Michael Mann's Incoherent Empire is a revealing text which manages to address bold political accusations and provide concurrent evidence. His critique of the American empire is timely and arguably more pertinent today than it was when written, after various imperial failures have helped corroborate his claims. However it is still unclear whether or not his prediction of imperial collapse can be determined to be accurate. Mann's essential argument is that "the demise of the new imperialisms will not come from the rise of another power but instead from extremely uneven power resources. The new imperialists are placing too much emphasis on military power." Pinpointing the source of Empires' decline has proven a challenge throughout history, as there are often culminations of factors that lead to instability, however a specific analysis of the US military would seem a logical place to begin the dissection of Mann's thesis.
[...] A recent Oxfam report states that “roughly four million Iraqis, many of them children, are in dire need of food aid; that 70 percent of the country lacks access to adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003; and that 90 percent of the country's hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies” (Cave). The conclusion to be drawn is that Mann was certainly on to something when he claimed that a reliance on military power cannot achieve all of the US's goals. [...]
[...] Governments simply turn to the IMF in order to “gain political leverage via conditionality to help push through unpopular policies.” A fair analysis of each organization is far beyond the scope of this paper, but the point is that at the time of Mann's writing, and still today, the US projects its economic principles onto nations via allegedly corrupt and deceptive institutions. The Wolfowitz scandal at the World Bank in June 2007 highlighted the derisory nature of an institution that is meant to alleviate world poverty, and once again it appears that US economic policy is egocentric by nature. [...]
[...] The consequences of Bretton Woods still linger on, because despite Nixon's removal of the dollar from the gold standard in 1971, the greenback has consistently been held as the world's dominant reserve currency. The Economist recently reported that the dollar “still accounts for nearly 65% of identifiable currency-stockpiles,” with a high of 80% reached in the late 1970s and a low of 46% reached in 1990. The major implications for the US have essentially been twofold: first, because most commodity transactions are priced in dollars, the US is not exposed to the risk of currency depreciation which adds risk premiums to commodity prices abroad. [...]
[...] In confirmation of Mann's central arguments, the United States' imperial policies are still largely driven by its military might. Contrary to his argument, however, the threats to the military's future seem to revolve less around rivals' possession of nuclear weapons than around the potential of internal failure caused by overstretched forces. Mann did not fully anticipate the plausibility of yet another major theater war in the Middle East: one with Iran. While Iran is still only a matter of speculation, US pundits preoccupy them more so today with discussing the limits to the military than they did in 2003, when everyone extolled its infallibility. [...]
[...] The dichotomy between the policies that are advocated by low-profile organizations and adopted by officials (unilateralist action), and those which are advocated by the international community and publicly supported by the administration (multilateralist action), is what creates a serious threat to American empire. Imperialism that is run by an elite group of men in suits who ignore the masses has historically been quite successful, but in the modern age this approach does not seem sustainable. Increased defense spending and preemptive strikes cannot even defeat teenagers armed with rocks and resentment, as Israel has recently learned throughout two intifadas. [...]
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