Yanis Varoufakis: How the United States Rolls (Post-Global Minotaur) – by Slavov Žižek

By Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens. Originally published at his website.

In this article, aptly subtitled It’s lonely being the global policeman, Slavoj evokes a parallelism between the age of extremes that began as the British Empire was losing its grip with the present moment in history. Now that the Global Minotaur (quoting my book) is mortally wounded, “…the American century is over and we are witnessing the gradual formation of multiple centers of global capitalism”.

Zizek’s verdict? Faced with increasing uncertainty and mounting insecurity, “…the solution is not to be very careful and avoid risky acts—in acting like this, we fully participate in the logic which leads to catastrophe. The solution is to fully become aware of the explosive set of interconnections that makes the entire situation dangerous. Once we do this, we should embark on the long and difficult work of changing the coordinates of the entire situation. Nothing less will do.” Hear, hear! 

How the United States Rolls

It’s lonely being the global policeman.

By Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, is a senior researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, in Essen, Germany. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many other books, including Living in the End Times, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce, The Fragile Absolute and Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? He lives in London.

There is another unexpected parallel with the situation before the outbreak of World War I: In the last months, media continuously warn us about the threat of the World War III.

Towards the end of September, after declaring war on ISIS, President Obama gave an interview to 60 Minutes” in which he tried to explain the rules of U.S. engagement: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow. They call us. … That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation.”

This also holds for environmental and humanitarian disasters: “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge and making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.”

In October, however, Obama himself made a call to Tehran, sending a secret letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he suggested a broader rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran based on their shared interest in combating Islamic State militants.

When the news of the letter reached the public, U.S. Republicans denounced it as a gesture of weakness that can onlystrengthen Iran’s arrogant view of the U.S. as a superpower in decline. That’s how the United States rolls: Acting alone in a multi-centric world, they increasingly gain wars and lose the peace, doing the dirty work for others—for China and Russia, who have their own problems with Islamists, and even for Iran—the final result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to deliver the country to the political control of Iran. (The U.S. got caught in just such a situation in Afghanistan when their help to the fighters against the Soviet occupations gave birth to the Taliban.)

The ultimate source of these problems is the changed role of the U.S. in global economy. An economic cycle is coming to an end, a cycle that began in the early 1970s with the birth of what Yanis Varoufakis calls the “global minotaur,” the monstrous engine that ran the world economy from the early 1980s to 2008. The late 1960s and the early 1970s were not just the times of oil crisis and stagflation; Nixon’s decision to abandon the gold standard for the U.S. dollar was the sign of a much more radical shift in the basic functioning of the capitalist system. By the end of the 1960s, the U.S. economy was no longer able to continue the recycling of its surpluses to Europe and Asia: Those surpluses had turned into deficits. In 1971, the U.S. government responded to this decline with an audacious strategic move: Instead of tackling the nation’s burgeoning deficits, it decided to do the opposite, to boost deficits. And who would pay for them? The rest of the world! How?

By means of a permanent transfer of capital that rushed ceaselessly across the two great oceans to finance America’s deficits: The United States has to suck up a half-billion dollars daily to pay for its consumption and is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer who keeps the global economy running. This influx relies on a complex economic mechanism: The United States is “trusted” as the safe and stable center, so that all others, from the oil-producing Arab countries to Western Europe to Japan, and now even China, invest their surplus profits in the United States. Since this “trust” is primarily ideological and military, not economic, the problem for the United States is how to justify its imperial role—it needs a permanent state of war, offering itself as the universal protector of all other “normal”—as opposed to “rogue”—states.

However, even before it fully established itself, this world system based on the primacy of the U.S. dollar as the universal currency is breaking down and is being replaced by … what? This is what the ongoing tensions are about. The “American century” is over and we are witnessing the gradual formation of multiple centers of global capitalism: the United States, Europe, China, maybe Latin America, each of them standing for capitalism with a specific twist: the United States for neoliberal capitalism; Europe for what remains of the welfare state; China for authoritarian capitalism; Latin America for populist capitalism. The old and new superpowers are testing each other, trying to impose their own version of global rules, experimenting with them through proxies, which, of course, are other small nations and states.

