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Grandmaster of the Great Game
Obama’s Geopolitical Strategy for Containing China
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In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century. After six years of silent, sometimes secret preparations, the Obama White House has recently unveiled some bold diplomatic initiatives whose sum is nothing less than a tri-continental strategy to check Beijing’s rise. As these moves unfold, Obama is revealing himself as one of those rare grandmasters who appear every generation or two with an ability to go beyond mere foreign policy and play that ruthless global game called geopolitics.

Since he took office in 2009, Obama has faced an unremitting chorus of criticism, left and right, domestic and foreign, dismissing him as hapless, even hopeless. “He’s a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality,” said Venezuela’s leftist president Hugo Chavez, just months after Obama’s inauguration. “I think he has projected a position of weakness and… a lack of leadership,” claimed Republican Senator John McCain in 2012. “After six years,” opined a commentator from the conservative Heritage Foundation last April, “he still displays a troubling misunderstanding of power and the leadership role the United States plays in the international system.” Even former Democratic President Jimmy Carter recently dismissed Obama’s foreign policy achievements as “minimal.” Voicing the views of many Americans, Donald Trump derided his global vision this way: “We have a president who doesn’t have a clue.”

But let’s give credit where it’s due. Without proclaiming a presumptuously labeled policy such as “triangulation,” “the Nixon Doctrine,” or even a “freedom agenda,” Obama has moved step-by-step to repair the damage caused by a plethora of Washington foreign policy debacles, old and new, and then maneuvered deftly to rebuild America’s fading global influence.

Viewed historically, Obama has set out to correct past foreign policy excesses and disasters, largely the product of imperial overreach, that can be traced to several generations of American leaders bent on the exercise of unilateral power. Within the spectrum of American state power, he has slowly shifted from the coercion of war, occupation, torture, and other forms of unilateral military action toward the more cooperative realm of trade, diplomacy, and mutual security — all in search of a new version of American supremacy.

Obama first had to deal with the disasters of the post-9/11 years. Looking through history’s rearview mirror, Bush-Cheney Republicans imagined the Middle East was the on-ramp to greater world power and burned up at least two trillion dollars and much of U.S. prestige in a misbegotten attempt to make that illusion a reality. Since the first day of his presidency, Obama has been trying to pull back from or ameliorate the resulting Bush-made miasmas in Afghanistan and Iraq (though with only modest success), while resisting constant Republican pressures to reengage fully in the permanent, pointless Middle Eastern war that they consider their own. Instead of Bush’s endless occupations with 170,000 troops in Iraq and 101,000 in Afghanistan, Obama’s military has adopted a more mobile Middle Eastern footprint of advisers, air strikes, drones, and special operations squads. On other matters, however, Obama has acted far more boldly.

Covert Cold War Disasters

Obama’s diplomats have, for instance, pursued reconciliation with three “rogue” states — Burma, Iran, and Cuba — whose seemingly implacable opposition to the U.S. sprang from some of the most disastrous CIA covert interventions of the Cold War.

In 1951, as that “war” gripped the globe, Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the CIA to arm some 12,000 Nationalist Chinese soldiers who had been driven out of their country by communist forces and had taken refuge in northern Burma. The result: three disastrous attempts to invade their former homeland. After being slapped back across the border by mere provincial militia, the Nationalist troops, again with covert CIA support, occupied Burma’s northeast, prompting Rangoon to lodge a formal complaint at the U.N. and the U.S. ambassador to Burma to resign in protest.

Not only was this operation one of the great disasters in a tangled history of such CIA interventions, forcing a major shake-up inside the Agency, but it also produced a lasting breach in bilateral relations with Burma, contributing to that country’s sense of isolation from the international community. Even at the Cold War’s close 40 years later, Burma’s military junta persisted in its international isolation while retaining a close dependency relationship with China, thereby giving Beijing a special claim to its rich resources and strategic access to the Indian Ocean.

During his initial term in office, Obama made a concerted effort to heal this strategic breach in Washington’s encirclement of the Eurasian land mass. He sent Hillary Clinton on the first formal mission to Burma by a secretary of state in more than 50 years; appointed the first ambassador in 22 years; and, in November 2012, became the first president to visit the country that, in an address to students at Rangoon University, he called the “crossroads of East and South Asia” that borders on “the most populated nations on the planet.”

Washington’s Cold War blunders were genuinely bipartisan. Following Truman and drawing on his own experience as Allied commander for Europe during World War II, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower proceeded to wage the Cold War from the White House with the National Security Council as his staff and the CIA as his secret army. Among the 170 CIA covert operations in 48 countries that Eisenhower authorized, two must rank as major debacles, inflicting especially lasting damage on America’s global standing.

In 1953, after Iran’s populist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq challenged Britain’s imperial monopoly over his country’s oil industry, Eisenhower authorized a covert regime change operation to be engineered by the CIA and British intelligence. Though the Agency came perilously close to failure, it did finally succeed in installing the young, untested Shah in power and then helped him consolidate his autocratic rule by training a secret police, the notorious Savak, in torture and surveillance. While Washingtonians toasted the delicious brilliance of this secret-agent-style derring-do, Iranians seethed until 1979 when demonstrators ousted the Shah and students stormed the U.S. embassy, producing a 35-year breach in relations that weakened Washington’s position in the Middle East.

In September 2013, spurning neoconservative calls for a military solution to the “Iranian problem,” Obama dramatically announced the first direct contact with that country’s leader since 1979. In this way, he launched two years of sustained diplomacy that culminated in an historic agreement halting Iran’s nuclear program. From a geopolitical perspective, this prospective entente, or at least truce, avoided the sort of military action yearned for by Republicans that would have mired Washington in yet another Middle Eastern war. It would also have voided any chance for what, in 2011, Secretary of State Clinton first termed “a pivot to new global realities.” She spoke as well of “our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific,” a policy which, in a 2014 Beijing press conference, Obama would tout as “our pivot to Asia.”

