Superpowers are no more | Opinions

We are witnessing the disappearance of the “superpowers”.

Calm down Marvel comics fanatics, I’m not channeling obnoxious American director Martin Scorsese and his crude dismissal of the popular box office dominating film franchise as “not cinema” – though, I agree , it’s anti-art junk.

Rather, I am referring to the now-obsolete term that has been a stubborn part of geopolitical nomenclature – especially in the military context – since perhaps the end of World War II.

By “superpowers” I mean, of course, the “great” powers that have transformed into “super” powers due to the construction of a vast arsenal of redundant nuclear weapons in addition to a huge reserve of conventional weapons.

Here is a small list of the short-lived superpowers in order, presumably, of their “superpower” status: the United States, China, Russia and the United Kingdom. The quartet’s combined military spending in 2020 was more than $2.3 trillion, with America accounting for $1.93 trillion of that hesitant amount of money.

Leaving China aside for the moment, we ask ourselves the following question: at the beginning of the 21st century, what do the American, British and Russian “superpowers” ​​have in common on the military level?

It’s true. Despite widespread and vocal opposition in the streets from millions of concerned citizens, non-think tankers and wiser diplomats at the United Nations – including, at times, from the US, UK and from Russia – the axis of stupid Iraq invaded , Afghanistan and Ukraine for invented familiar reasons.

After being repeatedly warned that their so-called “liberations” would turn into self-inflicted quagmires, the American, British and Russian leaders charged their imposing cavalries with the blessing and encouragement of much of the press. national accomplice.

Well, the “superpowers” ​​and their high profile gallery of chastised pinstripe cheerleaders have failed. The United States and the United Kingdom have not only been defeated by patient and powerful insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but have also been forced to pack up and go home – beaten, humiliated and sullied.

Former second-rate KGB agent and failed history student Vladimir Putin should have understood – given the madness of George Bush Jr and Tony Blair – that what you think will happen when a “superpower” invades, for comparison, a minnow nation and what actually happens have little resemblance between them.

Being a “superpower” is no guarantee of victory.

Putin did not need to see the imperialist designs of Bush and Blair self-destruct to realize that invasions by “superpowers” ​​often fail.

All he had to remember was the disastrous nine-year misadventure launched by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in December 1979 to prop up a decrepit communist regime in Kabul in the face of the determination of native guerrillas.

Somehow Putin forgot or dismissed this instructive mistake that led to the retirement and disgrace of a fading superpower. What is even more puzzling is that rather than rejecting his predecessor’s ruinous hubris, the Russian President embraced it by launching a pointless war in Ukraine that slaughtered so many innocent people.

The moving images of liberated Ukrainians embracing their country’s soldiers in the jubilant streets of Kherson are a moving testimony to the power of relentless resistance over the short-lived power of the “superpower”.

Yet Putin clings to the comforting illusions of power and prestige associated with leading a long-lost superpower, like a toddler clutching a frayed security blanket tightly.

It was the fervent Cold War warrior, President John F. Kennedy, who realized – following his calamitous decision to let the CIA lead a failed invasion of Cuba in 1961 – that clinging to the myth of superpower” invites miscalculation and calamity.

“The great enemy of truth is very often not lies – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. […] We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,” Kennedy said during his commencement address at Yale University on June 11, 1962 – months before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Bush, Blair and Putin believed in myths at the expense of “discomfort of thought” and the world knows the litany of disfiguring consequences.

One measure of how thoughtless and impotent the Russian “superpower” has become is the wild chatter about a “limited” nuclear strike on Ukraine.

The intention, I suppose, is to telegraph Kyiv, London, Berlin, Paris and Washington that Moscow not only remains the undisputed “boss” of the region, but is ready to use the A-bomb or the H-bomb to save its floundering and incompetent country. the army of new beatings.

I think that for all their choreographed bluster and drills, Putin and company recognize that attacking Ukraine with tactical nuclear missiles would be an unfathomable war crime. It would also be an admission of defeat for the president of a depleted and bankrupt “superpower” which, given the prevailing winds, would risk infecting itself with deadly fallout for decades.

In all likelihood, such madness would trigger an in-kind response, and then the proverbial dominoes would begin to fall rapidly and drag us all into the abyss.

Meanwhile, in August, China was “outraged” that Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited the President of Taiwan, warning the United States that it was “playing with the game”. fire “.

Despite the predictable posture and subsequent display of superficial strength, China, the “superpower”, recognizes the limits of its power. An invasion of recalcitrant Taiwan would mirror – in human cost and futility – the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

China’s calculating President Xi Jinping does not strike me as a man drawn or moved by the fiction of superpower invincibility.

China can bark. Unlike the US, UK and Russia, it does not bite.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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