recession caused by the popping of the 1920s stock market bubble. The feeble response to today's growth medicine suggests that the US is structurally far weaker than it was in the 1930s. Tackling these weaknesses will require breaking finance's stranglehold over the economy and measures to boost ordinary families' spending power and so cut their reliance on debt. It will require an amnesty for the housing market. Above all, America must rediscover the qualities that originally made it great. That will not be easy...
Meanwhile, the Shenanigans continue in the Big Apple....
The whole war on Terror is a fraud, ever since the inside Job of 9/11....
Either Gen. Kayani submits entirely to Obama’s will, including the planned submission to Indian domination afterwards, or he stands-up to the United States, meaning he stops the drone attacks and reveals the entire ugly scenario that the CIA cannot allow anyone to reveal. “Al Qaida” is fake. The war on terror is a fraud. The fraud is a plan for world war. And we all know that neither Gen. Kayani, nor any other Pakistani official will ever reveal the “great game” or the plot to destroy the Islamic Republic.
The United States corporacracy is a monstrous devouring beast and “Islamist terror” is her illegitimate offspring.”
The trusted watch-keepers of the world have turned their hearts to midnight plunder, while they carried-out their duty standing guard over mankind, who blissfully, unaware, continued to sleep. Morning rapidly approaches and the householders are sure to demand an accounting.
The exploding world economy and the expanding war are but symptoms of the great mental sickness that afflicts society, waves of warning of the tsunamis that lie directly ahead. The dominant ideas and ideology that drive our world are all collapsing around us, falling from the weight of their own corruption and immoral baggage.
In the ongoing warfare of ideas, the selfish immorality of the old order is proving to be its downfall, as it meets the impenetrable resistance of the higher ideals of selflessness and human compassion. When the heart of the people is exposed to the emotionally crippling images of the children of war, then and thereafter, their only concern becomes the ending of the scourge of war.
Human nature is naturally compassionate, no matter how much the person has changed from the innocence of their youth. Even evil men must feel the heart’s emotional tugging at their consciences, no matter how deeply they have buried it, at the sight of such a suffering little one. Knowing that you and your government did this to these children and thousands more just like them, just like your own children that you so dearly love. We are the authors of what you see.
For God so loved the world that he sent us all sons and daughters, to melt our cold hearts and to expose our buried consciences. Human suffering is probably the most powerful motivation for good on this earth. It moves men to take-up arms to avenge it. It motivates others to offer their own lives that others might suffer less.
Humankind has the means to save itself from itself, just as surely as it has the means to cause its own extinction, all that separates the two is the gulf of choice and human freewill. Those of us who believe in a higher power, The One who created all things both great and small, know for certain that mankind will one day rise to the challenge before him. We know that the promise of eventual world peace is a solid truth, just waiting for enough people to understand and choose to reach out with us. Peace is truly just a handshake away, all that is lacking is the will to effect change and the desire to leave this world a better place.
The only question is how long before we as a people begin to care about our fellow man? This is the one factor that determines how much the suffering will intensify before we arrive at our predetermined solution. Efforts spent shoring-up the old collapsing political/economic structure only add to the suffering by adding to the length of the suffering and wasting limited resources in futile attempts to repair the rotten, immoral order that compelled mankind’s sprint to self-destruction.
Military adventures, intended to deflect the coming collapse merely increase our national guilt for having failed in our voluntary task of standing watch at the ramparts of freedom, guarding the rights of God’s creation with one arm, while we killed and indiscriminately erased both people and human rights with the other strong arm. Our military became our means of plundering our brothers’ resources and rights, because we were trusted it to defend our friends against foreign aggressors.
We reach-out our hand to both friend and foe, expecting commerce, while preparing to wage covert war upon them. We buy our friends in the world, the rest we simply intimidate or secretly undermine. From behind the shield of nearly omnipotent military power we have bribed and browbeat the world into submission to our ideas, our ideology, our economic schemes. Our cutthroat system of buying, selling and extorting our friends based solely on profit instead of need, therefore it is designed to weed-out everyone (regardless of their needs) who don’t have the cash to meet they need. The “haves and have-nots” exclusionary economic system is about to be crushed under the impending weight of the hungry misery it spreads far and wide.
