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12 February 2016


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William R. Cumming

By August 2045 it will be painfully clear that the USA was never up to EMPIRE status IMO! Even the Mongols could argue for traces of their Empire [perhaps even now?] during a four century span. Rome and the Incas close to a 1000 year stretch. The British--1765-1945?

William R. Cumming

Wiki Extract:

An imperial political structure can be established and maintained in two ways: (i) as a territorial empire of direct conquest and control with force or (ii) as a coercive, hegemonic empire of indirect conquest and control with power. The former method provides greater tribute and direct political control, yet limits further expansion because it absorbs military forces to fixed garrisons. The latter method provides less tribute and indirect control, but avails military forces for further expansion. Territorial empires (e.g., the Mongol Empire and Median Empire) tend to be contiguous areas. The term, on occasion, has been applied to maritime empires or thalassocracies, (e.g., the Athenian and British empires) with looser structures and more scattered territories. Empires are usually larger than kingdoms.

This aspiration to universality resulted in conquest by converting ‘outsiders’ or ‘inferiors’ into the colonialized religion. This association of nationality and race became complex and has had a more intense drive for expansion.



The key insight of your most interesting piece may lie in one brief sentence: "Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma (9/11?)."

As I see it from the outside, prior to that day hubris had taken hold, and the elements you detail were in place but mostly latent. Remnants of good sense, prudence and perspective still put a brake on things (George Bush's humble foreign policy and compassionate conservatism, for example, seem to hail from a different age). The shock and subsequent rage born that morning set the demons free. While the hot fires of righteousness have burned down somewhat since, the bad habits remain.

There's little in your diagnosis I disagree with. As to how it will play out, I don't know. Perhaps Jack is right and the American people will in time and in some fashion reimpose a measure of commonsense. Or perhaps not; perhaps America has to suffer true catastrophe before reacquainting itself with reality.

My only real quibble is with your rosy characterisation of China in particular. It seems to me you may be adopting there a variant of the exceptionalism you decry in the US. No doubt its rise has been remarkable and it will almost certainly continue to rank amongst the great powers. One can acknowledge that much of America's criticism of China is self-interested and at times delusional without, however, falling for the opposite trap. Whether time will endorse the notion that "the Chinese leaders' skilful following of Keynesian logic [. . .] maintained robust growth rates" is, to my mind at least, very much in doubt. Many, perhaps most, also believed the US, through judicious policies and native talent, had attained a sort of economic nirvana in the late 90s. The sting in these matters is often in the tail.

geoffrey gray

I would say fetischism not reiteration. Consider: Americans know and think they are good human beings because they deplore the holocaust. In fact, we have a holocaust museum next to the capital. Ride down 95 to Richmond and you will see a holocaust museum in the downtown in the heart of dixie. Interesting we don't have a slavery museum in downtown Richmond or a native indian museum next to the capital.No matter: a people against the holocaust are a good people and are absolved of all other crimes. Similarly in the Catholic Church. Being against abortion purchases cheap absolution. Catholic Churches now resemble VFW halls festooned with American flags, walls of photos of our heroes "who protect us all." No thinking about America's crimes in the Middle East. Why not? We are against abortion! I think the psychological mechanism is a kind of fetischism that can be invoked to ward off intrusive thoughts, thinking itself. What does this say: American is likely going over the waterfall.


Dr. Brenner, your prose caused me a great deal of reflection. It is very powerful indeed.

I have internally reflected before on an upbringing in the 50s and 60s, where I was taught that I was a citizen of the best country in the world. I was taught that this was manifest by our military and industrial prowess, our standard of living, our 'anyone can be president' society. And we were also given the mantle of 'policeman of the world'.

I like my country, served in our military with pride and consider myself patriotic. I never miss a vote. I also consider our 1945 to present FP to be an unrelenting disaster, guided by colossal hubris. And now we are ruled by the oligarchs and the citizens who are being raped by the oligarchs and plutocrats blindly cheer for them at political rallies and believe they are on god's own mission when they conduct an armed takeover of a bird sanctuary.

I offer no plan to turn this around other than the dread that it will take a lemming charge off an economic cliff to finally get our fellow citizens to see the truth.


I like this too, Dr. Brenner, and it no doubt deserves deeper reflection.

"Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma (9/11?)."

One of my favorite German filmmakers treated 9/11 as trauma, looking in his own way not on the larger sphere of politics, no matter if domestic, international or economic but on the response of Americans on the ground.

I added economic, since the question on my mind, after I finished reading was, to what extend the "Keynesian logic" could be applied in both the US and Europe?

This reminds me both of Harper more vaguely, since he once addressed the financial politics of the Obama administration, and lately surfaced with the topic China, in which the "Keynesian logic" surfaces in your essay.

If it was at all possible, what results would his have for larger public in the diverse countries adopting Keynesianism? Maybe it will break down anyway, but would it work for the Eurozone? Would this have results for non-Eurozone members? Nevermind Grexit for now. Focusing only on the ones that can neither save or as it is today invest everywhere? Since saving, I understand for Keynes ?should/can? only result through investment.


I haven't read his book on Russia yet, admittedly.

I watched the Munich security conference this morning from about 9 am to 1 pm.

And it left me pretty pessimist. Not least, since for me it started with Stoltenberg, followed by Valls (France) and Medvedev Russia.


The military, political and financial angle surfaced in the "Presidential Debate" that concentrated on Eastern fears and strong support of European and NATO transatlantic partnership along the Stoltenberg lines. The financial angle that surfaced in this context was reduced to Northstream.

