American expat living in Belgrade. He is a full-time analyst at the Center for Syncretic Studies, a public geostrategic think-tank. His expertise encompasses Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and has a strong proficiency in Middle East affairs. He presently serves as the Europe-wide liaison for New Resistance. In the US he worked for a number of years as a labor union organizer, chief negotiator, and strategist for a major trade union federation.
Downsized American land-power power across two Americas: Spheres of Influence and a Monroe Doctrine 2.0
The United States has the opportunity to respond to its waning global hegemonic status by transforming into a regional hegemon as a land-power across both American continents, and in so doing will recognize spheres of influence of other regional hegemons. There are numerous prospects that will lead to greater harmony in the relations between spheres, as well as continue along a course of cultural transformation across the Americas.
The debate around the future of the US as a global hegemon is one of utmost importance for every nation-state.
The related debate surrounding viable alternatives to the present form of the US global power, which is the focus of this article, must naturally include those alternatives which are not only realistic but, in the interests of all other actors, also most conducive to peace and de-escalation of the present global crisis in which Total War is a serious possibility.
At issue is the theory and practice of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’, the 19th century policy of the US, connected in part or as an extension of Manifest Destiny, in which the US made its relationship to Europe regarding Latin America very clear: Latin America was the US’s sole domain — Economic activity between Europe and Latin America would go through the US as the broker or middle-man. Significant here is the quasi-religious nature of the Monroe Doctrine, which is similar to Manifest Destiny — rooted in a secularized nationalist religion with reference to providence.
Moreover, there is an important part of the Monroe Doctrine which cannot be overlooked. While a ‘return’ to a Monroe doctrine will be different in numerous ways from its original incarnation, there is a corollary part of it which is tremendously suited to the present day. This relates to the US’s commitment of non-interference in Europe. In Monroe’s own words, “2. The negative principles: (a) “With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere.” (b) “In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so.”
This article presents a type of return to the Monroe Doctrine as a viable alternative for the US Empire in its waning phase. Here we distinguish between the theory and the practice. In theory, the US has always maintained the preference of a type of Monroe Doctrine. But the culmination of anti-imperialist, Marxist/”national communist”, and national liberation insurgencies and movements at the start of this century dealt a significant setback to its practice.
The US has been losing ground in the Rimland of the Middle-East, a project with an immediate policy aim in its own right but also aimed at containing the Russian land-power. Simultaneously it has reinvigorated its efforts in Latin America, primarily to roll back the progress of national liberation movements and states in the region. Nevertheless, these movements and states have been able to maintain a modicum of sovereignty even in light of the US’s recent refocus on the region.
As a consequence, numerous governments in Latin America were able to have China, Europe, and the US ‘compete’ for capital investment and infrastructure projects, much to the chagrin of Washington and Wall Street. What is being examined, therefore, is something of a re-orientation of US resources towards ‘recapturing’ Latin America. This would allow it to make use of its residual economic and military power, and also provide a reason and mechanism for it to return to a manufacturing based economy. But as a long term project, it will not be able to maintain an imperial or paternalistic relationship with Latin America. Nevertheless its involvement will enable better coordinating of the industrial loci in Latin America, as would be done in a single internal, i.e. ‘national’ economy.
This article will take as its starting point a number of operating concepts and practices. The first is the relevance of the theory and practice of ‘spheres of influence’. The second, related to this, is the theory and practice of ‘multi-polarity’. The aim of this piece is to present a basic overview, from an interdisciplinary perspective rooted in IR realism/neo-realism theory and also taking from Cultural Studies, in particular both Gramscian and Globalization model theories.
This model is presented as a gradualist or evolutionary approach to the winding down of the US Empire, though its arrival may also be the product of an additional crisis which would then lend an element of punctuated equilibrium to its gradual change in orientation.
The primary objective here is to sketch out a course of an acceptable (to the US establishment) glided landing to a still prominent plateau, as opposed to a ‘nose dive’ crash. It would give not only sufficient time for the US to reorganize its internal economy, but also allow for a reorganization and reorientation of the vested interests, with their complicated relationships and commitments which have a life of their own, and which moreover have the tendency to otherwise pre-determine a route which is contrary to reason or foresight.
A return or sorts to a Monroe Doctrine, or Monroe Doctrine 2.0 would prevent a total crisis on the part of the US establishment, which would lead them otherwise to ‘Total War’ or a ‘Sampson Option’ as its only viable alternative.
Along this trajectory, a Monroe Doctrine 2.0 would feature a physical economy/production and investment banking type economy with exports limited to the American continents and Africa. This would be based in part on the natural resources of the NAFTA bloc, and integrating these into the economies and resources of South America. As a single economic bloc, the “Americas’’ with its currency not based in foreign oil reserves and its global production, but rather the total sum of the actual real industrial product combined with the value of speculation regarding its future growth.
