US decline: Good Thing for America And the World


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

The American Empire is Failing ­
A Good Thing for America
And the World
By Kevin Zeese
19 May, 2007

Terry Paupp is the author of Exodus from Empire: The Fall of America's Empire 
and the Rise of the Global Community. The book examines the downfall of the 
American Empire, its impact on the world community and what world order will 
take its place. Paupp has been a professor of philosophy and international law 
at Southwestern College, National University, San Diego City College. He served 
as the National Chancellor of the U.S. for the International Association of 
Educators for World Peace from 2001-2005. His previous books include ³Achieving 
Inclusionary Governance: Advancing Peace and Development in First and Third 
World Nations (2000). He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on
Hemispheric Affairs.

Kevin Zeese: Exodus from Empire is an exhaustive book, 423 pages long, covering 
a wide array of empire-related issues. It must have taken you a geat deal of 
time and effort to write it. Why did you write this book?

Terry Paupp: Yes, you're right. A 423-page long book on empire related issues is
quite an undertaking. I can honestly say that I have worked on, thought about, 
and read about these issues for the last 37 years of my life. So, starting as a 
freshman in college and continuing on through my years in higher education and 
teaching, I have wrestled with the reality of a mutating and violent American 
Empire. In high school I mourned the death of my hero, Robert F. Kennedy. In 
college, I was involved in the anti-war movement and an active participant in 
Vietnam War teach-ins and protests. After college I obtained a Master of 
Theological Studies in Chicago ­ doing my thesis on liberation theology in Latin
America. It was at that time that I started viewing religion, politics, 
economics, and social life from the perspective of those on the bottom of 
society ­ the poor, oppressed ­ most of who live in the Global South (Third 
World). After teaching philosophy and comparative religion courses for 6 years, 
I went to law school and obtained a Juris-Doctor in Law. Soon thereafter, I 
returned to academics and writing books and articles about what I have termed 
"Inclusionary Governance" ­ juxtaposing that ideal for human rights and social 
justice to all forms of "Exclusionary Governance" and "Exclusionary States."

In my professional determination, the United States itself was hardly a 
democratic polity because of exclusionary policies based on race and after the 
1870s policies increasingly based on the priorities of capital---the most 
privileged and wealthy classes of the elite. Further, after the Reagan era it 
has become clear to me that the US was increasingly becoming more like the 
oligarchies of Latin American dictators and its large landowners.

Certainly since George W. Bush stole the elections of 2000 and 2004 it is clear 
that voter suppression, the US Patriot Act, the corruption of the US Justice 
Department for partisan political gain, the death of a Constitutional framework 
of effective checks and balances, illegal wiretapping and spying on Americans in
violation of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, has all contributed to 
the defense of corporate wealth and a corporate agenda that is inherently 
ant-democratic. These are features which are similar to a Latin American 
oligarchy---a so-called banana republic. Of course the main difference in the 
case of the US was its huge military budget and the military-industrial complex 
that drove it. This reality is what inspired me to write the book ­ especially 
after the Bush-2 regime invaded Iraq in 2003 and began and illegal occupation of
that nation. For me, it was clear from the start that it would be another 
Vietnam ­ justified by the American Establishment with a phony pretext for war 
(9/11) just as the Gulf of Tonkin incident gave the Johnson administration a 
green light for introducing combat troops into Vietnam. On this matter, please 
refer to Chapter 5 of Exodus from Empire.

I have devoted Chapter 5 of Exodus from Empire to a discussion of this "hidden 
politics of empire." In short, this book came about out of a sense of rage and a
sense of injustice against an empire that could sanction tremendous degrees of 
hunger, poverty, and inequality around the world while creating a global network
of military bases for the defense of corporate interests only interested in 
their own profits to the exclusion of every other human and humane 

KZ: Your book faces up to a key question that is rarely discussed in the U.S. 
media -- American Empire. I expect many in the media and the public do not think
of the U.S. as an empire. Please explain why you call the U.S. an empire?

TP: You are quite correct in noting that the U.S. media fails to even 
acknowledge that Americans live in an empire. I call the U.S. an empire because 
it is clear to any serious student of history that it became one in the 
aftermath of World War II when England surrendered its colonies and accepted the
protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella from the beginnings of the Cold War.

