On The Terminal Decline of Empire

The US Empire is in the throes of a cycle leading to its terminal decline. It is not possible to predict how long this phase will last but there is ample evidence that this process is underway. History teaches us, too, that while imperialism is a affliction on humanity in all its phases, that an empire in decline is at its most dangerous as it strives to cling on to its fading power and influence.

It is unlikely that the United States will behave differently, and it appears that the world is edging ever closer to a major conflict. The question for us in Ireland is how we should or indeed can respond to the likelihood of this potentially catastrophic conflict.

Undoubtedly the USA remains the most powerful military entity in the world. It was estimated, for example, that in 2022 over half of the entire global military spend could be attributed to the Pentagon. Much of that budget went to pay for the upkeep of Washington’s more than 900 military outposts across the globe. To put this figure into context, the US spent $1.537 trillion on its military but only $252 billion, i.e. one- sixth of that amount, on education.

With such a disparity between investment in social infrastructure, often called “human capital” by free-market economists, and building the machinery of global domination, it is no surprise that the American economy is losing ground in comparison with China.

Thanks to its commitment to promoting learning among its citizens rather that the purchase of weapons, the People’s Republic has taken a clear lead in several key modern technologies. At a time when climate change is threatening the future of humanity, Chinese engineering is providing a practical and viable answer to the crisis. For example, in terms of solar energy panels, factories in the PRC are producing more such components than anywhere else in the world, and at more competitive prices.

Then there is the electric vehicle industry which is now led by Chinese car manufacturers. So successful has been their entry into this industry that they have overwhelmed their western competitors. Look for a moment at developments in the business managed by Elon Musk. A short few years back his Tesla EV practically dominated the field. Now, however, he has been forced to reduce his prices significantly and yet is unable to retain Tesla’s former market share; now, his focus is on X/Twitter and artificial intelligence.

And the overall response from Washington? It is not to improve the national training programme but instead to enact legislation banning imports of solar panels and electric vehicles from China. Supplementing this crude use of protectionism, elsewhere the US imposes a regime of economic sanction and blockade.

All of which is the rationale underpinning the White House’s attempt to protect a faltering, indeed atrophying, American economy. Here a difficult situation is compounded by deindustrialisation, a consequence of strict adherence to the diktats of free-market economic policy resulting in the outsourcing of production overseas.

A final challenge to US hegemony is now emerging in rising doubts about the long-term prospects for the dollar remaining as the global reserve currency. The loss of such a position is a clear indication of empire’s declining power. Sterling was the world reserve currency throughout the 19th century, holding that position until the late 1920s when it was replaced by the dollar. A time roughly coinciding with the displacement of the British Empire and the rise of what became known as “the American century”.
In order to stem the loss of its power, and with it the wealth and privilege enjoyed by its dominant class, the US administration is becoming ever more aggressive in asserting its position. Having long promoted and practiced bloody war in the Third World, Washington is now escalating conflict against dangerously powerful states.

Arming and giving unconditional backing to Israel’s genocidal onslaught on Palestinians risks engulfing the entire region, including Iran, in hostilities without limit. Prosecuting a proxy war with nuclear-armed Russia while striving to prevent peace talks with Ukraine is, by any calculation, dangerous in the extreme. More alarming still is the provocative coat-trailing in the South China Sea coupled with a confrontational stance vis-a-vis Taiwan, a dispute which if not resolved can only lead to a global scale conflict.
Ominously, this alarming assessment may well be shared by Washington’s principal acolyte, the UK. Within the past year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has advised British households to stock up with several days of emergency rations and more recently advocated reintroducing national service. It would be easy to dismiss these suggestions as the egregious ramblings of a gaffe-prone Tory PM. And still, what if they are based on something more concrete?

So how should we in Ireland respond? Let’s be clear that none of the great powers will seek our advice or consider our opinion. Nevertheless, the neo-Redmondites in Dublin and their counterparts in Stormont will attempt to follow the lead of US-led imperialism whether in its British or EU manifestation.
A suggestion: it would be a good start if the Irish anti-war movement were to initiate a drive to pressurise the country’s largest all-Ireland political party into committing itself to publicly campaign for the closure of Shannon and Aldergrove to the US military.