Is This What a Declining Power Looks Like?

CNN’s Ben Wederman writes:

Against this backdrop is an across-the-board diminution of American power in the Middle East.

At the end of this year the United States will end its military presence in Iraq, and soon afterward, it will do the same in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration, with 2012 elections looming and after several half-hearted false starts and high-profile humiliations by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appears to have given up trying to broker real peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Above and beyond regional issues, the U.S. economy — and thus, its political clout — is in decline. Increasingly, America is viewed in the Middle East as an economically bankrupt, militarily and diplomatically overextended, withering superpower.

Is the neocon dream of being the world’s only superpower–in fact a hyperpower–over so quickly?

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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13 Responses to Is This What a Declining Power Looks Like?

  1. D. C. Sessions says:

    Power may or may not be renewable, but it’s certainly not unlimited at any given time. We burned more power than oil over the last ten years. Anyone who isn’t imagining that we were tapping some supernatural source shouldn’t be surprised.

  2. If the empires of the future will be empires of the mind, the cerebral cortex of that mind is America and American culture.

  3. D. C. Sessions says:

    That’s a profoundly depressing thought.

  4. Dr X says:

    Is the dream over so soon? No. They have high hopes of electing an easily manipulated Republican in 2012, one who will keep their futile dream alive for 8 more years. The question is whether or not a dumb Republican in the Oval Office will be so stupid as to launch a more comprehensive war in the middle east on multiple fronts. You could understand if they did, given how smoothly things went with the neocon dream in Iraq.

  5. D. C. Sessions says:

    The question is whether or not a dumb Republican in the Oval Office will be so stupid as to launch a more comprehensive war in the middle east on multiple fronts.

    I’m thinking Pakistan, actually, although Iran might suit rather well. Bear in mind that RWA leaders and high-RWA groups survive on pervasive fear, so going after someone who credibly has nukes would be a high-yield strategy. It worked for a while with Iraq, and that kind of stimulus is seriously addictive. Next time, the real thing.

  6. Lance says:

    I doubt there are many US military or congressional leaders with any remaining appetite for a large scale intervention in the middle east anytime soon.

    As for the current Republican presidential rogues gallery, they may wish to flex some military muscle but will find damn little support, public or otherwise, for such misadventures.

    I predict just the opposite. With the world’s remaining despots sensing American weakness, and or lack of will, there will be several “evil doers” emboldened to impose their will on weaker neighbors, or their own people. And with either tacit or overt support from China or Russia will do so.

    Many of the nations that are calling us bullies will be begging for “the world’s policeman” to intervene while they wring their hands on the sidelines.

    Syria comes to mind. Bashar al-Assad will kill everyone in his way and the military dominated
    Ba’ ath party knows they live or die with him. Iran has no intention of losing their surrogate and with China backing them up I see no reason for Assad to budge. The Arab league has shot their puny wad with their latest finger shaking, and threats of economic sanctions would just make the Syrian people hungrier while Assad continues to crush them.

    Of course clowns like Noam Chomsky will welcome the new “freedom” from American “hegemony” while continuing to blame American policies, past and present, for all the world’s ills.

  7. James Hanley says:

    I think Bashar is done for. Syrian Army troops are beginning to desert and taking weapons with them. Only the officer corps has real loyalty to the regime. It looks as though the civil war has begun. Iran can’t intervene militarily without radicalizing the whole population–that alliance is one of convenience, and not beloved by the Syrian people (Syrians are mostly Sunni, Iranians are mostly Shi’a; Syrians are Arabs, Iranians are Persian, and most people in Syria just don’t really give a shit about Israel anymore). The Syrian government has wanted to be the major player in the region more than they’ve wanted anything else, so the suspension from the Arab League does sting. The only country that stood by them was Lebanon, which did so only because it’s terrified of another Syrian invasion, not because of any fondness for the Syrian regime. If the Syrian Army gets wrapped up in fighting a civil war, that fear will go away.

    That probably should have been an independent post, as it’s one I’ve been thinking about writing, and as it’s only a tangential response to Lance’s point. But there it is.

  8. Lance says:

    What would Iran or Assad or the Ba’ ath party die hards have to lose with a repressive assault on their own people? As you mentioned the Persian Shiite Iranians aren’t likely to find another “friend” in that mostly Sunni Arab region and have nothing to loose by helping Assad to brutally repress his own people.

    It’s similar to the end game in Libya except with two major differences. No NATO air power on the side of the insurgents and a big dose of Iranian arms and mischeif on the side of Assad.

    The Syrian military can’t be expected to oust Assad because the people despise them as much as they do Assad.

    I hope they get rid of Assad but either way it’s gonna get really ugly.

  9. James Hanley says:

    The Iranian government doesn’t have that tight of a grip on its own people. The young ‘uns aren’t interested in permanent Islamist revolution. Might be a bad time to go mucking about elsewhere lest there be a Persian Spring.

    I don’t think the Syrian military will oust Assad, unless its simply to have one of their own take his place. But again, we have to distinguish between the officer corps and the rank-and-file. The officer corps is deeply embedded in the political/economic corruption that has feathered their nests. The foot soldiers are 18 month conscripts. They’ve got no loyalty to the military, and hence no loyalty to the regime unless they have some other basis for supporting it (like being Alawi). And before we get too excited about what a big dose of Iranian arms can do, let’s not forget that they can’t bring the kind of firepower that the U.S. could bring in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that wasn’t, by itself, an effective solution in either of those places against a determined insurgency.

    The Syrian protests have moved out of the beginning stages to the mid-game. The end-game will depend, I think, solely on whether the protestors gain the support of the larger part of the public. If they remain a distinct minority, as they have been, they may not be successful. If a majority turns against the government and joins them, Bashar is done.

    What he should have done 3 months ago is call his brother Maher in for a meeting, cap him, then set about creating real reforms. I still think real reform is what he’s had in mind since he became president, but he was blocked by his brother and others in the officer corp. Now it’s too late, of course, and he can’t escape guilt for what’s happened.

  10. Dr X says:

    @James Hanley:

    What he should have done 3 months ago is call his brother Maher in for a meeting, cap him, then set about creating real reforms.

    Cap him, as in Michael killing Fredo?

  11. James Hanley says:

    Yes. It was his only chance, and now it’s too late to save himself.

  12. AMW says:

    It looks as though the civil war has begun. … The only country that stood by them was Lebanon, which did so only because it’s terrified of another Syrian invasion, not because of any fondness for the Syrian regime.

    Heh. Maybe this time it’ll be Lebanon that will go in to “keep the peace” and then run Syria as a proxy

  13. James Hanley says:

    There may be some structural impediments to that outcome. ;)

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