But we are also compelled to issue a major proviso. In describing the proposed solution, we are aware that in describing these things, we are polarizing them. In reality, the changes will appear much less drastic and much less apparent. Reality moves along a much more gradual course, though naturally we still must allow for sudden changes and a punctuated equilibrium across the evolutionary course. We also conclude that the US will attempt, or at least appear to be attempting in either case, to be pursuing multiple vectors. This will conceal, at least for a considerable time, its orientation towards Latin America. Likewise, its withdrawal from Eurasia will appear gradual, even though looking backwards we will be able to pinpoint specific moments in history that were determinant, whether it was the battle of Debaltsevo in the Donbass, or thwarting color revolution attempts in Armenia or Serbia.
The Present Crisis
The US at the present time is at a cross-roads in terms of policy and prospects. These various vectors can be described. The first vector is to pursue its present course, and attempt to regain the status as the sole global hegemon enforcing a unipolar order. The second course it can take is to downsize its role in the world. It can ‘partner up’ with other forces, but some of these forces are its would be adversaries, and the immediate or rather obvious question would be, partner up for what purpose? Given the decrease of the role of the dollar as the world reserve currency, and that this trend is projected to continue, we can see that one of its most viable options is to return to a serious focus on Latin America, even to integrate into Latin America and create a pan-American land power.
Failure to succeed in either vector will lead to the disintegration of the US into various regional-ethnic Balkanized regions. This may even be considered a ‘third option’. In such a scenario, and if Latin America continues to develop at its present rate, then the US will be integrated into Latin America in this scenario as well, but not long terms favorable to US elites.
The vectors available to the US relate both to its economic model and also to its model of interacting with the world militarily.
On the economic front, the US suffers long-term from the general internal contradiction of capitalism which is the general tendency of the rate of profit to decline, the law of diminishing returns on the macroeconomic level. It has invested, perhaps overinvested in fossil fuels as the basis of the US dollar alongside military power, while any number of renewable or otherwise less scarce, or at least less expensive in the long term, energy sources are on the cusp of being released and integrated. The US has placed its eggs in the basket, conversely, of suppressing these new technologies.
Militarily, while actively engaging in a pro-Israel policy in the Middle-East, that could also be justified geostrategically as offering a model of dominating the Rimland to contain the Heartland, it failed to adequately develop its Anglosphere assets of Australia and New Zealand into military powerhouses in their own right that could pose a serious challenge from Oceania in the contest over the Pacific. Likewise, its counter-insurgency model for Latin America which did not provide a viable alternative economic path for emerging centers of capital and industry even among ostensibly pro-US elites in that region, created fertile ground for what has since been termed the ‘Pink Tide’ in Latin America.
The model as a whole can be understood. A part of this model is determined by its real economic functions, which carries with it its own inertia. It is presented that the US’s ‘capitalist’ model is central to its empire. Its liberal ideology is simultaneously a cause and an effect of its economic model. The liberal ideology promotes the universalism which may at times seem to conceal (making even it appear pluriversal), and at others times justify, the US’s unipolar hegemonic model.
While the general model can be termed ‘capitalist’, more specifically the US economy reflects the speculative part of the economy, rooted in the banking industry, which is in turn is rooted in several material components of the global economy. These real economic functions relate to the incarnation of the dollar as a fiat currency which serves as a global reserve currency, and rooted in two main forms of economy: the value of petroleum and speculation on the capacity of the US to carry out its policies by way of force through its military industrial complex. So we can summarize here that the US’s foreign policy is determined by its capitalist model, but specifically in its relationship to housing the core of international finance capital in the speculative economy.
Of course we recognize that their exist several definitions of capitalism, but here it is presented merely that it is an economic form based both in speculative banking institutions but also the techno-industrial model of mass production of late or post-modernity. Debates regarding social relations and relations of production with all of its complexity in terms of order, control, hierarchy, domination, and organization, and the related consumer culture of conspicuous consumption, are not germane to this article. Likewise, definitions which feature normative descriptions over positive descriptions (i.e. the Austrian school) are not useful for our purposes. We present a simple working definition, just for the purposes of discussion and internal taxonomic coherency for this article, that capitalism is distinct from other models in that the accumulation of surplus capital in liquid form, is the end in itself.
The present US model of unipolar hegemony is no longer sustainable. This is true both economically, and militarily. But because it is based largely in speculative economics, its momentum combined with perception management and control over global media reporting about economics, categorically, is allowing it to continue to exist at the present time, ‘running on fumes’. Until consensus beliefs to the contrary become the dominant ones, the existing belief among certain centers of power that the US project is viable, is the cornerstone of its continued viability to date.
