America’s empire is bankrupt | The Mystery of Ephraim

America’s empire came into being in the wake of the collapse of the British Empire, during the fratricidal European wars of the early 20th century. Throughout those bitter years, the role of global hegemon was up for grabs, and by 1930 or so it was pretty clear that Germany, the Soviet Union or the US would end up taking the prize.

In the usual way, two contenders joined forces to squeeze out the third, and then the victors went at each other, carving out competing spheres of influence until one collapsed. When the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, the US emerged as the last empire standing.

Since 2010 the US has been lurching from one crisis to another. This is not accidental. The wealth pump that kept the US at the top of the global pyramid has been sputtering as a growing number of nations have found ways to keep a larger share of their own wealth by expanding their domestic markets and raising the kind of trade barriers the US used before 1945 to build its own economy. The one question left is how soon the pump will start to fail altogether.

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the US and its allies responded not with military force but with punitive economic sanctions, which were expected to cripple the Russian economy and force Russia to its knees.

Apparently, nobody in Washington considered the possibility that other nations with an interest in undercutting the US empire might have something to say about that. Of course, that’s what happened. China, which has the largest economy on Earth in purchasing-power terms, extended a middle finger in the direction of Washington and upped its imports of Russian oil, gas, grain and other products. So did India, currently the third-largest economy on Earth in the same terms; as did more than 100 other countries.

Then there’s Iran, which most Americans are impressively stupid about. Iran is the 17th largest nation in the world, more than twice the size of Texas and even more richly stocked with oil and natural gas. It’s also a booming industrial power. It has a thriving automobile industry, for example, and builds and launches its own orbital satellites. It’s been dealing with severe US sanctions since not long after the Shah fell in 1978, so it’s a safe bet that the Iranian government and industrial sector know every imaginable trick for getting around those sanctions.

America’s empire is bankrupt | The Mystery of Ephraim