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Empire of Chaos: How 9/11 Shaped the Politics of a Failing State

The neoconservative ideas that shaped the war on terror have evaporated as the United States is battered by an economic depression that shows no end.

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The philosopher Hannah Arendt once observed that Empire abroad requires tyranny at home. The post-9/11 police state has proved useful in suppressing “enemies”: the threat within, Arab and Muslim communities; the social threat, the left; and the demographic threat, Latinos. All have come under severe repression in the last decade, Arab- and Muslim-Americans most of all.

Ten years on, ideology has outlasted the relevance of the events of 9/11. Islamophobia serves to mobilize support for an endless war. Suppressing the left has scattered radical social opposition to the dominant order, and the war against Latino immigrants has created shadow armies of fearful workers with few rights that corporations prey on to drive down wages and further impede labor organizing.

As tragic as September 11, 2001 was, it is a historical blip because it only speeded up the process of imperial decline. Shortly after the attacks, the historian Immanuel Wallerstein suggested the American hegemony could go down one of two paths. The first was managing a soft decline. The other was a crash landing. It’s not hard to see which path we’ve been on since 9/11.

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing a book on the decline of American Empire for Haymarket Books.