The present situation thus bears an uncanny resemblance to the situation around 1900 when the hegemony of the British empire was questioned by new rising powers, especially Germany, which wanted its piece of the colonial cake. The Balkans were one of the sites of their confrontation. Today, the role of the British empire is played by the United States. The new rising superpowers are Russia and China, and the Balkans are the Middle East. It is the same old battle for geopolitical influence. The United States is not alone in its imperial stirrings; Moscow also hears calls from Georgia, from Ukraine; maybe it will start hearing voices from the Baltic states …

There is another unexpected parallel with the situation before the outbreak of World War I: In the last months, media continuously warn us about the threat of the World War III. Headlines like “The Russian Air Force’s Super Weapon: Beware the PAK-FA Stealth Fighter” or “Russia Is Ready for Shooting War, Will Likely Win Looming Nuclear Showdown with U.S.” abound. At least once a week, Putin makes a statement seen as a provocation to the West, and a notable Western statesman or NATO figure warns against Russian imperialist ambitions. Russia expresses concerns about being contained by NATO, while Russia’s neighbors fear Russian invasion. And on it goes. The very worried tone of these warnings seems to heighten the tension—exactly as in the decades before 1914. And in both cases, the same superstitious mechanism is at work, as if talking about it will prevent it from happening. We know about the danger, but we don’t believe it can really happen—and that’s why it can happen. That is to say, even if we don’t really believe it can happen, we are all getting ready for it—and these actual preparations, largely ignored by the big media, are mostly reported in marginal media. From the Centre for Research on Globalization’s blog:

America is on a war footing. While a World War Three Scenario has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than 10 years, military action against Russia is now contemplated at an ‘operational level.’ We are not dealing with a ‘Cold War.’ None of the safeguards of the Cold War era prevail. The adoption of a major piece of legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 4, 2014 (H.R. 758) would provide (pending a vote in the Senate) a de facto green light to the U.S. president and commander in chief to initiate—without congressional approval—a process of military confrontation with Russia. Global security is at stake. This historic vote—which potentially could affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide—has received virtually no media coverage. A total media blackout prevails.  On December 3, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation announced the inauguration of a new military-political entity which would take over in the case of war. Russia is launching a new national defense facility, which is meant to monitor threats to national security in peacetime, but would take control of the entire country in case of war.

To further complicate matters, the competing new and old superpowers are joined by a third factor: the radicalized fundamentalist movements in the Third World, which oppose all of the superpowers but are prone to make strategic pacts with some of them. No wonder our predicament is getting more and more obscure. Who is who in the ongoing conflicts? How to choose between Assad and ISIS in Syria? Between ISIS and Iran? Such obscurity—not to mention the rise of drones and other arms that promise a clean, high-tech war without casualties (on our side)—gives a boost to military spending and makes the prospect of war more appealing.

If the basic underlying axiom of the Cold War was the axiom of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), the axiom of today’s War on Terror seems to be the opposite one, that of NUTS (Nuclear Utilization Target Selection), i.e., the idea that, by means of a surgical strike, you can destroy the enemy’s nuclear capacities, while your anti-missile shield protects you from a counter-strike. More precisely, the United States acts as if it continues to trust the MAD logic in its relations with Russia and China, while it is tempted to practice NUTS with Iran and North Korea. The paradoxical mechanism of MAD inverts the logic of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” into the “self-stultifying intention”: The very fact that each side can be sure that, in the case it decides to launch a nuclear attack on the other side, the other side will respond with full destructive force, guarantees that no side will start a war. The logic of NUTS is, on the contrary, that the enemy can be forced to disarm if it is assured that we can strike at him without risking a counter-attack. The very fact that two directly contradictory strategies are mobilized simultaneously by the same superpower bears witness to the phantasmagoric character of this entire reasoning.

