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al-Arab al-Yawm, Jordan

American Hegemony Has Limits!

By Nicola Nasser

The course of events has proven and proves today that America’s hegemony has limits, that resisting it is possible and that it isn’t set in stone

Translated By Jackson Allan

28 May 2013

Edited by Chris Basham

Jordan - al-Arab al-Yawm - Original Article (Arabic)

The late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat declared that when it comes to decision making in the Middle East, 99 percent of the cards are in America’s hand. He did this to justify signing the Camp David Accords and Egypt’s lone peace treaty with the Israeli occupation state at the expense of its incomplete control over the Sinai Peninsula and its leading role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since then, Sadat’s words have become a common saying among the Arab states within the orbit of American hegemony. It justifies their perfect “coordination” with America’s regional strategy of “normalizing” relations with the occupation state and dealing with the Arab “brothers” who still oppose its hegemony either by taming them with the crumbs of financial surpluses from Arab oil or by subjugating them with direct military attacks, as occurred in Iraq and Libya and as they are trying to repeat today in Syria.

The course of events has proven and proves today that America’s hegemony has limits, that resisting it is possible and that it isn’t set in stone. The resistance proved this in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. The current shift in the balance of economic, political and military power in the world proves it too, as does the failure of the war against Syria so far. But internal factors remain the most important confirmation of the decline of America’s hegemony.

While news reports circulate about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rush to produce new, advanced weapons, about his country’s deployment of naval forces from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea to the Arab Gulf and about the rapid increase in China’s defense expenditure, a report from the Department of Defense in April 2013 indicates that America is moving in the complete opposite direction.

Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that “the most serious single threat the U.S. faces to its national security does not come from foreign threats, but from pressures on defense spending” from the economic crisis that rages around it, a crisis that stems from former president George W. Bush’s military ventures. The report says that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have gone on for about 10 years, have cost America’s budget no less than a trillion dollars. That is same amount that Barack Obama, succeeding Bush, has earmarked for reducing the deficit during the next 10 years.

Former American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in his departing comments that the reductions in the country’s defense budget constitute the “most dangerous readiness crisis in over a decade.”

In a report titled “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices—Fiscal Year 2014,” the Pentagon said that the decline in the Department of Defense’s budgets has “already led to significant ongoing and planned reductions in military modernization, force structure, personnel costs and overhead expenditures.” The Department of Defense estimated “a 20 percent drop in the overall defense budget ... from the post-9/11 peak in 2010 to 2017.” The report pointed to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which requested a reduction of the total projected defense spending by $487 million from the 2012 financial year to the end of 2021.

To realize this reduction in the military budget, the Pentagon will be forced to take money from the “modernization programs, training and maintenance;” reduce military training hours and warplane flight hours; reduce personnel spending in the armed forces; reduce the size of the “civilian” workforce by five percent until the end of 2018; reduce spending on the “health system” by eight percent during the same period; renew the current military facilities instead of building new ones, for example by scrapping the SM-3 IIB interceptor missile project in favor of improving existing missile systems and dispensing of the precision tracking space sensor project in favor of modernizing existing ground-based radar and sensor systems; avoid increasing personnel and reduce their compensation by limiting the yearly pay increase to 1 percent and reducing their retirement benefits; reduce personnel and compensate “technologically” for this reduction in manpower; limit expansion of rapidly deploying forces such as “submarines, long-range bombers and carrier strike groups;” reduce the number of battleships to 273; draw down ground forces; reduce the spread of the U.S. Navy; reduce the Army to 490,000 soldiers and the Marines to 182,000 by 2017; reduce the size of the National Guard to 350,000 and the Army Reserves to 205,000 by 2016; retire seven Aegis-model cruisers and two amphibious ships; withdraw 31 planes from the Air Force Reserves and gradually withdraw from the so-called global war on terror amid American reports that talk about ending it.

The report explained that these changes “were forced by political realities, not strategy or analysis.” The report does, of course, mention alternatives to these reductions that could preserve the readiness of America’s armed forces.

In summary, as the Pentagon’s comptroller wrote at the end of last February, “two-thirds of the Army combat and brigade teams” will be “at unacceptable levels of readiness by the end of the year,” as will “most Air Force units that aren't deployed.” This summary allowed the deputy editor of the U.S.[-based] Council on Foreign Relations, Jonathan Masters, to deduce on Feb. 22 that “the longer the Pentagon is made to operate with reduced resources, the greater the impact on its ability to project power abroad.”

Similarly, the summary of the report allowed Travis Sharp, a fellow in the Center for a New American Security, to conclude on April 10 that “American budget cuts have caused both allies and potential adversaries to wonder whether the U.S. military can meet its stated goals,” and that “the United States is at risk of overpromising and under-delivering on its global security ambitions.”

But Obama’s announcement of the end of the era of American wars and the entry of America’s military budget into what analysts describe as an “era of austerity” most likely points to a transitional period similar to that which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia.

Despite that, a comparison of the Pentagon’s proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which amounts to $536 billion, with China’s military expenditure, for example, which exceeded the $200 billion mark for the first time last year, confirms that America is still the greatest power. But if external and internal factors don’t place it in a position to continue its hegemony that dates back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, then that influence is no longer set in stone.



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