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lundi, 20 décembre 2010

Four Scenarios for the Coming Collapse of the American Empire

Four Scenarios for the Coming Collapse of the American Empire

Alfred W. McCoy

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines.

010909top2.jpgA soft landing for America 40 years from now?  Don’t bet on it.  The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines.  If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America’s downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington’s global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America’s global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way, roughly from West to East” and “without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.

No such luck.  Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world’s second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America’s current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.

By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire.  It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington’s last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China’s global network of communications satellites, backed by the world’s most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.

Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d’Orsay before, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy’s prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China’s economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.

Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65% of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.”  Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America’s closest economic partners are backing away from Washington’s opposition to China’s rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama’s Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”

Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington’s wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council’s own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today).  The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III.  While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.

Economic Decline: Present Situation

Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar’s privileged status as the global reserve currency.

By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11% of them compared to 12% for China and 16% for the European Union.  There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.

Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400% increase since 2000.  A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” during the previous decade.  Adding substance to these statistics, in October China’s Defense Ministry unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.

Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010.  The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened.  By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.

Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy,” observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world’s central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”

Simultaneously, China’s central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”

Economic Decline: Scenario 2020

After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world’s reserve currency.  Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget.  Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter.  By now, however, it is far too late.

statue_of_liberty_under_water.jpgFaced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace.  Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.

Oil Shock: Present Situation

One casualty of America’s waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America’s gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world’s number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century.  Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global future.”

By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world’s natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”

Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP’s sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.

Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise — and sharply at that.  Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources.  The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports.  Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36% of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66%.

Oil Shock: Scenario 2025

The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock.  By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill.  Angered at the dollar’s plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a “basket” of Yen, Yuan, and Euros.  That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further.  At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan.  Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran’s exploitation of the world largest natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.

Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China’s new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman.  Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.

With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025.  All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region — logistics, exchange rates, and naval power — evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12% of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.

The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.

Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.

Military Misadventure: Present Situation

Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures.  This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.

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Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.

Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014

So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.

It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.

Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse.  Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.

Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf.  This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America’s Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.

World War III: Present Situation

In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American “lake.”  Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain’s global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.

With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing’s official Global Times responded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”

Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.

To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance.  Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones — reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.

Last April, the Pentagon made history.  It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet.  The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.

World War III: Scenario 2025

The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.

It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand’s operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan.  It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike.  Confident that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China’s 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits.  The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.

As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware’s devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.

A New World Order?

Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.

As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.

Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic.  They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.

As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order.  At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.

In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all.  While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.

In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up.  He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make “the ‘feral, failed cities’ of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”

At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.

Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region — Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.

All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.

If America’s decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.

If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high.  Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country’s role and prosperity in a changing world.

Europe’s empires are gone and America’s imperium is going.  It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain’s success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.

Source: http://www.alternet.org/world/149080/4_scenarios_for_the_coming_collapse_of_the_american_empire/?page=entire

jeudi, 25 décembre 2008

"Global Trends 2025" : le rapport des services secrets américains

 

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Günther DESCHNER :

 

« Global Trends 2025 » : le rapport des services secrets américains

Trois ans après la disparition du Rideau de Fer, les présidents américains estimaient encore que le monde était « OK ». George Bush Senior ne doutait pas un instant, à l’époque, qu’avec « l’aide de Dieu », il gagnerait bientôt la Guerre Froide et qu’il récolterait les fruits, à l’échelle globale, de cette épreuve de force qui avait duré quelques décennies. Il disait : « Un monde qui était jadis partagé entre deux camps armés reconnaît désormais une seule grande puissance hégémonique, celle des Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Les peuples du monde sauront apprécier cette situation et ils nous font confiance de toutes leurs forces ».

Depuis ce « Discours à la Nation », seize années se sont écoulées qui ont ébranlé la conscience de soi des Américains jusqu’en ses fondements et, surtout, qui ont changé radicalement le monde. Les plans pour sauver le monde, qu’avait jadis concocté le successeur de Reagan, ont échoué et pas seulement à cause de la démesure de son fils George W. Bush ou à cause des attentats du 11 septembre 2001 ou des guerres en Afghanistan et en Irak. L’effondrement du système financier américain, le déficit toujours constant et croissant du budget de l’Etat américain, les graves problèmes économiques et l’état désastreux de la société américaine elle-même, jettent toujours davantage le doute dans l’esprit des observateurs : ils se demandent si l’Amérique sera en mesure, dans les années à venir, de conserver son rôle d’unique puissance internationale capable de maintenir l’ordre dans le monde.

