The Global Order of Power

Money, Position & Might.

SUMMARY: Last week we reviewed the global order of money. Today we examine money’s sister, power. It’s an American-centric journey spanning 75 years, from the Cold War through the War on Terror. We start with a deep dive into the five years following the Second World War and highlight the men who crafted the policies that would determine the fate of the world. We dissect how these policies changed over the years to suit a narrative that ensured the continued growth of the military industrial complex and show how this outdated and ossified thinking might ultimately bring U.S. domination to an end.


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“In republics there is more vitality, greater hatred, and more desire for vengeance, which will never permit them to allow the memory of their former liberty to rest; so that the safest way is to destroy them or to reside there… injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.” - Niccolò Machiavelli

The term “Machiavellian” is one of those throwaway terms people use to describe rulers, or nations that do bad things in the world to subjugate others. It’s named for Niccolò Machiavelli who wrote The Prince for the heir of the Medici family in Florence as a guide to conquering nations and ruling over subjects. The ends justify the means, or so the story goes. 

Many of the figures we’ll speak about today seemed to have taken this advice to heart, though in a twist of historical irony, no one in Machiavelli’s time did. There’s no evidence that Giuliano de' Medici nor his son Lorenzo, to whom it was purportedly dedicated, ever even read it. While he’s held up as some sort of Rasputin-like figure whispering into the ears of would-be despots, Machiavelli himself was really just a guy looking for a job

In fact, old Niccolò, who fancied himself an accomplished writer, was considered in his time to be rather pedestrian and he essentially wrote this as a way to work back into the good graces of the ruling class having been fired a handful of times from his positions and even tortured brutally by the Medicis who were testing his loyalty. Oh, and the phrase, “the end justifies the means?” Not his. But details like this often get lost to history as do the men who make it. 

How we interpret, or misinterpret history matters. The things we hold dear to - policies, narratives, ideologies - are often flawed but gain acceptance and therefore validity over time. Just as in the case of Machiavelli. 

So today, as a companion piece to last week’s episode on the global order of money, we’re tackling the global order of power. But before we get there, where we left off is an important bridge to this discussion. Recall the words of Margaret MacMillan from The War That Ended Peace

“Before 1914, Europe for all its problems had hope that the world was becoming a better place and that human civilization was advancing. After 1918 that faith was no longer possible.”

Economic interdependence gave the rulers of the world assurance that we were entering an era of prolonged peace through prosperity. Independent nations might war with one another but not interdependent trade partners. Business and the monied class would never allow it. But as the United States would demonstrate from World War II on, sometimes the monied class is aligned with the political class in the pursuit of power and domination and will invent reasons to weaponize policy and ideology against foes, real or imagined, without considering the collateral damage. Then again, if you’re in this class, the past 75 years have been nothing short of incredible. 

In Like a Lion

Similar to last week, we’re going to look at global power mostly from the perspective of the United States. Apart from admitting our ethnocentric bias, there’s a practical reason for this as the power dynamics over the past 75 years have very much been dictated by the United States.

Just 13 months after the historic Bretton Woods conference where the world’s leading economists gathered to plan out the new global economic order to achieve peace, the United States followed up with a violent exclamation point that changed everything. On August 6, 1945 we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. As if this wasn’t inexplicable and horrifying enough, three days later… three fucking days... We did it again, and dropped a bomb on Nagasaki because they didn’t surrender after the first one. 

There wasn’t a soul on earth by this time that thought Japan had a chance to win the war at this point. And instead of demonstrating it somewhere remote but for the world to see, we decided to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people not once, but twice. Even though the atomic age is now three-quarters-of-a-century old, this remains the only time nuclear weapons were used in warfare. We’re it. The only ones who ever did it. 

Hiroshima was a statement. A genocidal and final statement that we had taken over the world. Nagasaki was evidence that we were fully psychopathic. Further evidence of our psychopathic tendencies was the belief among our power elites that nuclear bombs were less catastrophic than conventional war because even though hundreds of thousands perished in an instant and hundreds of thousands more died from nuclear fallout shortly thereafter, they were able to get the trains up and running within a matter of weeks. 

