The Decline of American Influence

by lizard

Is America’s influence on the world stage evaporating? That is what the author of this article is asserting:

The most palpable sign of U.S. weakness is its policy toward Russia. Obama’s State Department promised “painful” sanctions for Russia’s policy on Ukraine, but the U.S. hasn’t even managed to inflict a bruise. To really “hurt” Russia economically, the U.S. needs its European allies to obey, and they are turning their backs to Obama’s anti-Russia plans.

The New York Times reports:

“Not only were they [the G7 nations] unwilling to snub the Russian leader entirely, as Mr. Obama sought, they were also reluctant to go along with other efforts to isolate the Kremlin. Most notably, the French government repeated that it would go ahead with the $1.6 billion sale of powerful warships to Moscow along with plans to train 400 Russian sailors in France this month. And other European leaders were cautious about setting further red lines threatening additional sanctions against Russia.”

The Obama administration was especially vexed by France. After France didn’t back down from the arms deal with Russia, the U.S. government fined France’s biggest bank $10 billion, ostensibly for money laundering.

The Bush-like arrogance it takes for the U.S. to fine an overseas French bank has outraged the French government and public alike, and likely won’t make Obama more friends in Europe. But U.S. global domination of the global financial system — because of the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency — is one of the last forms of U.S. foreign power, and it too is shrinking.

To emphasize that last point, a new bank for the BRICS has been established to counter the influence of the IMF and World Bank:

The BRICS group of emerging powers have launched a $100bn development bank to be based in the Chinese city of Shanghai, according to a joint declaration.

The group will set up the new bank, with the capital equally shared among the BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

The New Development Bank’s first president will be from India while the board’s chairman will be Brazilian, according to the declaration released at a summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.

It is no longer (if it ever truly was) a unipolar, US dominated world. But when will US leadership acknowledge this reality?

Acknowledging reality has never been a strength of this country, especially in this new century where a statement (probably from Karl Rove) like this can be made:

We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.

In this created reality seemingly forever insulated from objective reality, the Federal Reserve keeps puttering along, pretending low interest rates will get the economy going. From Zerohedge:

The Status Quo has only survived this crushing expansion of debt by dropping interest rates to historic lows. This is a chart of the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, which reflects the extraordinary decline in interest rates over the past two decades.

The Federal Reserve has pegged rates at essentially 0% for years. That means the strategy of lowering interest rates to enable more debt has run out of oxygen: rates can’t drop any lower, and so they can either stay at current levels or rise.

There are graphs at the link bolstering this point.

So if “quantitative easing” of insolvent banks and 0% interest rates have not sparked the economic activity we were promised, does the Fed have other options? It doesn’t look like it.

Maybe if that debt-creation stemmed from domestic infrastructure investment we’d see better results. But that’s not happening. Instead America is going into debt in order to dominate the global resource wars, and in that effort, America is losing.

In this emerging, multipolar world US foreign policy can no longer rely on the threat/use of its military to intimidate and bully other nations into submission.

Are our leaders capable of shelving the hubris and acknowledging this new reality? The longer they don’t, the deeper they dig.

  1. steve kelly

    A Mark Gibbons (from Missoula I believe) poem came to me this morning from a Wobblie friend:

    Mass Hysteria

    for JimBo

    At twenty I believed anyone who didn’t

    agree with me

    about Marx (Karl or Groucho)

    was a humorless, money-grubbing bastard.

    I measured the world

    by blisters & shit-eating grins.

    My conclusion: workers of the world unite

    (raise your eyebrows

    & duck walk in circles.) You worka too much

    for too little pay. Turn some serious dough

    into funny money.

    Don’t join the circus to tame the clowns,

    never trade the sunrise for a real estate tip.

    At thirty I became a father,

    grist for the mill,

    let go of the Communist Manifesto,

    traded my ideals for a washer & dryer,

    health insurance –

    the deluded assurance of a savings account.

    I learned to live every day, every hour,

    for tomorrow.

    It was no laughing matter. I thought,

    what did I know? In Moscow Marxists

    were eating their dogs

    & a B-movie clown told jokes in the White House.

    I drank & worked overtime.

    At forty I barely survived my father’s death,

    exhumed his radical heart,

    the one he inherited from his Wobbly old man,

    a hand-me-down black & tan doodle-heart

    years in the mines

    & whiskey couldn’t kill. The comedy of it

    all — economics, revolution, utopian dreams.

    Are we molded

    more by our stories or our genes? We work,

    we laugh, we cry, we eat, we drink, we screw,

    we die — talking all the time.

    Systems are random & chaos a pattern.

    Feed the huddled masses duck soup.

    At fifty will I wear my trousers rolled?

    Will my children

    scold me for singing out loud & squandering

    their college tuition on a day at the races?

    Give me a farce, two

    tickets to paradise. We’ll party until it’s time.

    You grow old, you grow cold as proletarian

    dreams, you grow bold

    at the promise your shadow will lengthen.

    Tonight at the opera it’s all horse feathers.

    The tenor of the troupe

    is fat. The king snores through an aria, our queen

    loses her dress. Fuck it, the business of debt.

