A nation living on borrowed glory

Much of the world’s history over the last century has been dominated by the United States . But by the turn of the millennium in 2000-2001, the “American Century” had begun to descend into a chamber of horrors. The years since then have been marked by the huge financial bubbles engineered by the U.S. Federal Reserve System and the virus of predatory global capitalism.
We have the looming worldwide economic crisis with rising bankruptcies, credit disruptions, and soaring fuel and food prices.
Alongside has been the thinly-disguised but continuing attempt by the U.S. to conquer the world by force of arms under the heading of the “War on Terror.” [Richard C. Cooke in his essay titled “End of the Anglo-American Empire, published in Globalresearch]



 by Aijaz Zaka Syed


US has no resources to take care of its own homeless, but it has enough to wage wars in distant lands


What a mess! What a total, mind-boggling mess! How can a country that is supposed to rule the world in every sense of the word be so reckless with its economy and very future?

The whole world had held its breath over the past couple of weeks as politicians in the land of the free sparred and wrestled over what has come to be known as the debt deal. In fact, as everyone who understood the seriousness of the issue realized, this wasn’t about a tricky piece of legislation or bipartisan cooperation. At stake was the very future and standing of the reigning military and economic superpower. Indeed, it was the global economy itself, hopelessly handcuffed to US economy as it is, that found itself dancing perilously close to the precipice.

If the US did not raise the so-called borrowing limit to support its habit of forever living beyond its means, it would have meant the world’s largest economy losing its prized triple AAA credit ratings. Which in turn would have brought the almighty dollar down, exposing its true value which is not worth the paper it’s printed on. The greenback would have lost its proud status as the global currency or the money in which the world does its business, leading to total chaos in world markets at a time when the global economy is trying hard to survive the lingering effects of the 2008-2009 meltdown.

Not surprising then it wasn’t just the current occupant of the White House who was having sleepless nights over the Republican-Tea Party antics. There were jitters all around the globe, especially among those sitting on the piles of billions in US currency and treasury bonds.

While everyone knows that China with its mountains of US Treasury bonds, estimated to be in trillions of dollars, literally controls America’s purse strings, it seems Uncle Sam is also indebted to erstwhile enemies like Russia. Several Gulf players have also invested an estimated $1 trillion in US Treasury notes and bonds. The Saudi Central Bank alone holds $497 billion in US bonds, as it revealed last week.

That potential bloodbath has now been averted. Or so we have been told by a bruised and battered Barack Obama. The Republicans and Democrats have clinched the so-called deal so America could continue to borrow to support its profligate ways. Like those corrupt feudal lords we read about in history, Uncle Sam now has to borrow to maintain its obscenely ostentatious lifestyle. If this debt deal had failed to take off, the US government wouldn’t have been in a position to pay its employees. No wonder a concerned US soldier in Afghanistan asked Adm. Mike Mullen: Will we be paid next month?

No wonder Comrade Vladimir Putin, never one to pull his punches, thinks America is like a “parasite” living off the dollar-dominated global economy. The Russian leader also suggests an alternate global currency as the “dollar dominance” had become a threat to the world economy.

Meanwhile, someone in the US media quickly calculated and came up with the revelation that Apple, buoyant after the success of its iPhone and iPad, has more money in its kitty than the US government. How the mighty have fallen!

Amid all this circus and talk of doom and gloom in Washington though, no one seems to have time or patience to look for the causes of America’s bankruptcy. How did the richest nation on the planet end up here? While the US has always lived a little dangerously, the past decade will go down in history as the beginning of America’s end as the economic superpower.

What do you expect when you are burning billions of taxpayer’s dollars daily to maintain the occupation of two big, complex countries at the other end of the world? There’s a limit to printing the global currency, even if you happen to own it.