Five Years

So let’s bring in some of our heroes and antiheroes of the time. Even though this is an essay about the global power landscape as it’s currently conceived, we’re going to follow our typical UNFTR path to find out where it started and who was responsible. So we’re actually going to spend most of this examining the years between 1945 at the conclusion of the war to around 1950. Five years that would determine the next seventy. 

The year was 1944. The brightest lights hashed out a new economic order that would theoretically ensure global peace through fairness and prosperity. But there were other figures in the power structure of the United States that were enthralled at the possibility of global domination on the one hand and the threat of losing it to the Soviets on the other. One of these was John Foster Dulles. 

It’s hard to imagine now what a giant Dulles was during this period. An attorney by trade who was part of a powerful and connected family, Dulles was a religious zealot and power broker to the world who excused the actions of Adolf Hitler, promoted an America-first doctrine and warned against communism with a fervor that would inspire the likes of Joseph McCarthy. On the flip side of the personality coin was his younger brother Allen, a brilliant but philandering scoundrel of a man who also leveraged his family’s connections to cozy up to the powerful elites. Both men were enamored with uber racist, white nationalist Woodrow Wilson, whom they considered a personal hero. 

John Foster Dulles would eventually become Secretary of State under Eisenhower and Allen Dulles would help found, then run, what would become the Central Intelligence Agency. Together they would help craft U.S. foreign policy arguably to this day. 

In his book, The Brothers, author Stephen Kinzer remarks, 

“Only long after the Dulles brothers died did the full consequences of their actions become clear. They may have believed that the countries in which they intervened would quickly become stable, prosperous, and free. More often, the opposite happened. Some of the countries they targeted have never recovered. Nor has the world.”

We’ll dig into the organizations they founded and the world view they sold in Washington, but to get an understanding of what Foster Dulles, in particular, believed was his calling, here he is in his own words:

“In the tenth century after Christ the so-called Christian world was challenged by an alien faith. The tide of Islam flowed from Arabia and swept over much of Christendom. Now another ten centuries have rolled by and the accumulated civilization of these centuries is faced with another challenge. This time the challenge is Soviet Communism.”

Dulles and virtually everyone else that rose through the ranks in the immediate post world war and beginning of the Cold War would approach the world with similar zeal. Prompting the great Walter Lippmann to quip,  “Americans must stop beating our heads against stone walls under the illusion that we have been appointed policeman to the human race.” Lippmann was prescient but his sentiment was ignored and continues to be so to this day. 

After the war, President Truman was anxious to govern and build upon the domestic success of his larger-than-life predecessor. But in the background, powerful military and business interests were keen to exert influence over the administration. This tension would divide us into two camps: Those committed to peace through diplomatic and economic cooperation and those committed to peace through leverage of force. It’s important to make this distinction. There’s a temptation to vilify the hawks and praise the doves, but that lacks nuance and context.  

For all the acclaim Bretton Woods received with the formation of the World Bank and the IMF poised to lead the world into trade and out of desperation, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would capture everyone’s attention. Over the next five years, competing economic and military interests were forming, some in public and others in private. 

The United Nations was formally organized in 1945, ostensibly to create a new governing body for the world that would determine the rules of engagement going forward. With the hot hand coming out of the war, the United States played an outsized role in governance and voting authority that continues to this day. 

While the Bretton economists continued their work, resulting in the GATT in 1947, there were other economic minds, most notably Friedrich Hayek, who didn’t necessarily buy into the Keynesian world view and thus established the Mont Pelerin society, which we discussed at length in our F*ck Milton Friedman episode. 

