To The Memory Of A Superpower

It is hard now to remember how strong the United States appeared in the last decade of the 20th century. As the victor of the Cold War its power was overwhelming and its values triumphant across the world. Its intellectuals went so far as to proclaim the End of History.

The challenge from Al Qaeda seemed barely significant, but its leaders were either clever or very lucky. The main provocation, commemorated today, was still small, equivalent to about a month of road fatalities in the US, far less deadly than the recent Japanese tsunami, but it was delivered with enough drama to make the superpower behave wildly and damage itself. It was a judo match in which the lightweight contender brought the heavyweight down by unbalancing him, his large weight then magnifying the effect of the fall. Such success must have been beyond these leaders’ expectations, only explicable to them in terms of divine support.

With a growing trade deficit and disappearing industries, but convinced of its own power, the US launched a series of expensive wars (the doom of many an empire throughout history) and chose to borrow to pay for them. The economy spiralled out of control, giving rein to the greedy in the financial system, who brought that system down. Wars could no longer be afforded. Though Al Qaeda in the end became an irrelevance, power in the Middle East passed to another ideological enemy, Iran, now strengthened as a result of America’s mistakes. More Americans died fighting abroad, on Al Qaeda’s ground, than were killed on September 11, 2001. More will die prematurely from the effects of the economic crisis. Greater still is the number of citizens of the world that have died in the wars designed by the US to bring them democracy.

It has been a catastrophic fall in only ten years. Today a weakened America looks out on a world that no longer fears it, that in fact is greatly concerned for America’s stability and solvency, because it holds US dollars in their trillions and depends on the US for trade. Goliath is in intensive care, in the hope that the concussive effects of the stone can be reversed.

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