The New Junta in Niger Tells the United States to Pack Up Its War and Go Home

Yves here. This post by Nick Turse tells the very sorry tale of how US pretenses at counterterrorism in the Sahel not only made matters a lot worse but are now getting US forces run out of the region, now out of Niger. That also means Niger takes over our pricey base. I wonder if we will wind up not being able to extract all our kit.

My impression is that the Brits in their heyday were able to exert much more influence with less deployment of manpower, materiel, and infrastructure. Of course, part of how the UK did it was Oxford and Cambridge. Niall Ferguson remarks that England was very successful at exporting what we would now call talent to act as colonial bureaucrats.

For the at least moderately clever from not all that monied backgrounds, a long-term posting in a colony was a great deal: status, usually nice housing and servants, meaning a lifestyle better than they would enjoy at home, and nearly alway better, or at least sunnier, weather. . By contrast, when I would lunch sometimes with a PWC partner in Sydney (this in the early 2000s) he said only 15% of the US partners had passports. So is US provincialism one of the reasons we aren’t very good at the imperialism game?

By Nick Turse. Originally published at TomDispatch

Dressed in green military fatigues and a blue garrison cap, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, a spokesperson for Niger’s ruling junta, took to local television last month to criticize the United States and sever the long-standing military partnership between the two countries. “The government of Niger, taking into account the aspirations and interests of its people, revokes, with immediate effect, the agreement concerning the status of United States military personnel and civilian Defense Department employees,” he said, insisting that their 12-year-old security pact violated Niger’s constitution.

Another sometime Nigerien spokesperson, Insa Garba Saidou, put it in blunter terms: “The American bases and civilian personnel cannot stay on Nigerien soil any longer.”

The announcements came as terrorism in the West African Sahel has spiked and in the wake of a visit to Niger by a high-level American delegation, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and General Michael Langley, chief of U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM. Niger’s repudiation of its ally is just the latest blow to Washington’s sputtering counterterrorism efforts in the region. In recent years, longstanding U.S. military partnerships with Burkina Faso and Mali have also been curtailed following coups by U.S.-trained officers. Niger was, in fact, the last major bastion of American military influence in the West African Sahel.

Such setbacks there are just the latest in a series of stalemates, fiascos, or outright defeats that have come to typify America’s Global War on Terror. During 20-plus years of armed interventions, U.S. military missions have been repeatedly upended across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, including a sputtering stalemate in Somalia, an intervention-turned-blowback-engine in Libya, and outright implosions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This maelstrom of U.S. defeat and retreat has left at least 4.5 million people dead, including an estimated 940,000 from direct violence, more than 432,000 of them civilians, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project. As many as 60 million people have also been displaced due to the violence stoked by America’s “forever wars.”

President Biden has both claimed that he’s ended those wars and that the United States will continue to fight them for the foreseeable future — possibly forever — “to protect the people and interests of the United States.” The toll has been devastating, particularly in the Sahel, but Washington has largely ignored the costs borne by the people most affected by its failing counterterrorism efforts.   

“Reducing Terrorism” Leads to a 50,000% Increase in… Yes!… Terrorism

Roughly 1,000 U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors are deployed to Niger, most of them near the town of Agadez at Air Base 201 on the southern edge of the Sahara desert. Known to locals as “Base Americaine,” that outpost has been the cornerstone of an archipelago of U.S. military bases in the region and is the key to America’s military power projection and surveillance efforts in North and West Africa. Since the 2010s, the U.S. has sunk roughly a quarter-billion dollars into that outpost alone.

Washington has been focused on Niger and its neighbors since the opening days of the Global War on Terror, pouring military aid into the nations of West Africa through dozens of “security cooperation” efforts, among them the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, a program designed to “counter and prevent violent extremism” in the region. Training and assistance to local militaries offered through that partnership has alone cost America more than $1 billion.