The Dulles Brothers were busy behind the scenes agitating for a more aggressive stance toward the Russians who were quickly consolidating power throughout Eastern Europe and shutting down access to their power structure. Allen Dulles, who had spent the war years in a secret agency called the COI (later called the OSS), which practiced spy craft with very questionable results, was at first sidelined by Truman who had little interest in building a secret agency in the United States. But Dulles and his colleagues met frequently to find a way back into service. Because intelligence gathering never stopped, Truman eventually revitalized the OSS and created the CIA in 1947 to gather intelligence to be given only and directly to the President of the United States. 

It wasn’t yet the juggernaut we would come to know, but it wouldn’t take long to get there. 

In 1949, with the Russians gaining more and more power on the world stage and becoming ever more secretive, the United States and Europe entered a pact called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the purpose of, in its words, “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.” At the same time, the intelligence community returned news that secret air quality tests determined the Soviets had successfully detonated their own nuclear weapon. 

Internally the hawks and the doves in the Truman administration battled one another over policy, but by 1950 it was all but over. The hawks would prevail when the Soviet-backed army of North Korea invaded South Korea and placed Truman in an awkward position. We had won the big war. Announced to the world that we would lead it through the next half century and beyond. And there on the other side of the world, the Russians were perceived to be thumbing their noses at us by advancing the cause of communism. An offense too great for even the domestic-minded Truman. 

And that’s not to say there weren’t real threats on the horizon presented by the Soviets. Stalin was ruthless and deadly and had made it known that Lenin had not gone far enough, hadn’t done the hard stuff. The western world wouldn’t understand the scope of devastation Stalin wrought for many years, with estimates now being that he murdered between six and nine million people during his rule. But we were plugged in enough to know that he was ruthless and dangerous. 

The idea that the communists would meddle in world affairs and spread a doctrine that people like Foster Dulles believed to be more destructive to Christianity than Islam - that this was a once in a thousand year threat to the western powers and our version of one nation under Christ - bounced around Washington like a pinball. A pinball that would eventually cause the machine to tilt.


So this is an amazing period when you think about the competing ideals and the people behind them. On the one side you have the Keynesian and Kennan wings of the nation trying to force peace through economic stability and diplomacy. On the other end you have figures like Paul Nitze and the Dulles Brothers and Friedrich Hayek building a case for what would ultimately become the neoliberal model of the world. Fuck ‘em. Take it all. Consume and subjugate. Benevolent dictatorship through the auspices of spreading democracy. 

Bretton Woods, the United Nations, NATO, IMF, GATT (which would become the WTO), the World Bank, Mont Pelerin Society, the fucking CIA. None of these things existed before World War II. 

Hindsight gives us the ability to look at the havoc and destruction ultimately wrought by policy and legislation that unleashed the might, covert or otherwise, of the United States. But considering most of the policy makers of the time had seen two world wars, the Great Depression and military depravity under both Hitler and Stalin that would shatter anyone’s faith in humanity, it’s understandable why we were a bit gun shy. 

Add to the mix the horrifying capabilities of nuclear weapons and it’s doubtful that anyone, even today, would have done anything differently. And as difficult as it is to say this, I’m pretty confident that I would have been right there with them at the time. 

What gave life to American policy from 1950 forward was a policy decree titled NSC-68 that would guide Cold War policy in America for decades, even after Henry Kissinger made the bizarre move to declassify the documents in 1975 giving the world a paper trail glimpse at our policy of containment, disruption and espionage. Among other things, it empowered the CIA to engage in “propaganda, economic warfare, preventative direct action including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures and subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups.” That will obviously be important as we get into the Reagan years. 

NSC-68 was essentially a policy cooked up by the resident hawks in the Truman administration with the Dulles Brothers lurking and playing a role along with Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson who were really the chief architects of the policy, though Acheson would act as a more dovish counterweight to Nitze during these years. 

Together, they would sell a wary President Truman that a zero tolerance policy toward the Soviet Union based upon an idea called the “Correlation of Forces,” was necessary to protect against Soviet aggression. Correlation of Forces essentially meaning that we needed to match strength at all times and correlate our aggression accordingly. You move a chess piece, we move a chess piece. Remember that these were men whose ideals were forged during World War II and believed in their souls that if you give a fascist an inch, like they did with Hitler, then he’ll take a mile. 