I'll leave out German controversies in this context. But here comes Wikipedia:



Thanks, Ingolf, it apparently was my starting point in addressing some meditative mental meanderings. ;)



We are 1st cousins. All of your ancestors and half of mine were recent immigrants from Canada, a country in which they and theirs had been oppressed literally for centuries by the Anglo dominance that resulted from British rule after 1759 and by the tyranny of the Roman church exercising the massive coercive powers given to it by the British government in the Quebec Act. Our French ancestors in Quebec resisted Anglicization so steadfastly that they gradually sank into the status of a peasant class ruled by the Anglos, the small French bourgeois class and the Church. When our people came to the US seeking economic improvement for their lives in Yankee owned and managed textile mills and shoe factories they quickly discovered that the old Canadian societal paradigm and its rules did not apply here. With a rapidity that astonishes when viewed in the rear view mirror of memory, they "gringoized" themselves with a vengeance. Part of that process was the adoption of a virtually unlimited US nationalism as a personal and community creed. The Roman Catholic church in parishes that were French Canadian in nature tried to resist the rapid Americanization of their "flocks" as they had successfully resisted cultural integration in Quebec. It did not work here. I knew your parents very well. they were fine people. your father was a Seebee in WW2 but there still was a lot of French Canada remaining in them. In your generation of our extended family the genes are spread far and wide, nobody seems able to speak French and there are few Catholics. IMO the fervent nationalism of your upbringing was a necessary consequence of the process of emergence as fully American. pl

Jane dope

Fade away into the mist.



The first Hispanic to win a presidential primary was not the headline of the news because he was not a Democrat. That event was less than a fortnight ago.


Superb. Many comments too. Print. Put in "Memory box" for my children.


Prof. Brenner

I'm not as sanguine as you are with respect to Chinese finance.

There's no dispute that China has made massive progress economically and it plays a dominant role on the global economic and strategic stage. However, it's still an open question if it can break through the middle income trap and generate median household incomes like other Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Don't underestimate the potential financial instability in China. Yes, their "keynesian logic" did create GDP growth at a high rate over many decades. But GDP as a metric masks malinvestment. China quadrupled it's credit outstanding over the past 7 years and no one knows the extent of leverage in it's shadow banking system. There is a reasonable probability that it's banking system is insolvent and will have to be recapitalized by socialization of losses. Clearly Chinese elites are concerned as capital flight is running at the rate of hundreds of billions of dollars over the past year. Their forex reserves are dropping despite trade surpluses as their capital account is bleeding.


A cynic wrote to me from Munich that listening to the speeches of our allied leaders was like listening to a Castrati Chorus.



Yup, with Kerry standing in for Farinelli in the better counter-tenor parts. pl


Americans (mostly) have no inkling of History - or related context - due to 'Exceptionalism.'

This is largely due to the lack of historical conditioning by the continental warfare. Even Civil War, while devastating, was Civil for a reason--no foreign occupying power, no violent imposition (that is what invasions are) of the radically different and hostile culture. And then, of course, there is a mainstream "narrative" on WW II, which has as much in common with strategic and operational realities of this singular event as I am an alien from planet Zoltar. That is why, while spectacular in the worst meaning of this word, tragedy of 911 left such a disproportionately deep scars on a national psyche and led to inconceivable responses to that event.


one of the things on the NE town screening checklist is to look for signs of French Canadian "leavening." Without it they tend to be G-R-I-M.

First trip up through Quebec to Montreal was startled by the layout of the towns on the way to Montreal and what that implied about the status of the British versus the French. Was unaware of the 900 Year War (1066).



"the layout of the towns" ???? Before the quiet revolution in the 60s the French towns in Quebec were awful, priest-ridden, etc. Now the Quebecois are joyfully godless. Try watching their soap operas. a Roman emperor would feel at home in them pl


I am not sure, if they are Castrati or "sing-the-tune-or-else".

I was referring to this article by Harper.

It feels to me that Eastern Europe provides an exquisite leverage via it's "Russia-is-as-evil-as-Deash" tune to keep the rest of Europe in line. What is happening now is also quite in tune with American demands from the late 90s onward. Only it's not anymore about protecting "their own backyards", which they failed to do in Yugoslavia.

It's painful to watch to what extend Russia is humiliated. Never mind, Western hesitations about its system and/or Putin.

Post Harper's 2012 linke above: http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2015/12/21/2147392/russia-ukraine-and-the-not-so-exceptional-imf-loan/

In the end it may all be a struggle between Russian and American plus firmly with America aligned financial interests ...

German parliamentarians are now allowed to take a look at the TTIP documents in a specific securely guarded reading room. They aren't allowed to make copies or take notes, though. And I assume you realized how complex matters are.

Double standards, selling democracy while slowly abolishing it?

Babak Makkinejad

I read something similar in a war reminisce by a US Marine; that the Marines in the Pacific Campaign attributed the effectiveness of Japanese artillery to non-existent German commanding officers.



Soldiers always do that. In VN rumors were rampant of Soviet advisors. pl


layout was the wrong word for who lives on what side of town. it was 1969. won't watch their movies and can't get their soaps.



1969 is a world away. People of French Canadian descent in the US are all gringos now. pl


Drawing historic analogies should be (must be) done with extremely cautiousness. US is nothing like Mongols or Rome. In fact, drawing these parallels is the sign of complete detachment from real history. Hyperbole, on the other hand, can work as a descriptive tool. US is no Rome, nor has it anything in common with Mongols. US has its own historic rhythm and life-span.



Just so you know. French Canada isn’t just Quebec. Alberta was completely French until 1870. Of course, Alberta didn’t become a province until 1905. A look at the map will tell you the French nature of Alberta, some parts of which remain to this day; you’d hardly find an English-speaking person if you tried.


Jack, the Chinese issue their own currency.

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