Despite its military power the global dominance of the US is in decline. Afghanistan and Iraq are cases in point, says Wallerstein. As grand invasions with boots on the ground are politically not feasible anymore, the US military is constraint to only dropping bombs. This produces ever more people in the world seeing the only superpower as an enemy. At the same time, US allies are more and more reluctant to send troops for US interests. Hence the biggest military machinery in the world is useless to the United States. The US is trying to strengthen its position with investment and free trade agreements like TTIP and TPP, but according to Wallerstein these agreements surely will fail because of massive resistance in the US as well as in Europe.
Immanuel Wallerstein, senior research scholar at Yale University, USA. Co-founder of the world-systems analysis. From 1994-1998 president of the International Sociological Association. Author of numerous books, including "The Modern World-System".
Scheidler: You have also written extensively about the decline of US hegemony in the world. However, the USA is still controlling the world seas, they have military bases all over the place, they have intelligence which is pervasive, so: Why do you think that the US hegemony is on the decline and what is coming after that? A truly multi-polar world or a Chinese century?
Wallerstein: The USA has by far the most impressive military structure in the world today. Nobody could declare war on the United States with the faintest hope that they could win. But that’s irrelevant, because the United States can’t use that military. That’s what it has discovered in Irak, in Afghanistan, and this is what is terrifying Obama about getting so-called troops on the ground. We can’t use the forces and therefore people don’t have to take account of it, that’s it. It’s the strongest military in the world, but it is an irrelevant factor in the real world. All we can do is bomb. OK, that’s pretty good except that it antagonizes people all over the place, makes the situation even worse, and then you have to bomb some more, and you have to get somebody else to send troops on the ground. Now, other people are asked to please send the troops the USA cannot send, and they say: Why should we? We will get into the same kind of trouble that you are in. So, today the US has a strong military, but it doesn’t have a strong military, because back home nobody wants to send troops on the ground. They don’t want American troops on the ground surely – that would get any President in the States in enormous trouble, which they know. People want you to bomb for them, but then they want to complain about the fact that you have bombed for them and being angry at you for that reason. It is a hopeless situation for the United States. The United States has no really effective choices: It is powerful, but it is powerless, at the same time and its people don’t want to see the powerlessness of the United States, which is increasing, not decreasing.
Scheidler: Which role does trade play in that respect? There are a lot of new big trade deals on their way – the TTIP between the European Union and the USA, TPP with the Pacific states. Is that an attempt to restore …?
Wallerstein: Well, it is an attempt to get a certain privileged position for US enterprises, but these trade deals are not going to go through, let me predict it here and now, the US would like to have those trade deals and there are certain partners which are interested also in having it, but there is so much opposition to the trade deals, that the trade deals are not going to go through, neither the Pacific ones, nor the Atlantic ones. So, the US is trying, but is not going to succeed. Two or three years from now you will come back and we will see that they have given up. After all, if you look at the trade deals they were trying to settle in 1996 – international property at Seattle where it was scuttled. Ever since then, they have been trying to revive that and no revival has ever occurred or ever will occur. The World Trade Organisation for example is now an absolute irrelevant institution. It is there on paper, but it doesn’t do anything, it can’t do anything.