How to stop our slide into this vortex? The first step is to leave behind all the pseudo-rational talk about “strategic risks” that we are required to assume. We must also jettison the notion of historical time as a linear process of evolution in which, at each moment, we have to choose between different courses of action. It is not just a question of avoiding risks and making the right choices within the global situation, the true threat resides in the situation in its entirety, in our “fate”—if we continue to “roll” the way we do now, we are doomed, no matter how carefully we proceed. We have to accept the threat as our fate. So the solution is not to be very careful and avoid risky acts—in acting like this, we fully participate in the logic which leads to catastrophe. The solution is to fully become aware of the explosive set of interconnections that makes the entire situation dangerous. Once we do this, we should embark on the long and difficult work of changing the coordinates of the entire situation. Nothing less will do.

In a weird precursor to President Obama’s “that’s how we roll,” when the passengers of the United Airlines Flight 93 attacked the hijackers on 9/11, the last audible words of Todd Beamer, one of them, were: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” That’s how we all roll, so let’s roll, we may say—and bring down not only a plane, but our entire planet.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in China, Doomsday scenarios, Europe, Globalization, Guest Post, Politics, Risk and risk management, Russia on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. PhilJoMar

    What do we want!!!

    To change the co-ordinates of the entire situation!!!

    When do we want it?

    In the difficult long-term!!!

    What do I want?

    Lots of visiting professorships paid by the state!!

    What will you get?

    Lots of books influenced by busted fraud Jacques Lacan!!!

    Sorry, not impressed by Zizek in any way. I would rather spend time trying to understand Michael Hudson than being the diaper scooping up the theoretical diarrhea of this guy.

    1. Lafayette Sennacherib

      Yes, PhiloJoMar, you got it to a tee. Varoufakis is usually quite astute; I’m surprised that he’s impressed by the fraud cabaret act nutty professor punk music paper journalist level banalities of this covert NATO propaganist. I suppose VAroufakis just hasn’t had time to read much of Zizek’s muck….

    2. Jef

      Phil – Seems obvious that you can’t comprehend the message Ziz is conveying and I agree he is a bit verbose so I will boil it down for you.

      Focusing on only one minutia of the multitude of converging problems facing humanity as Hudson does is counter productive and only guarantees the worst possible outcome. We must be mature enough to look at the whole big ugly picture and face up to it like adults if we truly hope for a REAL solution.

      1. Athena1

        Hudson does quite the opposite of hyperfocusing on one small aspect of the converging issues. Yes, his primary super-expertise is economics, but he understand history (going back to ancient Mesopotamia!), military strategy, and global geopolitics better than anyone else I’ve ever read.

      2. PhilJoMar

        Hi Jeff…there is nothing Zizek is saying that isn’t being said somewhere else in an easier form for intelligent people to understand who might have an eye to doing something about the world situation. I am not bothered in the slightest if you want to have a go and stick up for your guy but I’ve noticed that people who like Zizek can’t take criticism of their self-admitted ‘clown’. I am getting older now and I have had to take a long look at how to apportion my ‘intellectual time’; I really don’t think Zizek is offering anything new or particularly enlightening. If you feel differently that’s fine. You’ve chosen to respond to me; I just offered a very light-hearted response to a well-known much feted author. I was hardly being completely serious.
        Anyway sometimes it’s enough to read someone just to provoke and deepen one’s own thought. I don’t have the time and more importantly the money to read someone who publishes as much as Zizek. But I can comprehend him thanks very much. Is it inconceivable that one can comprehend a writer and simply just turn away without regret to other writers?

  2. Carolinian

    I’m sure Zizek now considers himself suitably chastised.

    However for some of us not quite so worldly wise this seems like an important warning. It’s true that the notion of world war and nuclear exchange pushed by blogs like http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/ seem far fetched. But it’s also true that our elites are playing a dangerous game with their imperialistic fantasies. As I’ve opined before, Obama and his neocon advisers are deeply unserious people. Or as Putin says, playing chess with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon that knocks over all the pieces and then struts proudly around the board. One fears that unless things change a major event is lurking just below the horizon….America’s comeuppance.