As George Kennan wrote, 

“Somehow or other, the North Korean attack came soon to appear to a great many people in Washington as merely the first move in some ‘grand design’ as the phrase went, on the part of the Soviet leaders to extend their power to other parts of the world through the use of force. The unexpectedness of this attack - the fact that we had no forewarning of it - only stimulated the already existent preference of the military planners for drawing their conclusions only from the assessed capabilities of the adversary, dismissing his intentions, which could be safely assumed to be hostile. All this tended to heighten the militarization of thinking about the Cold War in general, and to press us into attitudes where any discriminate estimate of Soviet intentions was unwelcome and unacceptable.” 

At this point Truman did adopt all of the policy recommendations of NSC-68, which was referred to by historian Gaddis Smith as “the most famous unread paper of its era.” NSC-68 would truly set the policy agenda for the build up of the United States military alongside a series of intelligence agencies, in particular the CIA. From this point forward, a stalemate was acceptable, American progress was preferred, but Soviet encroachment was unacceptable. The goal in Washington was now, at a minimum, to deter and contain. 

With John Foster Dulles fomenting discord with evangelical fervor and Allen Dulles jockeying to get back in the secret agent business and get off the sidelines, the stage was set for a new Cold War mentality that swept through Washington and was poised to go into action upon the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower who chose Foster Dulles as his Secretary of State. The brothers would reign supreme with one crafting policy and the other carrying out covert missions to overthrow governments from the Middle East to Latin America. 

Our Ossified Playbook

“The military power must be destroyed, that is, reduced to such a state as not to be able to prosecute the War…the country must be conquered, for out of the country a new military force may be formed. But even when both these things are done, still the War, that is, the hostile feeling and action of the hostile agencies, cannot be considered as at an end as long as the will of the enemy is not subdued also.”  -Carl von Clausewitz

The five year stretch between the conclusion of the war and 1950 would reverberate through subsequent decades and administrations like no other. Even Eisenhower, who had seen firsthand the devastation that man was capable of and who upon exiting office warned us against the very institution that shaped him, would be responsible for the build up of our nuclear program. A fact he hid, then denied, then was eventually embarrassed by as the Soviets got hold of our intelligence. 

Serial Unf*ckers and Subf*ckers have come along for much of this ride with us so far so again, I’ll encapsulate as much as I can. 

In our neoliberal and free market episodes we tracked the gathering influence of the Chicago School economists who helped moralize and justify U.S. interventions under the guise of free market expansionism. In our Violent States of America episode we covered how in addition to the wars we admit to, meaning actually refer to as wars - Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq - we have also bombed or invaded Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Syria, Grenada, Haiti, Cuba, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran, Guatemala, Bolivia, Venezuela, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Indonesia and Yemen. 

Contrast this activity with our primary current nemesis, or so we’re being told, China. 

In the same period, China has had border disputes with Russia, taken aggressive actions against Tibet, was involved in the conflicts in Vietnam, Korea and Cambodia in support roles and had brief clashes with India in 1962 and 1967. Much of the focus these days is on their treatment of their own citizens, particularly marginalized groups, but we’re talking about foreign interventions and aggression. When you compare our resumes, there’s hardly a comparison. 

Since the onset of the Cold War the United States has litigated conflict in a few different ways. Economic warfare through sanctions, actual boots on the ground deployments, backing insurgencies, covert operations and assassinations, air strikes, drone strikes and sometimes all of the above. Of course, the “common defense of the nation” is the supposition of war contemplated in our Constitution, but there have been almost no cases since Pearl Harbor that specifically threaten the homeland. This is, quite clearly, from nation state to nation state, as 9/11 changed the equation dramatically. 

But in terms of clear and present danger to the homeland, outside of Cold War saber-rattling and positioning, there have been precious few instances when we had to marshal resources to potentially guard against invasion. For policy makers, this obviously presented a problem. Moving from defense to deterrence and containment was an enormous policy shift that can’t be overstated and it’s one that continues to infect our politics. 

