We are witnessing the demise of the “superpowers”.
Calm down Marvel comic fanatics, I’m not channeling the ornery US director Martin Scorsese and his churlish dismissal of the popular film franchise that dominates the box office as “not cinema” – although, I agree, it is anti-art junk.
I am, instead, alluding to the, by now, obsolete term that has been a stubborn fixture of the geopolitical nomenclature – particularly in the military context – since perhaps the end of World War II.
By “superpowers”, I mean, of course, the “major” powers who were transformed into “super” powers by virtue of building a vast arsenal of redundant nuclear weapons in addition to amassing a huge cache of conventional arms.
Here is a little list of the fleeting superpowers in order, arguably, of their “superpower” status: The United States, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The quartet’s combined military spending in 2020 was more than $2.3 trillion, with America accounting for $1.93 trillion of that halting amount of money.
Let’s set aside China for the moment to consider the following question: from the outset of the 21st century, what do the US, British and Russian “superpowers” have in common militarily?
That’s right. In spite of widespread and boisterous opposition in the streets by millions of concerned, non-think-tank citizens and more demure diplomats at the United Nations – including, at times, from the US, the UK and Russia – the axis of stupid invaded Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine for familiar made-up reasons.
After being warned repeatedly that their so-called “liberations” would turn into self-inflicted quagmires, cocksure US, British and Russian leaders had their imposing cavalries charge ahead with the blessing and encouragement of much of the complicit domestic press.
Well, the “superpowers” and their high-profile gallery of chastised cheerleaders in pinstripes have failed. The US and the UK were not only defeated by patient and potent insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but were also forced to pack up their formidable “superpower” hardware and head home – beaten, humbled, and sullied.
The ex-second-tier KGB agent and failed student of history, Vladimir Putin, ought to have understood – given the folly of George Bush Jr and Tony Blair – that what you think will happen when a “superpower” invades, by comparison, a minnow nation and what actually happens bear scant resemblance to one another.
Being a “superpower” is not a guarantee of victory.
Putin didn’t need to watch Bush’s and Blair’s imperialist designs self-destruct to understand that “superpower” invasions often don’t succeed.
All he had to remember was the disastrous nine-year-long misadventure started by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in December 1979 to prop up a decrepit communist regime in Kabul in the determined face of indigenous guerillas.
Somehow, Putin forgot or dismissed that instructive blunder which resulted in a vanishing superpower’s retreat and disgrace. What’s even more perplexing is that rather than rejecting his predecessor’s ruinous hubris, the Russian president embraced it by…
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