    1. timshel

      i agree totally agree… here in the western media bubble, were it not for the access to the internet and alternative media, we might all just go shopping… and sadly, too many will… these are indeed dangerous times… enemies and threats abound… reconciling with their origin takes a strong constitution and a willingness to overcome ones own cognitive dissonance that there is neither a santa claus nor representative government of the people of the us. it’s getting easier and easier to see the real threat to humanity these days.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        Excellent comment, timshel. I think that the nature of many of the comments here today to discredit the writer and obfuscate his message is a key indicator that he has touched on a subject that is significant to powerful interests.

        … Golly, what might that be?

        One clue is Zizek’s observation about the further expansion of executive branch war powers earlier this month. Despite their repeated failures over a period that now spans many decades, I believe the narcissists and megalomaniacs actually believe they can “win” an unlimited war and preserve global hegemony (and their personal power).

        It’s all just game theory… until it isn’t.

        1. Athena1

          I like the global research guy, but he appears to be the only person out there who interprets HR 758 as prep for WWIII with Russia, and he has a long history of always seeing a nuclear holocaust right around the corner.


          I think that the nature of many of the comments here today to discredit the writer and obfuscate his message is a key indicator that he has touched on a subject that is significant to powerful interests.

          Could you elaborate? :)

          1. Rosario

            Maybe not a war with Russia, but there is a strong historical correlation between these types of chest beating proclamations and hot conflicts.


            The act was passed in 1998 and was directly referenced and utilized by Bush Jr. in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq war. In effect, war was “baked into the cake” when the act was passed.

  3. susan the other

    It is as if Russia and the US think they have a lot of unfinished business to take care of. To what end? Not mutually assured destruction. And not NUTS. That’s just a clever pun pointing out how everything becomes a paradox when war takes over. Economic control is what the West wants. Equal footing is what Russia wants. Oil is the prize but only temporarily. Because global warming. In a sense global warming is a god send. And everything else is denial. It has completely destroyed world economies which can no longer use a groaf model to prosper. So markets are an oxymoron. So wealth is begging for a definition. And what idiot is going to go to war for spoils it can’t even define? But yes, this post is correct that we all need to get our shit together.

    1. James

      And what idiot is going to go to war for spoils it can’t even define?

      Hmm… let me think about that one for a minute. Three letters you say? Starts with a U? Ends with an A? Five seconds Bob…

  4. Left in Wisconsin

    As always with Zizek, I found this half profound, half over-stretched, and half unintelligible gibberish. I think the analogy with Pre-WW1 is brilliant but over-specified. Maybe the Middle East is the new Balkans, but maybe this time its eastern Europe, or the even the same old Balkans. Likewise, I love how he connects cultural, economic, and imperial ideas and actions, but hate how the simplistic imperialist imperative always trumps without any justification provided.

    I’m not sure he agrees with this reading of him, but I agree that we are in some jumbled and confusing state of post-U.S.-hegemonic regime competition and impending multi-polar-world-order regime competition. (I wish he would be more helpful in trying to connect or at least link his ideas about regime competition to Streeck and the other economic sociologists.) But he is way to glib considering how little we really know about how existing economic and political regimes are competing (and not competing) with each other, and who might win, if anyone.

    I think it is way premature to say the U.S. empire is about to die the way the British empire did, simply because no one has any idea what the next dominant economic form (after industrialism) is going to be (and what territories or states it might privilege), and to the extent we can infer anything about it, it seems to have a lot to do with the e-economy whose global center is Silicon Valley.

    On the other hand, extrapolating from Zizek yields the plausible argument that humans will address global warming by a) maximum national-imperial investment in carbon resource domination and 2) bombing our opponents back to the stone age.

    Zizek’s verdict? Faced with increasing uncertainty and mounting insecurity, “…the solution is not to be very careful and avoid risky acts—in acting like this, we fully participate in the logic which leads to catastrophe. The solution is to fully become aware of the explosive set of interconnections that makes the entire situation dangerous. Once we do this, we should embark on the long and difficult work of changing the coordinates of the entire situation. Nothing less will do.” Hear, hear! This is precisely the part I found unintelligible! Can someone translate?

