The American Empire (1898 – 2017)
Power is ephemeral, abstract. A will o’the wisp that can stand against the fiercest gale, yet vanish in the blink of an eye in broad daylight.
America’s brief run as a global superpower vanished irretrievably at 4:31 AM on June 4, 2017. In the aftermath of a terrorists attack, Donald Trump posted yet another ill-advised Tweet, aimed at Sadiq Khan, the current mayor of London (not, as many erroneously reported, the lord mayor; that’s a different job).
The United States, which stood up to the Soviet Union, which helped win two world wars, which bounced back from military defeats and setbacks in Vietnam and Korea, which muscled itself onto the international stage by shoving what was left of the Spanish Empire off, the United States of America, with an international policy defined by Teddy Roosevelt as “speak softly and carry a big stick,” that United States was forever toppled from its pedestal by a bombastic sac of human excrement.
There proved no need for a single honest child to speak truth to power in this fable; no, the emperor pursed his lips and loudly proclaimed, “I’m naaaaaaaaked!”
And thus ends an empire.
It really doesn’t matter any longer if Trump is taking orders from Putin or not: The end result is the same.
Our old alliances are in tatters. Even at the worst, most cantankerous moments of The Reagan and Bushes administrations, our allies and the rest of the world had a sense of “this, too, shall pass.” Whatever mistakes, missteps, and diplomatic faux pas those presidents committed, the sense was always that it was a temporary glitch, that the underlying goals and policies of the United States had not wavered or diminished, that shortly the strong and reliant ally would return.
With Donald Trump we are seeing the abrupt and irreversible end of America’s influence. Our allies, like friends of a drunk who will help him into a cab and see him safely home, have finally realized they’re dealing with a hopeless lush: They will not be answering any more phone calls to come and party, much less to bail that friend out.
Alcoholics Anonymous holds its drunks strictly accountable for the chaos and harm they strew in their wake, and America is rushing towards its own moment of clarity, when it will realize it is naked, in a gutter, covered in piss and shit and vomit, and nobody cares, everybody is laughing.
What Trump has done that marks him so different from previous presidents has been to reduce the office holder from an intellect -- no matter how substandard -- to a bundle of uncontrollable and ill-conceived impulses, appetites, and tics.
We have seen some pretty terrible human beings in the White House, but by far the worst of the lot by several degrees of magnitude is Donald Trump.
He is a man without honor, without compassion, without wisdom, without integrity, without loyalty. Andrew Jackson would have pummeled him with his cane five minutes after meeting him, George Washington would have possessed the patience and courtesy to last an hour before dong the same. Even Abraham Lincoln would have contemplated a body slam, Truman and Eisenhower would have decked him.
And yet this is the person that the Republican party aided, encouraged, and endorsed. They let him play to white bigotry because their power depended on white bigots as part of their base. The hypocrisy of the GOP is part and parcel of what makes Trump’s destruction of American power possible. The rest of the world looks at them, recognizes they have no core integrity, no vision of the future other than one in which wealthy white people rule and everyone else suffers, and they know this is a political party they can never take seriously again.
At this point, several of my Republican friends are sputtering: “But that’s not me! I’m no bigot! I don’t hate anybody! Some of my best friends are non-white -- I’ve even dated non-whites!”
True dat…but you were more interested in your party gaining power than in doing what was right, and when histories of this era are written, you will be lumped together with the bigots you depended on.
Lie down with pigs,
get up smelling like pig shit.
And for my fundamentalist / evangelical friends who wiped their ass with the Bible and endorsed Donald Trump as “God’s choice,” you’ve betrayed Christ to kiss the rancid rectum of the prince of this world, what fate do you think awaits you and your churches? In a generation or less somebody will figure out how to market Islam to white Americans and when they do the hemorrhaging of American Christianity going on now will become an implosion and it’s going to be your damned fault. Live with that for the rest of your lives.
Donald Trump is the most woefully ill-prepared man to take office in the last hundred years, and in a rogues gallery that includes Warren G. Harding, Harry S Truman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush that’s sayin’ sumthin’.
