[Marxism] Tomgram: Engelhardt, The Last Empire? | TomDispatch
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Wed May 8 09:45:49 MDT 2013
And Then There Was One
Imperial Gigantism and the Decline of Planet Earth
By Tom Engelhardt
It stretched from the Caspian to the Baltic Sea, from the middle of
Europe to the Kurile Islands in the Pacific, from Siberia to Central
Asia. Its nuclear arsenal held 45,000 warheads, and its military had
five million troops under arms. There had been nothing like it in
Eurasia since the Mongols conquered China, took parts of Central Asia
and the Iranian plateau, and rode into the Middle East, looting Baghdad.
Yet when the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, by far the
poorer, weaker imperial power disappeared.
And then there was one. There had never been such a moment: a single
nation astride the globe without a competitor in sight. There wasn’t
even a name for such a state (or state of mind). “Superpower” had
already been used when there were two of them. “Hyperpower” was tried
briefly but didn’t stick. “Sole superpower” stood in for a while but
didn’t satisfy. “Great Power,” once the zenith of appellations, was by
then a lesser phrase, left over from the centuries when various European
nations and Japan were expanding their empires. Some started speaking
about a “unipolar” world in which all roads led... well, to Washington.
To this day, we’ve never quite taken in that moment when Soviet imperial
rot unexpectedly -- above all, to Washington -- became imperial
crash-and-burn. Left standing, the Cold War's victor seemed, then, like
an empire of everything under the sun. It was as if humanity had always
been traveling toward this spot. It seemed like the end of the line.
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