Palestinian burn American flag to Protest Against Operations In Syria by the US

Palestinian protesters burn the US flag during a demonstration against strikes carried out by the United States, Britain and France against Syria's regime, in Gaza City on April 14, 2018, during a demonstration called for by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other left-wing parties.

(Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Is Gaza the Start of World War III or Simply the Peaking of U.S. Empire?

As important as declining U.S. economic and military power are to collapsing American influence in the world, declining U.S. diplomatic power is equally important.

Is Gaza the Sarajevo on the Sinai or the U.S.’ Suez? That is, is it the starting point of World War III, or the apex of U.S. empire, signaling irreversible decline? The difference could not be more important.

Sarajevo was the city in Bosnia where World War I started. The Great War, as it was called, industrialized human slaughter, destroyed four great empires, led eleven countries to become dictatorships, and laid out the contours of the modern Middle East. It was the moment when the center of global leadership shifted from Europe, where it had resided for the prior 400 years, to the United States.

World War I rearranged the architecture of global power more quickly, completely, and to lasting effect than any event of the last 1,000 years. It is useful to understand what the War was all about and what it can tell us about today.

The War was the result of ascendant German power threatening to displace dominant British power. The parallel between ascendant China and dominant America is inescapable.

The peaking of economic vitality is one thing, military impotence still another.

Britain had invented the First Industrial Revolution, in the 1700s. It was based on iron, steam, and textiles. That was the reason Britain was the leading power in the world for the whole of the nineteenth century. But it was Germany that pioneered the Second Industrial Revolution, the one based on steel, internal combustion, and chemicals. As a result, by the end of the 1800s, Germany had surpassed Britain in industrial and commercial power. The numbers tell the story.

In 1860, Britain held 59% of global wealth to Germany’s 3%, a twenty-to-one advantage. But by 1913, the year before World War I started, Germany held 21% of global wealth to Britain’s 14%. The reversal in economic power was stunning. If it was not reversed, Britain would be eclipsed as the world’s leading power. So, they went to war.

Is this where the U.S. is today with regards to China? No historic comparisons are ever perfect, but the numbers are ominous.

In 1980, the U.S. produced 21% of the world’s economic output, measured as purchasing power parity. China’s share was just over 2%, a ten-to-one advantage for the U.S. But by 2022, the positions had switched. The U.S. produced 15% of global output, China, 21%. The reversal in economic power is stunning, and the gap is increasing. China is simply blowing by the U.S. If it is not reversed—and there’s no sign that it will be—the U.S. will be eclipsed as the world’s leading power. The parallel to World War I is inescapable.

U.S. national security dogma echoes the concern with this dynamic. Documents describe China as the U.S.’ “pacing challenger.” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has stated that, “China is the only nation that has both the means and intent to challenge U.S. leadership of the global order.” An Air Force general has ruminated that he believes the U.S. will be in a kinetic war with China by 2025.

Is Gaza going to be the Sarajevo of World War III, the trigger that escalates to the point that global war—World War—is inevitable? Save for a cataclysmic error, it will not.

To be sure, Israel will do all that it can to goad the U.S. into attacking its (Israel’s) arch-enemy, Iran. It succeeded in getting the U.S. to take out its earlier rivals, Iraq and Libya, and attack Syria and Sudan. But the U.S. is too leery to commit to a war with Iran, which would inevitably drag in Iran’s allies, Russia, and China. That’s the potential path to War, but the U.S. has the most to lose from it.

Wars destroy economic orders, even for the victors, as Britain learned at such cost in World War I. As THE chief beneficiary of the global system, the U.S. has the most to lose by its destruction. Besides, its own war gaming exercises consistently show that it will lose a war against China. That is made much more likely now that the U.S. has stupidly driven Russia, the world’s #1 military power, into a deep strategic alliance with China.

Additionally, the U.S. has not been able to extricate itself from the Middle East and complete the “Pivot to Asia” that Barack Obama began in 2011. That was the purpose of the U.S.-sponsored Abraham Accords where Arab states would recognize and assume normal relations with Israel. The Gaza war has put an end to that. Until the U.S. can stabilize the Middle East in the hands of a group of collaborative, U.S.-friendly nations, it isn’t ready to carry out another war, certainly not a World War.

Most importantly, save for an all-out nuclear war that would destroy much of life on the planet, the U.S. is not even capable of winning a minor war, not to mention a World War.

It couldn’t win in Iraq, a nation of 45 million people that had been bombed nonstop for more than a decade before the calamitous U.S. invasion in 2003. It couldn’t win in twenty years in Afghanistan, either, a fourth-world country of 40 million, with no air force or even artillery. Its Taliban fighters had literally been living in caves.