Economically, the world’s developing economies have nearly caught up, and in some cases even surpassed, the US’s economic capacity in several important areas, having weathered surprisingly well the global economic crisis of ten years ago. Globalization has had a contradictory effect on the development of historical processes. On the one hand, universalism, global hegemony, and liberalism at the starting stage. On the other hand, and moving towards later stages, the economic foundations of multipolarity, resistance, the global de-secularization process, and anti or post liberal/capitalist ideological and economic modes. Thus within globalization as an expression of Anglo global hegemonic centers of power (Washington, London, Brussels) and its support network of kin (Canada, Australia, New Zealand), we find in its nucleus the seeds of its undoing. This is a natural process also connected to the life-cycle of empires.
Along military lines, the neoconservative think tank, Project for a New American Century coherently assessed the US’s position in the late 1990’s in the September 2000 piece titled ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’. The US was unable to fully destroy the Eurasian land-power, whatever remained after the political destruction of the USSR. The US, according to the PNAC, also suffered from a ‘Hannibal Problem’ — it made a victory but was unable to ‘know what to do’ with it. Perhaps it did not move quickly enough in Yugoslavia, perhaps Serbian/Yugoslav resistance proved better than expected. Perhaps the delays were rooted in the Clinton administration’s understanding of the situation.
By 2000, Russia was already showing a clear sign of reversing the disintegrative process with the rise of Putin and the establishment of a new internal security apparatus which represented the unmolested core of the former KGB, hermetically sealed, and surviving — though not without tremendous damage — the destruction of the USSR. The moves in the middle east in the following period leading up to the housing market and liquidity market crisis of 2007, were a boon to the military industrial complex as an important part of the physical and speculative US economy, but as military targets in and of themselves, intentionally helped the position of Israel, but as a consequence of the post-Iraqi state vacuum and the reliance on Chalabi and then on Muqtada al Sadr to manage things, also therefore Iran. As military targets these were vested practically in the buttressing of Israeli access to water and oil, and against one of its regional opponents. In the broad scheme of geopolitics, it was operating on the views of Kissinger and Brzezinski who never broke out of the basic Mackinderist perception that US power was incomplete so long as the Eurasian land-power was intact.
Thus the aims in the middle east strove in part to seal off the Rimland (peripheral regions to Eurasia) to contain the Heartland (Eurasia), and moreover to separate the western Eurasian peninsula of Europe from the broad landmass to the east. But the nature and scope of these moves, including the failure to subordinate Iran, also had the consequence of pushing China and Russia closer together, thus working against the containment of Russia (the Eurasian land-power), despite the important role that China plays in the global economy and within the US economy as well.
We can see this spelled clearly in a recent piece by Zbigniew Brzezinski. In last April’s edition of The American Interest , he argues that the US must realign either partnering with China or with Russia in order to offset the potential of a US military rival. He admits that the US is no longer a global imperial power, but maintains that it is essentially a type of plurality power — simply the single-most powerful. He writes there: “The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power. But neither is any other major power.”
This implies, by virtue of deduction, that the present alignments characterize a US power that is weaker than several combined powers (i.e. Russia + China). The Moscow, Tehran, Beijing axis is the single-most powerful combination acting in a concerted theatre (the Middle East and Central Asia) today in the world.
While the US has effectively been nearly pushed from Iraq, failed to maintain a coherent occupation of Afghanistan, and has been directly confronted in Syria by the Moscow-Beijing-Tehran Axis, it let precious years at the start of this century go by, as a new Pink Tide of what is termed ‘new socialism’ spread across Latin America. Ideological considerations aside, and debates about the socialist nature of these states notwithstanding, this shift effectively represented a new ability of many leading Latin American states to engage in multipolar foreign policy for the first time in its history, engaging the US, China, Russia, and Europe simultaneously, without a middle man to work through, as previously mandated in various incarnations of the Monroe Doctrine even up through the 1990’s.
Another part of this model is determined by the US’s policy culture, the inertia of policy institutions, their effective lobbying, and interpersonal ties and relationships at the micro level which propel the US along a specific course as if it were the only possible course, when in fact — to the contrary — several courses are possible. Case studies of crisis and crisis aversion have previously established that institutional and strategic culture play a considerable role.
While the global capitalist model presents a number of systemic problems in terms of long term viability, it is in this latter part of culture where at least as much — if not more — difficulties are presented. The inertia of policy institutions, etc., work against rational choice model type decision making, and work against the ability to change policies quickly enough to avert disaster.
For this reason, a ‘policy revolution’ resulting from the recognition that a disaster has begun or is underway, or even resulting from an actual political revolution on a systemic level due to the internal contradictions of US society as a reflection of the present and developing problem of the US’s waning power, may be a pre-requisite to effecting the kind of reorientation required.
