[Marxism] Tomgram: Engelhardt, The Last Empire? | TomDispatch

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
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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