In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Obama gets it right(for a change)

Posted by seumasach on January 23, 2013

Cailean Bochanan

23rd January, 2013

You don’t have to regard Barack Obama as the the embodiment of ultimate virtue to support the recent shift towards a certain realism in Washington. He has declared an end to “war without end”. It doesn’t matter that this is only an accommodation to new realities and not the reflection of some inherent goodness in the US leader. What matters is that he is aware of reality and is accommodating to it: this is what leadership is about. He has recognised that the policy options chosen by his administration have not worked. They could have worked perhaps but they didn’t . The government of Bashar-al Assad has not collapsed in the face of Western sponsored Islamist movements and is not going to. The eurozone is not going to collapse to accommodate the US dollar. America is not going to dictate the course of world events over the coming years. The New World Order, at least not the one envisaged by Washington, London and Tel Aviv, will not come into being.Let us then applaud Barack Obama for providing us with change we might even believe in: a shift in Washington towards an acceptance of the facts, of a return to planet earth.


The retreat from empire is always a hazardous operation. The retreat from an entire epoch of empire and militarism is doubly so. In the case of the British Empire, this retreat was softened by the incorporation of the British Empire into emerging Anglo-American empire. The Anglo-american empire however has no greater empire in which to subsume itself: it is the empire to end all empires. We are on the verge of an historic, an epochal shift in human society. Ironically, the reinauguration the lost Golden Age of peace, the age of Saturn(Kronos) or Astrea put forward by Dante in De Monarchia and by the Elizabethans as an imperial goal may be achieved not by the triumph of empire but by its failure. The globalised world is not to be a unilateral one but a multilaral one, a multipolar one. Global governance, the unification of the human race, will be achieved through consent and not through force although imperialism , for all its horrors, may, in the end, be deemed to have played an essential role in a happy outcome after we have picked up the pieces.
The realist shift in US foreign policy is only a beginning and its perspectives remain uncertain. It is one thing to see that a certain option is blocked: it is another to see that a completely new direction must be taken. None the less, the results of Obama’s move are already visible: the minions of empire, the subordinate powers, have been plunged into dramatic disarray. The British game in Europe has been exposed and the British ruling class is floundering. Alongside France, it has also seen its Middle East policy turn into a mirage in the desert sands. It is most notable how Obama has left Hollande to hang out to dry over Mali. Just look at the statements of NATO chief Rasmussen regarding Mali. Faced with an open door for a new bombing campaign Rasmussen is reminiscent of an alcoholic in a brewery who astonishes everyone by his refusal to take a drink:
“I don’t see a role for NATO as an organisation.”
He even goes on to insist that he never touches the stuff.
“NATO can’t be the world’s policeman, travelling from country to country, solving all the problems.”
These words are daggers through the heart of politicians like Hollande and Cameron who have staked all on allegiance to an empire which is no more. Hollande at least has recourse to the European project in which to redeem himself. Cameron simply has nowhere to go.
So Obama has already created waves but what consequences will he have to deal with. Clearly, he has abandoned the Arab Spring perspective. By leaving Holland twisting in the wind he is sending a message that although he accepts a united Europe he will have no truck will European neo-imperialist ambitions. This is in marked contrast to his treatment of Erdogan who is to be “rewarded” with a missile defence eprogramme. America hopes to place Europe once again under its tutelage and mark out the boundaries of a new cold war, Syria clearly falling under the Russian sphere of influence. But is this realistic?
By curbing Hollande’s neo-imperial ambitions Obama is in fact doing Europe a favour. The left’s programme for Europe of neo-Keynesianism, printing funny money to flood the Global South and humanitarian intervention, bombing leading powers of the Global South is counter-productive because Europe can only advance by allying itself with the Global South. Obama not only recognises Euroland but helps to put it on a sounder basis. Already, the Euro is rising markedly and the Eurozone presents itself once more as a venue for those who wish to divest themselves of the dollar. The first fruit of Obama’s shift is a dollar crisis. It was to avoid this that the campaign against the euro was launched in the first place! Therefore, Obama must go further. The West cannot be united against the rest. Obama must aim for a strategic partnership with those powers which would otherwise divest their dollars in the eurozone: he must aim for a strategic partnership with China.
The destiny of America rests with the forging of an alliance with America’s supposed enemy, China, as well as with Russia, Venezuela and others. In fact, they are enemies only in the American mind: in reality, they are falling over backwards to be America’s friends. They only wish to change the terms of endearment, if you like. No more rough stuff: the entire paraphernalia of empire, of domination must be dismantled. But given these terms, anything is possible. They will invest in America, rebuild America if they can be be assured, recipients at last of the peace dividend, that American hegemonic pretensions are over. This is an open door but can Obama walk through it? In his inaugural speech he has given some politically correct babble that may satisfy his close constituency but will prove divisive and lacks substance. He needs policies which are both substantive and unifying and the inward investment that would follow from wise geopolitical choices would provide just that.
Essentially, Obama finds himself with immense power concentrated in his hands from the legacy of empire which he can turn to advance the US national interest. But such an option will not be tolerated by the US oligarchy: the Anglo-Saxon oligarchies have never tolerated  a powerful centralised executive outside of conditions of war. If they cannot overthrow him, and it is unlikely that they can given the support he rests on from a US military adamantly opposed to further destructive wars, they will seek to undermine his conversion to a populist national leader by scuttling the nation itself. It is notable that no sooner had Obama purged Petraeus and other neo-con elements in the military than the secessionist movement raised once more its head. The US empire is finished but whether a united US nation emerges in its stead or a neo-confederacy remains to be seen. If Washington can’t create a strategic partership with China perhaps it will fall to California to carry through the task.

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