Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Leviathan Super Cycle Ends; Western Leaders Pretend They Didn’t Notice

Posted by M. C. on October 19, 2022

The western Ruling Classes do not understand – that is to say, they do not want to understand – the ‘straws in the wind’, that are blowing in another direction – for example, the recent Samarkand SCO summit. Put simply: The Leviathan current has run its course; that’s it. History is moving in a different direction, and western leaders pretend not to notice.

The Ukraine war ‘bubble’ is deflating as the U.S. and Europe reach the bottom of the arms ‘inventory barrel’.

Historic shifts in world politics happen very slowly. That was not the case however, when the U.S. first stepped onto the world stage. It happened quite suddenly in 1898 – with the invasion of Cuba: Old Europe watched with palpable anxiety …The Manchester Guardian, at the time, reported that nearly every American had come to embrace this new expansionist zeitgeist. The few critics were “simply laughed at for their pains”. The Frankfurter Zeitung warned against “the disastrous consequences of their exuberance” but realized that Americans would not listen.

In 1845, an unsigned article already had given birth to the slogan ‘Manifest Destiny’ – a claim that America had a destiny to expand, and to occupy others’ lands. Sheldon Richman, in America’s Counter-Revolution, wrote that this latter vision clearly had ‘Empire on its Mind’.

This ‘Destiny’ ethos marked the turning point away from the former decentralization dynamic, and the start of the American impulse towards an imperial totalising outreach which succeeded it. (Not all, of course, were on board – the early U.S. conservative ethos was Burkean: i.e., suspicious of foreign entanglements).

Today, the picture could not be more different. Doubts and misgivings are everywhere; the drive and confidence of ‘Empire’ has faded. The U.S. apes more the exhausted Austro-Hungarian Empire of the pre-WW1 era – dragging an array of allied nations into a conflict that – at that time – turned into WW1. Now, it is western Europe that has been dragged into another European war – by default – owing to their alliance/ allegiance with Washington.

Then, as today, all states disastrously underestimated the length and severity of the conflict – and misread the nature and significance of events.

Today’s war (against Russia) is framed in the West in a childish-moral trope (which nonetheless seems to work for an anaesthetised public) – that of WWII: Every rival is another Hitler, any reflective comment, another Neville Chamberlain example of appeasement. A tyrant lusts for European land and domination, and the only question is whether the good and just can muster the resolve to defeat this evil ambition.

This simplistic meme plainly is intended to obfuscate from their electorates the significance of the underlying dynamics at work: Not only is a major political cycle in transition, but this is occurring precisely at a moment when the western hyper-financialised ‘business-model’ is cracking. Put simply: the narrative obfuscation (“we are winning”) hides risks (both political and economic) whose gravity, western leaders seem unable (or unwilling) to grasp.

The U.S. – like pre-war Austria–Hungary – is slowly falling apart. That cannot any more be fudged. Washington is haemorrhaging control over events and making strategic mistakes. A certain class in the western ruling élite however, seems stuck in a reading of history. An interpretation that sees war as restoring the health of the state: that any conflict – any us vs them, whether real or abstract (such as war on poverty, drugs, the virus, etc.) – feeds centralisation and strengthens the totalising Leviathan. Indeed, even conceptualised as an internal ‘us versus the enemy within’ war, this too is seen as consolidating the Leviathan.

This is the lesson that the élite claims it has learned from the modern state. In one sense however, this politics has become its own bubble of abstract narratives: a centralising, totalising bubble. One however, that is beginning to burst.

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