The great unravelling of US global power
by The Black Commentator Centuries of lording it over slaves, butchering Indians, and pushing aside Mexicans have ill-prepared white America to live in civilised company, much less to act as maestro for the globe. As Johnny Cochran could tell them, those gloves don't fit. Easy victories over weak, captive or Stone Age adversaries served to teach all the wrong lessons, creating a perverse set of American family values. Unlimited resources, right there for the stealing; fertile fields, awaiting unpaid labour; fragile southern neighbours available to be mauled for sport and profit — heady brew swilled sloppily, on a mean drunken binge of four hundred years. Entitlement is a word the Bush men abhor. Nevertheless, it is the essence of their distilled, white American sense of themselves as entitled to each bloody slab of meat they can gouge from the baggage or body of the unwary. Ever since there has been such a thing as American popular culture, predation has been celebrated. Killer cowboys, killer soldiers, killer cops, killer business tycoons. John Wayne played all of these roles, which is why he is the quintessential white American actor. The parts he played, the ease with which he dominated, reverberate through centuries of cultural memory and idealisation, a birthright bequeathed in full to the children of more recent white immigrants. People die all around white Americans, an historical fact that is also reflected in exaggerated popular cultural forms. White Americans are entitled to live, and live well. Others are not. Others means non-whites, in the nation that invented whiteness to subsume into a melting pot "all the races of Europe" while separating out the Others as non-entitled, nonwhites. It was only yesterday that these social relationships constituted the inviolable laws of the land — capital punishment was instantaneously imposed on those who offended the birthright privileges of white Americans. Privilege and Predation Like advantageous traits in biological evolution, the human social organism — through culture — retains those behaviours and worldviews that work. Aggression against Native Americans worked for the European settlers — it brought them free land. Slavery made them kings and queens and princes and princesses, and rich. Foreign conquests of weaker, darker people made them respected among Europeans. Except in the Civil War that they wished they had not fought and treated until just yesterday as a great tragedy, relatively few white Americans were killed in these conflicts. Predation was a good trait. It worked. Armed and extremely dangerous from the day they set foot on North American shores for the express purpose of claiming title to everything within range of their imaginations, white Americans "learned" that they were admired by the survivors among the people they preyed upon and enslaved. They gained this knowledge from each other, the only people whose opinions counted. Their overwhelming arsenals brooked no objection to the self- evident fact of their innate superiority and ... goodness. Who would disagree? In this closed, continental conversation a worldview was refined that has grown so fundamental to white American methods of thought, so perfect in its affirmation of self-serving assumptions, so automatically corrective of unwanted information, that the social organism is all but impermeable to disagreeable facts. Outside of the centuries-old American cocoon, much of reality simply does not compute. Propelled by very special circumstances resulting from World War II, the United States stepped to the centre of the world stage with all of its previous advantages, plus nuclear weapons and the only intact economy on the planet. By default, the dollar became the global currency. Newly tapped oil, priced in dollars, fuelled a world of post-war growth, much of it to the direct benefit of the United States. By the '50s, pundits had declared the 20th Century to be the American Century. Fifty years later, the Bloomberg financial service's Tokyo bureau reports: Pertamina, Indonesia's state oil company dropped a bombshell recently. It is considering dropping the US dollar for the euro in its oil and gas trades. With war unfolding in Iraq and a mysterious pneumonia spreading around Asia, few noticed. News that Indonesian government officials favour the euro also fell through the cracks. Yet it could have major implications for the world' s biggest economy. Indonesia's rationale: The dollar may be the world's reserve currency but it has become too volatile. "One thing is for sure, the adoption of the euro as an alternative means of payments could be an effective solution to speculative dollar-oriented dealings", Indonesia's Vice President Hamzah Haz said last month. What if, for example, the US began setting the stage for another pre- emptive attack in the Middle East or East Asia? Even so, there is no ignoring Asia's desire to reduce US influence in the region. Leaders here wonder if scrapping the dollar might expedite the process. Last September, Asian and European leaders formed a task-force to help Asia boost euro currency reserves, issue more euro-denominated debt and use the single currency to settle trade bills. The news from Tokyo, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur is no flash in the pan, not a temporary case of the jitters, but dramatic evidence of the growing, global recoil from the United States, a nation that learned nothing from its half century at the top except that which reinforced its own delusions. It has fouled the common well of trust — or at least, some measure of predictability — among nations. Tectonic shifts There is even more happening below the surface than is indicated by the public statements of Prime Ministers. The American problem is not a case of bad manners, but