If it were only a crisis in the dominant social paradigm, that would be one thing, but the crisis in Pax Americana is situated within a planetary crisis of the natural order brought about by human-induced climate change. Earth is experiencing a sixth mass extinction. Oceans are acidifying because of all the carbon they absorb. The huge ice sheets of West Antarctica are melting. Fifty years from now things should look very different (more different than the difference between now and the "Summer of Love").
China is the hegemon-in-waiting. It will soon replace the U.S. as the world's largest economy. At least nominally the leadership of the Communist Party appears more mindful of the need for collective action with regards to climate change than the U.S. Plus, the Chinese still believe in building things and putting people to work (see "One Belt, One Road"). The U.S. believes in building weapons and fighting an ever greater number of wars.
Russia is just trying to survive.
Which brings us to Europe and the Group of 20 Summit that begins today in Hamburg, Germany. Germany and France, so long tucked under the wing of the American eagle, are now fence sitters. They don't want to commit to a new world order just yet. If they did, one oriented away from the occident and towards Asia, it would happen. But I think Paris and Berlin are waiting for the Second Coming of Obama.
That's going to be a tall order. By the fall of last year, Obama had revealed himself a false prophet. In the end his diminished status was insufficient to trundle Hillary's cadaver across the finish line, leaving us with the "Tweeter-in-Chief." Obama's great achievements were his election campaigns. He proved, running as a progressive, that there is a clear progressive majority in the United States.
The problem now is the Democratic Party. Their voters want more progress than is on offer. Until the Dems can find another pitch man as skilled as Obama, or the party is purged of its Wall Street/Hollywood/Silicon Valley plutocrats in a Momentum-like uprising, the world is left with Trump. And, as Bill Van Auken writes today in "Bitter conflicts dominate G20 summit in Germany," this portends another world war:
Trump comes to Hamburg as the personification of the backwardness, criminality and parasitism of America’s ruling financial oligarchy. His aim is to use the threat of war, from a potentially world catastrophic attack on North Korea to an equally dangerous confrontation with Iran and Russia in Syria, to bludgeon US imperialism’s rivals into submission to his administration’s economic nationalist, “America First” agenda.
Trump, however, is by no means alone in pursuing an aggressive imperialist agenda. German Chancellor Angela Merkel held her own meeting in the run-up to the G20 summit with China’s President Xi Jinping, both invoking free trade and climate change, condemning protectionism and implicitly opposing the policies of the Trump administration. Merkel embraced Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” project of developing infrastructure for transport and energy networks linking China to Central Asia, Russia, all of Europe and the energy resources of the Middle East, an initiative viewed by Washington as an existential threat.
Xi’s government, confronting growing military pressure from Washington both on the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea, is seeking to forge closer bonds with a rising and increasingly independent—both politically and militarily—German imperialism.
To the same end, he preceded his trip to Germany with a two-day visit to Moscow, where he and Putin defied Washington’s demands that China starve North Korea into submission after Pyongyang’s test firing of an ICBM. Instead, they issued their own demands for the US to remove its antiballistic missiles from South Korea and halt its provocative military exercises on the peninsula.
Meanwhile, on the very eve of the summit, the European Union and Japan announced the conclusion of a free trade pact that would encompass a third of the world’s GDP. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that the agreement demonstrated “our strong political will to fly the flag for free trade against a shift toward protectionism.”
“Although some are saying that the time of isolationism and disintegration is coming again, we are demonstrating that this is not the case,” European Council President Tusk added.
The agreement has been struck at the expense of US-based transnationals and both statements were clearly directed against Trump, who on the eve of the summit wrote on Twitter: “The US made some of the worst trade deals in world history. Why should we continue these deals with countries that do not help us.”
With the continuously escalating conflicts between the economic powers that constitute the core of the world economy, the increasingly open and acrimonious divisions within the NATO alliance itself, and the forging of multiple pacts directed at furthering the interests of one or another power against its rivals, the situation resembles more and more that described by Lenin during World War I in which the imperialist powers were “enmeshed in a net of secret treaties with each other, with their allies, and against their allies.”
The rising threat of war and the breakdown of international institutions that were created in the aftermath of the United States’ emergence from World War II as the dominant imperialist power are the end product of processes that have matured over the quarter century since the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The emergence of what US strategists described as a “unipolar moment” set the stage for a series of imperialist wars and interventions in which US imperialism sought to exploit its military advantage to counterbalance its declining position in the world economy.
While these wars shattered Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and other countries, claimed millions of lives and unleashed the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, they utterly failed to alter the fortunes of US imperialism.
Now, a new stage of the crisis has been reached in which Washington’s global rivals are challenging US imperialism’s global hegemony.