Pax Americana: An empire of unprecedented and increasing intensity
November 3rd, 2021
Dr Marcus Papadopoulos
By the time of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to the Allies in 1945, which marked the cessation of the Second World War, the United States of America had become the preeminent economic power in the international arena.
Whilst the war had taken an enormous toll on the Soviet Union’s economy, and had nearly resulted in bankruptcy for the economy of Great Britain, which was staved off only by American credit in the form of loans to London, the war against the Axis had turned the US into an unprecedented and unrivalled economic juggernaut (it should be noted that, contrary to some claims then and now, America, prior to her entry into the war against Germany and Japan, was not the dominant economic power in the world at that time; rather, Washington had, before December of 1941, the potential to become the paramount global power in economic terms).
Accordingly, the war had been tremendously profitable for the US economy, and this constituted a turning-point not just in American history but also in the history of international relations. Indeed, the conclusion of the war heralded the commencement of Pax Americana, or the American Empire.
Although not the predominant military land power in 1945 – this accolade was held by the Soviet Army – the US, nonetheless, possessed the atomic bomb, along with the mightiest navy and air force in the world. Thus, coupled with its status as an economic behemoth, Washington began to extend its tentacles to all four corners of the world, starting, simultaneously, in Western Europe and in East Asia.
Alongside its economic might and military might (hard power), America, after the war, wielded another weapon which was equal in power to the aforementioned weapons: Culture (soft power).
The American way of life – consumerism, materialism, Hollywood, fast food, and fashion, to name but a few – was exported by Washington across the world following the close of the war and rapidly became pervasive, even in societies whose cultures and values stood in stark contrast to those in America, such as Islamic ones. American soft power would help to provide the US with the means upon which to attain political supremacy in countries where American soldiers were not present in, while assisting in cementing political mastery in countries where there was an American military presence in.
During the Cold War period, between 1947 and 1991, Pax Americana was confronted with the greatest challenge it has faced to this day: Soviet communism. The outcome of the Cold War was, ultimately, decided on account of economics, with the result being that the dollar prevailed over the rouble. Whilst the Soviet Union, by the end of the Cold War, had led the Americans in having the largest armed forces and nuclear forces in the world, the US economy and the US way of life had reigned and ruled supreme in the world.
The years of the 1990s and the 2000s, extending to 2015, constituted the heyday of the American Empire. Because it was during those years that Washington, having been freed from its duel with the Soviet Union, which had been dissolved at the end of 1991, was the unequalled and all-powerful force in international affairs. That actuality was most startingly manifested by how Washington, in the period of the 1990s, attained political and economic ascendency for itself in Russia, the Cold War foe of Pax Americana (the expulsion of American influence and power in Russia would only be initiated with the coming to power in the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin, in 2000).
However, the year 2015 constituted a significant reversal in good fortune for the American Empire. For it was in that year that Russia’s resurrection as a superpower was completed when Putin instructed the Russian military to intervene in the Syrian conflict, at the request of the Syrian Government.
The entry of the Russian military into the fray between the Syrian Army and American-aided Wahabbist terrorists, in support of the former, constituted not only a turning-point in the fighting in Syria but also in international affairs. As a result of Russian military power, projected thousands of miles away from Russian soil, Syria was saved from Wahabbist subjugation, while Russia inflicted its first strategic defeat on an American objective in the post-Soviet era.
Further to that, today, Russia, on the back of its triumph in Syria, has established a strategic partnership with Iran, together with an unofficial alliance between itself, Damascus, and Tehran. Russia’s return to the Middle East means that the American Empire, although still supreme in the region, does not have the space for manoeuvrability that it enjoyed there prior to 2015.
Furthermore, Russia, buoyed on by its dominant position in Syria, has projected its power with even more intensity to Venezuela, a country which constitutes the Kremlin’s eyes and ears in Latin America. Indeed, the assistance which Moscow provided to the Venezuelan Government in 2019 and in 2020 was the cardinal factor in accounting for how Caracas prevailed, in these two years, over American-orchestrated attempts to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power.
But Russia’s status today as a superpower most certainly does not signify the decline of Pax Americana. Whilst the Russian Federation is able to counter and limit American global hegemony, with the Kremlin striving for Russian influence and power to eventually emulate that of its Soviet predecessor, the American Empire’s hold over most of the world remains unassailable. Indeed, Pax Americana has been significantly augmented in recent times, despite its setbacks in both Syria and Venezuela.
Maintaining and strengthening Washington’s ascendency in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Middle East is vital to America preserving its global hegemony, such is the monumental strategic and economic importance of these two regions. And it is in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Middle East where the American Empire has responded to its setbacks in Syria and in Venezuela in a most stupendous of manners, serving as a reminder to Russia and the rest of the world that American influence and power remains, for the foreseeable future, both irreversible and irresistible.
The discovery by Tel Aviv, in 2009, of substantial reserves of natural gas and oil in the seabed between Israel and Cyprus – estimated to be 122 trillion cubic feet of gas, coupled with 1.7 billion barrels of oil – has come to signify the advent of a new and significant dimension to international relations. Whilst the aforesaid discovery will not result in a tectonic shift for the Middle East, the likes, of which, the region experienced at the beginning of the twentieth-century when oil and natural gas was discovered on the lands of the Arab, nevertheless, the American Empire has utilised the finding to bolster its mastery in the region as well as its supremacy in North Africa.