of unfitness. No sensible people, of any social sector, will place their treasure and futures in the hands of a nation formed of people who see no reality other than their own. Much of the world has already decided that the dollar is the umbilical that has become a potential noose, and must be severed. Bloomberg's founder is the Mayor of New York, the financial capital of the world. The last thing on Bloomberg's institutional mind is to rattle financial markets. If anything, it is American analysts who slept the "tectonic shifts", as reporter William Pesek put it, that may be at work. The great irony is that the Bush men launched their attack on a world order that had privileged the United States for generations in order to pre-empt a politically motivated switch to the euro by angry Arab oil producers, or rebellious Venezuela. Instead, their bald, openly declared policy of global hegemony has accelerated a trend that might have taken decades to unfold. Shock and Awe, in the form of threats to global stability, has caused nations to seek safety from, rather than safe haven in, America. As we wrote in, They Have Reached Too Far: Bush's road to ruin, for himself and his Pirates, March 13: "Every plan and project of individuals and nations will be shaped by having witnessed a racist America raining fire on a weaker people — and revelling in the crime. It is not as though the US had been a fit guardian of capitalism, prior to the Pirate's ascension to power, January 2000. As rulers of an entitled nation, American Governments abused their world currency trusteeship for short-term political and economic ends, oblivious to the interconnected fortunes of other countries, including allied elites. Washington derides Malaysia's Prime Minister as "unstable", when the opposite is true. Pesek continues: One reason leaders like Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia favour the euro: It lacks a domestic agenda. Washington has proven quite adept at steering the dollar up and down depending on economic needs. In the early 1990s, a lower dollar was favoured to boost growth. Later in the decade, the White House favoured a rising currency to attract foreign capital. Since 12 countries use Europe's single currency, it may be less susceptible to unpredictable political agendas. In addition, the European Central Bank, not politicians, manages it. Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan regularly huddles with the political honchos of whichever administration is in charge, fiddling with the world's currency to make the occupants of the White House look good to the American elite and electorate. US behaviour, consistently self-consumed, has long bedevilled the global trading system. However, national planners and central banks crave stability most of all. No one relished the dislocations that even a modest break with the dollar might bring, much less the prospect of American retaliation — the US is known as a nation that kills simply to eliminate inconveniences. Inertia became increasingly untenable as it dawned upon the world that the Bush men were really serious about The New American Century, that the Bush- Cheney-Rumsfeld crew were not just another brand of bullying, oafish American cowboys, and that the frenzied American behaviour following September 11 was more like civilised inhibitions giving way than a cry of national pain. Euro-talk became more commonplace after Bush's growling "with us or against us" speech in November 2001, followed by the war declaration-like "axis of evil" 2002 State of the Union address. International bankers who considered themselves reasonable and cautious spoke of oil transactions in a "market basket" of currencies. But the US was intent on enshrining the dollar as a monopoly currency — forever. The Pirates believed that seizure of Middle Eastern oil fields would ensure continued denomination of oil in dollars, and that the ritual mauling of Iraq would teach the world not to mess with the dollar. Shouting out reality The Pirates were wrong. World revulsion is near universal, beyond emotion, and fast translating into concerted action in collective defence against the madman. Indonesia and Malaysia are simply speaking more frankly than other nations. The Bush men cannot comprehend that their systematic, transparent assault on international stability is unpardonable. And they do not know what it feels like to be hurt. This, too, will come as a surprise — their Shock and Awe. "Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia", urges Condoleezza Rice, thereby guaranteeing that these potent powers will deepen their conspiracy to facilitate the isolation of the US. Use "psychological leverage" in the breathing space before the next armed assaults, barks Founding Pirate William Kristol. Keep up the "political attack" on Syria and Iran, screams Michael Ledeen, of the Pirate incubator American Enterprise Institute. The Bush men think this is diplomacy, a gift that the world should appreciate as a respite from Washington's wrath. The international community — in which the US is no longer a true member but, rather, a dangerous presence — struggles to work around the Americans as new structures of trade and co-operation are created. The Pirates believe they hold the trump card: half the world's military under one, super-tech command. It is a blunt instrument, with a narrow range of uses. The real bomb ticks under America's porch, and will devastate the dollar in a spasm of millions of individual and institutional decisions to run in the other direction. Stability is what attracted the world's capital to the United States. Now, the Bush men have transformed the US into a dreadful engine of instability. The Pirates scream threats at the snow bank on top of the mountain. Delusional, they will be amazed when it comes down on top of us.