Just prior to his recent visit to Niger, AFRICOM’s General Langley went before the Senate Armed Services Committee to rebuke America’s longtime West African partners. “During the past three years, national defense forces turned their guns against their own elected governments in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Niger,” he said. “These juntas avoid accountability to the peoples they claim to serve.”

Langley did not mention, however, that at least 15 officers who benefited from American security cooperation have been involved in 12 coups in West Africa and the greater Sahel during the Global War on Terror. They include the very nations he named: Burkina Faso (2014, 2015, and twice in 2022); Guinea (2021); Mali (2012, 2020, and 2021); and Niger (2023). In fact, at least five leaders of a July coup in Niger received U.S. assistance, according to an American official. When they overthrew that country’s democratically elected president, they, in turn, appointed five U.S.-trained members of the Nigerien security forces to serve as governors.

Langley went on to lament that, while coup leaders invariably promise to defeat terrorist threats, they fail to do so and then “turn to partners who lack restrictions in dealing with coup governments… particularly Russia.” But he also failed to lay out America’s direct responsibility for the security freefall in the Sahel, despite more than a decade of expensive efforts to remedy the situation.

“We came, we saw, he died,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joked after a U.S.-led NATO air campaign helped overthrow Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, the longtime Libyan dictator, in 2011. President Barack Obama hailed the intervention as a success, even as Libya began to slip into near-failed-state status. Obama would later admit that “failing to plan for the day after” Qaddafi’s defeat was the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

As the Libyan leader fell, Tuareg fighters in his service looted his regime’s weapons caches, returned to their native Mali, and began to take over the northern part of that nation. Anger in Mali’s armed forces over the government’s ineffective response resulted in a 2012 military coup led by Amadou Sanogo, an officer who learned English in Texas, and underwent infantry-officer basic training in Georgia, military-intelligence instruction in Arizona, and mentorship by Marines in Virginia.

Having overthrown Mali’s democratic government, Sanogo proved hapless in battling local militants who had also benefitted from the arms flowing out of Libya. With Mali in chaos, those Tuareg fighters declared their own independent state, only to be pushed aside by heavily armed Islamist militants who instituted a harsh brand of Shariah law, causing a humanitarian crisis. A joint French, American, and African mission prevented Mali’s complete collapse but pushed the Islamists to the borders of both Burkina Faso and Niger, spreading terror and chaos to those countries.

Since then, the nations of the West African Sahel have been plagued by terrorist groups that have evolved, splintered, and reconstituted themselves. Under the black banners of jihadist militancy, men on motorcycles armed with Kalashnikov rifles regularly roar into villages to impose zakat (an Islamic tax) and terrorize and kill civilians. Relentless attacks by such armed groups have not only destabilized Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, prompting coups and political instability, but have spread south to countries along the Gulf of Guinea. Violence has, for example, spiked in Togo (633%) and Benin (718%), according to Pentagon statistics.

American officials have often turned a blind eye to the carnage. Asked about the devolving situation in Niger, for instance, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel recently insisted that security partnerships in West Africa “are mutually beneficial and are intended to achieve what we believe to be shared goals of detecting, deterring, and reducing terrorist violence.”  His pronouncement is either an outright lie or a total fantasy.

After 20 years, it’s clear that America’s Sahelian partnerships aren’t “reducing terrorist violence” at all. Even the Pentagon tacitly admits this. Despite U.S. troop strength in Niger growing by more than 900% in the last decade and American commandos training local counterparts, while fighting and even dying there; despite hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Burkina Faso in the form of training as well as equipment like armored personnel carriers, body armor, communications gear, machine guns, night-vision equipment, and rifles; and despite U.S. security assistance pouring into Mali and its military officers receiving training from the United States, terrorist violence in the Sahel has in no way been reduced. In 2002 and 2003, according to State Department statistics, terrorists caused 23 casualties in all of Africa. Last year, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Pentagon research institution, attacks by Islamist militants in the Sahel alone resulted in 11,643 deaths – an increase of more than 50,000%.

