Key, Beck & the end of empire

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, February 14th, 2011 - 28 comments
Categories: activism, democratic participation, john key, us politics - Tags: ,

John Key was very keen for former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak stay in charge because of the ‘dangerous’ alternatives. It turns out these ideas come out of the American far-right. While its easy to laugh at Glenn Beck’s crazy conspiracy theories or the hypocrisy of people who wanted to invade Iraq to spread democracy but oppose free elections in Egypt because of who might get elected, there’s a deeper story here: the end of the American Empire.

Here’s a sample of what the American Right is saying:

BBC – US right-wingers split over Egypt protests

I don’t know how Egyptian elections will play out, even pre-supposing that the Army allows them. I doubt we’re going to see a country that is highly Westernised, dependent on tourism, that has a large Christian population and has historically been secular turn overwhelmingly to insular radical Islam (and the Army would prevent it anyway, like the Turkish and Pakistani armies do). But that’s not the point.

The point is to ask what lies behind the paranoid delusions of Beck and the hypocrisy of the less batshit crazy righties who call America the font of democracy but don’t want democracy if it means losing a trusted ally.

One of the outposts of the American Empire just fell. Egypt is the second-largest aid recipient in the world, behind Israel. Mubarak received something like $60 billion in military aid from the US over the term of his rule as a proxy of the American Empire.

To people who believe in that Empire, or American Exceptionalism, whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t matter how the outpost of the Empire is run as long as it is secure and delivering what it is meant to (in Egypt’s case, a secure passage for US-centric global commerce, especially oil, through the Suez Canal). The proxy who was delivering on the US’s requirements has fallen, therefore the people who did it are the enemy and to be feared. You see this in Beck’s crazy diagrams where he claims that the overthrow of Mubarak was organised by a sinister network of Marxists, Islamists, and Obama – all his enemies rolled into one.

Beck, Millennialist that he is, thinks that Egypt is the start of the end of days, which will see a new caliphate take over the Middle East and Europe with China ruling Asia, Africa, and New Zealand (yay!). Strip away the crazy and the grain of truth in this is a future where the US no longer calls the shots. Its proxies have fallen in South America. Now, they’re falling in the Middle East.

And there’s nothing that the US can do. Once, this empire could afford to expend tens of thousands of troops on defending outposts of minor importance like Korea and Vietnam. Now, it is struggling to win wars to secure supplies of its basic, dwindling economic resource – oil – and losing allies. Like all empires, it is ending with a bankrupt state and an overstretched military. (check out “Peak Civilization”: The Fall of the Roman Empire for comparisons)

Unlike, Beck and John Key, I don’t find this prospect terrifying. I don’t believe that American Empire will be replaced with Islamist and Chinese Empires. The only way forward is democracy, ever deeper and broader. It’s a pity that the Right don’t agree.

28 comments on “Key, Beck & the end of empire”

  1. lprent 1

    Classic post. Even what I disagree with in thr post (and is rather hard to argue with those wealth transfers) pales by comparison to that crazy Beck.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    In today’s dollars I suspect that total US aid to Egypt would be closer to US$100B. And a lot of that money went to very narrow sections of the Egyptian people, and a lot of that money went straight back to US corporates selling F-16’s etc to Egypt.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    And there’s nothing that the US can do. Once, this empire could afford to expend tens of thousands of troops on defending outposts of minor importance like Korea and Vietnam.

    Someone probably has a better idea of this than me – but I understand that at the height of the Vietnam War, the US committed over 400,000 troops to the fight.

    That same commitment in Iraq would have broken the US military machine’s all-volunteer army.

  4. Zaphod Beeblebrox 4

    Paul Holmes is an admirer of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. So he’s got to be talking sense!

  5. Wow that Glenn Beck sure is scary.

  6. randal 7

    1939 3 million egyptians.
    2011 80 million egyptians.
    where did they come from and what do they want.
    this question is too big to be covered by right versus left politics.