    1. Working Class Nero

      I can try to translate:

      In order to understand why changes to the co-ordinates of the entire situation are required, one must examine posttextual empire theory, which means one is faced with a choice: either reject Imperial narrative or conclude that the raison d’etre of Žižek is significant power. However, Machiavelli uses the term ‘Bismarckian absurdity’ to denote not Imperialism, but Neo-Imperialism.

      In the works of the proto-Conservatives, a predominant concept is the concept of predialectic global dominance. If Imperial narrative holds, we have to choose between Bismarckist absurdity and Imperial deconstructivism. It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a subcultural paradigm of consensus that includes global power as a whole.

      Robert Kagan suggests the use of Bismarckist absurdity to deconstruct and modify colonial sexuality. Thus, the third world subject is contextualised into a neotextual desituationism that includes culture as a reality.

      The premise of Imperial narrative suggests that class, perhaps ironically, has significance, but only if Clausewitz’s critique of Aron’s obscurity is valid; otherwise, we can assume that the media is part of the failure of war. In a sense, several narratives concerning the futility, and hence the failure, of global dominance exist.

      I’m pretty sure this is more or less what Žižek is saying…

      1. PhilJoMar

        “Machiavelli uses the term ‘Bismarckian absurdity'”…no, not once. Enjoyed your translation though…

    2. drdorje

      In times of crises, there’s a natural inclination to button down the hatches, so to speak, to act conservatively until the crises have passed. This inclination is often exploited in order to circumvent any consideration of the roots of the crises. Zizek is suggesting that while addressing each tree in the forest (i.e., crisis) has a certain spontaneous appeal to it, the consequences of doing so might lead to catastrophe. Rather, it is precisely in times of crises that seeing the forest (system) for the trees (crises) becomes most urgent. This would entail thinking and planning not in response to each crisis in its own terms, but of each crisis in the long run as part of a system. It’s not particularly profound—I’d say less an insight than an incitement concerning the tenor of public discourse. Zizek is, I think, always read best as a dialectical—or perhaps negative dialectical—engagement with the public sphere, as so many attempts to alter the terms or parameters that public discourse takes.

    3. Rosario

      People can’t stand Zizek and think he speaks nonsense because he is a student/adherent of Hegel and most people can’t stand Hegel (despite the weight of Hegel on modern Western and/or global society). Unfortunately for us and despite popular academic perception, Zizek is not dumb and I don’t think he is speaking gibberish at all. (As an aside, read a few of his lengthy texts, he asks good questions and demands reflection, even if he does it in language that is not suited to the reader.) In fact he is one of the few popular philosophical figures today that doesn’t unknowingly speak within a Neoliberal mindset using Neoliberal language, and if he does he usually draws light to it. In short, he is saying that “we” (as in the progressive/radical choir he is preaching to) are all using the same logic of “measured policy”, “realpolitik”, and “it’s all in the numbers/markets/etc.” to make supposedly radical/progressive intellectual arguments and ultimately collective actions.

      As an example, I see this at non-profits who’s administrators hire advisers (i.e. grass-roots community organizers/administrators), advising on how to take community action, or how to direct community action, then ultimately they “reach-out” to the community to take action typically based on numbers, charts, maps. This is a wonderfully technocratic, Neoliberal method for affecting social change, but it is rife in even the most radical of social and political non-profits and organizations. I would argue this is exactly why we have such a suicidal culture in terms of politics, ecology, and economics. We are all drinking from the same intellectual punchbowl.

      The ideological deadlock of global Capitalism is a point he has been trying to convey for some time now and it is a difficult point to make because it requires people to think very differently (thus the arguments, it is nonsense, gibberish, etc.). We have to stop using the same intellectual framework to liberate ourselves from that framework. I’d say give the guy a break. Most of the disrespect and disregard comes from his pop-philosopher status (which I admit is very annoying), but he is absolutely one of the better “big-picture” thinkers we have today.

