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USA in free fall

The US as a superpower will end faster under Trump, according to Johan Galtung.


Johan Galtung (b. 1930), the sociologist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, now warns that the worldwide power of the United States will collapse during Donald Trump's reign.

The Norwegian is a professor at the University of Hawaii as well as Transcend Peace University, and is recognized as the founder of peace and conflict studies as a scientific discipline. He has made several accurate predictions of major world events – the best known of them about the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Johan Galtung. Photo: Morten Holm / Scanpix

Faster towards the cliff. Galtung also predictably predicted the Iranian revolution in 1978; the riot at Tienanmen Square in China in 1989; the economic crises of 1987, 2008 and 2011; and he even predicted the attacks against the United States on the 11. September 2001, according to the late Dietrich Fischer, who was the academic director of the European University Center for Peace Studies.

The first time Galtung predicted that the "US Empire collapse" would come within a maximum of 25 years was in 2000. After George W. Bush was elected president later that year, he accelerated this collapse by five years because he believed Bush's extremely militaristic policies would accelerate development.

After the election of Trump as the 45th president of the United States, I thought it natural to ask Galtung what he meant by this prediction. Galtung responds that Trump is likely to continue this line of progressive decay – he may even make it go even faster, Galtung believes. With typical scientific caution, Galtung adds that he obviously prefers to see what Trump's policy actually becomes before he makes a clear judgment.

Model. Galtung holds a doctorate in both sociology and mathematics, and developed a few decades ago a theory of "synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions", which he uses for his preliminary calculations. The model is based on a comparison of the growth and fall of ten historical empires. In 1980, Galtung used this theoretical model to chart the mutual influence of various social contradictions within the Soviet Union. It made him predict the empire's death within ten years.

"Very few believed him at that time," writes Dietrich Fischer in the greatest biography and anthology of Galtung's works, Pioneer for Peace. "But it happened on November 9, 1989 – two months before he had predicted," he writes.

For the Soviet Union, Galtung's model identified five key structural contradictions in Soviet society, which he believed would inevitably lead to this disintegration – unless the Soviet Union underwent a complete transformation.

In the case of the Soviet Union, the main structural contradictions were these: The working class was increasingly oppressed and unable to organize itself through trade unions (ironically, given the country's communist pretensions). The more prosperous citizenry, or elite, had money to spend, but there was nothing to buy from domestic production, which led to financial stagnation. In addition, Russian intellectuals would have more freedom of speech, minorities would have more self-determination, and farmers would have more freedom of movement.

Here's how the model works: The deeper these contradictions become, the more likely they are to result in a social crisis turning on the existing order. Finally, since the very centralized structures of the Soviet Empire were unable to adapt to these increasingly intense forms of pressure, the top-down structures had to collapse.

Galtung later began to use his model in analyzes of the United States. In 1996, he wrote a scientific study published by George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution. Here he warned: "The United States will soon go the same way as [former] imperialist buildings… against growth and fall".

Galtung warns that during this decay phase, the US is likely to go through a phase of reactionary "fascism".

Fascism? But the most important release that presents Galtung's fascinating prediction about the United States is his own book from 2009, The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What?

The book points to the full 15 "synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions" that exist in the United States, which, in Galtung's opinion, will cause the United States worldwide power to cease by 2020. That is just three more years. Galtung warns that during this decay phase, the US is likely to go through a phase of reactionary "fascism".

American fascism, he argues, will emerge as a result of the ability to practice colossal violence worldwide; a vision that the United States is so unique that it is "the world's best nation"; a belief in a coming, final war between the good and the bad; a cultivation of the strong state leading the fight, and a cultivation of the "strong leader".

All this, says Galtung, came to the surface during the Bush era, and now appears to be being realized through Trump. Such a type of fascism, he says to me, is a symptom of decay – it seems like disbelief over the loss of power.

Among the 15 structural contradictions his model identifies as drivers of decay are the following:

Economic contradictions, such as "overproduction in relation to demand", unemployment and the rising costs of climate change. Military contradictions, which include rising tensions between the United States, NATO and the country's military allies, combined with wars becoming less and less economically sustainable. Political contradictions, which include the conflicting roles of the US, the UN and the EU. Cultural contradictions, which include tensions between American Judaism / Christianity, Islam and other minorities. And, moreover, social contradictions, which include the growing gap between the so-called "American Dream", the belief that everyone can become rich in the United States through hard work, and the realities of life in the country (ie the fact that more and more people cannot become rich) .

