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The NSA and the End of the U.S. Empire

In this column, Johan Galtung, rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University and author of 50 Years - 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives (, writes about the U.S. empire’s spying, and other debacles.

WASHINGTON, Nov 14 2013 - The linchpin of an empire is the link between two elites, one in the imperial centre, the others in the peripheries. Symmetric alliances exist, but not when there is a superpower at the centre.

The periphery elites do jobs for the centre: killing, say, in Libya or Syria, when they are asked to do so; securing the centre’s economic interests in return for a substantial cut; serving as a bridgehead culturally – called Americanisation; or delivering obedience in exchange for protection.

For this to work, the elites have to believe in the empire. They put words up front – like democracy, human rights, rule of law – serving as human shields. But the costs may be heavy, the benefits may be decreasing, they may have difficulties with restless students, working classes, other countries. Or worse: they may sense that the empire is not working, is heading for decline and fall, and want to get out.

And even if this is not the case the U.S. elites, the policy officials, may suspect it to be so, and spy on empire-alliance leaders. The director of the National Security Agency (NSA), General Keith Alexander, said the agency was asked by policy officials to discover the “leadership intentions” of foreign countries. “If you want to know leadership intentions, these are the issues,” he said.

Clear from the beginning – beyond “threats to privacy”, “they all do it”, “it was technically feasible”, and similar smoke screens. Spying on the intentions of enemy leaders – the “humint” to complement capabilities – is an obvious part of the state system. But on allies?

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Look at this through Angela Merkel’s eyes. She hated East Germany’s Stasi surveillance. But they were amateurs; these people are professionals. This went unnoticed for a decade, till Edward Snowden. Imagine her rage, comparing.

And imagine the non-rage over the same in Spain: beyond Francisco Franco, yes, but Rajoy’s party is the – highly corrupt – heir to the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship.

But just as there is an inner circle of self-appointed elites, there is an inner circle of allies that can presumably be trusted, the “Five Eyes”: UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – Anglo-America writ large.

Who are they? A club of countries selected on a racist-culturalist basis, white and Anglo; killers of indigenous peoples all over: of native Indians in the U.S. and in Canada to a slightly lesser extent; of Aborigines in Australia and in New Zealand a little less; on the part of the UK – all over, getting the others launched on that slippery slope of genocide and sociocide.

They know this: that the world majority is the kind of people they killed, and they feel strongly that they have to keep together, distrusting non-members. But the U.S. spies on UK Labour and Parliament, and the U.S.-UK together on the other three.

Germany wants to join the club for another 5+l, like in the case of the United Nations Security Council veto powers. Race isn’t a problem, but culture is: they are not Anglo.

We would expect more spying to identify the enemy within, the more the empire declines. In what state is the empire? Not good.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. won bases and a pipeline and nothing else, and may lose both after the 2014 withdrawal.

Iran is gaining more influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, being seen as more legitimate than Saudi-Qatar and the G7 in general, with its Islamism.

In Iraq, the U.S. won bases and access to oil and seems to be losing both. And it managed to do what Iran did not, turning Iraq into a Shia country.

In Syria, dividing the country into three, four or smaller parts does not seem to be working; at any rate the leading anti-Assad faction is Islamist Sunni.

In Egypt, the U.S. misread the situation totally, stranded in a choice between two evils they do not master.

In Libya, another misreading, not understanding how Western secular imperialism (Italy-UK-France-U.S.-Israel) had ignited an Islamist (rather than Arab) and a Berber-Tuareg (rather than Arab) awakening;

In Israel, spying on U.S. elites, tail-wags-dog politics, more U.S. anti-Semitism than ever (watch Youtube), media increasingly critical of Israel; and Israel in the agony between a Jewish state and democracy, sooner or later forced to declare its Eastern border, facing a South Africa-like scenario, and being declared a liability for Washington.

Now, how about the other force in the world, BRICS? Not bad: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was the first to speak at the United Nations General Assembly with a devastating critique of the NSA spy programme, calling for alternative internet servers.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin may have put an end to the Syrian crisis as part of a general Middle East crisis – like Mikhail Gorbachev put an end to the Cold War; not the U.S. with perennial war and threats of war – calling for an end to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, in the region.

In China, the Xinhua news agency called for general de-Americanisation and an end to the dollar as the “world reserve currency”, in particular favouring a basket of currencies rather than any single country’s currency.

But it is unlikely that the Washington politics-media conglomerate will come up with solutions to calamities that dramatic. Few regimes have.

Halvdan Koht, Norway’s foreign minister, spent the night that Germany invaded Norway with his mistress; Vidkun Quisling, who took over, spent the last cabinet meeting discussing police uniforms, then surrendered to the police. One wonders what Washington DC will do with the double, triple, debacle.

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  • cuja1

    Starting from the first European illegals to arrive in this land called United States, what right did they have to murder and steal the natives land? ….and from there to expect to make the world a US EMPIRE? Germany tried, and failed, and now perhaps the US,…then it’s a toss between Israel, and the Saudis. Thanks to the US, France, and the Brits, Israel has the weapons and money to flex it’s muscles to make the world their Empire, and all others countries their slaves….Israel has no given right, it’s not the Christian way for them ,or the Tea Party type,….. to lie, murder, and steal, and think of themselves as Holy.

  • Nicholas

    let us not forget Iran as it starts to take over many countries within Africa. This is a country that is growing through force to reestablish an Iranian-Theocratic Empire it had lost generations ago.

  • Eddie

    In the process of critiquing a falling empire one might be tempted to conclude that there is a problem with very concept of empire. That somehow we have evolved beyond the primitive concepts of violence and subjugation and that from now on we will be able to peacefully cooperate by the process of mutual respect and trade for the good of all.

    This in my opinion is a very dangerous and ultimately delusional notion. What eludes the politically correct mind is that empire and civilization go hand in hand and that without empire there can be no civilization. Now I am not saying that civilization
    requires empire to get started but I am saying that without empire it cannot spread and ultimately dies at the hand of the barbarians.

    What would Europe be without the Greeks or the Romans. Yes, this empire is dying but there is no guarantee that anything better will take it’s place. If anything the competition over it’s pieces guarantees that for a time at least things will get much, much worse. Judging by the ignorance and sheer stupidity of the populations things might well slip out of control all together.

the old man and the sea full text