Pack Up Your War

In January 2021, President Biden entered the White House promising to end his country’s forever wars.  He quickly claimed to have kept his pledge. “I stand here today for the first time in 20 years with the United States not at war,” Biden announced months later. “We’ve turned the page.” 

Late last year, however, in one of his periodic “war powers” missives to Congress, detailing publicly acknowledged U.S. military operations around the world, Biden said just the opposite. In fact, he left open the possibility that America’s forever wars might, indeed, go on forever. “It is not possible,” he wrote, “to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of United States Armed Forces that are or will be necessary to counter terrorist threats to the United States.”

Niger’s U.S.-trained junta has made it clear that it wants America’s forever war there to end. That would assumedly mean the closing of Air Base 201 and the withdrawal of about 1,000 American military personnel and contractors. So far, however, Washington shows no signs of acceding to their wishes. “We are aware of the March 16th statement… announcing an end to the status of forces agreement between Niger and the United States,” said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh. “We are working through diplomatic channels to seek clarification… I don’t have a timeframe of any withdrawal of forces.”

“The U.S. military is in Niger at the request of the Government of Niger,” said AFRICOM spokesperson Kelly Cahalan last year. Now that the junta has told AFRICOM to leave, the command has little to say. Email return receipts show that TomDispatch’s questions about developments in Niger sent to AFRICOM’s press office were read by a raft of personnel including Cahalan, Zack Frank, Joshua Frey, Yvonne Levardi, Rebekah Clark Mattes, Christopher Meade, Takisha Miller, Alvin Phillips, Robert Dixon, Lennea Montandon, and Courtney Dock, AFRICOM’s deputy director of public affairs, but none of them answered any of the questions posed. Cahalan instead referred TomDispatch to the State Department. The State Department, in turn, directed TomDispatch to the transcript of a press conference dealing primarily with U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Philippines.

“USAFRICOM needs to stay in West Africa… to limit the spread of terrorism across the region and beyond,” General Langley told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.  But Niger’s junta insists that AFRICOM needs to go and U.S. failures to “limit the spread of terrorism” in Niger and beyond are a key reason why.  “This security cooperation did not live up to the expectations of Nigeriens — all the massacres committed by the jihadists were carried out while the Americans were here,” said a Nigerien security analyst who has worked with U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

America’s forever wars, including the battle for the Sahel, have ground on through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden with failure the defining storyline and catastrophic results the norm. From the Islamic State routing the U.S.-trained Iraqi army in 2014 to the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan in 2021, from the forever stalemate in Somalia to the 2011 destabilization of Libya that plunged the Sahel into chaos and now threatens the littoral states along the Gulf of Guinea, the Global War on Terror has been responsible for the deaths, wounding, or displacement of tens of millions of people.

Carnage, stalemate, and failure seem to have had remarkably little effect on Washington’s desire to continue funding and fighting such wars, but facts on the ground like the Taliban’s triumph in Afghanistan have sometimes forced Washington’s hand. Niger’s junta is pursuing another such path, attempting to end an American forever war in one small corner of the world — doing what President Biden pledged but failed to do. Still, the question remains: Will the Biden administration reverse a course that the U.S. has been on since the early 2000s?  Will it agree to set a date for withdrawal? Will Washington finally pack up its disastrous war and go home?

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  1. Alan Sutton

    A couple of things here:

    First, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution demanding removal of US troops from Iraq in… 2019 I think? They are still there. A week or so ago this Niger resolution was reported somewhere (not MSM) but commented that Niger may not be able to force the US troops out if they don’t want to go. Obviously that’s embarrassing for the US but will the Niger Govt. actually eject them?