A Viable Solution:
From Thalassocratic to Tellurocratic Power
In moving from a global multipolar world system, based on a defacto parity of relative power projection, either individually or through alliances, we begin with the present waning US global hegemony, and transition to the next form. The next form is typically characterized by an outward push of the Eurasian Heartland to secure its periphery or Rimland. This leads to the creation of the Pan-Eurasian zone. The US has little recourse but to focus on its own ‘backyard’. This creates a Pan-American zone. Pan-America emerges as a land-power, covering both American continents. It disengages from its global neocolonial project as a sea-power. It must rise simultaneously with a US redirection or reorientation towards Latin America. The below illustration terms this the Anglo-American Zone, but for reasons which we will explore later, this may not ultimately be the case. It may be an ethnic-cultural zone of a new type. Furthermore, what emerges may also alienate the UK and Oceania from the ‘Zone’. Rather, we simply term this the ‘Pan-American Zone’.
Why Latin America? Creating a ‘Pan-American Zone’ is the US’s first, last, and best option. The continental US serves as its own pivot to Latin America, and so does not require any intermediary. Much of the transport and communication lines already exist, and so infrastructural development, at least in the first phases of development may indeed be quite minimal. The present issues then are political, and not developmental in nature. These present other obstacles, but the existing infrastructure makes it a much easier sell.
It is proposed that the economy of the Americas should in the future function as a single large ‘internal’ economy, based on the dollar acting as what the Fraser Institute termed an “Amero”.
This is distinct from the dollar as it exists today, for several important reasons. First, the present dollar is the world reserve currency, and this status is changing presently, and the summary of the problem above and the proposed solution in this section, are both contingent upon this reality. In its place is a basket of currencies which will include a dollar in its new form, as well as a number of currencies which together represent more of the world’s physical economy than the dollar does alone. In terms of the dollar, whether it is still called the dollar, or more exotically takes on a new name is not immediately important. Of course such a change in name would accompany a shift in culture and global perception, and tend to undermine the US’s prestige. So we use the term Amero only to signify its actual relationship both to the proposed integrated Latin American plus North American economy, and to the world’s ‘basket’ currency. But in terms of the US’s prestige and sense of self, it cannot fathom a world in which it is not militarily dominant, as we can understand from the sentiments expressed by Brzezinski in the aforementioned article. Therefore, it is more probable than not that the ‘greenback’ will remain. The integration of Latin American economic life and the currency will, at least at first, occur outside of the realm that is overtly recognizable.
Part of the US conflict with Russia, in which the EU appears to generally side with the US, is also in fact a conflict with the EU. If one of the US aims is to push the EU into an open conflict with Russia, in a way which echoes both world wars of the 20th century, then it must first create policy ‘gravity wells’ under Europe that pull it into conflict with Russia.
Presently, Europe enjoys investment and development opportunities in Latin America. These increased during the period of the ‘Pink Tide’ or ‘21st century Socialism’ which the neo-Bolivarian project which began in Venezuela, and later generalized throughout Latin America including Brazil under Lula and the Workers’ Party. This was a product of increased sovereignty on the part of Latin American states that went in this direction. Chinese investment also figures prominently, and just surpassed European investment in 2015. The US is presently forcing Europe out of Latin America, in a manner which conforms to several possible vectors of development that we will explore later. China will have to voluntarily extract itself from Latin America, as part of a negotiated deal with the economic networks behind the Eurasian Union and Chinese global policy.
Writing for the Brookings Institute series, ‘Order from Chaos’, Jeremy Shapiro affirms the view that the US must, in order to avert catastrophe, recognize the traditional concept of ‘Spheres of Influence’. He cites several compelling and logical reason from the perspective of IR realism, in particular he writes:
“To the contrary, the U.S promulgated the Monroe Doctrine specifically to establish a sphere of influence. Similarly, Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Policemen” concept for the post-World War II order, which evolved into the UN Security Council, saw the world run by great powers. In the words of historians Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, “[t]his distinction between great and small nations quickly became a fundamental element of all U.S. postwar planning.” Even during the Cold War, the U.S. rarely challenged the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, essentially standing aside as Soviet forces crushed uprisings in East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland […] But after the Cold War ended and the Soviet sphere of influence collapsed, the United States began to champion a new idea in international relations […]
In general, as countries like Russia and China have grown in relative power in recent years, they have begun to push against the liberal world order imposed upon them. That they should do so is, from a historical perspective, normal and natural even if it is very unwelcome. One might expect that if Canada and Mexico choose to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization the United States would similarly object […] spheres of influences are created to help great powers feel secure—in the current world mostly from the United States. Conflict is only inevitable if the United States behaves as great powers often have in the past and seeks to deny rising powers what they is feel their due, thus contributing to their sense of insecurity. Spheres of influence, in contrast, have the capacity to make great powers feel more secure and to increase their willingness to cooperate within the larger liberal world order.”
