By Okechukwu Ukekwe
Within the last decade there were still orange-yellow and black signs on buildings in United States of America depicting them as equipped with nuclear fallout bunkers. It was a law in the US that certain tenement buildings constructed after 1978 must construct their basements for refuge in case of nuclear attack from any foreign adversary, most likely to be the defunct Soviet Union. You can hardly see those signs on any building now unless hung where it is very difficult to remove. Presently, the fear of nuclear war is lost but with an odd of one in a million, it is remote. All the frenzy for the preparation for nuclear war is not wasted rather it helped in heightening the fear of the devastation of any nuke. Despite the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks; SALT 11 treaty of 1979; more countries had acquired nuclear war head capacity. There are still some countries with nuclear arms capability—USA, Russia, India, Britain, Israel, Germany, France, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Japan, Ukraine, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Turkey, Switzerland and Iran. With the fragmentation of Soviet Union in 1992, the US retains a sole superpower status.
As the sole superpower, the United States assumes that the status of superpower will be enhanced with massive army, sophisticated and large armament, global military bases and huge defense budgets. The 2019 USA budget devoted S705.4 billion of the entire budget of S4.45 trillion for the military. With about 81 military bases around the world, 1.3 million men and women in the armed forces, huge armed reservists of about 800,000. Also consider the fact that since independence on July 4, 1776, the US had been involved in 239 wars, mostly proxy. Except for 4 wars- War of Independence (The American Revolution 1775-1783), the US Civil War 1861 -1865, the Mexican- American War 1846-1848, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor 1945 ( WW 11), all the rest had been fought outside her homeland. This question always arises in many debates: Is the US a war tug, bully, or a global police. According to Martin Kelly, a US war historian; earlier wars before 20th century were fought outside American soil. Even 20th century wars such as World Wars 1 and 11 were also fought overseas. Americans have not experienced or directly been impacted by wars on American soil. The Civil War in America ended in 1865, about 155 years ago. Except from spats of terrorist acts, no living American has observed, participated or been impacted by any war on American soil.
Ancient History is littered with dynasties that were simply powerful due to military might. Old dynasties of Ottoman, Medici, Romanov, Habsburg, Bourbon, Tudor, and others, old European nations of Athens, Sparta, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, France, Portugal, and Persia exerted some powers due to military might. Today these nations only relish the history of their past exuberance. Isaac Newton’s law of motion states that what goes up must come down. This descent may take time depending on the dynamics of the object and gravity, but it must obey the law of motion. The hawks in the US government should realize that that kinetic force of the global economy is fast relegating those huge and expensive armaments. They still relish renaissance era armament and brutal force in the 21st century. Wars may be inevitable in some circumstances but modern warfare is less infantry intensive and more precision equipment involved.
The modern day US seems fixated with eye on nuclear war, arms race, military superiority and global hegemony. Every of their strength is hedged on military might. The covid-19 pandemic has to a great extent proved that the strength of the US lies in it intimidating military. Covid-19 has shown that a microscopic virus can challenge and disrupt the US exponentially and the world at large in this digital age. The US with a GDP of 21.4 trillion dollars, and growth rate of 2.3; the US fiercest economic rival China has a GDP of 27.3 and a growth rate of 6.1 in 2019 as reported by CNN. China does not seem to be in a squabble with any nation on claim of supremacy in any sphere of socio economic and political endeavour. Reason this yourself, how can a country like the US with a trade deficit of 2 trillion with China, 1.23 trillion debt continue claiming economic superiority. On healthcare, the US is currently rated the 27th, below countries as Germany, UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, Norway, Taiwan, South Korea and others. US News & World Report maintained that the US was once a leader for healthcare and has declined consistently from 6th position since 1990. Come to education, the US ranks 2nd in terms of adult literacy. Judging from High School and University dropout rates, you can conclude that if the trend continues, the self acclaimed world leader in every sphere of life is fast heading down the power slope. One question we all have to answer is: Is this the apex of the US global hegemony?
One thing is clear, there will be lots of economic disequilibrium post covid-19 pandemonium cum pandemic. Many Americans were not aware of the manufacturing deficiency or economic cum manufacturing strength of China against the US until covid-19. More than 95% of US domestic homes items, pharmaceuticals, hospital, office, industrial equipment are all Chinese imports. As recently exposed, face masks, specimen swabs, test kits and most other equipment had to be imported from China to fight covid-19. It will soon be clearer that farming out manufacturing to China with unprecedented economic empowerment while engulfed in extensive militarism is an albatross that will take decades to correct. Empowering China is not the issue but the neglect of domestic economic midwifery. President Donald Trump questioned the rationale for the more than 8 trillion dollars wasted in the Middle East in wars and police activities if not for hegemony. The new political realism is more of economics than politics.
Bringing manufacturing back to the US may not be switch-flip action. First, what will happen to the numerous anti business laws and regulations that made the businesses migrate ab initio? Take New York State for instance, many agencies of the Federation, State, City and civil liberty organizations are geared to check any business in New York City and other counties. Businesses in New York City pay Federal, State, City, Employer, Social Security, MTA taxes plus other regulatory charges. Then the State sets minimum wage employees must be paid. You have the Public Advocate, Attorney Generals (Federal and State), Labor Departments, Better Business Bureau, etc all geared towards checking businesses. Excessive and chocking regulations are the issues that this article may be trying to point out here.
Another issue is the trade union. Unionization is a veritable part of democracy. However, dictatorial unionism stifles entrepreneurial initiatives, creativity and growth. Unionism was meant to check exploitation of labour by the employers. But a situation where the unions are empowered for aggressive demands of outlandish emoluments and working conditions with possibility of disruption of work if not obliged, will always limit expansion and profit. Tyranny of labour, that’s what it is.
High rent or Mortgage, excessive regulations, excessive taxations, anti business laws, high cost of raw materials, high cost of living and other factors have to be controlled before meaningful manufacturing can take root in the US.
Without solid economic base, the ancient notion of force as strength will be as anachronistic as the ancient powers that believed in it. China has disengaged itself from the dollar as means of global trade settlement. The monopoly of the US dollar as the currency for global trade has recently been broken by China. China now insists that its international settlements must be in her local currency, renminbi also known as yuan. With a faltering or weak dollar, how can the US remain afloat for long? Forget about hegemony. Very soon the whole world will know where to turn; East or West. The theses of this article was summed in the words of Cal Thomas, a pundit and widely syndicated columnist in America, as stated in his book, America’s Expiration Date: The fall of Empires and Superpowers….and the Future of the United States; that the nation I love most is in danger of losing its greatness. The recalibration of the global economy is imminent, most likely to go towards deglobalization or multilateralism. Where will Africa stand in the impending melee?
*Dr. Ukekwe lives in New York