And, it hasn’t been announced yet, for political reasons, and won’t be until after the 2024 elections, but the U.S. has been roundly defeated in Ukraine. Ukraine is a country that was willing to sacrifice more than 500,000 of its men (recall, the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam because it could not tolerate the loss of 58,000), but the U.S. could not even manage to keep it supplied with artillery shells.

Given all of this, it is laughable to even contemplate that the U.S. is ready to escalate to World War with China + Russia and their combined 1.6 billion people. They have been on notice of U.S. intentions for decades, have equal or superior weapons system to the U.S. (think hypersonic missiles of which the U.S. has none), and, of course, nukes.

So, if Gaza is not the world’s Sarajevo, is it the U.S.’ Suez? This is a much more likely scenario.

Suez was the event in 1956 that signaled the end of the British Empire. Britain had enlisted France and Israel to invade Egypt following Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. It was an all-but Keystone Cops caper that was ended when Eisenhower threatened to destroy the pound sterling if Britain did not desist.

So, Britain tucked its tail between its legs and slunk home. It was the moment of high humiliation for the country that once had boasted that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” It was reduced to second class status as a world power and forced into selling off the family china to maintain appearances.

Suez is a much more likely portent of the future for the U.S. than is Sarajevo. The reasons are all around us.

First is the declining economic power, mentioned above. China simply offers a more compelling model to the world for how to organize a nation’s economy, not to mention a world’s. It has lifted more people out of poverty more quickly than has any nation in history. Its stunning ascent has been accomplished without the invasion, brutalizing, and pillaging of other nations that has been so prominent a feature of U.S. hegemony.

Besides, the U.S. abandoned industrial power beginning in the 1980s so that its industrialists could make more money by producing in China, paying workers $1 an hour, and shipping the goods to the U.S. It worked. The already-obscenely wealthy became the newly-Pharoically wealthy, but the result was/is a hollowed out economy and society that the MAGAts are all too happy destroy to somehow get revenge on the perpetrators.

In important ways, the U.S. economy is a basket case. It cannot begin to pay its bills. It only keeps the lights on by borrowing trillions of dollars a year from other nations. In the past 32 years, since the end of the Cold War, it has borrowed $30 trillion, basically a trillion dollars a year. Now, it’s up to $2 trillion a year. Nobody has any illusions that it will ever be paid back. This is not a model of economic vibrancy. When the rest of the world refuses to buy any more U.S. debt, it will be lights out on the American Imperium. The U.S.’ principal adversaries, China and Russia, are working feverishly to see that that day comes, soon.

Similarly, declining military power. Besides the humiliating losses mentioned above, the military come-uppance for the U.S. is palpable as smaller nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and even Yemen—the poorest nation in the Arab world—are no longer intimidated by U.S. bullying. This disdain for U.S. military power was made especially apparent in Ukraine where Russian-made weapons routinely made minced meat of supposedly superior American ones. All the world could see it.

As important as declining U.S. economic and military power are to collapsing American influence in the world, declining U.S. diplomatic power is equally important. Consider only the collapsing U.S. influence in the Middle East.

It lost its War in Iraq which was always premised on a lie, but not before killing more than 500,000 Iraqi children, a feat that U.S. Secretary of Madeleine Albright said on Sixty Minutes “was worth it.” Its use of depleted uranium weapons left Iraq the most radioactive country on earth. While in Iraq, the U.S. oversaw the creation of ISIS, not unlike its nurturing of al Qaeda in the Afghanistan war of the 1980s.

The U.S. shipped weapons from Libya, to ISIS in Syria, to help it overthrow the Syrian government, an ally of Iran. That’s what Benghazi was all about. But the U.S. plan failed when Russia intervened to stop the overthrow, in 2015. The U.S. still occupies Syrian oil fields in the east, stealing its oil to fund its black operations around the world. All the world sees it.

China pulled off a rapprochement between historic rivals Iran and long-time U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia announced last year that it would soon begin selling oil in yuan, a body blow to the dollar as the international reserve currency. Saudi Arabia also threw in with Russia against the explicit request of Joe Biden that it lower oil prices to help Biden and the Democrats in the 2022 election. It also buried the hatchet in its hostility against Syria.

By ceding the diplomatic initiative and losing its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon (via its proxy, Israel, in 2006), the U.S. has left its arch-enemy, Iran, with dominant influence over much of west Asia, from the Indian Ocean in the south to the Caspian Sea in the north, from the border with Afghanistan in the east, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. It is a collapse in influence of startling speed and catastrophic proportions in one of the most important regions of the world.

