Overextended Empire: Can the U.S. Recover From the Era of 'Pax Republicana'?

The main reason a business goes bankrupt is because it grows too fast and an effective plan isn't put into place to manage the expansion. Such is the basic flaw in the business model that is the United States of America.

When George W. Bush was installed into office after the bizarre recount in Florida, courtesy of the 'dark arts' of Karl Rove, he inherited a country that had its longest run of economic expansion in its history. Before September 11th, the largest scandal had to with how a blowjob almost brought down the free world. It was a different time — there are many who miss those Clinton days. It was a simpler time.

I ran in to a Turkish academic recently who once saw Clinton speak at an Ottoman Palace in Turkey. Clinton showed up at a jazz club afterwards and the whole conversation turned to how he could have become President of Turkey. He displayed that kind of charm all over the world, generating goodwill that Bush has squandered. Americans still do not seem to understand the level of hatred directed towards their country since Bush came to power.

Now in to his sixth year as President, he has overseen the greatest decline in U.S. support throughout the world, has domestically divided the country in a way not seen since Vietnam, and run up the largest deficits in the nation's history.

He has given huge tax cuts and made deep cuts to social programs. This era of 'Pax Republicana' which saw its realist international relations approach distorted to an even greater degree by neo-conservatives, still has a significant and energized moral constituency ready to do battle.

That the Democrats were not able to capitalize on this radical ideological takeover of the world's superpower showed their inability to compete with such a ruthless Republican machine who steamrolled their way to control of the Executive, Senate and the House of Representatives. The deeply flawed escapade in to Iraq has further damaged the U.S.'s reputation abroad.

The refocusing of economic and foreign policy of the three rising powers — the European Union, Russia and China — has shown that even though the U.S. will remain the strongest country in the world militarily, the other three will have significant clout in the coming years. Overextending the American military has also left them vulnerable when dealing with a country like Iran, who is openly flaunting this weakness. Installing democracy where there has been no culture or history of it is a deeply flawed policy. In fact it can even be a destabilizing force. Egypt has many human rights problems but Husni Mubarek is better at maintaining stability than a democracy could in the region — which is why the U.S. looks the other way.

Since taking office, the Bush administration has added $2.5 trillion to its debt. 50 percent of the government debt is held by foreigners, predominantly from Asia. This rate of unsustainable growth could lead to a weakening of the U.S. dollar which could spark a recession in the coming years affecting economies around the world. The increase in oil prices could also hamstring economies.

Before Bush came to office, the U.S. had created 22 million new jobs, had the lowest unemployment in 30 years, the highest rate of home ownership ever, and was part of the longest economic expansion in its history. Crime was at a 25-year low and over 10 million individuals were able to utilize college aids. Three million children had received access to medical insurance and seven million people moved above the poverty line. And the President could play the saxophone.

Beyond George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, the figures who will be symbolic of this era of Republican hegemony will be Tom Delay, Scooter Libby and Jack Abramoff. Together with the neo-cons at the Pentagon like Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, along with other figures such as Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice, they effectively managed to take over most aspects of American defense policy in a short time frame and distort public opinion and public policy in a completely unprecedented way in American history. There wasn't a George Kennan among them.

In short, they were completely effective in implementing their agenda. That this divided the U.S. and severely hurt their reputation abroad was just perceived as collateral damage in their blind ideological drive to operationalize their plan. When you listen to them speak, they sound like former leaders of the Communist bloc; they believe their own press.

The rising temperature on the Iran question will finally put to the test whether this brand of Republicans can moderate their approach. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an irresponsible zealot to the same degree as the Bush Republicans, has not done himself or Iran any favors by making such highly provocative comments. Iran's own display of force with domestically produced weapons along with advances on the nuclear front have further polarized the issue. It would be far wiser for the U.S. to wait out Ahmadinejad and support moderate voices inside Iran who are clamoring for change.

Most in the U.S. Administration agree that maintaining a holding pattern on Iran and increasing other forms of intervention for the time being is the more prudent course of action. It will be up to future Presidents and future administrations to deal with an escalation of tensions in the region. Were Iran not sitting on such high volumes of oil and gas in the region and were they not situated geographically where they were, they would not be of U.S. interest. As American hegemony is eroded on several fronts over the next fifteen years by China, Russia and the European Union, there will be similar soft battles to solidify a foothold in strategic regions. Advanced strategists are already preparing for a multi-polar world. Having a confrontation with Iran while they plan to be in Iraq for several more years is not in the U.S.'s best interest at any level.