This book is a reaction on Z. Brzezinski's `The Great Chess board'.
As he did for the USSR, E. Todd predicts the fall of the American empire with G.W. Bush and his neocons as its gravediggers.
The author sees ominous signs of the fall on three levels.
The ideological level: the USA doesn't believe anymore that all humans are equal. It is becoming a fundamentally unequal oligarchy dominated by an aggressive clan which tries to control the world's most important commodities.
The economic level: the USA cannot survive without the help of the rest of the world. It needs 1.2 billion dollars every day to fill the gap of its commercial deficit. This deficit constitutes an enormous black hole gobbling up merchandise and capital, but unable to produce in return enough industrial goods or services.
The military level: the USA can only terrorize weak nations (Arabic). Its military and intelligence budget swallows more than half of the US total budget. In order to justify this colossal and inflationary spending spree (and the fabulous benefits for a few corporations and its shareholders), the USA has to spread an endemic (inter)national situation of fear and danger by demonizing `axes of evil' and a spooky horde of terrorists.
By losing its ideological justification and its economic power, the USA can only count on its military force, in other words create a world monopoly of (il)legitimate violence. Nevertheless, no country in history has ever enhanced its force by waging wars.
E. Todd sees also other ominous signs of weakness: a higher child mortality rate than any European country, integration difficulties and continuing black segregation.
For E. Todd, the real forces are demographic and educational. The real power is economic: General Motors, the industrial emblem of the US, is on the brink of bankruptcy, and Microsoft, the technological emblem, is losing its monopoly.
But, as W.E. Clark explains in his magisterial book `Petrodollar Warfare', the real pillar of US dominance is the dollar. As long as oil will be quoted in dollars, the rest of the world has to by dollars and sustain its exchange rate. If OPEC (like Saddam Hussain) asks to be paid in euro, the dollar will fall heavily. The result will be massive inflation, a possible run on the banks, and a collapse of the US financial system, like we saw in Argentina a few years ago. The final fall of the American empire will be the fall of the dollar.
Emmanuel Todd has written a thought provoking book. It is a must read for all those interested in the future of the world.
I also highly recommend the works of W.E. Clark, W.G. Tarpley and W. Engdahl.
on 16 August 2014
Well well, a man whose views are very close to mine. A good analysis of the introversion, arrogance and stupidity of America. But much more measured and objective than I am. Well researched. A European view (Todd is French, but the translation is excellent) that Americans could never relate to. I think, in a nutshell, Todd's overall conclusion is that Americans are so isolated from the real world that they can't see other people as human beings. And that would indeed account for quite a bit of America's behaviour.
Watching the US southern states degenerate to developing-world levels of choas after hurrican Katrina would seem to vindicate everything the authors says about American weakness.
Getting bogged-down in Iraq with no obvious exit strategy adds fuel to the fire.
The worry is that rather than a slow managable decline post-empire (like Britain after 1945), the USA could implode with its current levels of debt, speculation in real-estate and military over-extension, leading to a global economic meltdown.
The greatest strategic blunder of the USA was surely not weaning off up its dependence on oil after the depression of the 1970s caused by the Arab-Israeli wars.
on 8 June 2007
5 stars is for an excellent piece of work, even though I don't neccesarily agree with all his conclusions. The basic thesis is that America is economically weak, and this weakness is causing it to behave irrationally, with consequences for the rest of the world.
He puts forward a convincing case for America's weakness. It may have a high GDP, but it has an enormous trade deficit. The trade deficit is made up through investment by businesses in other countries investing in America. The logic behind this is that America is the strongest military power in the world, so your money will be physically safe in that sense, and that the govt have very low taxes, so your investments wont cost you much at all. This is all fine and well, the author states, but in terms of economic power, America is a huge white elephant. The American govt has very little money to use, and it is this lack of money that is causing the near 3rd world poverty the lower classes in America live in (e.g., total lack of funds or resources to help New Orleans).
The comaprison the author makes is with Russia, a country with a low GDP, but one that has a very healthy trade balance. Russia has money to spend abroad if it wants, whereas America does not. And at the end of the day, money buys you influence. The best example of this is the Marshall Plan after WW2, where America was able to dole out billions to its allies to help rebuild their countries. Today, America cannot even afford to rebuild Iraq. The only significant tool the American govt has is its military, so it uses that instead. Using Russia as an example again, Russia grants loans to former Soviet states, states who get nothing from America, save some troops.
Importantly, the author torpedoes the idea that America has bases around the world to protect it's economic interests, i.e. the Middle East. In actuality, America only gets a small proportion of its oil from the Middle East (some 20%), and the loss of this it could probably make up from elsewhere. The author states the whole 'oil war' thing is an illusion: America is not messing around in the middle east becfause it wants the oil, it is messing around because this is a symptom of a failing power.
On this last point though, I feel the author fails to make his case. America has been a fairly placid country since the end of the Cold War, right up until 09/11. Military interventions by America were few and far between, and were never as obviously self-serving as the war in Iraq today. The actions today have something more to do with the current administration than any sense of 'imperial malaise'.
There is a lot of other stuff that he mentions along the way, some of which you can poke holes a mile wide in. For example, talks a lot about 'family structure' as being an econmic influence in some societies. It probably is a factor, but there isn't enough evidence in this book to convinve me of that fact. His analysis of the EU is wrong - the EU is a very powerful economic body, with positive trade balances, healthy GDP, strong goverment. But he neglects to mention that Europe is rapidly ageing, which will reduce growth, and that the political squabling makes Europe enert politically.
From reading some of the reviews, some seem to think he is a Euro-leftie. Well, I think if he is a Euro-leftie, this says more about America than it does about Europe. I think his book is a fairly balanced view of America. There have been far more critical works recently. There is also some who seem obsessed with the idea of GDP as a measure of the quality of life in society - well, it is and it isn't. GDP tells you how much money one society generates at that time. But it doesn't tell you how it is distributed. Furthermore, the author does not deny American GDP is high, but he states this is not a measure of how powerful a country is, and that is what this book is about - America power. The American govt takes a very small slice of the GDP. And if you want power, you got to have money.