The pretext for war from 1950 forward has fallen broadly into three categories. The Cold War, containing the spread of communism and nuclear proliferation; The War on Drugs, battling against nations that grow and supply the drug trade and thereby threaten the health and welfare of our people; and the War on Terror, which unleashed the full authority of the military to pursue perceived threats anywhere, anytime. 

Give me a reason. I dare you. 

The ‘60s and ‘70s in America saw continued tension between the Depression era generation that witnessed the second great war and the ascension of communism and the younger generation more focused on civil liberties, domestic policies and issues of class and race. Our military held onto the vestiges of what worked in World War II but through an entirely new framework of interventions in parts of the world we simply didn’t appreciate. 

Korea and Vietnam challenged our confidence as the political and military class came to realize that new thinking would be required to litigate conflicts and press our theory of containment. The bottom line is that on the heels of helping to liberate Europe and stand tall as the good guy in the world, we lost back-to-back conflicts that very few people understood. 

What’s interesting about the Cold War period and even beyond is how administrations would come in with different policy agendas but typically land in the same spot when it came to our role as the world’s policeman, as Lippmann noted. Democrats typically ride in on a wave of domestic policy and big social contract ideas like LBJ’s Great Society, Carter’s environmentalism, Clinton’s “it’s the economy stupid,” etc. Then Republicans come rushing back with “wait, we’re all fucked because drugs, communists, terrorists, immigrants.” Democrats peddle hope, Republicans peddle fear. But once in power, they’re handed the keys to the Oval Office, given a rubber stamp by some general and probably shown around Area 51.

No matter the domestic agenda, our military belief system remains the same and, in fact, continues to ossify. Clean the environment, bomb the Middle East. No child left behind, fund a guerrilla campaign. There’s no tension among our leaders when it comes to depravity abroad, just a question of national mood and how much tolerance we have to hear about the shit we do. 

Starting in the Nixon years, we started to blend our policy rationales and experiment with tactics. Communists now included socialists. So Latin America became a target. Economic sanctions and weaponizing trade became a useful tool in the arsenal. Hayek and Friedman moved through the ranks to bury Keynesian theory and people like David Rockefeller picked up the secretive mantle from Foster Dulles to form the Trilateral Commission in 1973, a favorite bogeyman group of conspiracy theorists. The commission would gather politicians, business leaders and economists from Europe and America and create policies, informally, that miraculously wound up in think tanks and eventually Congress. 

Beyond this type of shadow diplomacy and policy intervention there were real world interventions conducted by the CIA. This was Nixon’s proving ground and the young bucks from this era would grow up to lead the Reagan and Bush Senior administrations. Gradually the narrative would shift from Cold War to drugs as the CIA let loose a torrent of disturbing initiatives from funding guerrilla operations and coups to funding and establishing the drug trade in South and Central America. I know it’s gauche to quote oneself, but here’s an excerpt from our Mass Incarceration essay: 

“Research the work of journalist Gary Webb, most notably his piece Dark Alliance, written for the San Jose Mercury News. His work was the first to really connect the dots of covert CIA activity to fund the Contras and essentially clear the way to move narcotics across the border in an elaborate chain of cash, mercenaries, drugs and weapons.So despite the downward trend of violent crime and no evidence yet of a rampant drug problem, the Reagan administration increased anti-drug funding for the FBI, Department of Defense and the Drug Enforcement Administration tenfold between 1980 and 1984; almost the exact size of the funding decrease to federal drug treatment, rehabilitation and education programs. Cocaine funneled from Central America hit the streets in 1985 in the form of crack and was deemed an epidemic by the media by 1986. By the end of 1986 the country had already adopted mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for drug-related felonies.”

During the Clinton years the tension between our old world interventionist policy and desire to withdraw from conflict to focus on domestic agendas came fully into picture with what we did, what we didn’t do and what we did again. 