In fact, I’ll take back the ill-prepared part: Even Harding had some dim idea of how politics worked and while the others lacked refinement and in-depth knowledge, Truman proved to be a quick learner, Reagan knew how to triangulate, and GWBush, for all his sins and shortcomings, never struck anyone as malicious.
But Donald Trump is the quintessential ugly American: Clueless, classless, provincial, bigoted, money grubbing, snobbish, vulgar, spiteful, boastful, cocksure, pig ignorant, and a religious hypocrite.
Even claims that Americans possess good qualities hinge on how effectively these flaws in the national character are hammered flat.
Trump is every American flaw rolled into one big fragile, empty, greasy orange Cheeto. He is a constant reminder to the rest of the world why they shouldn’t pay any attention to us.
I do not exaggerate when I say Trump’s Tweet re Sadiq Khan and the latest terrorism incident marks the moment American’s waning international influence vanished like a bad dream upon waking up. The rest of the world looked at Johnson and Nixon and Reagan and the Bushes and could say, “Okay, so it’s not as if their flaws were well known before they took office; sure, they were scoundrels and fools but at least they tried to hide those flaws.”
The American people could convincingly claim they did not understand the full malignancy of those presidents when they voted for them, but Trump’s characteristics were not merely well known, he touted them as selling points in his campaign.
So Europe and the rest of the world looks at Trump and judges America accordingly: These people are fools and liars and imbeciles and superstitious ignoramuses who revel in their ignorance.
Why should we ever pay attention to them again?
And they won’t.
And we’re screwed.
Because very, very soon our warships are not going to be welcomed in as many foreign ports as they once were, our military aircraft will be denied fly over privileges, our troops and bases no longer tolerated in foreign lands.
Sad but true fact about the American military: We have never defeated a numerically superior enemy. All our victories have been us ganging up on a smaller, more poorly equipped foe.
Even then we typically need allies to do the bulk of the heavy fighting for us: France supplied 90% of the Revolutionary Army’s gunpowder and kept the British fleet at bay so blockade runners could keep commerce going, and by the end of the Revolutionary War had committed 300,000 military personnel to help the colonial army (80,000 troops, tops) fight 40,000 English troops.
Those 40,000 English troops, by the way, represented nearly half of the entire British army (96,000 troops total during this period), the rest busy defending various non-rebellious colonies around the world from French, Spanish, and Dutch attack.
George Washington's army started the war fighting Hessians, German mercenaries the English hired to keep an eye on the colonies. He then moved up to third rate and finally second rate troops by the time he won the war with 80,000 colonials and 300,000 French. He never faced the crème de la crème of the British army, for if he had he would be a dangling footnote in the history of Canada.
US involvement in World War One came late, long after the tide of battle turned and German defeat was inevitable. As a nation, we cashed in on that war, American goods filling markets the French, British, and other European nations could no longer supply, getting more money than they normally would have earned, and dominating those markets.
Despite the Depression, we still pumped US goods into foreign markets, enabled the rise of fascism, sat out the worst days of the World War Two in Europe, and only after the Russians and the English turned the tide on the Eastern and Western fronts did we start helping them – and claiming the lion’s share of the credit.
Unlike Americans, who are comfortable with hagiography and tend to ignore unpleasant facts, the Europeans don’t merely read their history, they study it.
They know us for what we are, but for a long time they also knew us for what we aspired to be: Something better, more hopeful than the old world that spawned us.
Well, thanks to Trump, his voters, and the GOP that fond image is forever shattered.
You can practically hear the call blocking sliding into place. Putin severely compromised two of Europe’s mightiest allies and while one might recover because they have thousands of years of tradition that point to Brexit as a fixable mistake, Donald Trump only confirms the worst everybody thought about us.
We have thrown away our birthright, abdicated our moral / ethical / political leadership, and embraced a man so unworthy of the office that his becoming president was the subject of a silly TV cartoon years before it actually happened.
America, we are not Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, we are not Paladin or Father Knows Best or Star Trek.
We are the God damned Simpsons.