During his last months in office in 1960, President Eisenhower also infamously authorized a CIA invasion of Cuba, confident that 1,000 ragtag Cuban exiles backed by U.S. airpower could somehow overthrow Fidel Castro’s entrenched revolutionary regime. Inheriting this operation and sensing disaster, President John F. Kennedy forced the CIA to scale back its plans without stopping the Agency from proceeding. So it dumped those exiles on a remote beach 50 impassable miles of trackless, tangled swamp from their planned mountain refuge and sat back as Castro’s air force bombed them into surrender.

For the next 40 years, the resulting rupture in diplomatic relations and the U.S. embargo of Cuba weakened Washington’s position in the Cold War, the Caribbean, and even southern Africa. After decades of diplomatic isolation and economic embargo failed to change the communist regime, President Obama initiated a thaw in relations, culminating in the July 2015 reopening of the U.S. embassy in Havana, closed for nearly 55 years.

Obama’s Dollar Diplomacy

Moving from repair to revival, from past to future, President Obama has been using America’s status as the planet’s number one consumer nation to create a new version of dollar diplomacy. His strategy is aimed at drawing China’s Eurasian trading partners back into Washington’s orbit. While Beijing has been moving to bring parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its epicenter, Obama has countered with a bold geopolitics that would trisect that vast land mass by redirecting its trade towards the United States.

During the post-9/11 decade when Washington was spilling its blood and treasure onto desert sands, Beijing was investing its trillions of dollars of surplus from trade with the U.S. in plans for the economic integration of the vast Eurasian land mass. In the process, it has already built or is building an elaborate infrastructure of high-speed, high-volume railroads and oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of what Sir Halford Mackinder once dubbed the “world island.” Speaking of pivots to Asia and elsewhere, in a 1904 scholarly essay titled “The Geographical Pivot of History,” this renowned British geographer, who started the study of geopolitics, redrew the world map, reconceptualizing Africa, Asia, and Europe not as three separate continents, but as a vast single land mass whose sheer size could, if somehow integrated, make it the epicenter of global power.

In a bid to realize Mackinder’s vision a century later, China has set out to unify Eurasia economically through massive construction financed by loans, foreign aid, and a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that has already attracted 57 members, including some of Washington’s staunchest allies. With $4 trillion in hard-currency reserves, China has invested $630 billion of it overseas in the last decade, mostly within this tri-continental world island.

As an index of influence, China now accounts for 79% of all foreign investment in Afghanistan, 70% in Sierra Leone, and 83% in Zimbabwe. With a massive infusion of investment that will reach a trillion dollars by 2025, China has managed to double its annual trade with Africa over the past four years to $222 billion, three times America’s $73 billion. Beijing is also mobilizing military forces potentially capable of surgically slicing through the arc of bases, naval armadas, and military alliances with which Washington has ringed the world island from England to Japan since 1945.

In recent months, however, Obama has unleashed a countervailing strategy, seeking to split the world island economically along its continental divide at the Ural Mountains through two trade agreements that aim to capture nothing less than “the central global pole position” for “almost two-thirds of world GDP [gross domestic product] and nearly three-quarters of world trade.” With the impending approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Washington hopes to redirect much of the vast trade in the Asian half of Eurasia toward North America.

Should another set of parallel negotiations prove successful by their target date of 2016, Washington will reorient the European Union’s portion of Eurasia, which still has the world’s largest single economy and another 16% of world trade, toward the U.S. through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Finally, in a stroke of personal diplomacy that much of the U.S. media misconstrued as a sentimental journey, Obama has been courting African nations aggressively, convening a White House summit for more than 50 of that continent’s leaders in 2014 and making a state visit to East Africa in July 2015. With its usual barbed insight, Beijing’s Global Times has quite accurately identified the real aim of Obama’s Africa diplomacy as “off-setting China’s growing influence and recovering past U.S. leverage.”

Trade Treaties

When grandmasters play the great game of geopolitics, there is, almost axiomatically, a certain sangfroid to their moves, an indifference to any resulting collateral damage at home or abroad. These two treaties, so central to Obama’s geopolitical strategy, will bring in their wake both diplomatic gains and high social costs. Think of it in blunt terms as the choice between maintaining the empire abroad and sustaining democracy at home.

In his six years in office, Obama has invested diplomatic and political capital in advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a prospective treaty that carefully excludes China from membership in an apparent bid to split its would-be world island right down its Pacific littoral. Surpassing any other economic alliance except the European Union, this treaty will bind the U.S. and 11 nations around the Pacific basin, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, and Vietnam, that represent $28 trillion in combined GDP or 40% of gross world product and a third of all global trade. By sweeping up areas like agriculture, data flows, and service industries, this treaty aspires to a Pacific economic integration unparalleled in any existing trade pact. In the process, it would draw these highly productive nations away from China and into America’s orbit.

Not surprisingly, Obama has faced ferocious opposition within his own party from Senator Elizabeth Warren and others who are sharply critical of the highly secretive nature of the negotiations for the pact and the way it is likely to degrade labor and environmental laws in the U.S. So scathing was this critique that, in June 2015, he needed Republican votes to win Senate approval for “fast track” authority to complete the final round of negotiations in coming months.

To pull at the western axis of China’s would-be world island, Obama is also aggressively pursuing negotiations for the TTIP with the European Union and its $18 trillion economy. The treaty seeks fuller economic integration between Europe and America by meshing government regulations on matters such as auto safety in ways that might add some $270 billion to their annual trade.