The entire period of the late 1940s through the early 1960s was an age of 
de-colonization from the empires of Britain, France, and Germany. Yet, during 
this period the Cold War provided the context for the U.S. to embark upon 
neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism in order to protect the so-called "Free 
World." The reality is that the Free World is not really "free" in terms of 
civil liberties and human rights. It is free to open access by U.S.-based 
corporations and multinational/transnational business interests.

To assist in this structuring of the world economy in line with the American 
Establishment, the IMF, World Bank, and WTO have been established to govern the 
world economy and as many countries as possible within its orbit. To that end, 
both Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury Department ­ as the centers of U.S. 
finance and capital ­ give the rest of the world within its "sphere of 
influence" their marching orders. We see this as Third World nations have 
structural adjustment programs shoved down their throats by the IMF. These 
structural adjustment programs--- SAPs---that are imposed by the IMF function so
as to order the governments who are the recipients of these loans to break up 
labor unions, suspend wage structures that benefit workers, and condone the rape
of the environment.

All of this is undertaken by the U.S. Global Empire in the furtherance of its 
corporate allies and in its strategic search for obtaining natural resources ­ 
such as oil, tungsten, ore ­ to shore up its domination of the planet. In fact, 
the Pentagon has said as much in its planning documents since 2001 when it 
writes of "full spectrum dominance." What is that? It is the control of not only
land, air, and sea by the American Empire, but outer space as well.

The weaponization of space is a high priority for the Bush-2 regime ­ as 
exemplified by its unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty and its 
spending billions of dollars every year for "National Missile Defense" (NMD). It
is a program born in the Reagan years under the name of the "Strategic Defense 
Initiative" (SDI) which its critics later referred to as "Star Wars." So, the 
military and economic components of the American empire are all in place or 
being developed to be put in place so as to turn the 21st Century into the "Next
American Century."

Just as the 20th Century has been referred to by historians as the "American 
Century," it is the hope and wet-dream of the Neo-Conservatives and their allies
to make the 21st Century into their own. Hence, the invasions of the Middle East
for oil, the building of U.S. military bases throughout Eurasia and the soft 
underbelly of Russia, and the ever sought after control of the Persian Gulf are 
all designed as a geopolitical strategy to reinforce the American Empire against
all possible contenders for its dominant or "hegemonic" position. Therefore, 
both Russia and China are seen as new potential enemies insofar as they might 
develop the capacity to become competing hegemons---threatening American and 
British access to oil supplies and energy resources.

The entire geopolitical strategy of the Pentagon and the Bush-2 regime is 
dedicated to maintaining American hegemony at all costs. The only significant 
difference between the Bush-2 regime and the Pentagon is that the Pentagon 
admits that Global Warming and Climate Change could be an even greater threat 
than terrorism, while the members of the Bush-2 regime are still arguing that 
there is "no real science" to support the data and findings of those who have 
studied the phenomena we call Global Warming.

KZ: You also claim that the American empire is falling. What evidence do you 
have of that?

TP: I do claim that the American Empire is falling. To begin with, the U.S. 
Governments borrows $2-billion dollars a day from China just to keep the 
American economy going. China is basically borrowing worthless U.S. Treasury 
Bonds that are backed up by nothing more than the promise of the "full faith and
credit" of the U.S. Government. Ever since the U.S. went off the gold standard 
during the Nixon presidency, the dollar is not backed by anything---except the 
military strength of the nation and its worldwide domination over most foreign 
currencies. However, those days might well be ending as the Euro takes its place
as the dominant currency of the European Union and Europe begins to follow 
different policy choices and paths from the architects of the American Empire.

Additionally, the breakdown of the so-called "Washington Consensus" in the late 
1990s means that the economic model of Neo-liberalism is no longer a viable 
model for the developing nations of the Third World and those nations ­ such as 
Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador that want to walk an independent path from that 
proclaimed by the architects of the empire and expressed through the policies of
the IMF, World Bank WTO, and Free Trade Agreements (such as NAFTA and CAFTA).