    Second, provincialism is not the issue with US imperialism. Of course that is part of it, much to the mirth of well bred UK Foreign Office types over the years. But, when Orwell was a minor functionary of empire, responsible for hundreds of square miles of territory with only a few native police to back him up there was no internet or even functional literacy in English for most people in Burma. Was much easier to divide and rule them back then. Not so easy these days. Even if your State Dept. functionaries can’t speak African the bloody natives can all talk your language and watch Al Jazeera! Thank God.

    1. El Slobbo

      The refusal to leave at least has exposed the “security partnership” terminology as a euphemistic label for a level of control of local politics. Fifty shades of neo-colonialism.

      1. vao

        As Feral Finster would say: quite so, what do you propose to do about it now?

        Well, a couple of months ago the so-called Iraqi Resistance did something — lobbing missiles and drones at military camps of the USA. There have been several casualties, but the Resistance stopped its actions after Iran exhorted it to exercise some restraint.

    2. Carolinian

      The MIC refuses to leave this country too. Instead their budgets keep getting bigger.

      Perhaps one defense of Biden is that he didn’t start any of this even if he was oh so willing to profit from it. Trump didn’t stand up to it either–just the opposite. Perhaps the Congresspeople are the real culprit since they supply the money and the MIC “runs this place” when the banks aren’t running it. Will hubris in eastern Europe be the puff that finally blows down the house of cards?

      Last night I finally caught up with Beasts of No Nation about child soldiers in Africa. The movie doesn’t get into the international aspect but the tots seem well supplied with weapons–perhaps via Hillary’s Libya intervention. The chaos is all too vivid.

  2. everydayjoe

    “we came , we saw..he died”-Hillary R Clinton. I always wonder if this is arrogance and hubris from the power awarded to the executive branch, congress etc. Will any human in this situation act like this? Where does this mindset come from? Same thing we see Israel practice .

    1. Randall Flagg

      >Where does this mindset come from?

      I dare say from those that have never had to live in , experience or suffer the consequences of the death, destruction and general human misery caused by their decisions. They just get to go on their merry way from government position, to think tank, to foundation head, to professorship or whatever, back to another government position, wash, rinse, repeat. Enjoying the adoration of legions of ass kissers throughout the MSM or those that vote their party no matter what, those who have no moral courage to stand up for right and wrong. I can’t say more, I don’t have enough change to throw in the swear jar describing these piece of s**ts

      1. digi_owl

        You may well be right. The politicians that feared WW3 the most where those that wore uniform, or hit in fear, during WW2.

        Now we are 2+ generations removed from that war, and watch what is happening.

    2. Feral Finster

      “Will any human in this situation act like this?”

      Sociopaths will, and will bribe or coerce others into doing so as well.

      “Where does this mindset come from?”


      “Same thing we see Israel practice.”


      Once you understand the simple fact that we are ruled by high functioning (in the sense that they are capable of faking empathy when necessary) sociopaths, everything makes sense.

      Since you mentioned the detestable HRC, the reason she is so universally disliked is because she is either not good at faking empathy or cannot be bothered to try.

  3. The Rev Kev

    I guess that Niger has worked out that there is no benefit for them in having a US base stationed there. Not only, just like the French, have the Americans proven themselves not capable of defeating the terrorist forces but that they are a danger to the government as US forces usually try to coup host governments and replace them with a pro-US leader as has happened elsewhere. And of course there is the suspicion of who the paymasters are behind some of these groups. Then there may be resentment that this whole mess is only happening because the NATO powers set Libya on fire for their own gains.

    I was listening to a talk by Jacques Baud who says that both the US and France work on the tactical level but not the operational or even the strategic level. Obama’s admission about Libya is proof of this. The US doctrine seems to be to kill your way to victory. You kill enough “bad guys” and then you will win. You can trace this idea back to Robert McNamara’s kill ratio of the Vietnam war and saw it at play in Afghanistan. I think that this may be result of the US military’s emphasis of a Warrior culture. Everything in the US military is about Warriors if not about “lethality”. But these are elements on the tactical level and for operational and strategic level, you need Soldiers, not Warriors.