By transferring control over consumer safety, the environment, and labor from democratic states to closed, pro-business arbitration tribunals, argues a coalition of 170 European civil society groups, the TTIP, like its Pacific counterpart, will exact a high social cost from participating countries. While the European Union’s labyrinthine layers of bureaucracy and the complexity of relations among its sovereign states make completion of negotiations within the year unlikely, the TTIP treaty, propelled by Obama’s singular determination, is moving at light speed compared to the laggard Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations, now in year 12 of inconclusive talks with no end in sight.

Grandmasters of Geopolitics

In his determined pursuit of this grand strategy, Obama has revealed himself as one of the few U.S. leaders since America’s rise to world power in 1898 who can play this particular great game of imperial domination with the requisite balance of vision and ruthlessness. Forget everyone’s nominee for master diplomat, Henry Kissinger, who was as inept as he was ruthless, extending the Vietnam War by seven bloody years to mask his diplomatic failure, turning East Timor over to Indonesia for decades of slaughter until its inevitable independence, cratering U.S. credibility in Latin America by installing a murderous military dictatorship in Chile, and mismanaging Moscow in ways that extended the Cold War by another 15 years. Kissinger’s career, as international law specialist Richard Falk wrote recently, has been marked by “his extraordinary capacity to be repeatedly wrong about almost every major foreign policy decision made by the U.S. government over the course of the last half-century.”

Once we subject other American leaders to a similar calculus of costs and benefits, we are, surprisingly enough, left with just three grandmasters of geopolitics: Elihu Root, the original architect of America’s rise to global power; Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, who shattered the Soviet Empire, making the U.S. the world’s sole superpower; and Barack Obama, who is defending that status and offering a striking imperial blueprint for how to check China’s rise. In each case, their maneuvers have been supple and subtle enough that they have eluded both contemporary observers and later historians.

Many American presidents — think Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — have been capable diplomats, skilled at negotiating treaties or persuading allies to do their bidding. But surprisingly few world leaders, American or otherwise, have a capacity for mastering both the temporal and spatial dimensions of global power — that is, the connections between present actions and often distant results as well as an intuitive ability to grasp the cultural, economic, and military forces whose sum is geopolitics. Mastering both of these skills involves seeing beneath the confusion of current events and understanding the deeper currents of historical change. Root and Brzezinski both had an ability to manipulate the present moment to advance long-term American interests while altering, often fundamentally, the future balance of global power. Though little noticed in the avalanche of criticism that has all but buried his accomplishments in the Oval Office, Obama seems to be following in their footsteps.

Elihu Root, Architect of American Power

All but forgotten today, Elihu Root was the true architect of America’s transformation from an insular continental nation into a major player on the world stage. About the time Sir Halford Mackinder was imagining his new model for studying global power, Root was building an institutional infrastructure at home and abroad for the actual exercise of that power.

After a successful 30-year career as a corporate lawyer representing the richest of robber barons, the most venal of trusts, and even New York’s outrageously corrupt William “Boss” Tweed, Root devoted the rest of his long life to modernizing the American state as secretary of war, secretary of state, a senator, and finally a plenipotentiary extraordinaire. Not only did he shape the conduct of U.S. foreign policy for the century to come, but he also played an outsized role, particularly for a cabinet secretary of a then-peripheral power, in influencing the character of an emerging international community.

As a prominent attorney, Root understood that the Constitution’s protection of individual liberties and states’ rights had created an inherently weak federal bureaucracy, ill suited for the concerted projection of American imperial power beyond its borders. To transform this “patchwork” state and its divided society — still traumatized by the Civil War — into a world power, Root spent a quarter-century in the determined pursuit of three intertwined objectives: fashioning the fragmentary federal government into a potent apparatus for overseas expansion, building a consensus among the country’s elites for such an activist foreign policy, and creating new forms of global governance open to Washington’s influence.

As secretary of war (1899-1904), Root reformed the Army’s antiquated structure, creating a centralized general staff, establishing a modern war college, and expanding professional training for officers. Through this transformation, the military moved far beyond its traditional mission of coastal defense and became an increasingly agile force for overseas expansion — in China, the Philippines, the Caribbean, Latin America, and, ultimately, Europe itself. With his eye firmly fixed on America’s ascent, Root also covered up atrocities that accompanied the army’s extraordinarily brutal pacification of the Philippines.

As secretary of state (1907-1909), senator (1909-1915), and special envoy to Russia (1917), Root then led a sustained diplomatic effort to make the country, for the first time, a real presence in the community of nations. To insert Washington — until then at the periphery of a world politics still centered on Europe — in the game of global power projection, Secretary of State Root launched an unprecedented tour of Latin America in 1906, winning the continent’s support.

With the backing of 17 Latin republics among the 44 nations present, Washington gained sufficient geopolitical clout at the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 to conclude the first broad international legal agreement on the laws of war. To house the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the world’s first ongoing institution for global governance, which emerged from the Hague peace conferences, Root’s friend Andrew Carnegie spent $1.5 million, a vast sum at the time, to build the lavish Peace Palace at The Hague in 1913. A year later, as chair of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1910-1925), Root helped establish The Hague Academy of International Law housed within that Peace Palace.

Simultaneously, he cemented a close alliance with Britain by promoting treaties to resolve territorial disputes that had roiled relations with the world’s preeminent power for the better part of a century. That effort won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912. Even in retirement at age 75, Root served on a League of Nations committee that established the Permanent Court of International Justice, realizing his long-held vision of the international community as an assembly of sovereign states governed by the rule of law.

