An Empire of Denial
Is there a rise from the dead?
Despite claims to the contrary, we still live in an age of empires. The only difference this time is that the one dominating this planet is in full denial of this fact. No empire can avoid its fate however, and this one is of no exception either. In my previous post I’ve shown how Empires fail as they meet their fate at the end of their exponential growth period, but what are the ominous signs of this happening today? How long can the Empire mask its predicament by over-reliance on foreign resources, debt and constant territorial expansion? Is there a way to stop the unraveling, once the abundant flow of resources starts declining?
Finally, is there a way back for Empires from the land of the dead?
In order to answer these questions, we have to understand what behavior has led up to this point. The key to understand this is that the overuse of resources to the point of unsustainability almost always lends a short term political advantage over those who are more reality conscious and think generations ahead. Thus the more unsustainable your actions are, the more successful you become — on the short term at least. This bidding game virtually guarantees that the Empire ends up overdoing things, resulting in overshoot: using natural resources and polluting Nature at rates well beyond the planet’s capacity to recover.
Lacking any meaningful — let alone politically acceptable — answer to this predicament, however, the Empire’s elite finds itself in a corner. The only way forward would be a rapid adaption and a radical cut-back on excess. Yet, elites cannot back down, else their rivals (both from within and outside) would immediately take advantage, threatening the Empire to plunge into chaos — and that’s definitely not something the ruling elite wants. Thus once expansion stops, the only way remaining forward is the cannibalization of the Empire’s weaker constituents at the periphery while trying to prevent popular uprisings against its actions.
What makes this problem especially nasty is the fact that the Empire is in full denial. It even denies that it is an Empire to start with.
This makes discussing its strategy extremely complicated: the system must maintain a public image of a benevolent republic built on freedom and democracy, while all it does — well, let’s say — stands rather far apart from its core values. As a consequence, Empire strategists must conceal every issue in a shroud of epic battle against evil, and keep their citizens busy discussing topics less relevant for their survival.
Orwellian double-speak and double standards becomes the norm, as the ruling elite comes up with stories why sacrifice is inevitable, or even necessary… This is where finding an external enemy comes especially handy: it diverts attention in the wrong direction, while the core parasitically sucks away resources from its former allies, and forces them to sacrifice themselves for the ‘greater good’. There is one tiny problem with such an approach though: as contradictions become harder and harder to conceal, the truth slowly finds its way to the public — and the later this happens, the bigger the upheaval will be. But, we are not there… yet.
Let’s take the case of natural and mineral resources. All empire’s existence depends on the availability of cheap energy and an abundant flow of resources. Yet this one remains in full denial of all this too, among many other things... At least in front of the public — and the managerial class running its bureaucracy.
‘Imperialism? Overshoot? Resource depletion? Peak oil? Climate change? — Bah, nonsense! It’s the virus! It’s that unprovoked invasion!’
Take the predicament of hitting diminishing returns on domestic oil production for example. I mean this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone: petroleum is a finite substance and once burnt it takes millions of years to regenerate. It is time to forget the mainstream narrative telling tall tales how oil companies’ have finally become financially conscious. That’s BS. The slow-down and coming halt of oil production growth is all due to the rapidly increasing energy and material costs of drilling an ever increasing amount of new wells just to stay in place, while losing prime acreage (sweet spots) to natural depletion at the same time.
Now add in the fact that the ‘oil’ recovered contains less and less energy (notice that not everything is what it seems, or reported), and you’ve got quite some trouble ahead — none of which Empire managers can do much about. Neither can any modern state live without oil, but that’s a different story.
It’s no wonder then, that strategist playing the grand chessboard game double down on delusional ideas instead, like the one titled ‘energy independence’ to the point that it is now used as a pretext to leave the Middle East. Not that it is a bad move. It will certainly increase security and peace in the region. The real reason behind this great pivot, however, is that Gulf countries are now aligning themselves with the new Eurasian block selling their oil in yuans, rather than serving a waning superpower. Such is life.
This denial of reality will come with a hefty price tag though.
Once the long predicted, slow moving steam roller of domestic (shale) oil production decline hits home during the course of this decade, leading to a precipitous fall in oil and gas output, there will be no one left in the Eastern Hemisphere to bail the Empire out. The Saudis and the Iranians will be both in the same defensive (SCO) and economic (BRICS) block, and will be busy delivering their diminishing exports to other countries, while slowly leaving the petro-dollar behind. Again, this is good news for the countries involved, but very bad news for the Empire.
The only nations with major reserves left on the Western Hemisphere (Venezuela and Canada) both produce heavy / synthetic crude on the other hand, requiring lighter grades to be mixed with… not to mention that both come at a great energy expenditure. Where will those barrels of light and medium heavy oil, essential to run the Empire’s economy, come from is anyone’s guess… So much for energy independence. But that is what usually happens when you cannot discuss matters of foreign policy openly and act like a bully all the time.
Our other example for the halt of expansionism and the onset of imperial decline (resulting in cannibalizing former allies and turning them into zombie states) takes us to Europe. Over there the EU as an institution slowly sank into irrelevance. The war in its Eastern flanks exposed it as nothing more than the political arm of the Empire’s military alliance — an organization turned from a defensive cooperation into one hell bent on destabilizing, decolonizing and breaking up Europe’s former trading partner.