Of course it does not escape us that Shapiro concludes that this will improve the general ‘liberal world order’. However, this can be interpreted several ways, either as a real view of the US, i.e. the faux ‘pluraversism’ meant to obscure or conceal the Anglo-Atlanticist global hegemonic campaign, or, on the other hand, as a legitimate way of recognizing what Brzezinski already has, that the US role is downsizing and therefore requires sane and sound policies which reflect that, instead of attempting to maintain its grip upon an old order which no longer prevails. It is these attempts, as Shapiro recognizes, that lead to unnecessary conflicts and wars.
Nevertheless, his general point is important, and significant also is the well known institute that published it. While publications of various views do not necessarily represent a formal position of the Brookings Institute, as a think tank it is important to recognize here that such discourse is certainly not ‘beyond the pale’. That these ideas (and the above is a sample of several similar) are now openly being debated at this institutional level which has already been established as formative for US foreign policy, speaks volumes in itself to the possibilities that a more realist approach in US leadership, despite the liberal ideological framework, may find footing.
It is important to note that the US is now trying to ‘take’ Latin America by using a series of older and newer tactics, semi-constitutional or parliamentary coups, as in Brazil, assassinations and regular coups as with Honduras, buying elections as with Argentina, the attempts to destabilize Venezuela. China should attempt to remain actively involved in investment and development in Latin America, as it is so far on track to do, in order to be later ready to negotiate these away in exchange for a US withdrawal from Central Asia and the Middle-east.
That these processes happen in tandem is critical, for a unilateral handing over of Latin America to the US would only embolden it in its continued efforts to surround and destroy Eurasia. Taking for granted, then, a negotiated settlement which would allow for a return to the ‘Spheres of Influence’ model — a necessary step in between the present model and a future multipolarity — we can then project what preliminary things the US would do in order to integrate into the Latin American economy.
The Pan-American zone would integrate the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) along a model similar to which exists in the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). It would integrate the Unified System for Regional Compensation (SUCRE) proposal into living project of a virtual currency, as a bi-continental wide project of virtual currencies. This is part of a de facto single ‘national’ or single currency regimen, a virtual Amero, even if each country nominally retains its own printed currencies. This would create the possibility of establishing a stable exchange rate of all currencies, and reduce currency speculation/manipulation between American states. Eventually, at a later stage, a printed Amero may indeed emerge.
Often contrasted to the old Monroe Doctrine is the Good Neighbor Policy, under FD Roosevelt, in which the US essentially reversed its position on Latin America. In actuality, this was a reflection of the economic crisis, the Great Depression, which effected all western economies. Because of this, and due to the condition of interwar Europe during the depression, there was not a real concern that US absence would equate to any real openings for European, in particular German, capital. The political overtures were also meant to cozy up to Latin American countries to offset the chances of European investment, to the extent that such could exist. In that sense, the Good Neighbor policy is not very different from the Monroe Doctrine, except that the former represents a lack of investment capital as opposed to an oversupply. Due to the lack of foreign investment capital, several Latin American countries such as Argentina developed an Import Substitution Industrialization program, where investment was socialized into both public and private industrialization projects in order to begin producing those goods which were absent now from the lack of imports. Then again in the 50’s and 60’s it predominated. It was here that Latin American states had their first taste of sovereign economic policy, a point of reference which primarily Marxist and national liberation proponents in Latin America would regularly refer to as evidence of a working model of autarky.
The Bolivarian model of ‘new socialism’ in Venezuela, though economically backed by the previously higher value of petrol, nevertheless allowed for the flourishing of UNASUR and MERCOSUR, from proposals into realities. These networks are well positioned to integrate with a downsized American power matrix.
Despite the distortions of American revisionist economic historians of the libertarian persuasion, the US experienced is mass industrialization during the 19th century not as a product of free and unfettered trade, but as a result of the autarkic and mercantile American System.
Dr. Holt writes: “The first was a belief that the American economy between 1815 and 1850 was essentially underdeveloped because supplies of investment capital were either inadequate or too fragmented among atomistic economic actors. Thus to secure economic development, government should supply the necessary capital directly in subsidies for internal improvements or indirectly by encouraging individuals to pool their resources by investing in corporations, whose stockholders had limited liability for their debts, or manufacturing firms that were protected from foreign competition by high tariffs.”
Thus, the US and Latin America both have common points of reference, towards periods in which each experienced tremendous economic growth with mercantile and autarkic policies.