Throughout these decades, Root was careful to cultivate support for an assertive foreign policy among the country’s ruling East Coast elites. As the culmination of this effort, in 1918 he led a group of financiers, industrialists, and corporate lawyers in establishing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, which soon became the country’s most influential forum for shaping public consensus for an expansive foreign policy. He also cultivated academic specialists at leading universities nationwide, using their expertise to shape and support his foreign policy ideas. In sum, Root recast American society to forge a nexus of money, influence, and intellect that would sustain U.S. foreign policy for the next century.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Destroyer of Empires

After a long period of indifferent international leadership, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency foreign policy came under the charge of ­an underestimated figure, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Émigré Polish aristocrat, professor of international relations, and an autodidact when it came to geopolitics, he was above all an intellectual acolyte of Sir Halford Mackinder. Through both action and analysis, Brzezinski made Mackinder’s concept of Eurasia as the world island and its vast interior heartland as the “pivot” of global power his own. He would prove particularly adept at applying Sir Halford’s famous dictum: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

Wielding a $100 million CIA covert operation like a sharpened wedge, Brzezinski drove radical Islam from Afghanistan into the “heartland” of Soviet Central Asia, drawing Moscow into a debilitating decade-long Afghan war that weakened Russia sufficiently for Eastern Europe to finally break free from the Soviet empire. With a calculus that couldn’t have been more coldblooded, he understood and rationalized the untold misery and unimaginable human suffering his strategy inflicted through ravaged landscapes, the millions his policy uprooted from ancestral villages and turned into refugees, and the countless Afghan dead and wounded. Dismissing the long-term damage as “some stirred-up Moslems,” as he saw it, none of it added up to a hill of beans compared to the importance of striking directly into the Eurasian heartland to free Eastern Europe, half a continent away, and shatter the Soviet empire. And these results did indeed mark Brzezinski as a grandmaster of geopolitics in all its ruthless realpolitik. (Mind you, the future suffering from those “stirred-up Moslems” now includes the rise of al-Qaeda, 9/11, and America’s second Afghan War, as well as the unsettling of the Greater Middle East thanks to the growth of the Islamic extremism he first nurtured.)

In 1998, in retirement, Brzezinski again applied Sir Halford’s theory, this time in a book titled The Grand Chessboard, a geopolitical treatise on America’s capacity for extending its global hegemony. Although Washington was still basking in the pre-9/11 glow of its newly won grandeur as the world’s sole superpower, he could already imagine the geopolitical constraints that might come into play and undermine that status. If the U.S. then seemed a colossus standing astride the world, Eurasia still remained “the globe’s most important playing field… with preponderance over the entire Eurasian continent serving as the central basis for global primacy.”

That Eurasian “megacontinent,” Brzezinski observed, “is just too large, too populous, culturally too varied, and composed of too many historically ambitious and politically energetic states to be compliant toward even the most economically successful and politically preeminent global power.” Washington, he predicted, could continue its half-century dominion over the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard — extending from Lisbon to Vladivostok” only as long as it could preserve its unchallenged “perch on the Western periphery,” while the vast “middle space” does not become “an assertive single entity,” and the Eastern end of the world continent did not unify itself in a way that might lead to “the expulsion of America from its offshore bases.” Should any of these critical conditions change, Brzezinski warned prophetically, “a potential rival to America might at some point arise.”

Barack Obama, Defender of U.S. Global Hegemony

Less than a decade later, China emerged to challenge America’s control of Eurasia and so threaten Washington’s standing as the globe’s great hegemon. While the U.S. military was mired in the Middle East, Beijing quietly began working to unify that vast “middle space” of Eurasia, while preparing to neutralize America’s “offshore bases.”

By the time Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009, there were already the first signs of a serious geopolitical challenge that only the president and his closest advisers seemed to recognize. In a speech to the Australian parliament in November 2011, Obama said: “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the twenty-first century, the United States of America is all in.” After two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, “ he explained, “the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region,” which is “the world’s fastest-growing region — and home to more than half the global economy.” His initial deployment of just 2,500 U.S. troops to Australia seemed a slender down payment on his “deliberate and strategic decision” to become America’s first “Pacific president,” producing a great deal of premature criticism and derision.

Four years later, one CNN commentator would still be calling this “Obama’s pivot to nowhere.” Even seasoned foreign policy commentator Fareed Zakaria would ask, in early 2015, “Whatever happened to the pivot to Asia?” Answering his own question, Zakaria argued that the president was still mired in the Middle East and the centerpiece of that pivot, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, seemed to be facing certain defeat in Congress.

To the consternation of his critics, in the waning months of his presidency, from Iran to Cuba, from Burma to the Pacific Ocean, Obama has revealed himself as an American strategist potentially capable of laying the groundwork for the continued planetary dominion of the United States deep into the twenty-first century. In the last 16 months of his presidency, with a bit of grit and luck and a final diplomatic surge — concluding the nuclear treaty with Iran to prevent another debilitating Middle Eastern conflict, winning congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and completing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — Obama just might secure the U.S. a significant extension of its waning global hegemony.

Specifics aside, the world’s two most powerful nations, China and the United States, seem to have developed conflicting geopolitical strategies to guide their struggle for global power. Whether Beijing will succeed in moving ever further toward unifying Asia, Africa, and Europe into that world island or Washington will persist with Obama’s strategy of splitting that land mass along its axial divisions via trans-oceanic trade won’t become clear for another decade or two.

We still cannot say whether the outcome of this great game will be decided through an almost invisible commercial competition or a more violent drama akin to history’s last comparable imperial transition, the protracted rivalry between Napoleon’s “continental system” and Britain’s maritime strategy at the start of the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, we are starting to see the broad parameters of an epochal geopolitical contest likely to shape the world’s destiny in the coming decades of this still young twenty-first century.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author, most recently, ofTorture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, and co-editor of Endless Empire: Europe’s Eclipse, Spain’s Retreat, America’s Decline.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
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  1. J Yan says:

    a corporate lawyer representing the richest of robber barons

    This didn’t end with Root’s move into government. Similarly, Obama has always been a lawyer representing banksters and crony capitalists.