The Republican and Tea Party fruitcakes, who increasingly talk about “fiscal responsibility” and rising US debt, forget that it’s their wars that have bankrupted the country. While the US economy struggles, its war bill is multiplying by the day. According to the recent Cost of War study, America has spent close to $4 trillion on the invasions and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. And these wars account for 75 percent of the US budget deficit.

Little has changed under this Nobel laureate president. The US is in no hurry to pack and leave Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, it’s looking for new fronts, from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. Indiscriminate bombings of civilians, drone attacks, night raids and assassinations continue as ever.

And the action isn’t limited to the Middle East either. Even as Obama and Congress boxed over the debt ceiling, there was talk of deploying US forces in Australia to check China. A day before the deal, news reports talked about the US expanding “counterinsurgency operations” in Philippines. Next door in Mongolia, in China’s backyard, the US and NATO have been conducting military exercises. In Europe, the US is upgrading Polish warships for Baltic Sea and boosting military bases in Bulgaria. In Africa, it’s building what it calls “partnership stations,” besides policing the seas around Africa and the Gulf. Already, US troops and military bases are spread all across the globe, in every corner of the world.

Can you believe this is a country that is neck-deep in foreign debt? While America has no resources to take care of its own homeless and the vulnerable, it has enough money to splurge on loony war games in distant lands. It’s like treating yourself to a sumptuous dinner in the private luxury of Burj Al Arab while your home goes under the hammer.

When will America grow up? And when will its insatiable lust for power and military grandeur end? Its economy is in red; unemployment is in double digit and its once formidable social and economic infrastructure is falling apart. Yet today it spends on its vast military enterprise or empire around the world more than it ever did when it faced a credible threat from Soviet Union. At $526 billion (without the costs of Afghan and Iraq wars), the 2011 Pentagon budget is higher than at any time since World War II. Why? What is it trying to prove or achieve?

Instead of fighting over America’s endless borrowing, shouldn’t the US politicians be pushing for an end to America’s military juggernaut around the world? That will be the simplest way of easing the dead weight of debt on Uncle Sam’s back.

In a brilliant piece in Los Angeles Times this week, at the height of the debt debate, Tom Engelhardt raised the inevitable question: What About a War Ceiling? The author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s demanded to know why the US should feel compelled to “eternally police the planet.”

Few on the Hill, of course, paid him any heed. But if the reigning superpower is to avoid the fate of the other empire on which the sun never set and which imploded under the weight of its numerous military campaigns, it’s about time America dealt with its need-to-conquer-the-world syndrome.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a commentator on the Middle East and South Asian affairs. Write him at aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

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3 replies to “A nation living on borrowed glory

  1. The following comment was sent by one of our readers, Dr. A.K. Tewari, who quite often indulges in irrelevant comment to the posts he sends comments]. So we are putting this up here in this box where it actually belongs to: [Editor]
    On August 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm Dr.A.K.Tewari said: |Edit This
    Painting a doom’s day picture of
    the US economy by wishful Pakistanis
    will not absolve PK economy of its slippery position. Or will it?

    1. You are right, painting a grim picture of US economy will not absolve Pakistan of its own slippery position [although its not the Pakistani writers but the whole world that’s saying so including US top economists]. Even the post you are referring to is not by a Pakistani but an Indian writer [a senior editor at the daily Gulf News, UAE].

      Fact is that the US economy is so intertwined with the world economies that a single jolt to the US economy rocks the whole world including the BRIC countries. A leading BRIC i.e China holds US$ +1trillion in form of US credit bonds. But the hardliners in Washington DC [and they include both the Dems and the Reps] who are bent to rock the US boat by waging unnecessary wars and all that at the expense of US tax payers’ money.

      And Dr. A.K. Tewari, plz do not attach everything to Pakistan which you are habitual to. Such diatribes carry no sense at all except that they amount to mere rants by a Pakistan hater and dear doc, it must be known to you that hate further generates hate. We in the subcontinent have had enough of hate and this anti-ism on both sides of the border through such hate rants will do no good to peace in the subcontinent, which now is needed more than ever before…

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