Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The corporate style of American journalism is impetuous, smiling with all 32 teeth, haughty optimism mixed with reinforced confidence in their own exclusiveness. This became especially apparent during the “end of history” period when, having read Fukuyama, the journalistic brotherhood and expert community, following senators and congressmen, fanatically believed that history will not exist any more, and there will be one long “American century”, i.e., an endless period of total ideological, cultural, military, and economic domination of the US.
And in 2018, the flagship media agency of American business – Bloomberg – is compelled to note that “the American century is over”, and this period of total Washington domination over the world didn’t simply end. It turns out that the “American century” died, and it was a violent death. According to Bloomberg, the scene of the “crime” is already clearly defined — Syria, and its author is the President of the Russian Federation, the same country that by historical standards recently lost the cold war.
Even such negative assertions don’t usually break the general spirit of the all-conquering American optimism. After all, the entire electoral campaign of Donald Trump was built on the message “We will make America great again”, which implied the existence of not only serious problems, but also relevant solutions. One of them is supposed to become a “great trade war”, which Trump is ready to unleash any day now to revitalise the country’s production sector. However, the protectionism and optimism of the President encounters the harsh reality of post-industrial America. For example, as same Bloomberg states with grief, “Trump’s tariffs are a gift for OPEC and Russia, but not for American shale“.
After such a title there can be a suspicion that a seemingly serious publication is engaged in promoting a new conspiracy theory – that the US President is Putin’s agent. In practice, everything is more prosy and more sad. It turns out that American metallurgy degraded to such a state that it can’t produce the ultra-high quality pipe necessary for the production of shale oil any more. And this leads to a paradoxical situation: if protective tariffs are imposed on foreign pipes, the only economic effect will be a decrease in America shale companies’ competitiveness, and if – for some reason – the import of high-quality pipes to the US stops in general, then a issue will arise – new shale fields can’t be adequately exploited.
As Trump’s ambitious protectionist plans expand – and for this purpose all the prerequisites exist – his administration will face more and more systemic problems and serious structural limitations, many of which cannot be solved by simply throwing money at them, since they stem from the administrative, corruption, or even cultural plane.
Syria is considered to be the place that the “American century” died precisely because in the context of the Syrian conflict in general that it became clear to the world that the US can no longer solve civilisational problems of the highest category of complexity, which demand a high level of concentration and quality of military, diplomatic, and administrative resources. But Russia can.
Against this background it is quite amusing to observe how the Russian “sect of admirers of the West” tries to convince the Russian audience of the hopelessness of competing with the US, pointing to the difference in the military budgets of our countries.
It is indicative that detached observers draw a completely different conclusion from the difference in budgets, which is reduced to the fact that Russia (and to a certain extent China) is spending its means more effectively, and the Americans and their NATO allies are not. If to strongly exaggerate this, it is possible to offer the following comparison: the American military budget is the money spent on producing trains, and the Russian military budget is money spent on developing and producing a “partisan” explosive device that derails this train.
However, if this was only about different efficiencies of military budgeting, then it would be premature to say that the “American century died”. The problem is much deeper and is connected not only and not so much to the economy as it is to certain culturological features of the modern America.
For example, already during Trump’s reign – in the name of observing political correctness and the principle of gender equality – American marines (i.e. that part of the army that an increased combat capability is expected from) abandoned tough tests of physical endurance for selection in their divisions. In Russia or China it is impossible to imagine logic in the style of “let’s scrap physical tests to get more women wearing ‘maroon berets’ and to stop political activists from criticising us in the media”. In more conservative cultures it is considered that respect for women is given the utmost importance during the selection and training of those men who will protect them.
In the US, political correctness and badly understood equality already penetrates even the spheres of life where earlier only efficiency was important. A civilisation in which the sphere of security and the use of force appears in the zone of responsibility of professional “asset dividers”, on the one hand, and ideologically loaded activists on the other is unlikely to be able to claim to preserve global hegemony and, especially so, total domination throughout a whole century.
In response to the opinion of American journalists that he “plays well with a weak hand”, Vladimir Putin reasonably noted: “If we play strongly with weak cards, it means the others are just poor players, they aren’t as strong as it seemed, they must be lacking something”. In this sense the standoff in Syria is a key moment. If we compare the situation to the game of poker that is so loved by Americans, Putin forced at first Obama, and then Trump to show their cards, and here it became clear that the US’ domination is a bluff.
If Washington lost the opportunity to single-handedly determine the destinies of countries in key regions of the planet, then the king is naked. It’s not for nothing that the author of the article about the death of the “American century” expects that soon China will follow the example of Russia and will demonstrate to the US its strength in the conflict over the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The American experts and politicians disappointed in such a succession of events dream of global war. In their imagination, only this will allow to turn the tide and escape defeat. However, after Putin demonstrated some “products” of the Russian defense industry capable of nullifying any hopes of another player of surviving global war, the option of “tide turning” can no longer seem attractive to anyone more. The game will have to be played to the end, and it’s unlikely that the result will please Washington.
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