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America goes to the dogs


For the past twenty years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, America’s power has grown beyond comparison and has been felt even in the remotest enclaves of planet earth. The two decades have constituted the golden age of a power that started ascending to dominance at the dawn of the 20th Century and asserted its military supremacy towards the end of the Second World War.

The war washed away all the remaining doubts on the military superiority of the United States, instilling long-lasting fear in the hearts of open and subtle enemies. The enormous economy that America became created puppet states, often flattered as allies, in many parts of the world.

The US developed global institutions – from financial bodies to civil society organizations, from the mass media to watchdogs – that helped American values, traditions, ideals, beliefs, and arts to spread like cholera in a flood-ravaged population. To cement its cultural influence, the US invented and propagated a fundamentalist version of Christianity – Pentecostalism – that has shaken the fabric of the traditional Church in sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of Asia.

These traditions, some of which may seem contradictory, are actually mutually dependent and have come to form an integral part of Western culture. And they have been imposed on much of the world as civilized behaviors at the expense of indigenous cultures, which are passionately frowned upon, and sometimes legislated against, as backward and inhuman. This world order, however, is now falling apart as if it was a hollow structure and America, as American pundit Fareed Zakaria admits, is loosing the ability to dictate to the world.

The mounting end of US influence came to the fore following the rise of China as a major world economy at the beginning of this century. The emergence of the eastern power as a huge consumer of raw materials, as a massive supplier of military hardware and other critical products, as a major international donor willing to give with little ideological considerations, has rendered ineffective American and Western sanctions on independent-minded countries. US sanctions on Khartoum have not stopped the Islamic government from exporting huge quantities of oil or importing Kalashnikovs in bulk.

Likewise, no American boycott of Venezuelan oil can starve Hugo Chavez’s anti-US government. In fact, Caracas has repeatedly threatened to divert its oil exports from the US to China. From Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang, governments have realized that it is no longer economically suicidal to defy US arrogance.

The US can still inflict some economic pain on unfriendly countries, as Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe has witnessed, but no such pain is too painful anymore to force into submission any head of state who does not wish for his people the misery of living under Western enslavement. Difficult indeed is to explain the continued survival of Mugabe’s regime and the ongoing recovery of his country’s economy without emphasizing the nonstop flow of Chinese funds and arms (in exchange for Zimbabwean diamonds).

But if the rise of China exposed the increasing decline of US influence, it did not cause it. China is simply an alternative route that has attracted nations which were long fed up with the United States, but the Asian giant has nothing to do with what impelled such nations to resent and desert America in the first place. It is rather the United States that first undermined its own influence and embarked on its imminent downfall.

The US, like any other dominant power in history, has spent most of its time trying to impose its will on the rest of the world. At times, especially when the neoconservatives and the religious right like George W. Bush assumed power in Washington, the US pursued global dominance through stupid methods that turned the world against it.

Excited by its triumph in the Cold War and in previous confrontations, the US grew arrogant, forgot to think and started behaving as if it could occupy the whole world. Washington intensified its support for barbaric Jewish crimes on Muslim children and then unilaterally waged wars on – and occupied – two Muslim nations in less than three years. The aggressor also used proxies to continuously shed blood in some Muslim countries, such as Somalia, and imposed sanctions on others, including Sudan.

This hostile foreign policy convinced Muslims worldwide that the United States was out to destroy Islam and to kill as many Muslims as it could. The tension between the US and Muslims, of course, is not entirely a product of the former’s blind support for Israel and its hostility towards Muslim countries.

This tension is the traditional conflict between Islam and Christianity. Since the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) called humanity to the worship of only and only one God, dismissing biblical beliefs that the Almighty begets or needs to partner with the “son” and the “holy spirit” to realize His Godhead, the fault line between Islam and Christianity became the battle line. For 600 years before the birth of Islam, since the days of Saint Paul, Christianity claimed monopoly on the Divine truth and faced no rivalry in making such claims except from Judaism. But Judaism, being confined to one culture and one scattered people, posed no major threat to Christianity.