  2. Turner

    I’m not uneasy about living in a world in which the US has less influence. My fears about what’s happening in the world would diminish if I thought the large corporation and oligarchs who actually run governments (including and maybe especially ours) were benign. Nation states are no exactly irrelevant, but they don’t take actions unless those who control them allow it.

    But these oligarchs are not benign. They’re focused on narrow agendas that have nothing to do with what’s good for the world. They actually have contempt for those not like them. They genuinely don’t care about those who suffer.

    The Counterpunch writer unduly identifies Obama as a villain. To me, Obama is but one of many world leaders in thrall to corrupt oligarchs, the real villains. I don’t think Obama is personally responsible for much of anything. No president can be these days. The best a president can do, given the realities of power, is nibble around the edges of problems (e.g., Obamacare, raising the minimum wage for some employees, expanding gay rights).

    If Obama were removed from office tomorrow, things wouldn’t improve. They’d be just a bad or good then as the oligarchs want them to be.

    We need to attack problems at the their cores. That means creating more alternatives to the mainstream corporate media, boycotting the worst corporations, and working locally to elect people who are unwilling to be controlled by the corporations.

    Elections are still important despite the bought-and-paid-for system elected officials have to join. Some politicians are putting up some resistance to the oligarchs. Others, like Steve Daines, offer no resistance at all because they ARE the oligarchs.

    And, by the way, if Daines is elected and Republicans win the Senate, women can forget about reproductive choice. The Supreme Court will swing even further to the right on virtually all social issues.

    • Excellent thoughts Turner, but I ask that you look at the legal abortion issue from another angle: It is not something that affects the oligarchy. They always have and always will have access to abortion whenever needed.

      Abortion is useful as a wedge issue. Add to it a few others like gun control, immigration, gay marriage, and you have our election campaigns, carefully constructed to have heated exchanges and genuine emotion, and not affecting our ruling classes an iota. It is important for us to have elections, so that people think their vote matters (otherwise revolution might threaten), and equally important that elections not be about real issues, so that voting does not matter.

      Ergo, I suggest that if the R’s win the senate, nothing changes. Given the number of cloaked R’s in the Democratic Party, coupled with the filibuster, put in place by the Democratic Party, and they’ve long held a ruling majority anyway.

      They seem content with five right-wing judges and four perceived moderates. That’s all that they need. It will not change.

  3. JC

    And in other news… BRICS VI dominates the news outside of the western MSM’s obsession with Obama pressuring Europeans into his misguided sanctions against Russia.

    While we try to orchestrate the west against Putin, what does he do? He goes on about the BRICS business of building an alternative economic, banking, and reserve structure to compensate for the decline of American hegemony.

    With photo ops like this all over the BRICS and emerging economies, and Putin touring S. America (pick your story, there’s a slew of them) like a rock star, what’s Obama to do? He’s destroyed his good will in Europe, and is a laughing stock in the rest of the world, outside of the 5 eyes (Canada, Australia, New Zealand & UK).

    Oh yeah, and Putin’s meeting with the Castro’s in Cuba? He wrote off $32b in debt. And also signed a deal to reopen a spying facility in Havana.

    The new cold war is on. It’s just that the MSM propagandists haven’t found a new metaphor to replace “Iron Curtain” just yet. Just wait, it’ll come. Particularly when news of how the cost of the failed F-35 program could have purchased a $664,000 home for every homeless person in America becomes common knowledge. Gotta justify the bleeding of America’s wealth into the military-industrial oligarch’s pockets.

    Hats off to Mark Gibbon’s poem Steve posted that so eloquently encapsulated all of this.

    • JC

      I shoulda just set up camp in the Bob for the rest of the summer. 5 days off-grid, and I’ve got to come back to this???

  4. steve kelly


    Where is your empathy for those assassinated by our President? Obama sold out for a few pieces of silver just like all the others in Washington, D.C. whoring for big oil, or the banksters. No, that is not the best he could do. To excuse his murderous behavior mocks everyone who has fallen victim to his war criminal behavior.

    He is our latest celebrity-sociopath president with no humanity, no love or compassion for fellow human beings, and utter contempt for the planet that sustains us all.

    If what you’re saying is that you would have sold out for the money, fame, celebrity and a flight jacket that says “Air Force One,” well it really doesn’t matter who votes for whom, we’re all screwed because everyone’s only in it for the money, or an outside chance that some rich asshole will offer enough money for us to be a war criminal too. Where is the dignity in that? Without personal dignity and the desire for all to have it too, this is never going to work. Never.

  5. I’m always a little perplexed when i hear about decline of American influence. It would be a good thing, safer world and all of that, but these people pull rabbits out of hats. Who saw ISIS coming to finish the job on Iraq? Who saw the coup d’etat in Ukraine, a cloaked attack on Russia? Who saw Chavez goong down, Venezuela being brought under the whip again? Who saw Libya being taken down? Honduras? Thailand?

    True, all the US has is violence, but it seems to work and they are always two steps ahead of the game. Europe may ignore US demands, but something will happen to change it. And there is no truth here, every word on every subject a lie. There is no loss of influence at home. They own the public mind.

  6. Big Swede

    You guys got to catch up. We’re a couple years away from a renewed American exceptionalism via Hillary Clinton.

    She’s just like Reagan!

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