American policy-makers, upon the discovery in 2009, moved expeditiously to seize an opportunity which would not only secure for the American Empire vast revenues through American companies such as ExxonMobil operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, but which would also strengthen US hegemony in the Middle East, and thereby in the world, and enable Washington to place even more pressure on Iran, a country which has been successfully resisting American aggression against itself since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which liberated the Iranian people from American yoke.
Accordingly, the Americans, today, have gathered some of their allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa and aligned them with one another to form an unbreakable chain of countries, which are either subservient to or dependent on America, so as to help fortify Washington’s iron grip on West Asia.
The US allies comprising the chain of pro-American countries are as follows: Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. It is the case that Greece, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are historically subservient to the American Empire. Indeed, in relation to Greece, the country has long been in the West’s orbit, as evidenced, in part, by what the British Ambassador to Greece, Sir Edmund Lyons, said in 1841:
“A truly independent Greece is an absurdity. Greece can either be English or Russian, and since she cannot be Russian, it is necessary that she be English.”
Furthermore, the other countries in the American chain – Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel – are dependent on, rather than subservient to, America; specifically, Cairo, Beirut, and especially Tel Aviv are reliant on economic and military aid from Washington.
Russian resurgence in the Middle East, and growing Iranian influence in the region, will henceforth be met by the alignment of American allies in the Eastern Mediterranean. Policy-makers in both Moscow and Tehran will take note of not just the political and economic dimensions of that pro-American alignment but also of its military dimension, given the military cooperation agreements which have been signed between Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, together with how some of the militaries of these countries have conducted manoeuvres with one another.
Further to that, in regard to Russia and Iran’s growing positions in the Middle East, Washington’s strategy will be to use the alignment of its allies in the Eastern Mediterranean to, in part, help contain, and ideally repel, the strategic advances which Moscow and Tehran have made in West Asia in recent years.
That Washington has aligned some of its allies from the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East in an Eastern Mediterranean partnership will serve, over the coming years, to reinforce its supremacy in West Asia, as well as to issue a reminder to the rest of the world; namely, that the American Empire is a permanent reality for the foreseeable future.
Traditionally, Israel is America’s primary conduit for American influence and power in the Middle East. With that actuality in mind, policy-makers in Washington have sought – and with great success – to forge relations between the Jewish state and America’s Gulf allies, with the rationale being that enhancing Israeli influence and power will augment American predominance in the region. For some years now, informal ties have existed between Israel and countries on the Arabian Peninsula. But in recent times, some of those ties have been made formal.
The year 2020 witnessed the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Gulf states of UAE and Bahrain, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia expected to follow suit by also formalising their present informal relations with the Jewish state. Thus, in the last 40 years or so, America has orchestrated the inception of diplomatic relations between Israel and numerous Arab countries which are in Washington’s orbit, beginning, most notably, with Egypt and Jordan, and now certain Gulf states.
Washington’s alignment of its Israeli and Arab allies in the Middle East has been an audacious accomplishment, demonstrating the magnitude of American sway in the region, which encompasses, as it does in many other parts of the world, both hard and soft power.
With Israel having grown even further in its overall stature, as a result of the formalisation of relations between itself and UAE and Bahrain, which other Gulf states, in particular Saudi Arabia, will replicate in the near future, American hegemony in the Middle East has grown exponentially. That development will also place considerable limits on Russia and Iran’s quests to increase their own influence and power in West Asia.
The American Empire is like no other before it. Washington’s economic and cultural stranglehold over most of the world, from the end of the Second World War to the present-day, is unprecedented in modern history and in ancient history, too.
Whilst the American Empire, like all others before it, has incurred both defeats and setbacks, most recently in Syria and in Venezuela, it is Washington’s capacity to compensate more than adequately for these which demonstrates that Pax Americana is all around us, whether we are conscious of this or not; an overt and, simultaneously, insidious phenomenon that will, more than likely, outlive the reader of this essay, together with his or her children and grandchildren.
That is not to say, however, that the American Empire is a permanent force. After all, history teaches us that all is impermanent and that all empires will eventually meet their demise. Currently, America is faced with a Russia that is again a superpower, a China that is striving to become the largest economy in the world at Washington’s expense, and increasing social divisions at home, exacerbated by neo-liberal movements such as the black supremacist, lawlessness-supporting, religion and culture-hating, and debauchery-championing Black Lives Matter.
Perhaps the end of the American Empire will come about, in the distant future, through America imploding.
But what is indisputable is that the American Empire, which is today approaching 80 years of existence, is a unique empire and the most powerful of all empires that man has known. Suffice to say, wherever you find McDonalds or Coca-Cola, the hand of America is present. To underestimate Pax Americana is a failure to fathom what surrounds us in our day-to-day lives, wherever we may be in the world.
Dr Marcus Papadopoulos
Historian, analyst and author