    • Bright Red 7.1

      they came from egypt turning tourism, oil exports, and suez canal fees into wheat imports and turning the wheat into people. It’s no surprise that with egypt no longer a net oil exporter, tourism and shipping in recession, and wheat skyrocketing in price that there would be revolt

    • prism 7.2

      randal
      Best if our stats are right.
      We looked up – Populstat.org

      estimated 1750 3 million Egyptians
      1930 14.7 million Egyptians
      2000 62 million Egyptians
      Other site current popn – 83 million Egyptians

  7. Bored 8

    Years ago I did a degree in history and paleontology, with some geomorphology thrown in…it gave me a slightly longer term view on the events that surround us. A couple of key points. Everything has a life cycle, and many repeat. Everything is proceeded and followed by something, usually similar or predictable.
    So cycles and trends….client states to empires are nothing new, they come and go dependent upon the empires capacity to enforce its will from the centre to the periphery. Client states always want their independence because empires are not benevolent; they exist by the extraction of tribute.
    So some observations and questions.
    Due to its strategic position in the world in relation to oil can Egypt will empires allow it to be independent? Can they resist? This is the dilemma for all Arabs, and for the West, it is not just centric to Egypt. The historic norm for the Arab countries is a union of religion, language and sometimes polity such as the Caliphate. A united Arab state has been attempted this century; is there any reason why this type of unity might not re emerge?
    Given the image Arabs have of the US as the people who back their oppressors what chance that they will accept regimes that merely replace one imperial surrogate with another?
    We in the West need to consider that we have been religiously and culturally separated for a millennium during which time both sides have tried and failed to force their faith upon the other and failed. Tolerance however has been the norm, particularly from the Islamic side. Why should this change?
    Finally and crucially, life cycles: oil has a life cycle and it is near exhaustion, a mere 400 million years might just replenish it…plate tectonics will have removed Egypt. In between times without oil to prop up world agriculture what will happen to the population base of the world? Is Egypt merely experiencing the food shortfall ahead of us? Can Egypt afford the food imports, and where will they come from?

  8. NX 11

    Technically, the USA is not an empire.

    • Mac1 11.1

      Just acts like one. Read Niall Ferguson’s “Colossus: the Rise and Fall of the American Empire.”

      Capcha: ‘bigger’. The bigger the Empire the bigger the fall. The poem Ozymandias comes to mind in this context.

      • Bored 11.1.1

        Read it a couple of years back…Niall is a bit of a right wing poster boy and even he recognises an empire when he sees one. Yep the good ol’ US of A is definitely an imperial power.

    • Colonial Viper 11.2

      No its certainly not an empire in the traditional Ottoman or British sense, but the corporate, financial and military bases used to project US interests are global in nature and very numerous.

      Dozens of foreign based US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines installations alone.

      • Jenny 11.2.1

        .
        Whether the US is an Empire in the same way as the British Empire or the French Empire, is just semantics. The American’s certainly aspire to Empire. The only reason that they don’t like to admit it, is that their country was founded by revolution against imperialism. Their history teaches the evils of British imperialism, so it is hard to admit even to yourself that your own country is not above playing “The Great Game”. But this coyness is relatively recent. In the 19th and early 20th Century the US used to boast about being Imperialist.

        New York is not called the Empire State for nothing.

        And anyone who has read the Monroe Doctrine would be convinced.

        And how does the first line of the US marines anthem go?

        Oh I remember now….

        “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli……”

        A little toe tapping imperial jingle if there ever was one.

        As far as I know, I don’t think even the French foreign legion has anything to match the hubris of that.

      • Jenny 11.2.2

        .
        Whether the US is an Empire in the same way as the British Empire or the French Empire, is just semantics. The American’s certainly aspire to Empire. The only reason that they don’t like to admit it, is that their country was founded by revolution against imperialism. Their history teaches the evils of British imperialism, so it is hard to admit even to yourself that your own country is not above playing “The Great Game”. But this coyness is relatively recent. In the 19th and early 20th Century the US used to boast about being Imperialist.

        New York is not called the Empire State for nothing.

        And anyone who has read the Monroe Doctrine would be convinced.

        And how does the first line of the US marines anthem go?

        Oh I remember now….

        “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli……”

        A little toe tapping imperial jingle if there ever was one.

