Thursday, 2 January 2014

The USA and the world from 2001-2009; the hyperpower contested.

The unipolar world of the 90s (i.e. with the USA as unique superpower, as sole center of power) continued into the years 2000. However, the US’s hegemonic position, in which the USA tried to impose a “new world order”, became more and more contested...

US “Stars and Stripes” flag being burned
by (radical?) Muslims (Bangladesh, 2001?)

The demonstrators shown in the photo above are expressing their loathing of what they see as American imperialism. Islamists (supporters of Islamic fundamentalism) see the USA as decadent; they strongly reject US military and economic intervention in the Middle East and also hate the USA because it is an ally of Israel.

President George W. Bush (2001-2009)

In 2001, George W. Bush, the son of George Bush (the 41st President), became the 43rd President of the USA (he served until 2009).

9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, NYC

The vulnerability of the USA to terrorist attacks was spectacularly demonstrated on the the 11th September 2001 when al-Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, symbol of America's economic domination, and attacked the Pentagon in Washington D.C., symbol of its military might. The terrorists succeeded in creating a climate of insecurity and the US's supremacy in the world was shaken; this violent anti-Americanism challenged America's sense of "manifest destiny" (i.e. that the US has to lead the world and promote its values abroad). The Bush Administration reacted aggressively to this attack on mainland America (it wanted revenge?); the US foreign policy became unilateralist and Bush launched his strongly interventionist War on Terror against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the "rogue countries" suspected of supporting terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security was set up in 2011 to coordinate anti-terrorist actions.

The US's unilateralist stance meant that it also refused to take part in multilateral negotiations on urgent world problems such as climate change.

In 2001, the USA led a coalition, under UN mandate, to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan (the last US soldiers left at the end of 2014). This was approved by the UN Security Council and widely supported as a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks (the Taliban were supporters of Bin Laden). 4,804 Coalition soldiers (including 2,165 US soldiers) were killed. The civilian victims in the 2007 to 2012 period numbered over 16,000 (most killed by the Taliban, according to the UN).

Bush reasserted his anti-terrorist stance at his State of the Union Address in January 2002. He listed the “axis of evil” countries that posed a threat to the USA and the world, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea. He praised those countries that were assisting the USA in its fight, including Pakistan.

In 2003, the Bush Administration launched the Iraq War on the suspicion that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction (no evidence of this was found) and that Saddam Hussein supported al-Qaeda (there was nothing to support this claim). The invasion was not approved by the UN and lead to many anti-war and anti-Bush protests throughout the world. The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, supported Bush's attack on Iraq. Saddam Hussein was captured and executed in 2006. The last US soldiers were pulled out in 2011 (by Barack Obama). The number of deaths is estimated at about half a million (including nearly 4,475 US service members). There were incidents of torture on the part of US soldiers, notably at Abu Ghraib prison. Further controversy was the treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Editorial cartoon condemning the Iraq War
(WMD means "weapon of mass destruction")

The total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been estimated at between four and six trillion dollars.

Cartoon by Peter Nicholson

The above political cartoon was published in the Australian Times in October 2002; it is a humorous take on the increasing dangers to world stability. The list of places the son or daughter is warned to keep away from include bars (crowds, associated with possible terrorist attacks), Westerners and Easterners (i.e. everybody), planes (a reference to the Lockerbie plane crash in 1988 caused by terrorists, and to 9/11), the Middle East (a reference to all the problems in that part of the world), Bali (terrorist attack in 2002), and Indonesia (politically unstable).

Editorial cartoon by Adam Zyglis
criticizing the Patriot Act (2006)

The Bush Administration passed the USA PATRIOT Act in 2006; this anti-terrorism legislation has been very controversial because considered by many to be a means for the government to intrude on the privacy of ordinary citizens. This law to "deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes..." gives the US Federal government the right to arrest and hold indefinitely any person suspected of terrorist activity. It could be argued that the terrorists "won" because, after 9/11, there were greater restrictions on individual freedom, there was less trust of the authorities, and there was increased victimization of ordinary (mostly Muslim) citizens...

President George W. Bush, after having had very high approval ratings after 9/11, steadily lost popularity because of the war in Iraq (from 2003), the mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina disaster (2005), the abuses of the Patriot Act (from 2006), and the economic downturn (from 2007).

Cartoon critical of  President Bush (2008)

In September 2008, Lehman Brothers, an American bank, was the first of several financial institutions to go bust. It was an inevitable step in a financial crisis that had started at the end of 2007 and that was due mostly to short-term profit-seeking by banksMany US families had borrowed money from banks to purchase a house (they took out mortgages), but they could not afford to pay the money back (the interest rates were too high). More than two million people lost their homes (this is known as the subprimes scandal). The financial crisis became economic and social and has spread world-wide (cf. the Eurozone crisis).

The American economic model is based on growth; this growth necessitates massive borrowing which, when the economy is healthy, is not a problem (in 1945, the debt was massive, but the economy healthy). Since Reagan (1980), public debt (made up mostly of what the US has borrowed from foreign lenders) has much increased (as has private debt, i.e. the money citizens have borrowed from banks). The US government spends more than it gets in taxes. In 1982, public debt (also know as government debt) stood at $1000 billion (one trillion dollars) due to increased military spending and tax cuts. In 1992, it stood at $3,500 billion (Bush Senior spent money on the Gulf War). In 1996, under Clinton, it was at $5,000 billion. By 2008, that had doubled (Bush Junior tax cuts and cost of wars). By 2011, the debt stood at $15,000 billion. Today it is about $17,000 billion ($17 trillion); the USA owes Japan and China over one trillion dollars each. Private debt in the USA is about $40,000 billion. This dependence on foreign loans could undermine the US's economic dominance. Economic mismanagement of the world's (still) biggest economy has had repercussions on the world's economy...

No comments:

Post a Comment