  5. Athena1

    I’ve watched several video interviews with Slavoj before, and could never quite catch his drift. Reading his words in print, I can see why. I think I just vehemently disagree with most of his analysis.

    My sense is that the US military leaders and intelligence community have this massive machine of war and surveillance designed to confront another nation state or empire, but after the fall of the USSR, it’s just been adrift. So we’re back to “counterinsurgency” ala Vietnam, except this time, every person on Earth is a potential “Viet Cong”.

    The “rising superpowers” have no desire to get into an armed conflict with us. Their leaders just see that the current global financial system has almost run its course and are coming up with “exit plans” (and I’m sure they fully intend to have authority within whatever new financial regime arises next.)

    1. drdorje

      If I’m not mistaken the perspective you articulate here is virtually indistinguishable from Zizek’s.

      1. Athena1

        No, Slavoj said :

        The present situation thus bears an uncanny resemblance to the situation around 1900 when the hegemony of the British empire was questioned by new rising powers, especially Germany, which wanted its piece of the colonial cake. The Balkans were one of the sites of their confrontation. Today, the role of the British empire is played by the United States. The new rising superpowers are Russia and China, and the Balkans are the Middle East. It is the same old battle for geopolitical influence. The United States is not alone in its imperial stirrings; Moscow also hears calls from Georgia, from Ukraine; maybe it will start hearing voices from the Baltic states

        He’s predicting another WW1, with Russia or China playing Germany. I’m saying Russia and China et al want to avoid armed conflict with the US at all cost. They simply want to resist becoming US client states.

        1. DrDorje

          He’s not predicting a repeat of WWI (however one might construe that), he’s noting that there’s a similarity to the geopolitical context leading up to WWI. What is analogous is the decline of the hegemon. Others, like Paul Craig Roberts, have predicted WWIII. I agree (and I see no reason to believe Zizek doesn’t also) that, “Russia and China et al want to avoid armed conflict with the US at all cost. They simply want to resist becoming US client states.” The problem with resistance to becoming a client state is that this is the very definition of what it means to be a “rogue” state. American/NATO enforcement of open markets (which is what “imperialism” and hegemony mean in the American context) was tolerated by the guarantee of global financial stability, but since the financial crisis that justification has been cast into doubt. While the MAD logic of the Cold War entailed that confrontations between world powers would be worked out through proxy wars, that logic has given way to a perverse, unipolar logic of (nuclear) deterrence, namely the seemingly total inability of “rogue” states to even strike back at the hegemon. I don’t see any reason to believe that Zizek thinks we are literally heading toward open war with either China or Russia (and it would be uncharacteristic of him to think in such a manner), but rather that we are in a period of extreme geopolitical and financial insecurity, that American hegemony is in serious doubt, and that any attempt to stabilize the situation by reasserting American hegemony (i.e. “return to the 1990s”) completely ignores how the world has changed. In short, I don’t think you and Zizek are so far apart.

          1. Athena1

            You could be right, I guess. Maybe I’m misreading what he’s saying or what he meant. I really don’t think so, but it’s possible.

  6. I.G.I.

    If I read history correctly capitalist states can’t live in peace – they need expansion, conquest, and booty (in the broader sense of the word). For this reason if there is no enemy it get manufactured.