Viewing the two American continents as a single ‘national’ economy, then changes the historic relationships normally described in a ‘Monroe Doctrine’. In this sense, it is neither a Monroe Doctrine, nor a Good Neighbor Policy. Whereas investment capital stemming from historically Atlantic financial networks is generally predatory, and the aim of outsourcing is to reduce costs at the expense of local economies to whom peripheral social costs are externalized, the single ‘Amero’ plan would establish a de facto ‘federal’ system of subsidies and development across the Americas. This then carries the ‘good will’ of Roosevelt’s policy into a program which reflects a downsized and localized American power, and as well contains many features of the 19th century ‘American System’ of Clay and Lincoln. That historically Atlanticist financial interests, such as the Rothschilds and Chase-Manhattan Bank, would nevertheless still feature a prominent role, only carries forward yet another similarity to the ‘American System’, which featured suppressed interest rates and readily available credit for developmental projects.
An Amero project would however remove Brazil from BRICS, something which may already be underway at any rate. The US would maintain Trans-Atlantic economic ties with Europe, in particular in terms of managing Europe’s relationship with Latin America, but more importantly would be Europe’s own sovereign investment and development project with North Africa. Europe and Russia would generally cooperate with the US, the latter being diplomatically and militarily disengaged from ‘New Europe’ of central-eastern Europe and the Middle-East.
It is not proposed that the US of course does this out of some altruistic concern which has never before existed. What is changing, and what has changed, is the US’s ability to project power. It is the real defeats that the US has suffered in the battle-field, and the economic competition with emerging economies in the world that it can no longer keep up with under the present model, which compels the US to seek an alternative compromise that still guarantees it the sort of influence which it can still otherwise project, on a more local basis, i.e. in Latin America. Thus, all formal agreements relating to ‘Spheres of Influence’ are not the start of a process, but the recognition of an actual process that is already under way.
None of this is to say that the road won’t be fraught with difficulties. To wit, we should expect significant resistance to the US’s reorientation to Latin America. To the extent that these moves are negotiable, it will be important to see that the economic conditions which these changes come with will be simultaneously workable for the US but also not a developmental step backwards for various Latin American states. Having these states tied together in a de facto federal system will be part of this. That we are already taking as a starting point a considerably weakened — and self conscious of this fact — US is another factor which will be a material hindrance on the US being able to dictate terms to Latin America in a unilateral fashion. Other states like China will also have to include stipulations of this sort into any tacit agreement on Chinese disengagement from Latin America. Altruism is of course not the reason for this, but self interest: an increased rate of exploitation in Latin America by US interests will create an increased rate of profit which will grant to the US an advantage above and beyond what is desirable in global competitive terms, to other states outside of the Americas. While these may be difficult to guarantee, another factor is the tremendous culture of resistance to, even perceived, US imperialism within Latin America.
The US will only succeed in integrating into the Latin American economy if they discard the model of ‘externalizing costs’ into the very region they are integrating into. In practice, they will have to bring along with them the ‘ethos’ of the Good Neighbor policy, while at the same time being proactively involved in infrastructure and developmental projects, including north-south transit projects. Because success will be more certain to come about from abandoning the policies of the ‘race to the bottom’, or seeing Latin America as an ‘external’ entity primarily for raw resource extraction or cheap labor, the human costs may be greatly mitigated, and in fact developmental projects may see a relative increase in living standards overall. All of this is commensurate with the transition of the US away from a sea-power which interacts with ‘colonies’ along mercantile lines, and instead towards a land-power which creates transportation nodes along the way, and where each part of the transportation and production process, geographically, plays an integrated and important role in the larger project. The development of a Pan-American Culture will mitigate north vs. south chauvinism, which otherwise would fuel the development of (or the perception of) other types of policies better described as positional instead of win-win.
The emerging Pan-American Culture and ideology
A significant component of the emerging pan-American project has started partly within the US already. The US has long used its multiculturalism and ‘melting pot’ concepts (these are different from each other) and practices to manufacture consent internally, and project a positive image of inclusiveness and diversity to the world. If the US can be a microcosm of the whole world, in which all groups are represented and have opportunities and access to power, then the US can provide this model to the world as a single global hegemon. European migration to the US is minimal compared to migration from the rest of the world. Furthermore, in having a porous border with Mexico, and by extension Latin America, and by having a third of its continental land mass on the former territory of Mexico, it has several strong cultural-ethnic developmental factors which trend against a sustained Anglo-American culture.
Pop music and Hollywood have promoted multiculturalism for the aforementioned reasons. Moreover, Hollywood has been an integral part of both the US’s intelligence networks and the Military Industrial Complex. But the primary emphasis within this multiculturalism has been on this has been on integrating its black and Latino populations. Some US revolutionary movements of the left have for a long time promoted a break-up of the US along ethnic lines, and far-right ethno-nationalist groups promoting European identity have promoted the same. The more mainstream constitutionalist view, which predominates across the libertarian and constitutionalist liberal-conservative spectrum of the center-right has also promoted the idea of a return to constitutional federalization, sometimes called confederalization, but effectively referring to the same thing. Because the US’s ethnic diversity presents both strengths and weaknesses, social constructs have been erected to reinforce its strengths and lessen the liability of its weakness.