Contrary to the grand chessmasters’ plans (originating in the 1990's) though, the alliance is now running headlong into a military debacle in epic proportions. (In case you were wandering: here is a magnificent in-depth analysis why is that so). Through countless provocations, needless escalations and by constantly undermining peace talks (using them to re-militarize rather than to ensure lasting peace) the alliance has successfully maneuvered itself into a corner it now cannot leave.
These are dangerous time indeed. In case we would survive the coming months, the military loss could result in self-flagellation and recriminations in Europe not seen since WWII. All we will hear is how partners did not do enough, how all this was due to a lack of military spending (no it was not), and how rebellious states were responsible for all this. Scapegoats will be named and duly punished — except for those strategists and foreign policy wonks who thought that it is a good idea to provoke one of the biggest commodity suppliers on the globe (providing Europe with most of its energy needs), while openly disregarding its security needs as the worlds biggest nuclear power. Again, denying these facts will not serve to solve the issue, only deepen it.
The grand strategists will let no crisis go to waste though, even though this one is entirely of their making. The military debacle in Eastern Europe will be of no exception either. It will be used to break down descent in weaker states further still, while getting rid of the rebellious ones (Turkiye or Hungary comes to mind here) — forcefully kicking them out of the alliance, or punishing them with unfavorable trade deals and attacks on their monetary system.
Do you still wonder why we need evil dictators to defeat all the time, decade after decade…?
The debacle will also serve as a pretext to extract even more wealth from ‘allies’ to feed weapons manufacturers and their industrial base in the core of the Empire. Actually, this is one of the reasons (if not the biggest) to avoid direct nuclear confrontation at all costs: it is sooo much more profitable to lose this war on traditional terms, then get insanely rich on rearming Europe for another round, than being wiped out in a nuclear Armageddon. Besides, you can always play ‘rinse and repeat’… Who knows? A few more rounds into this might weaken the enemy to the point of collapse…? (In reality this is highly unlikely, as they have much higher levels of resources and manufacturing capacity than the combined West, not to mention the rest of Asia having their backs, literally.)
The unfolding crisis in Europe’s eastern flank will also do something previously unimaginable. Redrawing the political map of Europe. While borders on official maps stay the same, as if we were still living in the 1990’s, everyone looking at them should know by now that these plot lines do not worth the paper they are printed on.
Behind closed doors, in the halls of power new alliances have born and have become important partners in maintaining what is left of imperial power over Europe. After the high priests of bureaucracy have finished casting their complex necromantic spells, and were done with scribbling the necessary incantations, a long dead empire has finally joined the ranks of the living once more. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has been successfully resuscitated.
This time, it has got a contemporary, trendy new name to it, and now should be called the Lublin Triangle — established “for the purposes of strengthening mutual military, cultural, economic and political cooperation”. It’s creators also makes no secret of the fact that it tries to invoke the integrative heritage of the 1569 Union of Lublin. Just for reference, let’s take a quick look at what happened in the middle of the 16th century, in Eastern Europe:
“Lithuania’s vulnerable position and rising tensions on its eastern flank persuaded the nobles to seek a closer bond with Poland. The idea of a federation presented better economic opportunities, whilst securing Lithuania’s borders from hostile states to the north, south and east.”
To paraphrase Mark Twain: history does not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme… I would not be surprised at all if this mini-empire, returning from the dead, would act as a shield and fist of the Empire’s military alliance, used to suppress dissent from former European powers like Germany and France (e.g. by holding the former hostage to WWII reparation costs). This might sound like a tall order, but the preparations are already well underway:
“French defence website Méta Défense highlights a “spectacular reinforcement of the Polish army’s overall capacity, which, by the end of the decade, will include 1,500 modern tanks, an equal number of infantry combat vehicles, 1,200 mobile artillery units and several thousand light armoured vehicles to exceed the arms capacity of the French, German, UK, Italian, Dutch and Belgian forces combined”.
The government, which is expected to spend 3% of the national budget on defence, now intends to grow its land army from four to six divisions, equivalent to 300,000 soldiers, compared with the current figure of 115,000.
All along, the EU’s defence industries have been systematically disregarded in favour of US, UK and South Korean equipment.
It is evident PiS [the leading Polish party] sees the EU simply as a stepping stone on the path toward liberal globalisation, rather than a means of integration and new solidarity between member states. PiS is pushing its defence position and nationalist rhetoric to reinvigorate rifts and polarise politics, especially by playing an anti-German card. The PiS has even managed to bring the issue of German reparations back to the fore, for the devastation caused to Poland in WWII.”
As one could presume at this point, this empire within an empire setup will lead to unbearable tensions between the former and newly formed powers, pushing France and Germany into a new counter-alliance. It looks increasingly clear that should the military alliance be torn apart on the serious contradictions raised by the upcoming defeat, Poland, or shall I say, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (ahem, the ‘Lublin Triangle’) will remain a strong supporter of the US Empire, and a stopgap for further Russian expansion. Meanwhile other European nations — at least those who are paying attention — are also looking for options outside the Euro-Atlantic circle in fear of being “relegated to insignificance”.
We live in interesting times. World War III has begun and has led to new alliances, and with it new animosities. An attempt made at preserving the status quo of global hegemony and uninterrupted expansion eastward by means of provoking a war has seemed to have failed. Now, the Western Alliance has backed itself into a corner, and only God knows if we, together with the rest of humanity and all terrestrial life, manage to get out on the other end of this conflict. As for the Empire, it has failed to prevent problems overwhelming it, and it is now clearly on the path towards decline.
Since we are all in a predicament (overshoot, the use of more resources than it is naturally regenerated), it could’ve only delay the inevitable though.
Until next time,