  7. nogooddeed

    ‘murica, it seems, is on the brink of war internally and externally. They may not know much, but the politicians know that war changes priorities for the people and may momentarily curtail our concern about corporate excess and climate change. We all know that there are strong divisions in our country down ideological lines ,racial lines , and economic lines. However, if by some bizarre twist the “people” respond to these tensions fairly rationally and create unity and support and a fair plan of action –showing what Americans say they are really made of; this will be bad in every sense for the corporate controllers (they know it). So, responding militarily to a threat like Russia can bring peace (postponed tensions) internally while we wage war externally and nothing is done about corporate control and climate change. This is good for the politicos; meanwhile more of our kids fight and die due to conflicts resulting from monumental mishandling and exploiting of cultural and economic differences across the world. While I believe the UK methods in the 1900s were hegemonic in intent and nature, the US isn’t exactly so. Consequently, I don’t share belief in the straight parallels here. So I do believe it could end differently. Call me an optimist. Nonetheless, Washington has proven itself to be a self consuming, nearly out of control dark playground for the politically owned, the deluded, and the wealthy liars.. IMO, there’s no certainty about how they will respond to Russia and Isis threats simultaneously– and if their response will be idiotic or not. Or, perhaps they won’t consciously create a strategy to bring us to GNW, but in their unconscious, and in the back rooms of the corporate grabbers, paranoids, and arrogant religious pinheads; this darkness could be spreading towards a tipping point where despite their best efforts global war is inevitable. And if I may, anyone still governing with a “god is still up there and humans just can’t change the weather” mentality should be impeached, fired, dismissed, and possibly even imprisoned–Inhofe.

  8. Vince in MN

    Zizek takes the shotgun approach in his arguments: keep on firing and eventually you will hit something.

  9. Winston

    Yes there are tensions because of new changing dynamics; but he is misnterpreting what is going on in ME. He doesn’t know about Clean Break. Consider fact that any area that is in turmoil is not good for business-including oil business. So why is the turmoil being instigated despite that?

    ” In 1996 we had a foreign government sponsor a think tank staffed by very prominent US policymakers with the objective to strengthen that foreign sponsor nation. And then 18 months later we see a follow on letter to the President from many of the same US policymakers that authored the 1996 report and some additional prominent US policymakers. The recommendation of both the ’96 report and ’98 letter to the President were lobbying for the US to invade and overthrow Iraq and Syria. However the original recommendation was for the benefit of Israel and the latter recommendation was being sold as necessary for America. And remember, 9/11 had not happened yet but we already see these very powerful, very prominent policymakers pushing very hard to invade Iraq and Syria.”


    The Most Essential Lesson of History That No One Wants To Admit

  10. Winston

    Athena1 has understood part of problem. MIC wants to continue on same diet and needs an excuse for it. I am hoping next crash-bound to come now that speculators know Uncle Sam will foot bill for losses will gut MC funding!
    In future MIC bound to be gutted anyway as a country of mostly poor old people and mostly poor young people cannot afford such shenanigans! By the way Us doesn’t even have adequate housing for those aging people.


    Where Are the Baby Boomers Going to Live Out Their Golden Years?
    The share of elderly Americans is increasing. National preparedness for their housing needs is not.

    America is rapidly aging in a country built for the young


    1. Athena1

      My understanding is that funding of the MIC/Intelligence apparatus *cannot* currently be defunded or gutted. It’s become completely autonomous in terms of both funding and operations. I highly suggest reading this, if you haven’t:


      The author seems to think that the “Trumanites” are the only new branch of independent government, but I’m not sure he really knows the extent to which private banking/FIRE sector interests have overtaken democratic control of the economy. So as far as I can tell, we really have “triple government” – The Madisonians, the Trumanites, and the FIREmen, with the vague term “US interests” linking the latter two branches.

  11. Jackrabbit

    the true threat resides in the situation in its entirety

    It difficult not to agree with a call for a more enlightened foreign policy. Case in point: GWOT. We are not safer because our conduct during this ‘war’ has generated new enemies. That should be noted along with the now undeniable truths that torture and NSA spying have not produced ‘actionable intelligence’. In fact, the war has come home in the form of a police state (militarized police, unconstitutional spying on citizens, restricted civil rights, etc.) to guard against the dangers that we are creating.


    The last paragraph is illogical and in poor taste. Obama’s use of the phrase is much different than the heroic attempt to retake the hijacked aircraft. By making this analogy, the author suggests that had the passengers done nothing, they may have lived. Actually, if this suicide mission (from which there was no escape other than to retake the plane) had been successfully completed, many more would almost certainly have died.

    H O P

    1. James

      Nah! Witnesses never lie or make mistakes and juries – grand or otherwise – are infallible. That’s what makes ‘Murica great! That black kid had it coming and I’m sure the good Officer Wilson only regrets he didn’t have a few more rounds to put into him just to be sure.