In the US there has been a ‘browning’ of its celebrities and the rise of the racially ambiguous lead actor over the last several decades. The US’s Latinos can entertain those in Latin America. The US’s black people are not hard to be identified with by Africans. The US becomes a symbol where these people of kin went, or were brought, even against their will, but found success. While all of this developed upon the premise of projecting a global hegemonic ‘diverse’ monoculture, it has a dual-use purpose should the US switch projects towards a Latinization and Caribbo-Brazilianization. We should expect a continued focus in particular on bi-racial or bi-ethnic Latino-Anglo and Latino-Black relationships, as the US sets up its popular culture to orient towards Latin America. But there is an analogous concept in Latin America, from Mexico in particular, which also is the product of ethnic mixing for hundreds of years. Among these is the concept of La Raza Cosmica
La Raza Cosmica, or the Cosmic Race was first promoted in 1929 by the late Mexican philosopher, secretary of education, and 1929 presidential candidate, José Vasconcelos. The root of this idea is that all of the various people’s of the world who had come and settled in the New World had mixed and now constituted a ‘fifth race’, which he termed as a cosmic one. Older terms such as mestizo, criollo, pardo, zambo, mulato, castizo, and so forth. But all of these carried a negative connotation, or at least carried the connotation of a person on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder in their respective societies. So in the developing of a pan-American identity, we can trace one of the first instances of a positive description of the outcome of widespread miscegenation in the concept of La Raza Cosmica, by Vasconcelos. Vasconcelos put forward his conception of race and destiny, that the parts of the American continent colonized by Spain and Portugal have the territorial, racial, and spiritual requisites necessary to start a “universal era of humanity”. The result would be the creation of a new civilization: Universopolis.
In a previous section we alluded to a potential alienation of the rest of the Anglo-sphere. This would be culturally rooted in the US pursuing a new policy on culture, to integrate more seamlessly with Latin America and the Caribbean. At the same time the Oceanic Anglo states of Australia and New Zealand also have a variation of a ‘fifth race’ comprised of indigenous people, South-east Asians, and the descendants Anglo-Scotch settlers. In England, there are Africans from both the Caribbean and Africa, Indians and Pakistanis, and increasingly Middle-Easterners. To the extent that the mixing of these ethnic groups is promoted in mainstream entertainment culture, more so than persists in the population on the whole, it should be understood as a policy of the state, even while in the liberal model the state’s actions are dissembled through seemingly private vectors like the entertainment and media industry complex. Individuals working for media institutions are allowed to ‘freely’ cast roles to reflect their own artistic or creative proclivities. But that such individuals are hired in the first place is a policy in itself. If, for instance, the inverse were true, and ethnically mixed couples were underrepresented in media, this would also be evidence of state policy on media.
In traditional Gramscian discourse on cultural Hegemony, the concept of ethnic mixing would normally be counted as an example of counter-hegemonic (or proletarian) culture which cuts against the framework of the reactionary bourgeoisie, a bourgeoisie tied to its outdated traditions inherited from feudalism. But in late modernity, most of these ‘outdated traditions’ have been supplanted by thoroughly bourgeois ones, as capital and commodity culture have thoroughly subsumed all realms of culture. Thus, political or social movements aimed against allegedly vestigial elements of pre-modernity are not such; rather they are forward marching affirmations of bourgeois culture in the present time, which in fact forge and create bourgeois culture in late modernity or post-modernity.
Projecting forward into the coming decades and century, we will witness the continual development of this ‘new people’ of the Americas. But as multipolar trends continue to strengthen and develop, the ‘universalism’ of any pan-American ‘Raza Cosmica’ project will be reduced to the internal self-conception of a culture which exists specifically in the New World. It would not be a universal, projected, world-encompassing global culture as it is today.
Alongside academic/intellectual, economic, infrastructural, demographic, and industrial development of the world’s emerging and emerged economies, has been the development of sovereign media culture. Cultural nationalists and cultural purists in each part of the world no doubt bemoan those parts of locally produced pop culture which too much resemble western culture; ‘swag’, blue jeans, western media themes, music incorporating hip-hop and rock sounds. But when compared to actual western culture, the differences are stark. In the past, even until quite recently, local media around the world had a considerably ‘low budget’ look and feel to it. This placed it in the eyes of local audiences a few tiers ‘below’ western media culture. This set up western media, and its culture, as being above and superior to local media and local popular culture, compounding inferiority complexes and a desire to be accepted by and to seek approval from representatives of western culture, not only cultural but political and economic. Because this has changed significantly, and continues to change in the direction of total parity in terms of production value and perceived value, ‘Hollywood’ is losing the very magic it was built upon. Alongside this is a decline of US global cultural hegemony. This is a very significant component of rising multipolarity in and of itself. The relationship between pop culture and soft power is critical.
