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John Bolton and the Decline of the US

diarist | 18.05.2005 17:40 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | London | World

Is the nomination of John Bolton calculated to mask the deteriorating status of the US as a hyperpower? And if so, should the anti-war movement be encouraged by this? A brief discussion.

The Bush administration is having to fight all the way to get its nomination of John Bolton for Ambassador to the UN through the confirmation process in the US Senate. To say that the nomination has raised eyebrows would be something of an understatement. Bolton once said "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only power in the world and that is the United States when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along". In putting him forward the administration was displaying its profound contempt for the international community, which it sees as an obstacle to US domination. According to the National Defense Strategy of the United States "Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism". John Bolton is not a man prepared to allow this axis of weaklings - diplomats, judges and terrorists - to restrain the Godly might of America.

However, the fact that the White House nominated an extreme unilateralist like John Bolton shouldn't necessarily be seen as an expression of total strength or confidence in its position on the world stage. Three significant factors contradict that assessment. First, the ongoing military disaster of the Iraq occupation, where the US still does not control the capital city fully two years after the fall of Saddam; a clear illustration of the limits of US military power. Second, America's growing exclusion from much of world diplomacy as other nations, seeing that they cannot work with the US, simply reorder the world around it. Third, a US economy held hostage by a vast external debt, much of it in the hands of its rival, China. In fact, grand gestures like the Bolton nomination may be deliberately calculated to mask, or to compensate for, the deteriorating status of the US as a hyperpower.

Opponents of US hegemony need not feel overly intimidated by the drive to appoint Bolton. But nor should we feel overly encouraged by the obstacles being placed in his way. The fact that Bolton - a man who objects to international law much as a mafia don might object to domestic law - is even being considered for the role of Ambassador to the UN says something rather alarming about how far US politics has lurched to the right.

Furthermore, whatever impediments they face, the fact is that the neo-conservative ultras, of which Bolton is one, still hold sway in the government of the most powerful state in all history. The fanaticism of these officials was spelled out in this chilling quote given anonymously to the New York Times: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do".

A picture is now emerging of a hyperpower damaged by neo-conservative over-ambition. Perhaps grasping too greedily at the opportunities of the post-Cold War era it has, far from "creating new realities", begun to discover the cold reality of its own limitations. But whilst it may have been weakened by the last few years of extremist government, the US still wields massive power over the rest of the globe. Its willingness to use that power malignantly for its own ends, irrespective of the consequences, continues to represent the gravest danger facing the world today. The nomination of John Bolton, and the ongoing struggle to secure his appointment, should be seen in this wider context.

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  1. Terrible — jet