The reality of globalization under the sway of the U.S. Global Empire and 
international capitalism has used the Neo-liberal economic model to subordinate 
Third World nations into debt traps and then leave their peoples vulnerable to 
market fluctuations and the fleeting fortunes of economic practices premised 
upon the promise of greater wealth through strategies of privatization and 

In 1999, the East Asian Miracle became a nightmare with an economic meltdown 
followed by the witches brew made up by the IMF. The World Bank's former head 
economist and Nobel Prize Winner, Joseph Stiglitz, wound up fired from his 
position at the World Bank by Bill Clinton and Larry Summers (his Treasury 
Secretary) when he dared to criticize the failed policies of the IMF, the 
failures of the Neo-liberal model and its orthodoxy, and the absurd dogmas that 
surrounded the "Washington Consensus."

In Chapter 6 of Exodus from Empire, I differentiate between Neo-liberal 
globalization on the one hand, and the path of "inclusive human rights based 
development on the other (pp. 287-297). I claim that the American Empire is 
falling because it has engendered global resistance movements throughout the 
entire Global Community. Further, I argue that this emerging and rising Global 
Community has the capacity to develop national, regional, and international 
alliances across the Global South ­ thereby beginning to undermine the sway and 
threat of the American Empire. I call this a "counter-hegemonic alliance."

Also, there are struggles within the Global North as well in the form of social 
movements that are dedicated to eliminating the Neo-liberal model and those 
Bush-sanctioned policies of resurgent militarism that seek to enforce it. After 
2001, the entire economy of Argentina collapsed under the IMF formulas for 
economic "growth" ­ just as the East Asian economies went into meltdown and then
were decimated by the IMF's structural adjustment programs in the period of 

In Exodus from Empire, I examine the arguments for relief from "odious debt" and
examine how nations from Africa to Latin America are seeking their year of 
Jubilee---debt forgiveness and reparations for the injustices imposed on them by
the American Empire and its cronies. The principles of this "counter-hegemonic 
alliance" are of a new historical magnitude ­ coming at a time when the American
Empire is over-extended by what Paul Kennedy has termed "imperial overstretch."

The roots of these principles may be traced back to 1955 when the Bandung 
Conference produced its 10-basic principles---the product of the work of 29 
Third World Nations that were intended to govern the relations between Third 
World States (p. 310). At the present time, Latin American states are beginning 
to effectively move toward making their region an independent regional power ­ 
increasingly immune from the dictates of the American Empire and its 
institutional appendages.

Further, within the U.S. itself the lawlessness of the Bush-2 regime is catching
up with the realities of Constitutional law as a new Democratic Congress seeks 
to re-establish oversight of the federal government, bring an end to illegal 
wiretaps and violations the FISA law, curtail the excesses of the Patriot Act, 
the illegal use of torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law, 
and to restore habeas corpus. Yet, it remains to be seen if the fascist drift of
the Bush-2 regime can truly be stopped and the American Republic repaired after 
almost eight years of lawless rule. These are the questions I address in Chapter
3 of Exodus from Empire. The challenge is what to do ³when the law of the land 
becomes lawless.² The real problem, of course, is that the empire has developed 
its own law ­ "Empire's Law" ­ that is accountable only to the dictates of 
Empire and to the furtherance of the imperial project.

In short, all laws are not equal because the new reality declares that all 
activities and laws shall be subject to harmonization to fit the smooth progress
of the empire's activities. Noting is supposed to stand in the way of the 
unrestrained movement of capital and the dictates of the architects of the 
American Empire. Yet, there cannot be nor has there ever been a "Superpower 
Democracy" and there is no "Constitution of the American Empire." It is an 
unbounded reality and force that ­ like fascism itself ­ is a system of 
government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme Right, typically through
the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent 
nationalism (See: pages 83-84, 234 of Exodus from Empire).

KZ: Should the U.S. empire end? From the perspective of Americans, is it bad for
us? Don't we get cheap products, a variety of produce, and access to critical 
resources? What do we lose by being an empire? Do we have to choose between 
empire and democracy -- are they, in the end, mutually exclusive?

TP: Should the U.S. Empire end? Yes, it should end because it is not sustainable
for either the average American or for the rest of the world. It is equally bad 
for Americans as it is for billions of people trapped in poverty throughout the 
Global South.