    The problem with the bankster/Obama strategy is that blowback may lose them Western Europe before everything plays out.

  2. pogohere says:

    The empire is bankrupt and has defaulted to fomenting chaos wherever it can, the treaties referred to are unlikely to be adopted and a new global financial system is being built by a resurgent Russia (a fact not even mentioned in the article) together with an industrialized China. Even the Brits have joined the Asia Infrastructure Development Bank organized by China as a founding member. The Obama team has lost control of the State Department (see Victoria Nuland) and finds itself in an internecine war within the executive branch with the embedded neocons from previous regimes.

    The Iranians will most likely join the Shanghai Cooperative Organization and tighten their ties with the leaders of the “world island.”

    For a view from an former insider, see: “The Travails of Empire: Lawrence Wilkerson, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William Mary, and former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, visited the CIGI Campus on October 8, 2014 to discuss international military involvement in Iraq and the western and regional responses to the threat of ISIS.”

    I did appreciate the recognition of Root as a brilliant and key player in the attempt to rape Asia, first by betraying the Phillipino rebels who fought with the US against Spain, and then moving on to China, and establishing that the 2oth century would be an American century.

    • Agree: Realist
  3. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    Obama the destroyer of Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, is a some wise grandmaster? He’s a sociopathic reptilian tool of globalist Jews.

    Look, though US was wrong to go into Iraq, it had a responsibility to secure the peace there cuz US messed it up. Bush was bad, but he at least took military control and responsibility over his invasion and occupation of Iraq. He took out Hussein but at least tried to create a new order. Bush did it badly, but at least he tried. And at least US presence in Iraq prevented a total implosion of order.

    Obama destabilizes Iraq but pulling troops out. That was bad enough. But then, he topples Gaddafi in Libya without taking ANY RESPONSIBILITY to create any kind of order. Libya turns into a total hell, and then Obama and Israel work together to destabilize Syria with the help of Libyan lunatics and arms.

    Bush was bad but he accepted the fact that he messed up a country and at least tried to fix what he broke. Vile obama messes up entire nations but then smugly acts as though he has no responsibility for the mess he caused. Obama is like his daddy who done get women pregnant and just take off. Obama’s foreign policy is illegitimate. He turns nation after nation into a single mother of problem child out of wedlock.. Obama takes no responsibility for fathering all the mess whereas Bush II at least tried to take care of his bastard kid called Iraq. Typical black male behavior on Obama’s part, the jiver.

    The Middle East turned worse under Obama than under Bush. Under Bush, only Afghanistan and Iraq were in trouble. Under Obama, all of Middle East has blown up, Europe is being drowned by refugees, and there is no end in sight to the madness. And obama messed up Ukraine as well. f

    This guy is a sociopath puppet of Jews who are the real masters of what’s going on.

  4. Art says:

    If Obama can work with Putin in Syria – he will have earned his Nobel Peace Price.

  5. ltlee says:

    The author certainly did not lay out Obama grandmasterly strategic thinking to support his theme. He quoted Obama in one paragraph.

    “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the twenty-first century, the United States of America is all in.” After two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, “ he explained, “the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region,” which is “the world’s fastest-growing region — and home to more than half the global economy.”

    Obama expressed US wish or wishful thinking in one statement and he stated the obvious that the Asia Pacific was the world’s faster-growing region in the other.

  6. TheJester says:

    Now we can understand Obama’s grand strategy on open borders and immigration as well as the militarization of local police forces.

    If anything stands in the way of Obama’s “global integration” in the service of Wall Street and the cabal of international bankers, it is the citizens of the United States and Western Europe who will rise up to protect their sovereignty and Northern European Culture from the barbarians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Obama’s strategy: Create the conditions for mass migration from these areas that will predate the trade agreements intended to co-opt national sovereignty and replace it with corporate councils. At some point, the plan is that the immigrants will create a “critical mass” that will politically castrate the Northern Europeans and prevent them from turning back the attacks on their sovereignty and culture. Indeed, it appears that Obama has allies for this plan in the EU bureaucracy that is controlled by the European Central Bank.

    But, at the end of the day, I’ll place my bets on Russia, China, and the BRICS. In the face of the massive immigration, Western Europe and the United States will erupt in civil strife. The social disruptions will “tank” their economies.

  7. Flower says:

    Yeah, that’s a strategy that harkens back to Jr High School: if you’re about to ask Jennie Markesson to the “dance” and you manage to trip and fall flat on your face, you immediately leap to your feet and announce, “I meant to do that!” Hey, somebody will believe it.

  8. pyrrhus says:

    Obama is a Grandmaster at exactly the same level as my beginning chess students who always proclaim “I know what I’m doing!” as they play one disastrous move after another. Having wrecked the whole Middle East and created a refugee crisis of historic proportions, Obama now turns to wrecking the rest of the world, including the US……well played, sir…

  9. Sean says:

    China can’t dominate America militarily because it is on the other side of the ocean. But the US needs an alliance with Russia to contain China militarily. The article ignores HBD considerations, there is no reason to think the Chinese are much different to the Japanese and China is 10 times the size of Japan. In Korea the US found China an opponent best avoided. Vietnam reinforced that lesson.

    If China uses its human resources and economies of scale wisely the only thing that can hold them back is lack of natural resources., which Russia has in abundance. America has decided Russia is an enemy state

    NYT:General Dunford told the committee, Russia’s aggressive behavior and its nuclear arsenal make it the single greatest national security threat faced by the United States… Throughout the hearing, when asked about threats, General Dunford returned repeatedly to Russia… “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” he said. “And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

    As a giant Hong Kong which is actually ON the world island, the future China is going to become dominant economically. The US is growing in population terms, whether it is getting stronger with this growth is doubtful. An economy of a different HBD colour is going to work differently, in can’t be assumed that everything will go on as before. It is not at all obvious how Europe and the US with increasingly non European population are going to outcompete China in the future when China has in relative terms. won the economic competition so far.