    But in the Sahel region, what is really needed is the nations of this region to come together to work a strategic plan on how to deal with these terrorists and then to work together and I believe that this is starting to happen. I am sure that the Russians can help out here like they did in Syria the past few years. Of course that US base has to go so they may want to barricade that base if they do not leave by a certain date and take the case to the UN to humiliate them internationally as the guest who refuses to leave.

    1. fjallstrom

      I think you are on to something here, with the killing your way to victory. But I think it is one step higher, most empires wage wars in order to rule, but some rule in order to wage wars.

      The Brittish empire wasn’t particularly good at wars either, but it often avoided them. I think it was Napoleon who quipped that the English was fighting not with men, but with gold (paying his opponents on the continent). Worked though. What the Brittish empire was good at was extraction of surplus wealth through ruling and dividing the population against each other. Terrible for the ruled, but efficient as an empire.

      The US empire is so pro war that it starts wars were they already rule, and through wars lose control. For example, Syria and Libya were cooperating with the “war on Terror” and the US had access to their natural resources through paying their governments. Not good enough, the US still decided to destroy them. Iraq is arguably in this cathegory too, if it is true that Saddam asked for and was given green light to attack Kuwait.

      I think it comes down to the political importance of the MIC creating a perpetual need to wage wars.

      1. digi_owl

        Far too often it feels like US foreign policy is driven by the domestic needs of the people in power at the time. Possibly even as simple as the president at the time feeling some kind of inferiority complex, and using foreign policy to affirm their stature.

        Also, USA is a nation of immigrants. Thus it may well be that those in position of authority make use of the nation to settle old scores. Brzezinski may be the prefect example, as i believe he gloated openly about being able to stick it to the Russians as a Pole.

  4. vikab

    “My impression is that the Brits in their heyday were able to exert much more influence with less deployment of manpower, materiel, and infrastructure.”

    Categorically false. The main difference between US imperialism and the previous era of British imperialism is that the US empire is run “on the cheap” without nearly the same level of local commitment in men/money/material. US style is to prop up local right wing compradors through arms training/coups/selective access to capital rather than direct colonial oversight, a methodology enabled and necessitated by modern telecommunications.

    Of course the downside is that a lighter footprint is more easily erased when the winds start changing.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Ahem, I admitted to giving an opinion, but what pray tell is the basis for this assertion? The UK had actual formal colonies, unlike the US. The Uk famously controlled India with a relatively small cadre of officials, mainly by playing various internal parties off against each other. From what I can tell on a fast search, the peak force level in colonial India was 228,000, and even then, Indian members considerably outnumbered the Brits. That was compared to a population of 200 to 240 million.

      Australia is still part of the UK, similarly.

      By contrast, the US has 800 bases all over the world. Michael Hudson documented as a foreign exchange analyst for Chase Manhattan in the 1960s that the US trade deficits that forced us to go off the gold standard were due entirely to military spending abroad. Hudson said that pattern continues in the post-Bretton Woods era.

      Nothing of the kind happened with the UK. Pound sterling was supreme from 1815 till the Gold Standard broke down in World War I (there was a concerted effort to revive it in the 1920s). It took World War I and FDR adept use of the UK’s need for military support in World War II, to dethrone sterling. It did not happen via imperial overreach.

      1. Kontrary Kansan

        Did you address the contention that the US does its colonialism “on the cheap” by proping up strongmen/juntas to manage local affairs?

      2. Martin Oline

        The colonies of the UK also transferred an ungodly amount of money to Britain and her subjects. US foreign policy dictates pouring money into the pockets of the chosen strongmen, politicians, and media outlets.

  5. DJG, Reality Czar

    So is US provincialism one of the reasons we aren’t very good at the imperialism game?, asks Yves Smith.