The tragedy is that the average American does not know how bad it is or that 
he/she is an expendable subject within the empire. Certainly the middle-class is
starting to see the effects of this empire when jobs are "outsourced" to cheap 
Third World labor markets and are not replaced, when the tax structure favors 
the richest two percent while gaps in national inequality continue to grow, when
the education system continues to collapse, when political action becomes 
irrelevant within a two-party system that is owned and paid for by the same 
corporate elite.

The question becomes: "What do we lose by becoming an empire?" The short answer 
is that we lose our democracy. That is because empire and democracy are mutually
exclusive. A choice has to be made between the two ­ either consciously or by 
default. I wrote Exodus from Empire in the hope that enough Americans would read
it in order to prevent the choice being made by default.

For example, in Chapter 5 (pp. 200-201) I address the Congressional surrender of
the war power ­ under the U.S. Constitution ­ to Bush on the eve of the Iraq 
War. From that surrender of its war power, the congress allowed Bush to 
revitalize the "imperial presidency" ­ a reality we see in Bush's claim that he 
can function as a "Unitary Executive" without guidance by either the courts or 
the Congress. As a result of this situation, the vast majority of the American 
people are left un-represented. Even when Bush's poll numbers fall it no longer 
matters ­ because he does not care and there are no effective 
checks-and-balances in place to stop him. Hence, illegal spying and wiretapping 
by the NSA is sanctioned by Bush in the name of "fighting the war on terror." As
a result, the FISA courts become meaningless appendages of "an earlier era" ­ 
just as the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture are, according to Attorney 
General Alberto Gonzales, "quaint" artifacts of the past.

Americans are directly harmed by the fact that their civil liberties under the 
Bill of Rights have been shredded. Further, America's place in the world is 
diminished by the fact that as U.S. Corporations ­ operating under the 
protection of the American Empire ­ repress wages and workers throughout the 
Global South ­ so too, wages are depressed in the United States itself. Higher 
levels of inequality throughout the entire period of the Bush years are a 
testament to that reality ­ as is the absence of affordable health care for most
Americans. As a result, Medicare is going bankrupt because the insurance 
companies and AMA lobby and the pharmaceutical industry-lobby remain protected 
enclaves of capitalist profit and exploitation. Congress is either powerless to 
rectify the situation or simply too corrupted by pay-offs to correct the 

In Exodus from Empire, I make three central points on this matter: (1) First, 
the fate of the Global North is linked to the fate of the Global South; (2) 
Second, trade and investment policies must benefit the citizenry of both the 
Global North and the Global South and, (3) Third, Neo-liberal globalization 
increases global inequality (pp. 230-233). Therefore, I argue that we must build
what I call a "Post-Imperial America" (pp. 228-230, Exodus from Empire). In 
short, we need to realize that empire is antithetical to democracy and to our 
national and global civil society. The good news is that we are starting to 
witness the rise and newly emerging power of global civil society---as well as 
social movements across the Global South---which represent a direct challenge to
the U.S. Global Empire (SEE: pp. 344-345, Exodus from Empire).

KZ: And, from the perspective of the world, isn't the American empire a good 
thing? Don't we bring stability and democracy to the world? Wouldn't the world 
be a more violent place without us? Wouldn't there be more poverty, disease and 
income disparity?

TP: From the perspective of the rest of the world, the American Empire is not a 
good thing ­ it is a curse. It deserves resistance, opposition, and overthrow. 
Why? Because it is a thing ­ a creation divorced from law and the moral codes of
the teachings of all of the world's great religious traditions.

In Chapter 4 of Exodus from Empire, I address this directly by critiquing 
Professor Samuel Huntington's thesis that there is a "Clash of Civilizations" 
going on and that clash and conflict are inevitable. The problems with his 
position are many ­ and I address them all in this chapter. But what I want to 
emphasize is that at the heart of his thesis resides a strong "American Empire 
First" concern. He wants to see the protection of the current global power 
arrangements no matter who gets hurt and regardless of the fact that over 
2-billion people on this planet attempt to live on less than a dollar a day and 
espite the fact that his clash-thesis serves to justify a ³war without end² in 
the name of fighting ³terrorism.² For Huntington, like the military planners in 
the Pentagon and the economic elite on Wall Street, in the IMF, World Bank, WTO,
and the U.S. Treasury Department ­ these 2-billion people are nothing more than 
"collateral damage." Yet, what is at stake is a moral issue ­ a human rights 
issue ­ an issue of democracy rising in the world or fading into the sunset 
under the auspices of a Neo-liberal economic model combined with a fascist 
polity of control called the American Empire.