The emergence of Islam as a universal faith posed a far-reaching challenge, and indeed a mighty threat, to the expansion of Christendom and, most painfully, to the survival of Christianity within Christendom itself. Clashes were inevitable.

This is not to say that the two great religions have not known centuries of peaceful coexistence and reciprocal respect. But there are numerous periods in history when relations between the two consisted, as leading propagandist Bernard Lewis gets it right this time, of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and re-conquests.

The most brutal and most bloody of these encounters were the Crusades of the Middle Ages, a series of military campaigns launched by Pope Urban II to repossess former Christian territories annexed by the Muslim empire. These Crusades, in the eyes of many Muslims, have resurfaced today in the form of US-led wars against Muslim countries. These ruthless wars, along with other factors, have breaded anti-Americanism across the Muslim world, replaced admiration for the western power with resentment of it, and impelled masses to pray for the quick advent of the day when America will be no more.

America’s clash with Islam is not the whole explanation for the western power’s increased unpopularity, and hence, decreasing influence; but it forms an integral part of the explanation. This is because the followers of Islam constitute a whole one-sixth of the world’s population and own three quarters of the world’s oil and gas. To lose influence on such a constituency is a good start to losing influence in the world.

The rage fueled by the bombing of innocent Muslim civilians is worsened by America’s support for repressive regimes across the Muslim world. Aware that freedom in Muslim countries would bring to power leaders who question US policies in the region, the US – for generations – armed and financed brutal and repressive rulers, including Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Tunisian tyrant Zine Al-Abidin Ben Ali, King Abdallah II of Jordan, and many others.

Such hypocrisy affected US rhetoric on freedom and human rights and left very few Muslims, and indeed very few members of the human race, willing to listen. The most crushing blow to US influence in Arab countries came when these oppressive regimes started crumbling one after the other in the face of popular uprisings.

Tyrants have been overthrown, as it is the case in Tunisia and Egypt, or compelled to loosen repression and usher in measures, if not reforms, that will eventually empower the people, as witnessed in Jordan and Morocco. Each of these developments comes at the expense of US interests in the region; selfish interests that the empowered people cannot tolerate.

The triumph of freedom in the Middle East is the latest slap in the face of the US and the latest indicator that the Western power is fast losing its influence in the region and in the world altogether.

The rise of freedom in Muslim countries leads to more Irans, more Sudans and more Venezuelas – countries governed by leaders who are humble towards their people and stern towards foreign interference. This leaves the US with no option but to unleash the military to impose its will.

But as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated, the mighty US military can prove helpless in the face of relentless guerrilla attacks sustained by ragtag groups like the Taliban. The military approach to global hegemony is surely inefficient, imprudent and unsustainable.

The military approach becomes even more unsustainable as the rest of the world masters advanced military technologies that were hitherto a secret of the US and, to some extent, Russia. In January 2011, China successfully flight-tested its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter aircraft which, military analysts say, may end America’s air invincibility.

In the military aspect and in other aspects of greatness, America’s innovativeness is being effectively rivaled, and may soon be surpassed, by emerging powers. With the world’s fastest computer and the world’s fastest train built in China, President Obama’s dream of seeing America “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” may remain just that: a dream.

This is not to refute America’s still-prevalent might. America still has, by far, the world’s largest economy, the world’s strongest military, and – most importantly – the world’s best universities. The popularity of Facebook and Google, the universality of the English language, the spread of Western interpretations of freedom and human rights – all point to America’s continued influence. And in some of these indicators of power, America may, for sometime to come, remain Number One.

But as the rest of the world increasingly grows resistant to its pressure and to its arrogance, America has no option but to learn to live in a world in which others besides it have a say, a strong say. Surely, America’s dominance is headed for the past.

This story first appeared in the print version of The Campus Journal in 2011