[I just finished reading Stan Goff's Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century; I'll post a series of elaborations and responses to his arguments here.]
1. The US is in economic and military decline. This is extremely dangerous.
Goff says that the US military is overextended after Afghanistan and Iraq. It has, he says, tipped its hand to the rest of the world, which now sees that the US is overextended, vulnerable, and racking up a massive debt. But as the US loses its grip on power militarily (Goff says it has already lost its grip on economic power, due to the hollowing out of the domestic industrial capacity), it still has the power to bomb a lot of people and things out of existence. The content of the nuclear arsenal does not follow any graphs. If it ever does, graphs will be the least of our concerns.
Emmanuel Todd and Immanuel Wallerstein have both made a similar case, and Robert Fisk has said that the war in Iraq was necessary for the US to maintain strategic control over oil (without the war, he said, the EU would have naturally gained influence in the region). Heck, the Project for a New American Century bases its entire plan on the idea that the US will naturally decline unless it spends insane amounts of cash on its military.
Wallerstein writes: "The real question is not whether U.S. hegemony is waning but whether the United States can devise a way to descend gracefully, with minimum damage to the world, and to itself."
Goff is a bit less hopeful; he thinks that Rumsfeld et alia are going to try to use their new tactical "bunker buster" nukes to maintain US power (possibly trying them out in N. Korea), with a disastrous cascade of results and responses that no one wants to imagine.
A fundamental irony is pointed out by Goff, Todd, and others: only now that the US Empire is in decline, is anyone talking about the building and maintenance of an empire. Before, even during the Cold War, it was ubiquitous to the point of invisibility--for the US elites, I mean.
Goff's take on the neoliberals (as contrasted with neoconservatives) is that they long for a return to the multilaterally-enabled feeding frenzy of the rich countries on the third world, enabled by the IMF, World Bank, and others. Goff predicts that the Clinton days won't return, because the Democrats are substituting effect (Bush and the Neocons) for cause (decline of US control globally).
I don't have a lot to add to what Goff says. His accounts of warfare are fascinating as an inside look at the mechanics of empire, and convincing as an argument that this dangerous decline is happening. At this point, I just think that this should be more widely adopted as a first premise for analyses of what to do, and how to respond to what's there.