Bill Clinton rode in on a wave of war weariness from Desert Storm and a public that had grown tired of Republican policies that seemingly favored the rich. This was Hope and Change part one. But Clinton would inherit a messy situation from Bush Senior in Somalia which ended with the death of U.S. soldiers immortalized in the movie Black Hawk Down. Clinton withdrew our troops immediately as our presence there as a peacekeeping force was wholly unclear. But on the heels of this came another crisis on the African continent that would come to define the Clinton foreign policy not for what it did but what it didn’t do. 

Over a period of 100 days in Rwanda, members of the ethnic Hutus slaughtered 800,000 members of the Tutsi minority. The whole world watched in horror as the United States sat on its hands. More than the sex scandals that plagued the Clinton presidency, this period of non-action characterizes the heart of U.S. policy. With no strategic interest in Rwanda, our silence made it perfectly clear to the world what we valued and what we did not. 

Determined not to fail on such a humanitarian level again, Clinton intervened shortly thereafter in the crisis in Bosnia in 1995. According to a Brookings analysis, the driver to finally intervene was, “at the policy level, the day-to-day crisis management approach that had characterized the Clinton administration’s Bosnia strategy had lost virtually all credibility.”

Ultimately, these years were extremely uncomfortable for the military industrial complex. The Cold War was over, the drug war was in full swing but had taken a hard turn inward with the passage of the Crime Bill that directed resources internally to build the case for mass incarceration and hyper militarization of domestic law enforcement. With no clear designs on the world order and a shit ton of firepower, the hawks who found themselves unexpectedly on the sidelines when Clinton was elected, got to work building a plan that would carry us into the next century. Like the Dulles brothers and other Cold War hawks that spent time dreaming of the new world order, neocons like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz busied themselves in the shadows only they had the hubris to put it in writing. 

Pax Americana 

The members of the Project for a New American Century formed the non profit advocacy group in 1997. Many were reared in the Nixon years, came of age under Reagan and Bush Senior and were ready for their spotlight when some hillbilly from Arkansas took the election. Stunned by this disruption, they created a policy document called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” Here’s a summary from 

“The Project for the New American Century seeks to establish what they call 'Pax Americana' across the globe. Essentially, their goal is to transform America, the sole remaining superpower, into a planetary empire by force of arms. A report released by PNAC in September of 2000 entitled 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' codifies this plan, which requires a massive increase in defense spending and the fighting of several major theater wars in order to establish American dominance. The first has been achieved in Bush's new budget plan, which calls for the exact dollar amount to be spent on defense that was requested by PNAC in 2000. Arrangements are underway for the fighting of the wars.”

These days PNAC is mainly the obsession of 9/11 conspiracists, as we’ve covered before. This is primarily because of a single phrase that essentially says that absent a catalyzing event to shift the mindset of Americans, it will be difficult to pull off the militarization recommendations contained within the document. 

What’s lost in this narrative is the doctrine itself as nearly everyone in this organization would eventually join the Bush administration. Regardless of what happened on that terrible day or our motivations for invading Iraq and Afghanistan, this policy document became gospel and America began operating under what is known as the Bush Doctrine which basically says that if you so much as fart in our direction, we’re going to end you and take your soul. 

Iraq was an obsession among the PNAC members long before 9/11. And as Clausewitz said, to do this right, the military must be crushed and the country conquered. All we needed was a reason to invade. 

So we fucking made it up. Just invented WMDs and overthrew a nation. Just like that. Forget clandestine shit, covert ops, funding guerrillas. We threw out every playbook and just fucking lied our way into war. 

That’s us. That’s who we are. It’s who we’ve been since the Dulles brothers were steering the ship only we no longer give a shit about optics. Which brings us to today, Unf*ckers and Subf*ckers, and the new global order. 

