In this week of August, America at home faces alarming debt crises; and abroad it suffered its deadliest single incident of 31 casualties in its decade long war in Afghanistan and amidst its growing problems, it finds itself frequently courted by emerging powers, such as China. America today, is no longer the invincible super-power it continually pretends to project. In 1853, the declining situation of the Ottomans, earned it the name of ‘Sick Man’, by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Commenting on the territorial losses, economic condition and decline in political power faced by the Ottomans, Nicholas commented on Ottomans state as ‘a sick man – a very sick man, a man who has fallen into a state of decrepitude, or a sick man … gravely ill.’
Today the US mired in economic problems, gripped in expensive overseas wars is beginning to bear the signs of the new sick man. The very debate of elevating Americas debt ceiling, in effect is a distraction from the fact that America now faces a grave challenge, which is be default the fruit of the failure of its own capitalist system. The US central and federal government owns the US Public and the world a staggering amount of $14 trillion, while it annual generation is over $14 trillion. In 2010, the interest due on this debt stood to $414 billion. The callosal debt has its roots in the citizens’ demand for imports and credit cards etc. The consumer debt amounts to $2.4 trillion, mortgage debts amounts to $13.2 trillion, debt of US companies amounts to $20.8 trillion. In all, the dept is around $50.7 trillion. This is more than the combined economies of China, Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada and Italy multiply by two.
Moreover, over the past few years the imports of US have continued to increase compared to its exports. The country claiming to be superpower, now owes the world $500 billion. In simplistic terms, the US Debt crises have made America bankrupt from the perspective of book keeping. Its spending is out of control, and its debt continues to inflate. This present state, makes one wonder, as to how the US got in to such a position? The answer is appallingly simple. The US expenditure has always eclipsed the amount it possessed. And it has done so by granting itself this exclusive right, while opposing it for others. And due to its project as a superpower, and the status of dollar, the US has been able to keep this hypocritical imbalance tucked away from the limelight, only until now. Up till now, it has been America’s political power that had allowed it to continue its spending policies, and print currency to meet its debts. The blunt fact today is that this power is headed for a steep fall as various indicators show.
Today in America, the Republicans and Democrats have been debating about increasing the debt ceiling i.e. the amount the government can borrow, for which the US government needs permission of Congress. The Irony today is that the US borrows to repay previous debts, however this is not the first time it has raised the debt ceiling. A Similar instance took place in February 2010 as well. In fact since September 1981 when it was first rose over the $1 Trillion level, this ‘debt ceiling’ has been raised 33 times to date. In the words of Paul Krugman, a Noble Laureate: “The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats – who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion, altogether – have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands. And, oh yes, the President had some big skin in the game.”
The harsh reality today is, that it’s not just in economy that America has went bankrupt. In political arena too it is increasingly pushed towards bankruptcy, while its moral standing has already been lost. America at present is facing numerous political challenges in regions of the world which only a few years ago it completely dominated. The prime example of this is the Middle-east. For years the Arab Dictators guaranteed stability and subservience to US interests in the region. Today as the Arab spring knock out one dictator after another. The interests of US are in a serious jeopardy. It region is shifting from being uni-polor to multi-polar, where its hegemony faces growing contest. Also, over the access of Middle-east oil, the US is faced with increasing competition from Russia and China. India, Japan and European Union are playing an ever more assertive role in the region to fulfill their needs of oil.
The US lost its moral standing, as its lies on weapons of mass destruction were exposed. Its human rights record was torn apart by the images from Abu Gharib and Guantanamo bay. Its policy of exporting democracy and freedom with bombs and oppression has been shred apart over the last decade in front of the international community. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has also heavily and negatively impacted the US economy. Its troop with drawl strategy is merely a shift from direct operations to indirect operations conducted by Rulers, which shamefully are subservient to US interests, a strategy which costs less.
In such a scenario, we can find that history has significant lessons to offer. At the time of their demise, both the British Empire and the Soviet Union were engulfed by unsustainable debt. The economic crises played a fundamental role that led to the collapse of their superpower status. Today the situation in the US is similar. The US today, is witnessing a decline in the value of dollar. And echoes by China for a global reserve currency, amount to adding salt to its injury. The ever increasing debt has pushed America to rely more and more on foreign nations for economic assistance. At this crucial juncture, it’s ironic how America repeatedly attempts to project its ‘super power’ status. It does this, by hollow attempts of bringing freedom to Libya, hypocritical claims of siding with people in the Arab world, while for decades it supported the very tyrants that oppress their own masses, and pretending as if countries like Pakistan were inadvertently dependent on US.
Today’s ‘Sick man’, has much to worry in its own backyard, and certainly posses no moral, economic or ideological standing to solve the problems countries faced elsewhere. Our intelligentsia must realize that the ‘Super power’ of yesterday, is a mere ‘Sick man’ of today. And while the US is engulfed in its deepest crises, there is a genuine opportunity for us to break away from the shackles of servitude.
However it is important to realize that for Pakistan in particular and the Muslim world in general the solution is not to exchange subservience of one power for another, by looking towards powers in the east like China. For this will only provide temporary relief. We should revert to a model of governance and economics that has stood the test of times. The Caliphate, which emanates from the Islamic ideology, is a system free from the inherit faults of a capitalist system. Presently, while America desperately looks for a way out of its debt crises, and China has voiced its suggestion for a global reserve currency, and the European Union, is scrambling to handle its own mess, and confine it to Greece, the world at large awaits in apathy for an alternative. As dark, as it seems, the stage is set, and the audience waits for a new, radical and comprehensive solution. In such a scenario with communism in the dustbin of history, and capitalism at the brink of rupture, the emergence of a Caliphate, can usher the dawn of the much needed positive change.
BY: Syed Shariq Naqvi