Monday, February 18, 2008

Can the U.S. Brace Its Fall?

Analysis by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (IPS) - "Is the American era over?" That was the big question that launched a lengthy analysis by veteran international affairs reporter James Kitfield in the influential ‘National Journal’ last May. Significantly, the article -- which featured interviews with an all-star cast of former top U.S. policy-makers -- was titled "The Decline Begins."

Nine months later, the notion that Washington has entered a "New American Century" -- a phrase used by the nationalist and neo-conservative unilateralists who championed the Iraq war -- in which the U.S. can do whatever it wants, where it wants, and when it wants, without consulting anyone else, seems largely to have gone the way of the dodo bird.

"We are in a multi-polar world," Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a Washington Post columnist recently in what has to be considered the ultimate heresy to pro-war hawks led by the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and Gates’ predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld.

Indeed, last month’s image of President George W. Bush imploring King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to boost the battered U.S. economy helped bring home the notion that the commander-in-chief’s word no longer serves as an imperial command.

"It’s affected our families. Paying more for gasoline hurts some of the American families," Bush told reporters just before his meeting with the king. After the meeting Saudi Arabia’s oil minister made clear that Riyadh would increase production only "when the market justifies it" and not before.

Almost as pathetic in their own way were the recent exhortations by Gates -- the steward of a military establishment that spends more money each year than the combined defence budgets of all of the world’s other nations -- for Washington’s NATO allies to contribute 7,000 more troops to help U.S. forces pacify Afghanistan six years after Rumsfeld and his neo-conservative advisers contemptuously spurned their offers of help...
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