  10. Obama might be an average player of checkers but to call him a grandmaster is hilarious and betrays author’s total lack of understanding of chess. Obama cannot think more than one or perhaps two moves ahead. His disastrous action in Libya, Ukraine and now in Yemen produced countless refuges who together with refuges from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are now flooding EU putting some serious strain on EU-US relations. Grandmaster Obama is generally despised in Europe and it is not for his diplomatic skills but rather for the lack of them. EU whether Obama likes it or not cannot escape reality such as energy dependence and this will keep it firmly in Russian orbit. Iran did not stop its nuclear program only placed certain aspects of it under limitations and supervision but it in no way means that Iran will suddenly become too friendly with uncle Sam. As soon as the sanctions are lifted Iran will join SCO. I would like to know though what exactly wants US to trade with other countries. All the Yanks have been selling the past few decades was death, destruction and misery.

  11. Scanfish says:

    A Grandmaster thinks 10 moves ahead, studies his opponent religiously before doing anything, and ALWAYS KNOWS how to get out of tough situations. Obama does not even have the inborn DNA for such skill…just look at his ‘moves’ in Libya, Iraq, Ukraine or Syria…disastrous! The author’s wishful thinking is hilarious and is either hopelessly deluded or just a typically ignorant and hubristic American. Obama is more a marbles player in small town USA than a ‘Grandmaster’.

  12. OutWest says:

    Why would Eli Roots’ brutal strategy with the resulting wars and exploitation be considered good –or acceptable?

    • Replies: @anonymous
  13. Marian says:

    I agree between golf rounds, Obama is playing the geopolitical game. However it’s on the behest of his corporate masters. Seems free trade didn’t quite work out as plan. Fired American workers didn’t come up with the next big thing. Those integrate Chinese now have visions of yet another dynasty, rather being compliant worker bees with an insatiable consumerism itch. And that blasted Putin, he ruined the neocon sanctioned oligarchs raping of Russia. So now it’s super Barry and Johnny to the reactionary rescue of something that does not need to be preserved – American corporate influence.

  14. eah says:

    Do you actually think Obama has a ‘geopolitical strategy’ for anything? He seems to spend most of his time golfing and making racially divisive remarks.

  15. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Professor McCoy is very much against the US empire, but he thinks that ordinary people in the US benefit from it. This was probably true in the past, but today it is much less true because new capital always moves to where the cost of labor is lowest.

  16. Deduction says:

    Obama engineered the Sino-Russian rapprochement, supported the forces of chaos in the Middle East and lost Africa to China.

    …but tiny Cuba is now not an enemy…wow!

    Maybe the Iran deal is a good thing but wrecking their economy for 7 years to sign a deal where they agree to what they probably would have agreed to anyway doesn’t seem like it will build genuine mutual respect….

    Has America formed a better alliance with any half decent power since Obama took over?

    Bribing them with US consumer spending and wrecking his own domestic wages doesn’t count.

  17. Vendetta says:

    Grandmaster? Well this is a load of nonsense. Let’s see how the plus and minus columns add up:

    – Hasn’t gone to war with Iran
    – Hasn’t put troops back in Iraq
    – Hasn’t actually gone to war with Syria
    – Hasn’t actually gone to war with Russia
    – Detente with Cuba

    – Destroyed Libya. Killed the one man keeping it together and left the place in anarchy, opened the doors to Gaddafi’s armies for terrorist groups across North Africa and the Middle East, opened the floodgates for mass emigration to Europe.

    – Slowly destroying Syria. With no outside support for his enemies, Assad would have crushed the rebellion and ended the war years ago. Hundreds of thousands who are dead would be alive, millions who lost their homes would still be living in them. And no Islamic State in the shape that it is today.

    – Totally ineffective anti-ISIS coalition. Does not include Iran, the Syrian Army, Hezbollah, or the Russians, all of whom would actually be effective allies in fighting the Islamic State. Only useful partners are the Kurds, who are given only marginal support. Iraqi Army, “moderate rebels,” and Gulf States are all worthless dead weights in this fight.

    – Blew our relations with Russia for no good reason. Could have had a worthwhile partnership with them to help stabilize the Middle East. Now it’s Cold War II on behalf of hapless, broken down Ukraine and Russian homosexuals, neither of whom have anything to offer us.

    – Pointless insults to China. Skipping the WWII victory parade being the latest example. Same goes to skipping the Russian victory parade. Just keep on antagonizing Russia and China and driving them closer together. See how it ends.

    – Taken the worst possible position on Israel/Palestine. Said and done enough to make the Israelis feel pissed off and betrayed while not actually giving the Palestinians anything they want. The grandmaster has managed to irritate Israel without doing anything to make the Palestinians or the Arab world feel grateful to us. Way to go.

    – Getting outplayed by Erdogan, of all people, thanks to antagonizing Russia. Erdogan’s Turkey is the biggest supporter of chaos in Syria and the Islamic State. Erdogan’s Turkey is inhibiting the US from operating alongside the Kurds who are the only effective allies we’ve chosen to have on the ground.

    If Putin were on our side, Erdogan could be strongarmed into fighting the Islamic State with the very effective Turkish Army, or at least into being an uninvolved bystander and not a passive supporter of the enemy.

    But since the grandmaster decided to crusade against Putin, Erdogan made clear that Turkey will pivot to Russia if the U.S. tries any sort of pressure on it. So they continue supplying ISIS, bombing the Kurds, and destabilizing Syria.