The US’s approach and signs to look for
The US has several options, and will pursue several vectors. At the end of the day, it must regain control as a global hegemon, or it must downsize and push its remaining inertia and residual economic and military resources into Latin America. Whether US elites choose Clinton or Trump will probably stand as the best indicator of the US’s decisions either way over the next 4-8 year term. If they choose Clinton, it will mean a decision has been made to double down on the project to regain its global hegemonic status as Empire, including all vectors and Latin America. If they choose Trump, it would mean a devaluation of the dollar and an increased focus on Latin America but to the exclusion of other vectors such as Israel, the Middle-East and Eurasia.
At the present rate, the dollar itself must be revalued and must be devalued in relationship to other currencies. A euphemism for this inside of present US political discourse, because the idea of ‘devaluing’ a currency has negative connotations for obvious linguistic/psychological reasons (even though it would be part of reindustrialization and increased exports, and a growing local economy), is to say that China must ‘properly value its currency’. What is actually proposed is that China increase the value of its currency, so that Chinese goods are more expensive, making the US dollar a ‘weakened’ currency in relative terms.
Some of the US’s options are not mutually exclusive, and it may pursue several vectors simultaneously. It must pursue several vectors simultaneously for a number of reasons.
For one, it must ‘hedge its bets’. The US must hedge against each vector they pursue with another vector. Being over-extended or overplayed in one vector (such as the Middle East) will no doubt produce a sudden cataclysmic decline or implosion that will cause a political crisis within the US that will most probably lead to Total War.
Secondly, it cannot allow its geostrategic opponents to know too clearly which, if there is one vector, they will pursue over others. Doing otherwise would make the US too easy to contain and frustrate. Generally, there is cause for optimism that no significant regional hegemon in the world actually wants the US to crash upon the rocks of failed policy, at least not without having some other path of lesser resistance to fall back on. However, diplomatic and geopolitical crises have arisen in the past when a powerful enough state was placed on the defensive and had no other recourse but to strike an extraordinarily destructive and aggressive position.
Third, it must pursue as many vectors as possible because it is still unknown which vector (if there is only one) will be most promising in the coming term. If the US still believes it can jump-start its failing global hegemonic project, it would also want to disguise this fact until its firmly along its ‘plan B’ course. It must pursue Latin America vigorously regardless of its plans, because dominating Latin America is also part of global hegemonic domination. The problems which arise are in the method of interaction. ‘Domination’ methods characteristic of the Monroe Doctrine, in the past, created multi-generational resentment and a culture of popular resistance to overt US imperialism. The US will not work past this deserved stigma if it continues on its present course of coups, assassinations, death squads, and Color-Spring type revolution attempts. If we see the US continuing to do this, we can understand it as a continuation of its strategic culture into a new period in which such methods will not be congruous with a successful integration into the Latin American economy. While some of these moves are congruous, and quickly insert the US into the role of middle-man or broker between Latin America and Europe, the long term consequences will outweigh the short-lived changes to the relationship with Europe.
Fourth, if the US’s policy makers continue to attempt to maintain global hegemony, then pursuing all vectors is simply an expression of this. Due to institutional inertia and related problems, this remains the single greatest likelihood, barring a policy revolution, in the coming period. This is unfortunate for peace and stability around the world, and the US is not likely to succeed in its efforts. This means that a crisis will likely ensue, and a coalition of responsible global actors will have to intervene to contain US aggression around the world. A consequence for the US will be the disintegration of the US along regional-ethnic and cultural lines. A portion of the security establishment and the elites, realizing that a new opening exists, will join with bottom-up type resistance movements of the left and right within the US, and will manage to broker financing from foreign powers that are left with no choice but to assist these revolutionary groups, in a manner similar to how the US does the same around the world.
Given the information at hand, the potential for the US to transform itself from a sea-power to a land-power will rely on a policy revolution. This will be a monumental historical task, that will forever change the essential feature of the US as it exists. It will mark a cultural shift and a sea change in the US’s orientation and meaning in the world. The US will be able to integrate into a unified Latin American economy, creating a Pan Americana zone, only under certain conditions which reflect a sober appraisal of the present crisis. On the one hand, there are already cultural signs that it could transition to such a new arrangement, and position itself in a leading role of Pan America. We cannot view the present signs as indicative of their present course, as it is too soon for them to make their intentions transparent. At the same time, factors of institutional, ideological, and bureaucratic inertia make such a change extremely difficult. If they fail to make this transition, it will mark the beginning of potentially world-ending crisis and perpetual war, as the US doubles down to maintain an impossible dream of Empire carried over from a world long left behind.