JDAM fragment

A fragment of the JDAM that struck the Abu Mu’eileq family home on October 22, 2023, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza.

(Photo: Amnesty International)

2023: The Year the Bubble of US Leadership Burst

If Ukraine exemplifies yet another iconic U.S. military failure, and BRICS the changing of the guard in the economic realm, the sadistic savagery in Gaza repudiates the moral right of the U.S. to lead… anything.

Year-ends invite retrospectives. And every year is, by definition, “unprecedented.” After all, it has never occurred before. But “unprecedented” is a cliche that drains the very word of its intended impact.

The year 2023 is not so much “unprecedented” as it is “epochal,” a “turning point,” or, as in the terminology I choose, “The Year the Bubble Burst.” That implies rapidity, for bursting happens quickly, and irreversibility, for burst bubbles don’t reassemble themselves. This bursting is especially true on the foreign front where the U.S. has been the global leader since the end of the Cold War, if not since the end of World War II.

The bubble of U.S. leadership in the world burst in 2023 because of the combined impact of three events: Ukraine, BRICS, and Gaza.

The year will be remembered as the pivot point, the turning away from the post-Cold War unipolar era, and the ushering in of the post-unipolar, post-Western-centric multipolar world.

Ukraine is lost. In a war of attrition, the advantage goes to the side with the greater population. Russia’s population is six times Ukraine’s. And a defense has an inherent 3-to-1 advantage over an offense. Russia, having captured 20% of Ukraine, is now on the defense. Ukraine doesn’t have the manpower, the artillery, the ammunition, the air power, the air defenses, the time, the money, the strategy, or the allies to repel what U.S. News & World Report says is the strongest military in the world.

Absent the U.S. getting directly involved, which is just not going to happen in a presidential election year, there is no plausible scenario in which Ukraine wins. Insiders know this. The public will have to wait until after the 2024 election to get the memo. Either way, the damage done in the loss is incalculable.

The U.S. menaced Russia for decades by relentlessly moving NATO up to Russia’s borders. Then, the U.S. helped overthrow the democratically elected but Russian-leaning government in Kiev and installed its own oligarchic, crypto-fascist, Western-leaning government. That was the 2014 Maidan coup, referred to by one U.S. intelligence asset as “the most blatant coup in history.” The mission was to dismember Russia and put its vast natural wealth in the hands of U.S. corporations.

The failure of that mission cannot be disguised or minimized. It is especially embarrassing after the very public U.S. defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is all the more damning because Ukraine sacrificed 500,000 of its men to carry out the U.S.’ mission, yet the U.S. couldn’t even keep it supplied with ammunition. Beyond the direct damage, the collateral damage of the loss is staggering.

The never-deserved reputation of the U.S. for military prowess is devastated. NATO is weakened. The Nord Stream pipeline destruction revealed the U.S. to be the world’s greatest perpetrator of international terrorism. The loss of the pipeline has left Europe with energy costs 2.5 times what they were before the war, gravely damaging its international competitiveness. The mythic repute of U.S. weapons, before this only deployed against much lesser foes, is shattered. And, instead of being dismembered, Russia has come out of the war stronger than ever.

In addition to now possessing the world’s strongest military, Russia’s economy shook off “the greatest sanctions regime in the history of the world” and is outstripping those of the U.S. and Europe. It has pivoted east and deepened its strategic ties with China, the world’s leading commercial power and the U.S.’ leading adversary. And it has gained enormous stature in the Global South for having stood up to and defeated the world’s most inveterate bully. Ukraine is an epochal failure for the U.S. in all dimensions, the worse for having been entirely self-inflicted.

Then, Ukraine accelerated the growth of the BRICS consortium. This group, originally made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (hence, the acronym) aims to bypass the U.S.-dominated global trading system, instead building one that allows nations of the Global South to not simply be milked of their wealth by the West, but to prosper in their own right. In August, it named six new nations for membership: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

These now-11 nations contribute a combined 37% of global GDP, versus 30% for the Western G7 bloc. They are explicitly committed to dethroning the dollar as the world’s international reserve currency, by, among other things, trading with each other in non-dollar currencies. Russia and China, for example, no longer use dollars in trade between themselves.

