U.S. soldiers in action in Iraq. Photo: Reuters
In 2000, the academic Johan Galtung predicted the end of the American empire by 2025, a prophecy he reduced by five years due to the extreme militarism of George Bush Jr. so that by 2020 we would be headed for a new era.
Galtung studied the rise and fall of ten empires throughout history and developed a system of multifactoral analysis, a model he applied to the current hegemonic phase in which the United States finds itself. Unlike other social scientists, Galtung proposes a theory that, based on the exacerbation of conflicts, postulates immediate and radical changes in the social order. The accumulation of gradual transformations would give way in 2020 to a qualitative leap of immeasurable proportions.
In his 2009 book, The Fall of the American Empire, Galtung gathers the theses that were elaborated by him in a 1996 report and which other analysts state that the federal government at that time attempted to suppress. According to the academic, the state suffers 15 great conflicts, the gestation of which would have generated within the political class a stage of reactionary fascism, which is still underway under the administration of Donald Trump.
One of the visions stirred up by this political fascism described by Galtung are ones referring to “exceptionalism” and the notion of the struggle “between good and evil” to which all imperial war ideology would be reduced. The messianism of the United States in this last stage would lead the country to suicidal wars, at a great cost for the world and for the American population and economy itself. Fascism would have, at its base, a personality cult of a leader and a powerful state.
The growing evidence of decline would lead the empire to desperate wars, in what Galtung calls a “flight forward”, in order to conquer the Eurasian region, which is geostrategically dominant in the world. The end of the agreements with Iran, the distance with respect to Turkey and India, the manifest rivalry with China and the failure of the agreements with North Korea, point to the fact that the United States seeks to extend its interests in the Eurasian region to the field of war, in order, through a stroke of audacity, to regain control of a world region that would secure its global dominance for a hundred more years.
The Fifteen Variables of Empire
A ghost economy, incapable of sustaining the world GDP, which has entered a downward phase since its peak of power in 1945, marks the end of the United States as the visible face of the world market. The emerging powers want to shake off the dollar’s dominance and will do so gradually, as they move their reserves in US dollars into more stable currencies with greater productive backing. When the end of this cycle comes, says Galtung, we will have reached the end of the empire.
Another variable would be climate change, which would increase the production costs needed to support industry, leading to a debacle of unemployment and trade imbalance, with more dollars being imported than exported. Thus, the United States would become a peripheral and dependent country and would not have the capacity to maintain its rate of consumption, the foundation of its political ideology.
One of Galtung’s 15 variables, perhaps the most evident today, is the military one, which proposes an end to post-World War II alliances, which gave the United States the key to the five continents. Owing to the high cost of wars and the impossibility of their sustainability, the empire would be unable to pay its dues within the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), thereby adding to its tension with Russia, and frictions with Europe. The United States would then want to pursue a mandate regarding its Western partners that would have no armaments or economic support, while at the same time pressuring Europe to maintain its distance from Russia.
Galtung points out that the United States would be left alone in a cultural war, with less powerful monopolies confronting an East that is expanding in the American market itself and that would have sufficient strength to dispute the empire’s primacy even in the cinema and entertainment industry. Added to this, the religious conflicts with Islam, which the empire had constructed in the last two decades as an arch-enemy (see Samuel Huntington’s thesis), would become more acute.
The most dangerous variable is the definitive end of the American dream, due to domestic hardship. This would lead to the functional breakdown of the establishment and Treaty of the Union, which would be the political end of the North American multi-state entity. At this point, Galtung says, the empire would be split into a confederation of states, more or less powerful, that would seek an independent solution to the external and internal crisis.
In Trump’s government, Galtung sees the prelude to this latter prediction, as the Anglo-Saxon part of the nation, supremacists and the white middle class, attempt to defend the formula of a “pure” country, which is impossible given that the American character is multiethnic and the consensus among multi-state diversity is largely based on respect for that multiculturalism.
The academic, however, is optimistic and sees the collapse of the empire as both inevitable and beneficial for humanity and the people of North America. It states that there are two paths: the political elite can delay the end of the Union through the peaceful resolution of conflicts and international treaties with rival powers, or it can act stupidly by waging desperate wars to conquer resources, which would deepen the downward spiral.
Galtung sees the end of empire as an opportunity for the revitalization of the U.S. Republic with its founding values of productive work, dynamism, defense of freedom, multiculturalism and the pursuit of happiness. The termination of imperial politics would end, according to the scholar, a cycle resulting in more than 20 million deaths in the world due to U.S. interventions since 1945, which would lead to greater stability and peace for the planet.
A large part of the U.S. electorate, as well as the political class, boasts that pro-Republic ideology, against the defense of the empire. But the electoral triumph of that trend would only be possible through a radical change in the mechanisms of ascent to power, which are hindered by indirect voting and corporate lobbying.
Galtung’s thesis received a strong response from think tanks that guide the neoconservative ideology, who maintain, as proof of American strength, the immense global war arsenal, the only one of its kind. But the military resurrection of Russia and its alliance with China, which in the coming years will dominate the planetary economy, destroys that last pro-imperial argument.
On the other hand, sustaining a world fleet would be of no use to the United States in the event of a conflict with rival powers, since technology of aircraft carriers only work against nations with low technological and military capabilities. In a confrontation with China, for example, the United States would gain nothing by fighting directly in the Asian seas; on the contrary, it would receive one devastating blow after another until it lost its military assets in the Pacific. Space rearmament, decreed by Trump, may be a way of seeking an extension of time for world domination through weapons, since neither China nor Russia has undertaken any serious expansion in that direction.
Some view such militarism with concern, since it is a short-term tactical advantage that could be used in desperation when elites see the world slipping out of their hands. A blow from space would be the last stupidity committed in the name of the empire, but with no victor at the end.
Empire as “Promised Land”
The unfounded belief, however, that elites can dispense with the periphery, could spur those in the White House to genocide against humanity, with people like John Bolton arguing that “there is nothing beyond the Pax Americana”. These “heads of state” deny any evidence of the world system of capital, described by the academic Immanuel Wallestein, which is a functional model based on the study of accumulation described by Karl Marx.
In this regard, we must remember that, in one of his speeches against communism, Ronald Reagan declared that “he would rather see his family dead than see them grow up in a world without God”. We already know what deity the then president invoked: the one that represents in essence the white and Anglo-Saxon ideology, evidently destined to inherit the world as a promised land. The year 2020 approaches, and it seems that the situation is getting worse.
In this sense it is necessary to remember that, in one of his speeches against communism, Ronald Reagan declared that “he would rather see his family dead than see them grow up in a world without God”. We already know what divinity the then president invoked: the one that essentially represents the white and Anglo-Saxon ideology, manifestly called to possess the world as a promised land. 2020 is at our doorstep, history seems to be racing forward.
Translation by Internationalist 360°