    The Rev Kev points to a kind of provincialism (comment above 6:35): “I was listening to a talk by Jacques Baud who says that both the US and France work on the tactical level but not the operational or even the strategic level. Obama’s admission about Libya is proof of this. The US doctrine seems to be to kill your way to victory. You kill enough “bad guys” and then you will win.”

    To maintain an empire, one has to be imperially minded. The Brits conducted the Opium Wars with China to get opium into China, not to get it suppressed. Traditionally, the Brits were in for the long haul–administrators sent out for years, with many Methodist missionaries to harvest the heathens, and various “protectorates” made. Natch, no one went native.

    The French notoriously insisted on imposing French culture. One has baguettes in Vietnam now.

    The Portuguese seem to have always married the locals.

    Natch, no one went “warrior,” whatever that means. Face paint? “Warrior” is just one more U.S. slogan like “riot grrrls.”

    The subsidence into “tactics” is what happens when one goes from an empire directed by imperialists to one directed by the bourgeoisie.

    The American personality doesn’t help in this endeavor, even if the U S of A was able to take over and remake Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Those days are over. Now it’s bomb and run. It’s U.S. police forces and their terrible tactics gone worldwide.

    This article gets to some uncomfortable truths:

    As author Blanchfield writes near the bottom: “Everyday Americans may not be “inherently more prone to violence,” but our way of life is certainly structured around violence and around selectively empowering, quarantining, directing, and monetizing it at home and abroad. ”

    Petit bourgeois with guns. They don’t want to have to stick around more than a month or two to straighten out the Vietnamese…

    1. digi_owl

      “Natch, no one went “warrior,” whatever that means. Face paint? “Warrior” is just one more U.S. slogan like “riot grrrls.”

      It may well be that the US military can’t leave behind its history on the “frontier”. Supposedly even the default embassy design resemble a cavalry fort from the “wild west”.

      I also ran into the claim that the US military is still infused with puritan thinking, in particular regarding punishment.

    1. JonnyJames

      I prefer double-chocolate cake with a ganache frosting (preferably made from Belgian chocolate). I tasted the yellow cake and it was really dry and tasteless.

  6. Mikel

    “So is US provincialism one of the reasons we aren’t very good at the imperialism game?”

    Africa is going to have to throw out more than Africom to be rid of US imperialism.

    1. ISl

      Africa is. See Belt and Road Initiative.

      The difference, now versus then, is that now there are two development paradigms

      1. The Western model: imperialism and oligarch enrichment (or genocide)
      2. The Chinese model – co-development of markets.

      The West has been offering a massive development package to Africa for years, but somehow, the funds never pass the talking points stage.

      1. digi_owl

        “2. The Chinese model – co-development of markets.”

        For now at least. Though China at present do seem reluctant to adopt the trappings of a wold power. For one thing they really do not want their currency to replace the USD on the world stage.

        And i kinda get it, as i suspect getting to attached to a powerful currency is a massive trap. One that say UK is mired in as it tries to uphold the power of the Sterling. And France may have struggled with the same regarding the Franc, until replacing it with the Euro (a whole other bundle of trouble).

        1. playon

          When the Chinese offer money to other nations there are fewer strings attached. Much different than the Bush II administration where they would give foreign aid but made countries promise not have have abortion clinics, etc.

        2. Paris

          For now, you’re correct. And even now everybody and their mother know the Chinese are notorious for not trusting the locals. Nothing gets developed, least the job market, as they bring al their workforce with them. It’s really not a good model, but we will see. People here in this site seem a little bit starry eyed by the Chinese lol, it’s fun to read. As everybody else, they don’t and won’t do anything else that does not benefit them. So they go to Africa, put up mines, have their own workforce, build ports with their own workforce and materials so they can export the minerals to China etc etc. Oh such great development for the natives lol #not

          1. CA

            And even now everybody and their mother know the Chinese are notorious for not trusting the locals. Nothing gets developed, least the job market, as they bring al their workforce with them…

            [ Good grief, this is incorrect. The Chinese make a point of trusting the peoples with whom they are working on development projects.  They educate and train and fully employ locals readily.  Simply look to the rail lines built in Laos or Indonesia or Kenya.  Look to the Huawei installations and operations from Ethiopia to Tanzania to Mozambique.