Galtung's book explores how the structural inability to resolve such contradictions will lead to the dissolution of US political power, both globally and potentially domestically.

Global collapse. Trump has made it clear that he believes US forces will still be needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has even proposed sending more troops to Iraq. He also said that we should have "dug for ourselves" the country's oil. But he has also vehemently (and inconsistently) criticized US military policy.

On the domestic scene, Trump has pledged to deport eleven million illegal migrants, build a wall between the United States and Mexico, force all Muslims to enroll in a state registry, and ban all Muslim immigration to the United States.

For Galtung, Trump's sweeping political proposals are evidence of the deeper structural decay of US power: "He dampens discrepancies with Russia, possibly with China, and seems to do the same with North Korea. But he is sharpening discrepancies internally in the United States »- for example, in relation to minority rights.

For Galtung, Trump's sweeping political proposals are evidence of the deeper structural decline in US power.

On the one hand, Trump might offer an opportunity to avoid potential conflicts with major power rivals such as Russia and China – on the other hand, unfortunately, he may end up fighting more unilateral wars and exacerbating domestic conflicts related to minorities.

I ask Galtung if he thinks Trump could make the "collapse" prediction a reality at an earlier stage, or if he would rather help slow down.

"Even if we let Trump doubt Trump," he says, "and assuming he prefers to resolve underlying conflicts, especially with Russia, rather than war – in other words, the United States should not be imperialist – it will still speed up against the decay from both the upper and the middle. But what he does as president, of course, remains to be seen. ”

But just what is it that collapses? I wonder.

"An empire is not only constituted by violence around the world," Galtung says. "It is a cross-border structure with a center – ie the imperialist country – and a periphery – namely client countries. The point of imperialism is to get the elite in the periphery to do the job for the center. ”

The center country can be a dictatorship or a democracy. So, according to Galtung, the collapse of the US empire comes "when the elite in the periphery no longer want to fight the US wars and no longer want to take advantage of the center".

For Galtung, a decisive sign of the collapse will be Trump's attitude to NATO. The newly elected president has said he would enjoy watching NATO disintegrate if US allies are unwilling to pay their part. According to Galtung, Trump's "one-time attitude" will simultaneously accelerate and undermine the US global empire.

"The collapse has two faces," says Galtung. "Other countries refuse to be 'good allies,' and the United States will have to carry out the killing itself by bombing high altitudes, drones controlled by computers from an office, Special Forces killing everywhere. Both are taking place today, except in Northern Europe, where countries are currently supporting these wars. It probably won't continue after 2020, so I stand by the deadline. "

Home breakdown? But the global collapse also has potential domestic consequences. Galtung warns that the decay of US power in the world arena is likely to have a national impact as well, which could then shatter the US internal community:

“The collapse I'm talking about will be global, not domestic. But it can have domestic repercussions, such as those claiming white supremacy – or perhaps even minorities such as the people of Hawaii, Inuit, Native Americans and Black Americans – arguing that the United States should be looser, a confederation rather than a "union." »

However, Galtung is no pessimist on the basis of these predictions. He has always regarded the collapse of the "United States Empire" as inevitable – quite like the collapse of the Soviet Empire – and he argues that there is a real possibility of a revitalization of the "American Republic".

The US Republic is characterized by its dynamism, its support for the ideals of freedom, productivity and creativity, and its cosmopolitan attitude toward the "other."

Then I have to ask: Can Trump contribute to a revival of the US Republic?

Galtung's answer is perhaps revealing: “Only if he can complain deeply to all the groups he has offended. And if he manages to turn US foreign policy away from interventions – soon 250 after Jefferson entered Libya in 1801 – and not use wars, after killing over 20 million people in 37 countries after 1945. In other words: a pervasive revitalization! Something like that would surely make 'America Great Again'. We'll see."

In other words, a rather large "if".

Also read these in our article series "Trump's USA":

See also Galtung's website www.transend.org

Nafeez Ahmed
Nafeez Ahmed
Ahmed is a columnist for the online magazine Motherboard.

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