February 17, 2008 was supposed to be a triumph of Empire’s doctrine of righteous interventionism, anytime, anywhere. That Moscow and Belgrade could not stop the blatantly illegal creation of "independent" Kosovo was to be the proof of Washington’s power, and its designated victims’ powerlessness. That shortly thereafter, Serbia came under complete control of sycophantic quislings who absolutely ruled out any resistance to Empire’s demands was just the icing on the cake.

Serbia was crushed, its opposition in disarray, and its own government helpfully implementing separatist agendas on Empire’s behalf. Surely, Moscow would accept the outcome and move along, submitting to the Euro-Atlantic hegemony as the right and proper order of things?

Ossetia showed otherwise.

The guns of August were as much a message as they were about helping Russian citizens targeted by a U.S. client regime in Tbilisi: the age of the Atlantic Empire was over. Whether the message was understood in Washington is still unclear, but it was definitely heard around the world.

Words vs. Reality

None of the self-righteous rage vented in the Western media, or the pompous pronouncements by presidential candidates, foreign ministers, presidents, vice-presidents or ambassadors, could change the fact that the Georgian army had ceased to exist, and that shiny toys the Empire equipped it with ended up as loot in Russian hands.

Since then, news for the Empire has been nothing but bad. For all the official talk of unconditional support for their Georgian puppet, there are already murmurs of discontent with the regime of Mikheil Saakashvili. Misha may have been installed in power by a U.S.-sponsored "Rose revolution," but the bloom is definitely off by now.

Georgians also don’t seem interested in being turned into an American Hezbollah, maybe because they know that this sort of warfare commands a horrific price. Americans can be forgiven for not knowing it, since their wars are fought far away, but Chechnya is just across the Georgian border.

Tumult in Kiev

If Georgia was to be the Caucasus jewel in the Imperial crown, the grand prize of the East was without a doubt the Ukraine. Following the success of "popular revolts" in Serbia and Georgia, in 2004 the Empire supported the "Orange revolution" in Ukraine and installed Viktor Yushchenko as the new president. Yushchenko’s party was not strong enough by itself, however; he had to rely on an alliance with former gas tycoon Yulia Tymoshenko, who became Prime Minister.

Following the debacle in Georgia, however, Tymoshenko chose not to back Yushchenko’s overt support for Tbilisi and the Empire. After Tymoshenko’s party worked with the pro-Russian opposition to pass laws limiting the powers of the President, Yushchenko’s party pulled out of the ruling coalition and accused Tymoshenko of "high treason." Tymoshenko rejected the allegations, refused to resign, and called the crisis a "storm in a teacup."

Unless a new government is formed soon, Ukraine faces new elections, its third in two years. However, given that Tymoshenko is refusing to resign, she could be trying to run a minority government with the pro-Russian Party of Regions’ tacit support, or perhaps even ally with them outright.

In the West, Tymoshenko’s split with Yushchenko is seen as knocking Ukraine "off its pro-Western course and back into Moscow’s orbit." (AFP) Apparently, once the country is a client of the Empire, it must remain that way – independence or neutrality are out of the question, and are seen as "defection" to the "enemy."

Snubbing the Yanquis

Now, it may be that the media are exaggerating the crisis in Kiev, as there is after all a widespread propensity to see the wicked hand of Moscow in every development. But the Empire is slipping in other places as well. Last week, Bolivia expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, accusing him of trying to break up the country. The government in La Paz is facing a revolt in two provinces, and believes Washington is behind it. Goldberg had served as the U.S. envoy to the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo, a fact often noted by Bolivians inclined to see covert U.S. involvement in their country. Even if Goldberg and the Empire are entirely blameless, the Bolivians obviously perceive them differently. Given that the Empire is all about perception management, one cannot help but find that ironic.

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela seized the opportunity and also expelled Washington’s envoy, as well as recalled the Venezuelan ambassador from Washington, so as to deny the U.S. the pleasure of retaliating. Earlier last week, Chavez was positively giddy when two Russian strategic bombers visited Venezuela, declaring, "The Yankee hegemony is finished."

Chavez may be right, but not because he or Bolivia’s Evo Morales dared show the door to Washington’s legates. A far more damaging development for U.S. hegemony came on September 8, when Brazil and Argentina inked an agreement to stop using dollars in bilateral trade.

Behind the Curtain

Taken separately, the discontent in Georgia, Ukraine’s shift away from unconditional obedience, and the open defiance in Latin America would still be a cause for concern for the proponents of American hegemony. These are all events far from home, however, and easily countered – in their minds, at least – with proper propaganda.

No amount of perception management can paper over the rapidly unfolding economic disaster at home, though. The federal takeover of mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the government bailout of insurer AIG; and the demise of investment banking houses Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, all sent a signal not just to capital markets around the world, but to governments as well, that the omnipotent American Empire is a mirage.

Washington is still talking tough, but what the world hears is a plea to ignore the man behind the curtain. The Empire is still capable of killing people and breaking things, but it seems to be losing the ability to compel obedience. Without that, it is nothing.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.