    Conclusions: This administration’s foreign policy is destructive, destabilizing, and utterly hapless, but at least Obama’s avoided the suicidal mistakes of actually starting a war with Iran, Russia, or Syria.

    • Replies: @bluto
  18. @anonymous

    It was. it was true all the way up to 1950s. that was when major changes happened to the US govt. When all the god BS got into the us govt.

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Apparently, you didn’t read the whole article, which admittedly is very long. McCoy writes above:

    “When grandmasters play the great game of geopolitics, there is, almost axiomatically, a certain sangfroid to their moves, an indifference to any resulting collateral damage at home or abroad. These two treaties, so central to Obama’s geopolitical strategy, will bring in their wake both diplomatic gains and high social costs. Think of it in blunt terms as the choice between maintaining the empire abroad and sustaining democracy at home.”

    • Replies: @anonymous
  20. jjc says:

    Obama’s trade agreements will take us all a few steps closer to the dystopian corporate police-state long predicted in science-fiction. There are no benefits for the “people”, just the venal elites. The US makes its geo-political gambits from a position of structural weakness, and has been arrogant and hypocritical wielding financial sanctions and penalties against friend and foe alike.

    Brzezinski’s concept was to use radical religious fundamentalist armies as proxy forces to initiate regime-change operations. This is an ongoing project, as more people are coming to understand, and the hypocrisy is again exposed. Did the proxy forces in Afghanistan contribute to the demise of the Soviet Union? Partially, but other analysts argue the Soviets were entering a terminal phase regardless. Peter Dale Scott has argued the Helsinki Accords on human rights, signed in the mid-1970s, was the Trojan Horse which began the Soviet’s political demise.

    Obama has not addressed America’s imperial hypocrisy and double-standards, so prominent today. This arrogance may be the ultimate undoing.

  21. @jjc

    Both of those trade agreements are above the govt of the member countries. they are essentially giving up their sovereignty on everything being discussed in the treaties.

    That is huge, I honestly don’t understand how obama is getting them to agree. Political capital my ass, got to be something else.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
    , @Deduction
  22. OutWest says:

    The Soviets fell to a series of more or less successful tactics/strategies -planned or fortuitous. Kennon’s containment insight was in fact accurate. Eisenhower allowed the Soviets to be first in space to establish the “space” over a territory to be declared open to all. Kennedy used the “scientific” space race to essentially bankrupt the Soviet military budget. And Reagan held the Star Wars down card to bluff the end game collapse.

    Of course the Soviet Union alone would probably have survived but for the overextended and unstable satellite countries “areas of influence” that started the dominos tumbling.

  23. MarkinLA says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    They will get guarantees like Mexico got that any economic crisis will get American bailout money. The only difference is will they get guarantees like Mexico that we will do nothing to stop their peasants from coming to America.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  24. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    My inference about McCoy was based on this.

  25. @MarkinLA

    just looking at how mexico is doing should have been enough of a deterrence then. I still don’t understand why countries are willingly giving up their sovereignty.

  26. pogohere says:

    OPEC, Russia and the New World Order Emerging

    First appeared:

    In an interview with the London Financial Times, Russia’s most important oilman, Igor Sechin, CEO of the state-owned Rosneft, confirmed rumors that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy is seeking a formal market-share agreement with Russia, even going so far as offering Russia membership in OPEC, to stabilize world oil markets. In the interview, Sechin, considered one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, confirmed the Saudi offer. The Financial Times (FT) is an influential media owned until this past July by the Pearson Group an asset tied to the Rothschild family who historically also dominate Royal Dutch Shell.

    The London paper chose to emphasize Sechin’s rejection of the Saudi offer. However, most instructive is to read between the lines of what he said. He told a Singapore commodities conference organized by the FT, “It needs to be recognised that Opec’s ‘golden age’ in the oil market has been lost. They fail to observe their own quotas [for Opec oil output]. If quotas had been observed, global oil markets would have been rebalanced by now.”
    . . .
    Now what is very likely to emerge in the current extraordinary situation is a negotiated arrangement between Putin’s Russia and the Saudi-led OPEC oil producers of the Middle East, including Iran, to devise a new ordering of world energy supply, one independent of the near century of Anglo-American domination. The benefits of such a new world ordering are simply too great for all involved parties to ignore.
    . . .
    What would be in it for Russia? Huge benefits. It would secure the world’s largest pool of hydrocarbons–oil and gas–by the nations of the contiguous land mass that British “father” of geopolitics, Sir Halford Mackinder referred to as the “World island”–Russia, China, Indian subcotinent, South Asia, and now radiating in an arc deep into the entire Middle East oil belt and on into Egypt in North Africa. It would provide Russia safe markets outside the Anglo-American current war zone.

    Russia would be in an entirely new negotiating position vis-a-vis German and EU economic sanctions. It would also transform the political map of the so-called American Century that emerged out of the war in 1945 with Truman’s decision to drom the atomic bombs on Japan.

    In such an accord with Russia, the oil producing countries of the Middle East would join as central parties to the unfolding economic boom that is emerging out of the China One Belt, One Road new Economic Silk Road rail and sea port infrastructure project.

    • Replies: @Deduction
  27. Deduction says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    They’ll sign whatever because they won’t be bound by it…

  28. Deduction says:

    When anything is too good to be true in international politics, it probably is.

    Your analysis appropriately evaluates the negatives of the current situation for Russia, China, the Gulf Arabs etc. but it fails to bring out the negatives of your proposed remediation.

    The countries you mention have just as many conflicting interests as confluent ones, which of course is why they have chosen to pursue their current policies as opposed to those that you’re suggesting.

    The Gulf Arabs and Iran may both be fossil fuel producers but they are competitors on a much deeper cultural even racial level.