        As far as I know, I don’t think even the French foreign legion has anything to match the hubris of that.

        captcha – “causes” – as in imperialism “causes” war.

  9. Jum 12

    It is becoming clearer by the day that Key is an American in all but birth. He just pretends to be a New Zealander to get New Zealand under the control of America and the financial markets.

    Captcha: Links (weird or what!)

    • I’ve maintained for some time now that the National party – if they had any integrity – would rename themselves the “Multi-National Party”…to clearly communicate whose interests they really serve.
      The poor mad bastards think they can reduce NZ’s debt by making us buy the state assets we ALREADY OWN! Even if we assume that’s hogwash and they know it, then the only possible answer is they know they MUST sell the assets for foreign exchange to actually be able to pay down this foreign debt. If Kiwis actually bought (what we already own), they might even borrow foreign money to buy it….making the debt even worse. No…the only sensible thing is they KNOW they must sell our assets to foreigners – multi-nationals – for their looney policy to make even a tiny amount of sense at all. But it won’t. Bottom line is they will be selling our assets to multi-nationals because they have been told to by the people they really represent: The US State Department and the corporations that give it its orders.

      • SPC 12.1.1

        It’s a co-dependent relationship – local elites selling out their country for a share of the spoils. Whether farmers insisting on the right to sell to foreigners to keep farmland prices high (farming for untaxed CG) and locals with a large tax cut in the pocket buying shares in state assets at a dscount and then on-selling to foreigners for an untaxed CG.

        Local and global elites taking more and more of the worlds wealth into fewer and fewer hands.

  10. The US has been a victim of the unintended consequences of generations of propaganda originally intended to gain support for and compliance with policies that wouldn’t be supported or complied with if people knew what they really were. This has been going on now since the 1920s. The result is a huge chunk of the American population fervently believing stuff that simply isn’t true. Eventually, the errors made due to misapprehension of reality reach critical mass and the consequences of those errors spiral out of control as they compound and reinforce each other. The consequences are seen clearly enough, but the solutions are frought with the same errors…and more of what is wrong is prescribed as the solution for the consequences of past error. The United States has crossed over into this zone….but so have we all. We currently have a government here in NZ making bad policy based on many of the same ill-founded American preconceptions and legacy propaganda…..and a huge portion of our voters here in NZ – as in the US – believe fervently in the same incorrect things.

    As this all is now in the realms of ‘religion’ (being faith-based and standing independent of any evidence) – there isn’t really any rational way to argue against it because so much of it is irrational to begin with. Study after study now shows people confronted with the clear evidence they are wrong will not be persuaded and instead hold MORE tightly to the thing they believe that is verifiably – demonstrably – wrong. This is where we are today…in the US and in NZ.

    I keep hoping people will wake up….but I doubt they will. I think they are this way because they don’t actually understand ANY of it…so the ‘evidence’ is unintelligible to them. Bottom line? Our civilisation is now too complex for most people to have any real of what is going on…and democracy amplifies that error rate over time.

    It’s not just the American Empire that’s crumbling. It’s the ediface of our collective irrationality that is corroding our entire civilisation. As the number of people who deal in reality declines and their influence wanes…..things get worse. But reality always wins.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      😯

    • SPC 13.2

      I tend to agree, the public on the one hand don’t have the time to be informed about the policy issues (complexity) and on the other, resources are gathered to manipulate the public to inaccurate perceptions of the world.

      And as inequality grows this is exacerbated. Those with the wealth can organise to gather the resources to manage the perceptions of the rest of us – whereas the ability to resist is being systematically undermined – diminishing the public voice of university academics, diminishing the activisim of students via poverty and workload, diminishing the collective capacity of unions etc etc.

      But once the capacity for re-balance (or correction by informed debate and contention) in the established order is undermined by overachievement by the few in getting their way, when the moment of hubris arrives, their victory will be as Napoleon entering Moscow … except that it was they who ruined the field upon which the resources to sustain themselves came … When an order comes to an end it is those privileged in them who have the most to lose.

      This is why the wisest of the wealthy of 1930’s USA would have quietly wished FDR well.

  11. randal 14

    more news of the limburger variety.
    just cheese.

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