            Look to the work being done through Bangladesh and on and on.  Locals are of course valued and trusted and given career paths. ]

  7. Ashburn

    Reading Nick Turse’s recounting of the post-9/11 US-engineered disasters in the Middle East and Africa with clearly no major adjustments being planned for our foreign/military policies, I am reminded of a quote regarding Biden from Patrick Lawrence, who writes on Substack and his work appears in ConsortiumNews:

    “Biden’s Misfortune: It is Biden’s ill fortune to assume the presidency at precisely the point of inflection when the American empire enters a phase of steep, irreversible decline.”

    1. Kontrary Kansan

      Biden’s misfortune? Tell that in Ukraine. Gaza. Biden’s been around so long that he has contributed to the disasters and decline to which the US’s foreign policy establishment has brought the US.

    2. JonnyJames

      Turse’s article is also posted on Consortium today. Mr. Lawrence has written some good articles, although I might have a few small nitpicks, I mostly agree.

      The US, despite enjoying advantages of geographic “splendid isolation”, USD hegemony as world currency etc. is engaging in imperial overstretch at the same time in steep decline. It seems to be a hubris-filled, desperate and reckless attempt to maintain the power of the past, and it will fail. I agree, the decline is irreversible at this point. History may not repeat but it sure does rhyme, or something like that.

      I would add that in addition to the usual hubris, hypocrisy and delusion, institutional corruption plays a big role in US decline. For example, US foreign policy, especially since the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, is motivated by kleptocratic financial interests: those two “wars” resulted in the transfer of several TRILLIONS of $$ (see Stiglitz and other estimates) from the US gov into private hands of the MICIMATT etc.

      In this regard, it looks like the oligarchy knows the jig is up and is asset-stripping all they can, while they can.

  8. Albe Vado

    Niall Ferguson remarks that England was very successful at exporting what we would now call talent to act as colonial bureaucrats.

    This may or may not be true, but at the risk of invoking ad hominem, I wouldn’t trust Niall Ferguson to tell me where the nearest gas station is. The man is all about ‘the British Empire was a good thing, actually’, and anything he claims about how supposedly well run it was is said under that presupposition.

    1. CA

      April 27, 2003

      The Empire Slinks Back

      If — as more and more commentators claim — America has embarked on a new age of empire, it may turn out to be the most evanescent empire in all history. Other empire builders have fantasized about ruling subject peoples for a thousand years. This is shaping up to be history’s first thousand-day empire. Make that a thousand hours.

      Let me come clean. I am a fully paid-up member of the neoimperialist gang. Two years ago — when it was not at all fashionable to say so — I was already arguing that it would be ”desirable for the United States to depose” tyrants like Saddam Hussein. ”Capitalism and democracy,” I wrote, ”are not naturally occurring, but require strong institutional foundations of law and order. The proper role of an imperial America is to establish these institutions where they are lacking, if necessary . . . by military force.” Today this argument is in danger of becoming commonplace, at least among the set who read The National Interest, the latest issue of which is practically an American Empire Special Edition. Elsewhere, writers as diverse as Max Boot, Andrew Bacevich and Thomas Donnelly have drawn explicit (and in Boot’s case, approving) comparisons between the pax Britannica of Queen Victoria’s reign and the pax Americana they envisage in the reign of George II. Boot has gone so far as to say that the United States should provide places like Afghanistan and other troubled countries with ”the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.”

      I agree. The British Empire has had a pretty lousy press from a generation of ”postcolonial” historians anachronistically affronted by its racism. But the reality is that the British were significantly more successful at establishing market economies, the rule of law and the transition to representative government than the majority of postcolonial governments have been….


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