Retired US Army officer and former chief of staff to Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is a man who doesn’t mince his words. Since his retirement, Wilkerson has on several occasions been an outspoken vocal critic of Washington’s execution of the 2003 invasion of Iraq as well as the geopolitics leading up to, and following it.
Wilkerson recently met up with Renegade Inc. host, Ross Ashcroft to discuss the reordering of the geopolitical world, the death of the American empire and what can be done to re-imagine the West.
The former army colonel was first interviewed by the Renegade team back in 2012 for the Four Horsemen documentary film where he talked, presciently, about the geopolitical decision-making and structural corporate strategies involved in the scramble for resources.
At that time Wilkerson’s way of looking at the world was modeled on the two corporate scenarios adopted by Royal Dutch Shell – ‘Blueprint’, a theoretically planned corporate structure of the business, and ‘Scramble’, a necessarily messy process by which the blueprint is delivered.
Wilkerson recalls that by the end, both scenarios get to the same place. “Blueprint leaves a lot less blood on the floor. Scramble leaves a lot of blood on the floor as people fight for these resources”, says Wilkerson.
With globalisation in retreat, the former army officer argues that the West has, and continues, to follow disastrous insular and myopic geopolitical strategies overseen by increasingly inefficient and deficient leaders. All of this is symptomatic of an American Empire that is coming to an end.
Wilkerson describes the country as being on the brink of collapse and envisages its fall as the culmination of widespread corruption and inefficiency in all three branches of government.
“I think we have the possibility of going rapidly or through the next decade or so going slowly and painfully. In some respects I’d rather see the rapid demise than I would the slow, lingering death. But it’s coming”, says Wilkerson.
Ex reality star and property developer, Donald Trump who, when employed in those roles, reacted to short term pressures with ad-hoc decisions and was devoid of a moral and ethical compass when making them, represents the apex of this terminally declining notion of empire.
Having apparently defaulted on the debt the US owes to China, Trump has carried his lack of ethical business credentials with him to the White House. “H.L. Mencken rather accurately predicted that someday the American people will get the leader they deserve. I think that’s what we’ve got”, says Wilkerson.
This state of affairs, however, can not continue indefinitely. Often currency wars lead to trade wars which can then lead to hot wars. Wilkerson is concerned about a possible conflict on the other side of the pandemic partly as a result of the crippling effects sanctions are having on Iran.
The former colonel describes this as a situation that “could wind up being ten times worse than Iraq.” It’s precisely the rudderless leadership of a president whose entire raison d’être is ad hoc decision-making that gives credence to the notion that US foreign policy is unpredictable and dangerous.
The US assassination of the Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, which Wilkerson describes as a “stupid decision”, is an example where Trump’s ad hoc-ery and strategic planning deficiencies resulted in an international relations disaster that is likely to not only develop into a US-led Iranian coup, but help facilitate a new nuclear arms race that will engender more fear and anger in the region.
Wilkerson says that one of the positive unintended consequences of such a scenario could be the overthrow of Mohammed bin Salman in Saudia Arabia. However, the former colonel gives the impression of being somewhat more circumspect in relation to Soleimani’s achievements in reigning in the ability of ISIS to engage in terrorism.
In Wilkerson’s view, the American’s should back Bashar al Assad in Syria from afar in the country’s battle to rid ISIS from its territory. However, as Wilkerson attests, disinformation and cyber warfare campaigns undertaken by international organisations sympathetic to Western interests (for example, the OPCW), frequently seek to undermine Syria’s right to remain an independent sovereign nation free from external meddling in its affairs.
How this kind of geopolitical landscape will pan out in a post-virus world is likely to be determined by the extent to which nation states are pulled in one direction or another. If, as seems likely, we retreat from globalisation towards a new form of economic isolationism, Wilkerson predicts a disaster for the world. “I think all of us will regret it and we’ll have to scramble to get back together again”, he says.
But this isolationism also presents a massive opportunity to redress four decades of neoliberalism and rising inequality and to restructure the economy and society so that it serves the interests of people and the environment rather than bankers and corporations.
Wilkerson draws great strength from the new possibilities:
“By meeting the challenges that most threaten us, maybe by 2050 we could come out having met the crisis and dealt with it both in an ameliorative way and an adaptive way. And we could have brought ourselves together in a way that leads the globe to a new economic system, a new way of living, a more equitable distribution of wealth.”
Wilkerson’s optimism is nevertheless tempered by the fact that top talent no longer wants to go into politics and so attempts to change the system from within become much more difficult. What is certain is that some sort of seismic change needs to come about.
Wilkerson proffers a salutary reminder of what’s at stake:
“The next Occupy Wall Street will have leadership. It will have meaning and purpose. It won’t be this listless group of youths spread across the country objecting to obscene wealth. It will be people who will drag the wealthy out of their mansions and shoot them in the streets. So we better do something to avoid that.”