Des guerres civiles et ensuite l’effondrement du pays ?

Les titres des journaux et les interrogations se succèdent : « Est-ce la fin de l’ère américaine ? » ; « Le monde post-américain » ; « Le modèle américain a fait son temps » ; « Que s’est-il passé avec l’Empire américain ? ». Il n’a pas fallu attendre la crise financière pour que les titres de livres ou d’articles de cet acabit se repèrent largement dans les médias, où l’on prévoit ainsi, de manière récurrente, le déclin de « l’hyper-puissance américaine » et où l’on prophétise des constellations de puissance entièrement nouvelles sur l’échiquier géopolitique. L’étude, qui est allé le plus loin dans ce sens, a été commencée il y a une dizaine d’années et a été achevée et présentée en novembre dernier ; elle émane de la « Faculté des Relations Internationales » de l’Académie Diplomatique du ministère russe des affaires étrangères. Son Doyen, le politologue Igor Panarine, pronostique, dans les conclusions de l’enquête, que les dissensions qui déchirent d’ores et déjà la société américaine déboucheront, dans les prochaines décennies, sur des guerres civiles et sur l’effondrement du pays qui se morcellera en plusieurs parties.

Certes, derrière toutes ces thèses et ces slogans sur le déclin éventuel de la superpuissance américaine, se profilent les habituels vœux pieux des Anti-Américains de tous acabits ou une volonté de broyer du noir ; il n’empêche qu’aux Etats-Unis aussi ce genre de spéculations ont cours désormais. Ainsi, le NIC (« National Intelligence Council »), émanation des services secrets et cellule centrale en charge de formuler les prévisions pour le moyen et le long termes, centralise les informations et les analyses de pas moins de dix-huit services de renseignements américains et considère aujourd’hui que la domination globale qu’exercent les Etats-Unis est sur la voie du déclin. Le NIC analyse la situation de la seule superpuissance encore en lice et prévoit qu’au cours des vingt prochaines années elle perdra très nettement de la puissance sur les plans économique et politique. Les prévisions du NIC n’excluent pas l’émergence de guerres nouvelles.

Dans l’étude publiée par le NIC et intitulée « Global Trends 2025 », on trouve cette phrase significative : « En 2025, on ne reconnaîtra presque plus le système international, qui s’est constitué après la seconde guerre mondiale ». La cause de cette mutation globale provient surtout, d’après le NIC, de la montée en puissance d’autres grands acteurs globaux, de la croissance de pays encore émergents aujourd’hui, de la globalisation de l’économie et du transfert historique du développement et de la puissance économique de l’Ouest vers l’Est. Le texte annonce aussi la possible émergence de conflits internationaux pour les matières premières et les ressources. Dans les deux décennies qui s’annoncent, il y aura plus de troubles et de conflits dans le monde. Les denrées alimentaires et l’eau potable se raréfieront et les armes prolifèreront.

Jamais auparavant, ce rapport du NIC, qui est établi tous les quatre ans et qui se base sur une vaste enquête, menée auprès d’experts dans le monde entier et d’estimations dérivées d’analyses posées par des services secrets, n’avait eu un ton aussi pessimiste quant à la position des Etats-Unis dans le monde. Thomas Fingar, chez qui arrivent tous les rapports des analystes et des experts avant la rédaction finale, considère qu’en 2025 les Etats-Unis resteront certes « la plus grande puissance au monde » mais qu’ils seront « moins hégémoniques » qu’avant. Fingar est l’homme qui fut vice-directeur des autorités officielles en charge de collecter de tels renseignements et analyses. Depuis, il est devenu le chef du NIC. Fingar parle allemand et chinois ; il a d’abord enseigné dans diverses universités et hautes écoles, ensuite, il fut, pendant de nombreuses années, le principal analyste des questions militaires, attaché au quartier général de l’armée américaine à Heidelberg en Allemagne ; à ce titre, il dépendait du département des services secrets et de la recherche du ministère américain des affaires étrangères.