The immorality of the current system will bring forth a new moral economic system from the violence of the old one dying. Each war or epidemic of violence that wracks the nations is a cry for help, as a segment of society explodes as a result of the local contradictions.
The war on Pakistan is a case in point. Here we have compelled our most faithful ally to engage in full-scale civil war as the means to salvage our failing economic order, by way of seizing the Caspian oil and gas reserves. We have forced Pakistan onto a path towards its own destruction as a feeble-minded calculated gamble to avert our own deserved dissolution. It seems only logical that a nation which feeds its own insatiable appetite for more of everything by depriving the poorest of the poor nations of the little that they have to call their own, would seek to avert its own profit loss by spreading death and suffering amongst the very people who have time and again proven to be among its best friends.
History has proven that some of America’s most trusted friends and allies have been the recipients of her most insidious and deadly intrigues. Pakistani leaders are delusional if they think that their friendship with the United States is stronger than that of Italy, or Germany.
The CIA turned Pakistan into the “epicenter of terrorism” for a reason. That reason went way beyond the mission against the Soviets, or else the training camps would have been shut-down and some attempt would have been made to clean-up the mess they had made when the Russians left Afghanistan. The CIA kept the camps and the madrassas running, turning-out thousands of good jihadis. By relying on the factor of “deniability,” they put the training camps in Pakistani hands. This should have been understood by Pakistan’s leaders for what it was, a euphemistic way to express the reality that the Army and the ISI were always intended to be America’s scapegoat. That time has come.
America has turned the tables on Pakistan. Just as Pakistan has used their proxy army, the local Taliban to stage running battles (some were for real), in order to fool the United States about Pakistani intentions in the war on terror, the new administration is using their own creation, the “Pakistani Taliban” (TTP), to call the Army’s bluff about its latest war in its tribal region. The generals can no longer get away with merely chasing the local Taliban from one agency into another, or anything less than waging total war in all of FATA and the NWFP. Pakistan’s “double-game” is over, while America’s double-games have barely begun.
Gen. Kayani has been trying to follow in Musharref’s footsteps, running a limited pretend all-out war production, even following the same order of the previous war on Waziristan, tribal jirgas, lashkars, economic siege, etc. The General’s neatly dressed, never dirty, determined-looking soldiers faithfully posed for countless publicity shots, putting on a great show for the international circus media. Army spokesmen claim to have killed 1,500 terrorists in Malakand and elsewhere, always taking place beyond the range of the camera’s lens. There are no “embedded reporters” in Pakistan. The only news coming out of the region is approved after passing through several layers of filtering by the controlling governments there, especially by the one all-controlling super government. If Pakistan is really out to get Mehsud, as Kayani boasted, then it is because that is what Obama wants Pakistan to do.
The Predator strikes are the Pakistani strategy, intended to ease their citizenry into a renewed fight in S. Waziristan. The last two attempts to carry the operation into the militant home base were met by fierce resistance on the ground, as well as in Pakistan’s streets. The people became so enraged that this path of slowly boiling Pakistan’s “frogs” became the only feasible alternative. This theory means that Mehsud is either an asset of the ISI or their CIA bosses. and the regular terror attacks upon Shiites and their shrines, even attacks on outposts of the Frontier Corp are likely the work of the ISI, just as the militants have been claiming in various interviews. As unlikely as this all seems, no other theory explains the curious behavior of Pakistan’s government and military and mountains of circumstantial evidence linking the ISI to the militanct.