Of key significance is the composition of the new members. Half of them are major oil exporters, among them, importantly, Saudi Arabia, a formerly staunch U.S. ally. With Russia, they produce 44% of the world’s oil. Why is this important? The dollar’s status as international reserve currency is closely tied to oil. Until recently, oil was only sold in dollars, meaning that all of the world’s nations had to acquire dollars to be able to buy oil. So, when BRICS+ oil exporters begin accepting payment for their oil in non-dollar currencies, it is the dollar that will be damaged.

Nations will no longer need dollars to buy oil. That means they will not need to “buy” dollars by purchasing U.S. Treasury securities. That will make it almost impossible for the U.S. to fund its massive budget and trade deficits, which are financed—that’s right—by selling treasures to other nations. That day is fast approaching, as seen in Saudi Arabia announcing this year that it will begin accepting payment for oil in Chinese yuan.

The growth of BRICS, its economic clout, its explicit de-dollarization agenda, and the centrality of oil-exporting nations in its members will prove like the water shifting in the bottom of a rowboat. It will decisively reverse the primacy of the U.S. and the West in global economic affairs. The damage isn’t all landed, yet, and won’t be for many years, but the direction is clear and irreversible. There’s a new economic sheriff in town.

Most important in bursting the bubble of U.S. leadership in international affairs is its tragic, morally suicidal complicity in Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The Biden administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to enable Israel to murder tens of thousands of innocent, defenseless Palestinian civilians, most of them women and children.

It has provided—and dramatically increased—economic subsidies. It has rush-shipped tens of thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition to Israel, even bypassing Congress to do so. It has provided military cover in the form of two aircraft carrier battle groups to prevent other nations from intervening to stop the slaughter. It has exercised its veto power at the U.N. Security Council to prevent a cease-fire, even for humanitarian reasons. The U.S. is all in on the massacre of tens of thousands of defenseless Palestinian civilians.

As a result of the U.S.’ help, Israel is able to bomb, with impunity, working hospitals, refugee camps, schools, churches, mosques, relief agencies, anything where civilians shelter to try to escape the apocalyptic destruction. And it is doing this, knowing that civilians are the main casualties, thus making it not just “killing” innocent, defenseless women and children, but murdering them. And this is still just the beginning of the depraved degeneracy.

The World Food Program says that as many as 750,000 civilians are now being intentionally starved. This, by a supposedly civilized nation. And, with no hospitals, no medicines, no water, and no sewerage, it is only a matter of time before epidemic diseases emerge and spread and kill hundreds of thousands. It is undisguised mass murder for the undeniable purpose of ethnic cleansing, which has always been Israel’s agenda, since even before it was founded. It is genocide, pure and simple, and all in public view of the world’s 8 billion people.

In Gaza, the U.S. returns to its roots, albeit vicariously. It, too, was founded in genocide, in its case, of the 50+ million native Americans who once populated the North American continent. It too, used vastly disproportionate force, the mechanized tools of an industrial-age civilization systematically exterminating a stone-age one. It, too, bolstered its commitment to ethnic cleansing with its self-flattering myths of racial superiority and its carefully cultivated conceits of cultural supremacy.

The difference is that then, all the world was not watching the daily depravity. And it had not formed its present-day revulsion and international prohibitions against such state-sponsored barbarism. Now it is, and has. The damage to the U.S.’ reputation is palpable, undeniable, stunning, and irreversible.

I’m not a Bible thumper in any way. But, I was raised in a Christian household and remember some of my verses. One of the most wise, in no way connected to theology, is from Mark: “No man can be defiled by anything that comes to him from without. A man can only be defiled by that which comes out of himself, from within.” Isn’t it so? The U.S. has defiled itself, humiliated itself, as no other nation could possibly do. It has destroyed goodwill that has taken centuries to acquire and that will never be recovered.

If Ukraine exemplifies yet another iconic U.S. military failure, and BRICS the changing of the guard in the economic realm, the sadistic savagery in Gaza repudiates the moral right of the U.S. to lead… anything. No nation will ever again be intimidated by its hypocritical tut-tutting about human rights or its sanctimonious finger wagging about the responsibility to protect. It is, more than anything else, the world’s leading purveyor of death and all the nations of the world can see it.

The combination of these three events signal the 2023 bursting of the bubble of U.S. global leadership. The year will be remembered as the pivot point, the turning away from the post-Cold War unipolar era, and the ushering in of the post-unipolar, post-Western-centric multipolar world. Five hundred years of Western domination of the world order are ending. There will be no going back.

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