Glen Ford
Original publication:

Imperialism’s Death Spiral (2014)

6 minutes | English | Black Liberation

Glen Ford was one of the founding members of Black Agenda Report.

This is is a transcript of his contribution to the “Ukraine Teach-In” organized by the International Action Center in 2014, in the aftermath of the U.S.-organized “Euromaidan.”

This edition was transcribed by Joe Emersberger, and the RS title was selected from the contents of the speech.

I think that President Obama’s attempt to destabilize Russia will be seen by history as disastrous as George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Like the Iraq war, the de facto declaration of “war by other means” against Russia will accelerate the very dynamic that it intends to halt: the steady weakening of U.S. imperialism’s grip on the world. It will increase the resolve of a host of nations to disengage themselves from American madness and to strengthen collaboration and cooperation among many countries, and not just Russia and China.

The result will be the exact opposite of Washington’s intention. The attempt to isolate and destabilize Russia, the other nuclear superpower, may appear to some to be an act of brashness, a flexing of American muscle, an act of imperial overconfidence and recklessness. People thought the same thing when Bush went into Iraq. They were shocked and more than a little bit awed. [1] In fact, sometimes I think that Americans are more shocked and awed by the American military than anybody else. But the Iraq invasion, and the brazen offensive against Russia, as well as the so-called “Pivot Against China” and the octopus-like U.S. military entrenchment in Africa — these are really symptoms of weakness and desperation.

U.S. imperialism is losing its grip on the world and responds to its weakening condition with massive campaigns of destabilization. Destabilization characterizes U.S. foreign policy today more than any other word. The purpose is to reverse the general dynamic of global affairs today in which U.S. influence and power shrinks in relative terms as the rest of the world develops. U.S. and European hegemony — and that is the ability to dictate the terms of economic and political life on the planet — has daily diminished in myriad objective ways, ways that we can measure by the numbers. China’s soon-to-be status as the world’s biggest economy is just one aspect of that decline.

The process is inexorable and it’s gaining momentum. The trajectory of imperial decline has been firmly set ever since the Western capitalists decided to move the production of things — that, is the industrial base — to the South and the rest of the planet. Inevitably power and influence follow and imperial hegemony diminishes. This is of course unacceptable to the rulers of the United States who now find themselves in objective opposition to all manifestations of collaboration and mutual development under terms that are not dictated by Washington. They are in objective opposition to all manifestations of independence by countries in the world. This applies not just to China, not just to China and Russia, but to the rest of the BRICS and to other developing nations. And it even applies to America’s closest allies.

That is because hegemons don’t really have allies. All they have are subordinates, and so the U.S. is quite prepared to do serious harm to European economic interests by pressuring them to break long established economic ties to Russia. They will ultimately do the same thing in the Pacific region with China and cause great destabilization there. They do so not because of strength but because of growing relative weakness. Their desperation compels them to risk war because their only clear superiority is in weapons.

However, the net end result, if we survive these flirtations with all-out war, can only be further isolation of the United States and the further weakening of imperialism. I think there is on what passes for the left in the United States a tendency to describe U.S. aggressions like the Iraq war, like the current offensive against Russia, as mistakes and miscalculations: “They didn’t mean to do that.”

In reality the U.S. goes to the brink and beyond the brink of war because it perceives itself as having no other choice. Its soft power is fading. It has few other means beyond the military to strategically influence events. It recruits or buys allies where it can get them, be it jihadists or Nazis. As imperialism’s sway in the world shrinks, so do its options.

U.S. policymakers surveyed the world in 2002 and in 2003 and they concluded that the dynamic in Asia was going against them. They knew that most of the world would be horrified with a war against Iraq, but they rolled the dice anyway and invaded. The net result was the opposite of what they intended. The U.S. was humiliated and the U.S. was humiliated so badly that the rulers of the United States chose to put a dramatically different face on U.S. power — a Black face, Barack Obama.

Iraq was supposed to be a forward U.S. base in Asia to disrupt China’s growing ties in the region. Instead the Iraq war exposed U.S. imperialism’s weaknesses. In the days before that invasion, we wrote in Black Commentator that the U.S. had reached too far and succeeded only in accelerating the process of its own decline. Today Barack Obama is rolling the dice just like George Bush did. To sever Russia’s ties to Europe, Washington has surveyed the global scene and concluded that it has no other choice. The result will be a strengthening of ties between Russia and China, a great anxiety and rethinking among Europeans about their ties to the United States which is about to harm their economy, and an acceleration of imperialism’s death spiral.

Power to the people!

[1] “Shock and Awe” was the official name given to the Bush regime’s version of a heavily front-loaded military strategy, similar to the Nazi “Blitzkrieg.” [web] — R. D.