“So while Pakistan’s dysfunction is entirely Pakistan’s fault, American naivete cannot get a pass because Pakistan is a basket case. In the Age of Obama, America has to do better. Anyone that was really interested in debilitating the Punjabi-dominated, Hindu-hating, right-leaning, military-dominated Pakistani establishment would have to be recklessly foolish if it went and helped rebrand the Pakistan army in the wake of eight years of Musharraf and a devastating and humiliating defeat at the hands of the country’s lawyers. Yet that’s exactly what President Zardari has done since the May 8 offensive was launched into Swat. The Swat offensive has helped rehabilitate the image of the military.”
If Pakistan was really pursuing a policy of “divide and rule” in its negotiations with Mullah Nazir, seeking to separate the powerful warlord from Baitullah Mehsud before launching a new war in S. Waziristan against him, then the Army would not have allowed the continuing Predator attacks on Nazir to take place, or go unanswered. None of this happened. If they were serious about overtures made to the Wana warlord then they most certainly would not have shelled his offices.
Obama is driving the former enemies together. This is Langley’s intention. Mullah Nazir has not been the sole target of drone attacks for the past year to thwart Pakistan’s peace initiatives with the militants (since Washington controls everything Islamabad does), the reason is much more sinister than that.
If the United States government was truly at odds with the Army over American attacks upon Pakistani citizens, carried-out in order to sabotage Pakistan’s war plans, then there would be swift reprisals, because such an affront to Pakistan’s sovereignty would be far worse than merely “counter-productive.” Everything is going according to the Imperial game plan–American drones attack all pro-Pakistani militant leaders, ignoring everyone who is killing Pakistanis. The targeted leaders coalesce into a powerful, motivated union.
The generous benefactors of Maulana Fazlullah and his TNSM forces were sponsors of state terrorism, directed mostly at girls’ schools and CD shops in the North West Region. Their murderous rampage and deceptive Shariah pacts forced Army intervention. Predator attacks upon Mullah Nazir intensify, until he begins to fight back, forcing the Army to scrap plans to divide the Taliban as a means to avoid a massive tribal war, focusing only on Mehsud. Meanwhile, some unknown outfit bombs Shia mosques and shopping areas (Nazir blames the attacks upon the Army), stoking the war in Kurram. Bahadur honors his pact with Nazir and Mehsud; he fights back, forcing the Army to broaden their planned offensive to include N. Waziristan against their better judgement.
Never once, do the generals complain, or offer resistance to American violations of sovereignty. Instead, they follow the orders of their American masters, while the President of Pakistan continues to represent the President of the United States, instead of his own people, who are being killed by the dozens and the hundreds by the good old USA!
Hard as they may try to set their own course, Pakistan’s generals have surrendered their souls to the devil when they plotted with American generals to deceive their countrymen into passively, even enthusiastically accepting the new war. The war in Waziristan (both North and South) will be fought on Obama’s terms.
According to Army spokesman, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas:
“It was thus obvious that the confrontation between the militants and the military in North Waziristan would escalate because the US is unlikely to give up its policy of using drones to target militants positions.”
In other words, for the first time, one of the silent generals dared to explain the Army’s position. ISI concerns about “shaping the battlefield” and confining the war in Wana to Mehsud didn’t amount to a hill of beans to Petraeus and Mullen, Obama insists that Pakistan go against the generals’ better judgment and incite a “tribal uprising.”
The attacks in N. Waziristan by Gul Bahadur and the artillery strikes upon Nazir’s headquarters, both a bi-product of the Predator prevarications, as well as the recent assassination of Pakistan’s other “ace in the hole, Qari Zainuddin, have destroyed Pakistan’s last chance to restore the writ of the state without resorting to all-out civil war. Either Gen. Kayani submits entirely to Obama’s will, including the planned submission to Indian domination afterwards, or he stands-up to the United States, meaning he stops the drone attacks and reveals the entire ugly scenario that the CIA cannot allow anyone to reveal. “Al Qaida” is fake. The war on terror is a fraud. The fraud is a plan for world war. And we all know that neither Gen. Kayani, nor any other Pakistani official will ever reveal the “great game” or the plot to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran....
The United States corporacracy is a monstrous devouring beast and “Islamist terror” is her illegitimate offspring....