The World Today

“A beast commits violence against specific things for immediate and visible purposes. It needs to eat. It needs a mate. It needs to defend its life. Man has these biological needs plus many more which are culturally created. Man will do violence not only against a specific something which gets in the way of one of his needs; he will do violence against a symbol which stands for, or which he believes stands for, that which prevents him from satisfying his needs.” -Howard Zinn, The Nation: 1962

In a few recent episodes I talked about how we’re all dressed up with no one to bomb since our withdrawal from Afghanistan. And the point we’ve really been drilling is why the fuck our military budget remains not just unmoved, but scheduled to increase annually over the next decade. We teased the concept of realigning those dollars and resources into building a climate industrial complex and turning net zero into a global competition. 

We proved the concept that non-inflationary deficit spending is the same whether it’s on war or healthcare, paid leave or education. And yet, here we are. Armed to the teeth. With no policy doctrine. No imminent threat. And no discernible vision emanating from the White House. For the first time in 75 years, it’s almost like we’re standing still while everyone else around us is moving forward. 

Our old framework for carving up the world is very much intact, mind you. Here’s an excerpt from All Hell Breaking Loose, the book we covered in our climate episode, that breaks it down.

“The Department of Defense has divided the world into a mosaic of six massive regions and established a ‘geographic combatant command’ for each one: the Pacific Command, Central Command, Africa Command, European Command, Northern Command, and Southern Command.” (PAC was renamed IndoPacific Command in 2018.) By law, all American military forces deployed within any one of those territories…Fall under the authority of the senior geographic combatant commander…This officer is responsible for assessing the security environment in his or her AOR and taking steps to overcome any vulnerabilities identified thereby, whether from conventional military threats or unconventional perils, such as those posed by economic turbulence, severe drought, and population shifts.” 

We’re still carving up the world in the same old way. Remember that the AP reports that we have over 800 bases in the world and 2,500 troops in Turkey, 800 in Syria, 3,000 in Jordan, 13,000 in Kuwait, 5,000 in the United Arab Emirates, 10,000 in Qatar, 7,000 in Bahrain and 3,000 in Saudi Arabia. And our alliances, even the ones that Trump was threatening to implode, still remain. 

Of course there’s NATO. And the North American Aerospace Defense Command between the U.S. and Canada - otherwise known as NORAD, the agency most known for tracking Santa Claus. 

There’s the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership, The United Nations, of course. And ANZUS between the United States, New Zealand and Australia. Sorry, just have to check my notes again to see if I missed any… Oh, yup. Just a couple. Let’s see. 


  • The African Union

  • Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa

  • Axis of Resistance in Asia

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

  • Anglo-Portuguese Alliance

  • Franco-German Brigade

  • Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU

  • BALTRON: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Naval Pact

  • ANZAC between Australia and New Zealand

  • Union of South American Nations

  • South American Defense Council

  • Islamic Military Alliance

  • Arab League

  • South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone

  • Organization of American States

  • Rio Pact

  • Collective Security Treaty Organization with 6 former Soviet Republics

  • Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship between China and Russia

  • Moroccan American Treaty of Friendship

  • Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. and Philippines

  • Taiwan Relations Act between U.S. and Taiwan to protect against China 

  • The Five Power Defence Arrangements between U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

  • …and the International Maritime Security Construct dedicated to the Persian Gulf


And welcoming, our latest “Step On Your Own Dick” moment, AUKUS, where we fucked France by selling nuclear subs to Australia and insisting they join a pact with us to defend against China, the country that hasn’t invaded anyone since the ‘60s no matter how much we try to paint that picture. 

In terms of how we view the world beyond just these alliances, we’re kind of a shitty friend and ugly foe. Depending upon your relative value, we’ll treat you well or watch out. We have three primary buckets of friends and foes that can put you on the radar. You’re either of Strategic importance, resources, geography, labor; Economic importance, trade, labor, debt markets; or Military. 

Strategic. In the strategic bucket we have countries like Cuba, Israel, Taiwan, the nations surrounding the Strait of Hormuz - Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia - and labor and resource rich countries like Korea, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Taiwan and China. 