    Russia’s greatest domestic security threat also comes from that region, while China has similar problems of its own.

    Also, China hardly wants a higher oil price and Russia needs China so that Russia is not isolated.

    These are just some of the complications. Your grand vision is far too simple and it manages to encapsulate none of the nuance or uncertainty of the situation.

    There will be no ‘world island’ whatever my long dead and not particularly famous countryman said.

    Just because Rubio, Cruz and Fiorina are rivals with Trump it doesn’t mean that they are friends with each other or unwilling to cut a deal to serve as his VP.

  29. “…Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, who shattered the Soviet Empire,….”

    This is nothing but an attempt to rewrite history. Carter did more to keep the Soviet Union going than anyone else since. Reagan broke the Soviet Union, doing things Carter was simply too weak and stupid to do. Obama is worse than Carter and is setting us up for a fall. When the US is taken out as a world player, the world is going to get very dark and very violent.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  30. @Quartermaster

    When the US is taken out as a world player, the world is going to get very dark and very violent.

    Granted, it’s hard to know for sure, but my sense is that, as long as the US downfall happens without a nuclear war, the world (the rest of the world, I mean) will breathe a sigh of relief.

  31. Robt says:

    “As a prominent attorney, Root understood that the Constitution’s protection of individual liberties and states’ rights had created an inherently weak federal bureaucracy, ill suited for the concerted projection of American imperial power beyond its borders.”

    That was the whole point of the Constitution!
    E Pluribus Unum. Not Ex Uno, Plures.

  32. I’ve seen more references to Mackinder in the past few years than the previous 50.
    A sure sign that nasty things are afoot.

  33. The auther seems to hang a great deal of his case for Obama’s mastery on TTIP & TPP. These trade deals will, like previous ones, favor the american elites at the expense of the working classes, and america’s industrial base.

    Moreover, there is nothing new here; Obama has simply extended the globalist policies of his predecessors. at best, these trade deals will bring cheaper goods to market in the affected countries, while displacing many workers and firms. A mixed bag that helps people buy, even as it diminishes their ability to earn.

    The author would do well to study the criticisms of these trade deals raised by economists such as Dean Baker, and finance blogger Yves Smith. According to their analyses of the publicly available documents, TTIP &TTP focus mainly on extending copyrights and patent protection. This will be great for the owners of copyrights and patents, to be sure, but few americans will share in the bounty, evven as they pay more for technology and medecine, not just in the US, but also in the other affected countries. In short, the global ownership class will benefit at the expense of the global public.

    It’s not at all clear what good this is supposed to do in recompense for its obvious costs. Alegedly, China will be somehow out of the loop. Too little, too late. We have already paid the price for our slave labor sneakers and speakers. China is now the workshop of the world, and will is rapidly bevoming a military power to be reckoned with.

    The only hope for US hegemony lies in the budding economic crisis in China. If the chinese debt crisis predicted by Richard Vague and Steve Keen comes to pass, along with unforeseen fotuitous events, perhaps all will work out well. I’m not optimistic.

  34. bluto says:

    beautiful, brilliant article

  35. In general, I think McCoy does a good job of telling us what Obama wants. The question is, are Russia and China just going to sit back and do nothing about it? It seems to me that they are busy putting their own little game-plan into action even as we speak.

    Watch out, campers–this could get wild and woolly!

    Think of it in blunt terms as the choice between maintaining the empire abroad and sustaining democracy at home.

    That’s exactly how I think of it, which is why I staunchly oppose it.

    By sweeping up areas like agriculture, data flows, and service industries, this treaty aspires to a Pacific economic integration unparalleled in any existing trade pact. In the process, it would draw these highly productive nations away from China and into America’s orbit.

    Which raises a good question: Do these treaties actually prohibit member states from trading with China? If not, they may not actually do much to contain the country.

    So scathing was this critique that, in June 2015, he needed Republican votes to win Senate approval for “fast track” authority to complete the final round of negotiations in coming months.

    Yup. Once again, cuckservatives were knifed in the back by ‘their’ own party.

  36. In June 2015 Scott Horton interviewed Alfred McCoy and gave a 180 degree different viewpoint —

    “Washington’s Great Game and Why It’s Failing”,_washington%27s_great_game_and_why_it%27s_failing_/

    What changed from June to September?

    The TPP changes everything?

    The TPP undoes China’s miles of railroads and relationships and development contracts and newly established banks — banks that even US “allies” — like un-ally Israel — has joined — TPP does all that?
    If TPP is so powerful why did Israel join China Development bank rather than bet on USA/TPP?

    The Chinese are on a trajectory to replace/displace the US petrodollar.

    Perhaps US’s BFF ally Israel will save US.

    (note to the prudent: don’t count on it.)

    • Replies: @Kiza
  37. Kiza says:

    Yes, like a few people above, I read this article as a great parody. Most of the statements are so catastrophically wrong (not ordinarily wrong, but catastrophically) that the article looks simply like weaving a cloth for a naked emperor.

    Yet, some commentators provide excellent links, especially the Wilkerson lecture by pogohere. It is just a miss that the US lost (due to sabotage) Colin Powell and his team of realists. Both the US and the World would have been much happier places with President of color Powell instead of President of color Obama. That would have been the real “change” not Obama’s change for the worse.

    As a commentator above wrote – Obama would earn his Nobel Peace Prize if he were to work with Putin to stop the Natty Yahoo’s geopolitical strategy. This is the strategy of de-secularization of the Middle East – that is, putting people who are as nutty extremists as he himself is in power in all the countries surrounding Israel. To stop ISIS, they have to stop Nutty Yahoo.

    But do not hold your breath.

  38. Deduction says:

    To stop ISIS, they have to stop Nutty Yahoo.

    Yeah and Baghdadi is a secret Jew…whatever

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