It is likely that this plummeting loss of U.S. power and prestige was a factor behind Israel’s vastly disproportionate response to the Hamas attack in Gaza: it knew that U.S. influence was waning and that the U.S. would not be able to provide cover for it much longer. Collapsing power develops its own self-reinforcing dynamic.

Most important in defining Gaza as a Suez moment for the U.S. is its collapsed moral power.

The U.S. is deeply, inextricably complicit in the most notorious genocide of the twenty-first century. It is not only providing funding, weapons, intelligence, and military cover to Israel in the form of two full aircraft carrier groups in the eastern Mediterranean. For 75 years, it has provided the diplomatic cover at the United Nations that has allowed Israel to carry out its nakedly apartheid regime against the Palestinian people, and now, with impunity, its genocide.

Most of the rest of the world recognizes the overtly colonialist nature of the Israeli enterprise. It is a group of European- and later, American-descended settlers who came to the Middle East explicitly to dispossess the Palestinian people of their land through the process of ethnic cleansing. One of the ideological fathers of Zionism, Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, said exactly this in his infamous essay, The Iron Wall:

We shall trace the root of the evil to this – that we are seeking to colonise a country against the wishes of its population, in other words, by force. Everything else that is undesirable grows out of this root.

The first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, by then engaged in the war that created Israel, laid out the mechanism—ethnic cleansing—by which this colonization would take place:

“The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”

Everything in past 75 years of Israeli history is but a footnote to these two vestigial sins: colonization and ethnic cleansing. The present war is simply Netanyahu’s seizing the pretext of war, as Ben-Gurion commended, to carry out the Final Solution. The world sees this. It is as unmistakable as it is despicable, something no civilized nation could sanction. Yet, the U.S. claims impunity, for both itself and Israel, in supporting Israel’s destruction and rape of the Palestinian people.

It is important to understand why this is so abhorrent to most of the people of the world, and, therefore, so damaging to longer-term U.S. interests.

It is impossible to overstate the collapse of U.S. influence and prestige in the world, especially in the Middle East.

Most of the nations of the world were at one time in the not-too-distant past colonies of Western imperial powers. They carry in their cultural consciousness, their historical narratives, the obloquy, the shame and disgrace, of having been dominated and humiliated by white Western powers for decades, in some cases for centuries.

They see Israel and Palestine as simply an updated version of the same predation they suffered themselves before their struggles for national independence, beginning right after World War II. This is what the Wars for National Liberation were about in the 1950s and 1960s. More than 90 nations fought their Western imperial occupiers to achieve independence. Their names are the iconic battles of the Cold War: Algeria; Vietnam; Indonesia; Angola; Cuba; Congo; Nicaragua; Kenya…

What is different this time is the fact of pervasive global social media. No longer are local leaders, so often bought with U.S. money, able to dictate what their people know and are allowed to believe. No longer are U.S.-controlled mass media able to hide the truth to insulate the perpetrators of atrocities from the opprobrium, the stigma, of their heinous acts.

Four billion people are witnessing daily the unthinkable horrors inflicted by the Israelis on the Palestinians, and the U.S.’ breathless support for it: the murder of thousands of innocent, defenseless children; the intentional destruction of hospitals, schools, churches, mosques, relief agencies, escape convoys, water and power stations; the shutting off of food, water, electricity, medicine, and fuel, in the certainty that this will render Gaza uninhabitable, i.e., to complete the ethnic cleansing that has always, since the beginning of the enterprise, in the Zionists’ own words, been the goal.

The peaking of economic vitality is one thing, military impotence still another. The resultant diplomatic flaccidity (or, ineptness; it’s hard to say which) is an almost inevitable concomitant. But it is the moral collapse, obvious for all the world to see, that has cost the U.S. the most, has devastated its capacity to credibly claim to be “the leader of the world.” It believes itself impervious to the dictates of universal moral and ethical standards. It could not be more wrong.

It is impossible to overstate the collapse of U.S. influence and prestige in the world, especially in the Middle East. That is why Suez might be the right analogy for how the U.S. empire has peaked and is now destroying itself. It bumbles along, intoxicated with the childish delusion of its “exceptionalism” and its rosy remembrance of its once-great, glorious past. It is, instead, like a snowball, careening down a mountainside, oblivious of its path, heedless of its destructive, out-of-control nature, and picking up mass and momentum as it hurtles to its own demise. What lies at the bottom is impossible to know. But it will not be pretty.

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