The following is the
excerpt of an article titled How America Will Handle
the Fall of Its Middle East Empire, written by UK
Telegraph's political commentator Peter Oborne and published
on telegraph.co.uk on February 25, 2011.
Empires can collapse in the course
of a generation. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish
looked dominant. Twenty-five years later, they were on
their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of
coping with the emergent maritime powers of Britain and
Holland. The British empire reached its fullest extent
in 1930. Twenty years later, it was all over.
Today, it is reasonable to ask whether
the United States, seemingly invincible a decade ago, will
follow the same trajectory. America has suffered two convulsive
blows in the last three years. The first was the financial
crisis of 2008, whose consequences are yet to be properly
felt. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the
mortgage market, the underlying problem was chronic imbalance
in the economy.
For a number of years, America has
been incapable of funding its domestic programmes and overseas
commitments without resorting to massive help from China,
its global rival. China has a pressing motive to assist:
it needs to sustain US demand in order to provide a market
for its exports and thus avert an economic crisis of its
It is certain that America will, in
due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to
its living standards at home and its commitments abroad.
This matters because, following the second convulsive blow,
America’s global interests are under threat on a scale
never before seen. Since 1956, when Secretary of State
John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France
over Suez, the Arab world has been a US domain. At first,
there were promises that it would tolerate independence
and self-determination. But this did not last long; America
chose to govern through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied
with arms, military training and advice from Washington.
The momentous importance of the last
few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt,
arrangement appears to be coming to an end. One of the
choicest ironies of the bloody and macabre death throes
of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have
been wiser to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence.
When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five
years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon
that was about to grind to a halt.
In Washington, President Obama has
not been stressing this aspect of affairs. Instead, after
hesitation, he has presented the recent uprisings as democratic
and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest
methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook.
Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that
the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising
of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.
I would guess that the analogy is apt. Just as 1989 saw
the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so
it now looks as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of
America’s client regimes in the Arab world.
Citizens' GM Appeal
on Fall of Empire