Bush started it, And Napoleon Trump will Accelerate it. What’s it? The fall of the American Empire. As we remember 9/11, It’s strangely Ironic that Napoleon Trump is Making America Fall Again (like “W”).
As the U.S. marks the 16th anniversary of 9/11 and contemplates renewed military action in Afghanistan, possibly North Korea and Iran many observers are warning that America is a fading power.
“There was a time when America would whisper ‘coup’ and nations would quake,” says historian and University of Wisconsin professor Alfred McCoy, noting that in a 20-year period up to the mid-1970s, the CIA assisted in dozens of military coups that toppled governments.
Some historians believe the American reaction to the 2001 attacks accelerated the decline of the U.S. empire. Look no further than the ongoing quagmire in Iraq, the unachievable goals in Afghanistan and paralysis over Syria.
Military historians who’ve traced the patterns of empire note that when an empire is in decline, it indulges in feats of “micro-militarism” – small interventions that it cannot win, but still undertakes because imperial pride is at stake.
“We couldn’t get rid of Hugo Chavez. Despite our support, the Green Revolution in Iran failed,” McCoy offers by way of example.
In his 2004 book The Sorrows of Empire, scholar Chalmers Johnson wrote that embedded in the nature of empire is payback, and that following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, radical neoconservatives in the U.S. embraced the idea that “it is America’s job to police the world.”
This fueled an orgy of military spending. In 2004, there were 725 known U.S. bases around the world, according to the Pentagon; today, there are over 1,000.
‘America is not an empire’
America has often been called the most powerful empire in human history, yet U.S. political elites have often stated the opposite.
Former president George W. Bush once said, “America is not an empire.” Donald Rumsfeld, his secretary of defense, stated “we’re not imperialistic.”
Intense debates have sprung up in recent years about how America has played the grand imperial game.
British citizens embraced notions of empire, but Americans want to be seen to be benevolent rulers. The British believed in having a “civilizing” influence; Americans call it “democratizing.”
Chalmers Johnson calls both terms “self-deluding propaganda.”
British historian Niall Ferguson believes that America, to its detriment, hasn’t been forceful enough in pursuing its imperial quest. “It is an empire in denial so America might end up a colossus with attention deficit disorder,” he wrote in his 2004 book Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.
In a 2004 interview on CBC Radio’s Ideas program, libertarian thinker Doug Bandow echoed this sentiment, saying, “this broad agenda of empire is completely dead if Iraq keeps going the way it’s going. In fact, if Iraq dies, I think the American empire is gone.”
A cost of trillions of dollars
Economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates military interventions in Iraq have cost America over $1 trillion in direct costs, and two trillion in future costs.
When asked what has been accomplished — besides a lot of death and destruction — Alfred McCoy says, “Not a whole lot.”
All of which invites the question, How do you assess when an empire is dead?
The cost of foreign wars, a deteriorating middle class, a domestic opioid epidemic (stemming from Afghanistan) and a poorly performing educational system with strong limits placed on educated immigrants (that could make up for the education deficit) as a few of the many variables that have added and will add to America’s woes.
That’s why a new genre of academics, who call themselves “declinists,” has emerged in recent years.
These scholars are charting the weakening of the American empire. McCoy is one of them, and believes the reign of the American empire will be over by 2025.
Even more telling, perhaps, is that the National Intelligence Council, the supreme analytic body within the American intelligence community, has also been reading the tea leaves. It says the days of the American empire, militarily, will be over by 2030.
President-elect Donald Trump will assume office on the strength of his promise to fundamentally reconfigure US foreign policy and in so doing quickly resolve America’s growing list of foreign political and economic challenges.
That he was able to successfully market this message, and himself as the individual most capable of achieving these objectives, makes the world a substantially more dangerous place.
It is crucial to understand that Trump would not be where he is today without a campaign centered on not only resentment of the elites of which he is a card-carrying member, but on vulgar demagoguery that whipped up growing waves of hatred against difference whether at home or abroad.
A good portion of this odium was directed at the Middle East and Americans citizens of Arab or Muslim provenance, which he has committed to bomb to smithereens and/or torture to death.
US elections 2016: Donald Trump’s rise in the GOP
Trump has essentially promised the United States that he would disentangle it from a web of increasingly costly foreign alliances and trade agreements that have robbed Americans of their livelihoods, and replace these with ultimatums to do as he says or else. Thus, the mercantilist isolationism he proposes to implement would nevertheless guarantee perpetual American global supremacy.
The key issue is whether the American foreign policy and military establishment will prove as pliant to his whim as the Republican Party, and how close American allies such as Europe respond.
Yet, what precisely we are to make of Trump’s foreign policy is virtually impossible to fathom because, the above slogans notwithstanding, the man is an empty vessel who has been on contradictory sides of most issues during the presidential campaign.
The only consistent thread running through his positions is that the presidency can make Trump great again, and that he alone is properly equipped to deal with challenges he appears not to understand.
Take, for example, the Iranian nuclear agreement. Trump has denounced it, but at the same time refused to renounce it. Rather, he has claimed that he will renegotiate it and produce a “better” one.
The proposition that Tehran, and Moscow, and Beijing, and Brussels, and London, Paris and Berlin will readily or otherwise consent to re-open this hard-won text simply because Trump is a self-proclaimed master dealmaker and doesn’t like the existing, ratified accord is nothing less than insane.
To be sure, Trump is an extremely dangerous phenomenon that, left to its own devices, can inflict enormous damage on the planet, not least the Middle East.
Should they fail to stop him, we have most probably seen the last of the American Empire. But under his supervision it may well drag the world down with it.
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