CAMERON LECKIE. The global war of terror and the demise of the empire

May 15, 2019

As a young Army officer, watching Prime Minister John Howard’s announcement of the deployment of Australian military forces to Afghanistan in late 2001, I remember the extreme disappointment from both my soldiers and I that we would not be going to fight what would become known as the Global War on Terror. 

At the time, participating in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) seemed a noble cause. The chance to serve your country for the greater good and to defeat those who wished to disrupt or destroy our way of life was one of the reasons that I enlisted in the Army. Something significant has however changed since those times. It seems that the Global War on Terror has morphed into a Global War of Terror. The leading belligerent in the Global War of Terror is not the groups that we commonly associate as terrorists, ISIS or Al Qaeda for example, but rather the United States of America.

It is indeed depressing, as noted by veteran CIA agent and Vietnam war veteran Philip Giraldi, to observe the transformation of the US into the evil empire.  That the US is an empire is not in doubt. John Michael Greer in Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America defines an empire as ‘an arrangement among nations, backed and usually imposed by military force, which extracts wealth from a periphery of subjects nations and concentrates it in the imperial core’. By this definition the US is unmistakably an empire as demonstrated by its centrality in global institutions, the role of its financial system in global affairs, its military budget, hundreds of international military bases, willingness to use military force and the fact that until recently the 5% of the world’s population living in US consumed a quarter of the world’s energy and a third of its raw materials and industrial product.

But is the US an evil empire? Before answering that question it is worth reflecting on the judgement of the International Military Tribunal on Nazi war crimes which found that ‘To initiate a war of aggression … is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.’

The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi, which we now know were both based on concocted justifications, are clear examples of US led wars of aggression. The US also played key roles in fomenting and supporting the proxy war in Syria and the 2014 Ukrainian coup that led to the ongoing frozen conflict in that country. If it were not for the actions of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army it is likely that the black flags of ISIS would now be flying in Damascus whilst neo-Nazi’s have gained significant political power in the Ukraine. US drone and air strikes, many in countries that the US is not at war with, have and are killing thousands of people every year, most of them civilians.

The aggressiveness of US foreign policy continues to this day as evidenced by the increasing belligerence, including threats of violence, sanctions and an incredible propaganda campaign, towards those countries that dare to maintain their sovereignty and independence against US imperialism such as North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia and China (let’s call them the sovereign five).

Applying the logic of the International Military Tribunal’s judgement suggests that the US is repeatedly guilty of the supreme international crime and thus everything that has resulted from these crimes whether that be the European refugee crisis, open air slave markets in Libya or the destruction of economies, societies and livelihoods in multiple countries.

This far from complete record of US aggression suggests that the evil empire title is well deserved.

The belligerence of the US is reaching a fever pitch, both towards the sovereign five and increasingly towards long-time allies such as Turkey and Germany. The question must be asked; why now?

Simply stated the level of US belligerence is inversely proportional to its power. As the power of the US diminishes, its belligerence rises in a vain attempt to maintain hegemonic power. China’s expansion in the South China Sea, the annexation/accession (depending on your viewpoint) of Crimea to Russia and the failure of the ‘Assad must go’ campaign in Syria are three of the larger examples of where at the geostrategic level the US has been defeated. More interesting, and increasingly common, are the smaller examples of the decline of US power. Whether its NATO member Turkey purchasing the S-400 Air Defence system from Russia, Germany continuing with the NORD Stream 2 gas pipelines, Egypt kyboshing the ‘Arab NATO’ proposal, countries continuing to trade with Iran despite US sanctions, several Western European countries signing up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the de-dollarisation trend, examples of countries large and small acting in their own interests at the expense of US interests abound. It is clear, outside of the Western world at least, that the decline in US power is widely recognised.

As the US imperial system slowly creeps towards its final collapse ; it increasingly has little to offer other nations, other than increasing tensions if not outright conflict, playing a spoiler role in international relations or coercion. This is in stark contrast to the diplomatic and economic prospects, regardless of their potential flaws, offered by Russia and China.  At this point the key question becomes will the US Empire end with a (possibly nuclear) bang or a whimper?

History has repeatedly proven that all empires collapse, often rapidly. The US will be no exception.  Australia’s ongoing dependence (or is it subservience?) to the US will soon place Australia on the wrong side of history, an extremely disadvantageous position given both our geography and who our largest trading partner is. A useful first step in remedying this situation would be ceasing all support to the US’ Global War of Terror.

Cameron Leckie served 24 years in the Australian Army and is currently studying Agricultural Engineering.

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