L’étude « Global Trends 2025 » cite toute une série de raisons expliquant l’évolution des vicissitudes politiques, telles que les perçoivent les services secrets américains : le processus de globalisation se poursuivra, explique le rapport du NIC, et il apportera, d’une part, un accroissement de l’abondance, et, d’autre part, de plus fortes inégalités. « Le fossé entre riches et pauvres, aux niveaux international, régional et intra-étatique, ne cessera de croître ».

L’hégémonie américaine sera soumise à une forte érosion au sein du système international, sur les plans militaire, politique, économique et culturel ; « et cette érosion ira en s’accélérant, sauf sur le plan militaire ». Même si la dimension militaire des Etats-Unis sera encore longtemps celle d’un géant, c’est sans doute le domaine qui s’avèrera le moins important. « Personne ne nous attaquera avec des forces conventionnelles et massives. Car la dissuasion nucléaire fonctionnera ». Les analystes de Fingar prévoient toutefois une perte d’importance dramatique pour les grandes organisations internationales : elles seront de moins en moins en mesure d’affronter les nouveaux défis d’un monde globalisé. Ce seront surtout l’ONU, l’OMC, le FMI, la Banque Mondiale, et aussi l’OTAN  qui seront frappés par ce désintérêt général et ce déclin. « Nous avons besoin d’autres institutions ou de transformer ou de réanimer celles qui existent, afin qu’elles puissent s’occuper des conséquences de la globalisation ».

Les Etats-Unis sont plus stables sur le plan démographique que l’Europe, la Russie et le Japon

Fingar craint toutefois que le mécontentement dans le monde face à la politique américaine devienne si important que toute idée lancée par l’Amérique, pour qu’elle soit mise à l’ordre du jour, soit d’emblée discréditée, aussi bonne soit elle. Les propositions formulées par la Russie, la Chine, l’Inde ou l’UE seront elles aussi dépourvues de crédibilité chez les puissances tierces et grevées de doutes et de scepticisme. « Personne ne sera en mesure, pendant assez longtemps, de prendre en charge le leadership dans le monde et d’aider à promouvoir les changements nécessaires dans le système international ».

Les modifications climatiques, estime l’étude du NIC, auront des conséquences politiques, bien qu’indirectes, et provoqueront des chutes de gouvernement et des  guerres. Ces modifications climatiques n’auront peut-être pas le poids nécessaire pour faire basculer seules les choses mais elles seront, dans bon nombre de cas, le petit élément de trop, pareil « au brin de paille qui brise l’échine du chameau », c’est-à-dire le complément inattendu, imprévu, qui donnera le coup de grâce à des gouvernements faibles ou à des Etats en voie de décomposition ».

Les migrations augmenteront partout dans le monde et en modifieront les structures politiques : toujours davantage d’hommes voudront quitter leurs pays appauvris et chercher de meilleures conditions de vie dans des Etats prospères et moins frappés par les modifications climatiques.

L’étude laisse une place importante au facteur démographique : l’Europe occidentale, la Russie et le Japon, dans une vingtaine d’années, se retrouveront dans une situation où pour chaque citoyen actif, il faudra compter deux retraités. « C’est là une charge fort lourde pour la croissance économique », conclut le rapport. C’est donc à ce niveau démographique que Fingar estime que les Etats-Unis se trouvent dans une meilleure position : « Parmi les pays hautement développés, nous sommes presque seuls dans ce cas : nous aurons toujours une croissance démographique en hausse ».

L’étude estime ensuite que les questions de sécurité énergétique pèseront d’un poids politique plus considérable que les idéologies : le désir de s’assurer des matières premières énergétiques ne cessera de croître et pas seulement en Occident, surtout chez les puissances émergentes comme la Chine et l’Inde.

Parmi les autres thématiques de ce travail considérable, riche d’idées : les conséquences de la catastrophe financière de 2008, le changement climatique, les technologies du futur, le rôle stratégique de l’Arctique, la raréfaction de l’eau potable, les conflits armés de l’avenir, la fin d’Al Qaeda, le danger des pandémies globales.

Günther DESCHNER.

(article paru dans « Junge Freiheit », Berlin, n°52/2000 – N°1/2009, traduction française : Robert Steuckers).

L’étude du NIC, intitulée « Global Trends 2025 » se lit sur internet : http://www.dni.gov/nic/PDF_2025/2025_Global_Trends_Final_Report.pdf