Economic. Of economic importance to us are the big guys for the most part. Canada, Britain, Russia, China, Australia, Germany, Japan, France, Brazil, Switzerland. 

Military. And our military interests revolve pretty much around Israel, Britain, France, Russia, Australia, China and our proxies and surrogates like Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea. 

Other than that, we really, honestly don’t give a flying fuck about you. But as evidenced by the incredible list of military alliances we just listed, the rest of the world isn’t holding its breath anymore and waiting for us to invite them to the dance. They’re moving forward and moving on. Like we talked about last week, the fact that the TPP didn’t die but might be picked up by China - the very country we were trying to deny - shows you how far off the ball we’ve taken our eye. 

Second Place

We’re still living within a framework largely designed in the five years post World War II. Defenders of these world order systems consider it a success. We have the biggest economy. The biggest military. No one is coming to invade the U.S. We do what we want, when we want, where we want. It’s a compelling argument and the reason behind this institutional recalcitrance on the part of the ruling elite.

So we’re in a weird spot, Unf*ckers. Trump ruined any diplomatic legitimacy we had on the world stage and the Commander in Sleep ain’t the one to put that genie back in the bottle. Instead of paving the way for new multilateral agreements that include China while they’re still in second place and we have a little leverage to get them to keep opening up, we’re playing war games in the South China Sea. Rick Wolff recently equated this to the Chinese running submarine drills in the Long Island Sound. We look like idiots.

Our trade agreements, the way we carve up the world into different commands with military bases spread across the globe, our incapacity to sacrifice one fucking dollar of the largest military budget ever to support education and social welfare policies at home. These are all signs of either madness or stupidity. Maybe both. I don’t know. But I know this. All of those cable channels and broadcast news channels aren’t asking the right questions. (Check out how a real journalist asks questions.

This brings me back to the same conclusion as our Global Order of Money episode. 

When David Rockefeller established the Trilateral Commission, Russia was very much at the forefront of their discussions. But Rockefeller had deep ties in China and knew Chairman Deng personally. And he was very clear with Rockefeller as he was to the world that the 20th Century would be a period of great change and upheaval in his nation. But that the 21st would belong to China. 

And it’s happening. It’s inevitable. But that’s not what upsets me and makes me nervous.

We will not go quietly into second place. 

What makes me nervous is our anger and our potential. Our capability and our might. That we don’t have someone strong enough and captivating enough to inspire a domestic agenda that would heal the divide in this nation and distract us from doing terrible things abroad. We’re running the same playbooks that were crafted in the Cold War, molded by the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. We have the same mentality, the same fucking people in charge but they were placed there by corporations. 

We will not go quietly into second place. 

There’s too much money, hubris and pride riding on us being first. Look how we’ve sacrificed the health and welfare of our own people and how many people we’ve murdered abroad in pursuit of economic dominance. 

We will not go quietly into second place. 

Even if it means we take the Earth down with us. Remember from our Climate episode that the Pentagon has been modeling climate change since the 1990s. Apart from some coastal parts of the U.S., there is consensus that we’re going to fare better than all other nations when we pass the point of no return. China has access to all the same material. Why do you think they’re walking in behind us in the Middle East and Africa? Why do you think they’re negotiating new agreements in our absence? 

They know what’s coming and have been planning since the Third Plenary Session of the CCP in 1978. And that’s all well and good. There’s no shame in second place. They have the size and population. It probably makes more sense. The only problem is… 

We will not go quietly into second place. 

And that terrifies the shit out of me. 

Keep an eye on Tony Blinken. Follow the money. Update the playbook. 

Here endeth the lesson.


The New Yorker: The Florentine

SourceWatch: Pax Americana

Brookings: Decision to Intervene: How the War in Bosnia Ended

Book Love

Stephen Kinzer: The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

Carl Von Clausewitz: On War

Nicholas Thompson: The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War

Howard Zinn: Howard Zinn on War

Curt Cardwell: Nsc 68 and the Political Economy of the Early Cold War

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