The loneliness of the global policeman in a multi-centric world

The loneliness of the global policeman in a multi-centric world

Towards the end of September 2014, after declaring war on ISIS, President Obama gave an interview to “60 Minutes” in which he tried to explain the rules of the U.S. engagement: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation.” This holds also for environmental and humanitarian disasters: “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge helping Haiti rebuild. That’s how we roll. That’s what makes us Americans.”

In mid-October, however, Obama himself reached out directly to Tehran, sending a secret letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he suggested a broader rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran based on their shared interest in combating Islamic State militants. Not only did Iran reject the offer, but when news of the letter reached the general public, U.S. Republicans denounced it as a ridiculous gesture of self-humiliation that could only strengthen Iran’s arrogant view of the U.S. as a superpower in decline. That’s how the U.S. rolls effectively: acting alone in a multi-centric world, they more and more often win wars and lose the peace, doing the dirty job for others: for China and Russia, who have their own problems with Islamists, and even for Iran—the final result of the invasion of Iraq was to deliver Iraq to the political control of Iran. (The U.S. got caught in this process already in Afghanistan where their help to the fighters against the Soviet occupation gave birth to the Taliban.)

The ultimate source of these problems is the changed role of the U.S. in the global economy. An economic cycle is coming to an end, a cycle which began in the early 1970s, the time when what Yanis Vakoufakis calls the “Global Minotaur” was born, the monstrous engine that was running the world economy from the early 1980s to 2008. The late 1960s and the early 1970s were not just the times of oil crisis and stagflation; Nixon’s decision to abandon the gold standard for the U.S. dollar was the sign of a much more radical shift in the basic functioning of the capitalist system.

[Extract. Appeared in Newsweek, on December 4th, 2014. (full text).]


Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities.

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