  12. vidimi

    the current global economic picture reminds me more of the 1930s: a huge crash in 1929 (2008) followed by a decade of economic malaise which won’t end until a monstrous war. politically, the players are maybe more reminiscent of 1914, but only slightly, and that analogy leaves a lot lacking, even if the lessons are probably the right ones: the world is on the precipice of war and the situation can escalate beyond anyone’s intentions without much effort on anyone’s part simply because of the volatility.

  13. armchair

    Now for some absurdity.

    An interesting thing is how stateless billionaires are subtracted from this conversation. I thought it was a given that nation-states were shriveling into irrelevancy as stateless billionaires proceeded to call the shots. The conversation here suddenly throws us back into a pre-WWI balance of powers mentality where the interests of the state and alliances are paramount. Can both be true? Perhaps, if speculation is permissible. Maybe the next great conflict is between the failing elites that staff the governments of nation states and the stateless billionaires. Perhaps a giant conflict will force the billionaires to pick sides again and to be forced to end the arbitrage between nations for billionaire favors? Maybe the billionaires will have to come home again when the armies are on the march again?

    The reality we may be entering is more analagous to the pre-Napoleonic era, when nation states did not command the hearts of their residents. The battles of the Thirty Years War were fought with mercenaries (ala Blackwater). The concept of warfare has changed to remote control from cubicles. Citizens are the antiquated concept. War on these terms is not for citizens to debate. As the stock of citizens declines, so does the stock of the nation state.

    So, perhaps all the peacocking about Terror, Putin, ISIS and the rest of it is a struggle to put nation states back on the map and to keep the nuclear arsenals from being sold off. Yes, the future might just be billionaire warlords. Maybe Putin and Obama are trying to save us from that future?

    1. Fiver

      Maybe Putin and Obama are trying to save us from that future?

      Then I guess I’d have to say “You have to hand it to that guy Putin, taking that massive hit to himself and his country for the team, and all.”

  14. Gaianne

    The US wants war because it has run out of ideas and quick fixes. This would be an act of desperation, but the US is indeed desperate. Russia and China do not want war because they know time is on their side. Much can be done to avoid war (Russia has already outmaneuvered the US twice–in Syria and Ukraine) but only up to a point. No one knows when the line will be crossed, only that it will be.

    The most optimistic scenerio I know of comes from John Michael Greer:


    The idea is a conventional resource war in a regional theater with strategic implications.

    The key problem is: How does a global war avoid going nuclear? Of course it might go nuclear, but most countries—besides the US–do not want that. (Within the US the main opposition to nuclear war comes, ironically, from the Pentagon). The main optimistic possibility is a sharp conventional defeat in a regional theater that–while local–shifts the global alignments. Greer’s hypothetical scenerio is an example of that.


  15. kevinearick

    I am engaging the machine now.

    The third party flags have two elements, venue shopping to maximize nesting at origination, home field advantage, and SCOTUS shorting itself out by enforcing resulting growth in the Fourth Branch of Fascists, with Homeland Security, criminal prosecution with no due process, decades before 9/11. Monetary and fiscal policy have simply been backfilling the growing income gap with inflation / lost purchasing power, social loss under the line for you and corporate profit above the line for the fascists, law enforcement by i-phone credit checks these days.

    Funny, how little football has to do with outcomes in the NFL real estate game, which anchors the media empire. SCOTUS has been making chicken soup out of chicken sh- for so long now that the population is normalized to the process of corruption, and it’s just a bit in a computer upon which the weight of the inverted pyramid rests. I was jumping on tractors and running wire since I was five, so public education was always nonsense to me.

    Everything after jurisdiction is a symptom. Don’t walk into that casino expecting anything else. The wizard is the one running in front of the parade.

  16. Ignacio

    I strongly recommend to watch a french TV series called Apocalypsis on WWI and WWII (available in youtube) very educative on how mad can become humanity. The conclusion is that you cannot dismiss WWIII or any other crazy stupidity humans could engage in.

Comments are closed.