In contrast, I argue that there is an emerging unity of religions and 
civilizations. I call it a ³convergence.² Further, from an international law 
perspective, I maintain that the evolution of customary international law 
reveals a normative standard that is shared globally ­ between and among nations
­ that is capable of moving humanity toward a "convergence" and "healing" of 
peoples and of nations and of civilizations. Hence, my counter-thesis to 
Huntington¹s ³clash thesis² is that war is not inevitable and that peace and 
harmony can be our collective destination if we re-order our mental-maps, our 
conceptual categories, and learn to recognize the propaganda of the American 
Empire for what it is---propaganda.

In short, the "clash thesis" is nothing more than an ideological construction 
for proceeding with business as usual. The clash-thesis is a cruel hoax that is 
employed to justify huge expenditures on a so-called "war on terror" while 
continuing to wage war on the weak and vulnerable. What I am calling "the rise 
of Global Community" means that we are actually witnessing global integration, 
nonviolent resistance, and the rise of global civil society in an era where 
terror and terrorism (as a strategy of resistance) is really representative of 
less than one-percent of the world's population. The real sources of terror are 
found in the projects of the American Empire along with its tragic consequences.
The consequences of empire include higher levels of poverty, disease, 
inequality, and war itself. Hence, the pursuit of empire and "Empire's Law" (p. 
111) produces a situation where the potential for "clash" and violence and 
terror is really the product and result of imperial rule---the actions of 

In opposition to the practices of the American Empire and the "clash thesis," I 
argue that: (1) Despite attempts to claim the opposite, there exists no inherent
right, on the part of the powerful,. to govern, rule or order the weak; (2) 
Regardless of the ideological claims being advanced, there exists no unified or 
unifying civilizational consensus on the naturalness of a corporate-dominated, 
militaristic imperialism as comprising the common values, truth¹s, visions of 
human futures that prescribe a universal course for humanity's social evolution;
(3) Notwithstanding attempts to convince otherwise, there exists no preordained 
rationale for eternal truth of inevitability regarding forms of socially 
constructed orders that form the institutions of governance, including the form 
of "law."

In fact, the very existence of nuclear weapons is a violation of the moral code 
of all of the major world religions and a violation of international law since 
the findings and final judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 
the 1990s (See: p. 111, Exodus from Empire). In short, in a world without the 
American Empire, the world would be less violent, less prone to suffer poverty, 
disease or income disparity. Chapters 1 through 3 make this point quite clear. 
The American Empire is dangerous not only for the world, but dangerous for 
American democracy itself. If we wish to see DEMOCRACY RISING, we must see the 
setting sun on the American Empire and its projects.

KZ: What kind of country would the U.S. be if it were not an empire? What would 
take the place of the U.S. empire in the world?

TP: If the U.S. were not an empire what kind of country would it be? I have 
suggested in Chapter 5 that a "post-Imperial America" would reject the policies,
practices, and rationales that have characterized the hidden politics of empire.

A post-Imperial America would learn to embrace the dynamics of a rising Global 
Community in which America no longer engages in the fantasies of global 
domination that have characterized the thought and policies of the architects of
the American Empire.

In its place, a post-Imperial American needs to find a path toward social, 
political, economic and spiritual liberation for both its own people and the 
peoples and governments of the rest of the world. The path of a post-Imperial 
America is a revolutionary proposition and a revolutionary goal. Taking such a 
path is the only way to re-democratize America and, at the same time, supply the
necessary means to achieve an interdependent human rights oriented world under 
the rule of law (See: pp;228-229, Exodus from Empire). That is when we shall 

Kevin Zeese is Director of Democracy Rising (www.DemocracyRising.US) and 
co-founder of Voters for Peace (www.VotersForPeace.US).

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