Seumas Milne’s The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century


Today’s edition of the Guardian contains a fine extract from Seumas Milne’s new book. Here is a taste of what he says in his new book:

“In the late summer of 2008, two events in quick succession signalled the end of the New World Order. In August, the US client state of Georgia was crushed in a brief but bloody war after it attacked Russian troops in the contested territory of South Ossetia.

“The former Soviet republic was a favourite of Washington’s neoconservatives. Its authoritarian president had been lobbying hard for Georgia to join Nato’s eastward expansion. In an unblinking inversion of reality, US vice-president Dick Cheney denounced Russia‘s response as an act of “aggression” that “must not go unanswered”. Fresh from unleashing a catastrophic war on Iraq, George Bush declared Russia’s “invasion of a sovereign state” to be “unacceptable in the 21st century”.

“As the fighting ended, Bush warned Russia not to recognise South Ossetia’s independence. Russia did exactly that, while US warships were reduced to sailing around the Black Sea. The conflict marked an international turning point. The US’s bluff had been called, its military sway undermined by the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan. After two decades during which it bestrode the world like a colossus, the years of uncontested US power were over.

“Three weeks later, a second, still more far-reaching event threatened the heart of the US-dominated global financial system. On 15 September, the credit crisis finally erupted in the collapse of America’s fourth-largest investment bank. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers engulfed the western world in its deepest economic crisis since the 1930s.

“The first decade of the 21st century shook the international order, turning the received wisdom of the global elites on its head – and 2008 was its watershed. With the end of the cold war, the great political and economic questions had all been settled, we were told. Liberal democracy and free-market capitalism had triumphed. Socialism had been consigned to history. Political controversy would now be confined to culture wars and tax-and-spend trade-offs.

“In 1990, George Bush Senior had inaugurated a New World Order, based on uncontested US military supremacy and western economic dominance. This was to be a unipolar world without rivals. Regional powers would bend the knee to the new worldwide imperium. History itself, it was said, had come to an end.

“But between the attack on the Twin Towers and the fall of Lehman Brothers, that global order had crumbled. Two factors were crucial. By the end of a decade of continuous warfare, the US had succeeded in exposing the limits, rather than the extent, of its military power. And the neoliberal capitalist model that had reigned supreme for a generation had crashed.

“It was the reaction of the US to 9/11 that broke the sense of invincibility of the world’s first truly global empire. The Bush administration’s wildly miscalculated response turned the atrocities in New York and Washington into the most successful terror attack in history.

“Not only did Bush’s war fail on its own terms, spawning terrorists across the world, while its campaign of killings, torture and kidnapping discredited Western claims to be guardians of human rights. But the US-British invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq revealed the inability of the global behemoth to impose its will on subject peoples prepared to fight back. That became a strategic defeat for the US and its closest allies.”

Seumas Milne’s The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century can be purchased here.

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5 Responses to Seumas Milne’s The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century

  1. Brendan says:

    All rather predictably tedious from a man with one string to his very left wing bow. I think Robert Harris once described him as “a Stalinist Rip van Winkle”

    • That’s not a very Christian response, Brendan! Rather than limiting your response to calling him names, why not try and respond to the actual arguments that Seumas Milne presents?

  2. Kits says:

    But why bother. It is simply a Stalinist polemic. Shameless Milne could not give a fig about democracy. There is no real analysis about the difficulties and nuances that exist in democracies between supporting human rights and that of pursuing national self interest. Nothing about trying to reconcile vocal domestic demands for security with the easy compromise presented by supporting authoritarian regimes. Nope none of that. America could not do anything about Ossestia but nary a word about Russia’s support for Ramzan Kadyrov.

  3. Brendan says:

    Inayat noted. I tend to agree with Kits. I have a close relative with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of Autism) he displays certain obsessions preventing the progression of any meaningful conversation even after he has made his point or observation ad nauseam. Far left folk (and right) often remind me of this condition. It’s a kind of ‘political autism’ they just can’t move from certain simplistic preoccupations and narratives i.e. in Seumas Milne’s case ‘the USA, Israel, and UK are to blame for all the problems and ills in the world.…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • Zafer Iqbal says:

      I notice that about those who see themselves in the centre too Brendan… it gets a little tedious to hear them drone on about democracy and freed markets and what not… yawn…

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