«The American Century, stripped of the rhetoric of freedom, peace anda democracy, was based on clear US hegemony among nations. It rested on two pillars. The one pillar was the uncontested role of US military power, a dominance which no combination of powers had been able to challenge since the end of the Second World War in 1945. The Soviet Union ultimately collapsed amid ruin in the effort to challenge that hegemony. In 1979 China decided to cooperate with that hegemony and realized, perhaps too late, that it had been a double-edged sword. The second pillar of American Power was the uncontested role of the dollar as world reserve currency. The United States created the Bretton Woods System in 1944, in order to establish this unique role. The dollar served as reserve currency long after it had not one ounce of gold to back it.
The combined power of its military dominance and monetary dominance allowed the United States the enviable luxury of printing endless paper certificates, its dollars, and giving them to the rest of the world in exchange for well-engineered cars, machinery, textiles and every imaginable product. It was the greatest confidence game the world had ever seen. Americans bought the imports with more dollar debt, creating an edifice of dollar debt on which the entire world was dependent. This special hegemony also allowed the United States to become the world's largest debtor, to run endless trade imbalances, to inflate its currency beyond imagination, to create a buildup of private and public debt unprecedented in world history. So long as other nations depende on American markets for their trade, and on American military protection for their national security, the game appeared endless. Japan's role as "lender of last resort" to the U.S. was supplemented at the turn of the century by China. Hundreds of billions of dollars in Japanese, Chinese and other foreign purchases of U.S. treasury debt, U.S. real estate debt, and other assets, propped up the American economy long after it made any economic sense.
The power of the dollar and the power of the U.S. military had been uniquely interwined with one commodity, the basis of the world economic growth engine, since before the First World War. That commodity was petroleum, and in its service British, American, German, French, Italian, and other nations called their soldiers to war. As Henry Kissinger once expressed this importance: "control energy and you control the nations". Oil defined American foreign policy in much of the world during the cold war. And oil defines American military actions since the end of the cold war as never before.»
- F. William Engdahl, "A Century of War"