US Decline? (No.1): Francis Shor: The Us Economy & Military Fading Gradually

Monday, December 10, 2012

Iran Review Exclusive Interview with Prof. Francis Shor
By: Kourosh Ziabari

The signs of the decline and weakening of the U.S. global hegemony and its political and economic dominance have begun to emerge and such serious and powerful contenders as Brazil, Russia, China, Turkey and Iran are gradually contributing to the diminishing of the uncontested power and authority of the United States as the world’s number one superpower.

With the most excruciating and unprecedented economic recession in the United States since the Great Depression of 1930s, and the continued political failures of the United States, especially in supporting and sponsoring its staunch ally in the Middle East, Israel, and the continued revolutionary wave in the Middle East which is rattling the shaky foundations of the U.S.-backed tyrants, Washington is experiencing serious setbacks. In order to investigate the decline of the U.S. imperial power and the movement of world toward a multipolar system of global governance, Iran Review has conducted a series of interviews with prominent political scientists across the world.

The first interviewee in our series of interviews is Prof. Francis Shor. Shor is a professor of history at the Wayne State University. He is the author of several articles and books, and one of his most prominent books is “Dying Empire: U.S. Imperialism and Global Resistance” published in 2009 by the Routledge Press. A veteran activist in peace, justice, and international solidarity campaigns, he is a long-time board member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. Prof. Shor's 2004 article, “Utopian Aspirations in the Black Freedom Movement,” in the “Utopian Studies” journal won an award for best journal article of the year.

Prof. Shor took part in an exclusive interview with Iran Review and offered his viewpoints regarding five hypotheses about the future of the U.S. global hegemony, the challenges capitalism faces and the emerging alternatives to American system of global governance. What follows is the text of the interview. 

As you know, the unipolar, hegemonic system of global governance led by the United State constitutes the basis and structure of current international order. In this regard, some people believe that the signs of the decline of the United States and a consequent transformation in the international order have begun to emerge.

Q: A change based on the founding of a power balance against the United States has begun to emerge in the global equations of political power. What’s your analysis of this change and the challenges it poses to U.S. hegemony?

Answer: The emergence of a multipolar world constitutes a checkmate and alternative to the fading unipolarity of the United States. Beyond the power block of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), regional powers around the globe have asserted and will continue to assert their independence from the political, military, and cultural hegemonic aspirations of the United States. For example, Turkey and Brazil attempted to circumvent U.S. efforts to isolate Iran around the nuclear issue. Moreover, the recent defeat of the U.S. and Israel in the UN over Palestinian statehood is a prime example of the continuing outlier role of the U.S. and the growing autonomy of international forces away from U.S. hegemony.

Q: It seems that the United States is voluntarily retreating from its position as a global hegemon, as a result of a remarkable increase in the costs of the unipolar and hegemonic order and the considerable decrease in its utilities. What’s your viewpoint in this regard?

Answer: Certainly, the massive costs of retaining over 1,000 military bases around the globe and propagating recent futile military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have convinced some elements of the ruling elite in the United States to re-assess geopolitical strategy.  Nonetheless, the pretensions of all factions of the political elite in the U.S. concerning its role as the “indispensable” nation underscores continuing efforts by the U.S. in the Middle East and Far East to project its fading power. Thus, the emphasis under the Obama Administration has been to shift to a reliance on less expensive and allegedly “smart” technological warfare, such as the use of illegal and immoral drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc.  Also, Obama has overseen the expansion of special operations forces as a way to keep less massive “boots on the ground” in over 60 countries. Although concerns about the costs of perpetuating empire are evident in the U.S., no political faction in Washington, DC is in favor of serious reduction in the Pentagon budget and a rejection of empire as a “way of life.”

Q: The global capitalistic economy is collapsing and its consequences for the uni-polar and hegemonic order are beginning to appear gradually. What do you think about the impact of the downfall of global economic recession and its effects on the compasses of the U.S. power?

Answer: The recent global economic debacle of 2007-2008 was a failure, in particular, of U.S. casino capitalism and, in general, of the decades-old contradictions of neo-liberalism. Certainly, there is an even deeper crisis in capitalism which can be traced back over 500 years, especially in the logic of what David Harvey calls “accumulation by dispossession.”  But when one considers the establishment of U.S. hegemony in the aftermath of World War II and the attendant financial penetration of global markets, the whole issue of the dollar as reserve currency is now, as a consequence of fading U.S. economic and military power, a prime issue of contention.  While voices have been raised in Europe, Latin America, and China seeking an alternative to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, only a few oil-rich countries have sought to challenge the rule of the petro-dollar, often facing severe sanctions by the U.S. Whether alternative global currencies arise in the future depends on the capacity of new regional and global powers to generate their own regimes of economic justice and sustainability.

Q: Based on the emergence and intensification of global resistance against capitalism and liberalism, especially resistance on the microphysical level of global power against the lifestyle of imperialist system, the political power and influence of the United States has been diminishing in the recent years. What’s your take on that?

Answer: Hegemonic powers have always faced resistance to their attempts to impose the logic of their order, whether it be economic, political, ideological, or cultural. At both national and local levels, U.S. hegemony confronted and continues to confront global alternative and oppositional systems and movements.  Whether in rural areas or urban centers, resistance to wasteful consumerism, promoted by global capital and U.S. corporations, has proliferated. In some instances that resistance contains a religio-cultural challenge and in other circumstances a combative ideological-political movement.  Thus, for example, the growth in Latin America of left insurgencies and governments has led, in some instances, to articulating and enacting social and cultural practices that look to indigenous and cooperative ways of living. It is clearer every day that the earth cannot sustain the kind of voracious capitalist appetite for consumption of resources and destruction of the planet's water and air, flora and fauna.

Q: The resistance and opposition of the United States’ domestic forces against the interventions of the U.S. government in the other countries and the imperialistic traits of the U.S. political system have been contributing to the weakening of the global position of the United States. Would you please share your perspective on that with us?

Answer: Domestic opposition to U.S. imperial interventions from Vietnam in the 60's to Central America in the 80's to the Middle East at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century has often played a significant role in challenging the legitimacy of these interventions. Certainly, where such domestic opposition mobilized large and diverse segments of the U.S. population, Congress has felt constrained to apply certain restrictions on those interventionist policies. In other instances, domestic opposition has either been co-opted, thus muting its critique and mobilization efforts, or neglected when Congress has operated in the service of specific powerful lobbies. Moreover, domestic opposition often contained internal and divisive contradictions that led to self-destructive debates over adopting a single-issue or multi-issue agenda. Finally, whether domestic opponents of U.S. imperial policies and hegemonic practices can ultimately succeed in reversing such policies and practices depends on the ability to generate and sustain powerful communities and constituencies of resistance, achieving in the process autonomous and authentic global solidarity.

Key Words: U.S. Global Hegemony, Economic Recession, Global Governance, Multipolar World, Unipolarity, Capitalism and Liberalism, Shor  

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