The world is not a simple thing of unconnected factors. At times the strangest of things are connected at the highest of levels. So how could these seemingly unrelated items actually be linked? And that is a very good question. The answers will not make you happy though. They point to a slowly developing crisis.
Many observers have pointed out that the United States seems to have entered a period of imperial decline. All empires rise and all empires ultimately fail. So this should not be surprising to anybody with any historical awareness. However, most of us do not look forward to living through a collapse, which is the worst case scenario. Usually, these failures are measured in things like military overstretch, steel production and global influence. However, I will argue that r there are other markers of decline.
You can measure the power of a nation by simple things like the friends it keeps and the state of its infrastructure. Nations on the rise will try to make friends and influence enemies. This is what we did for seventy years. We made friends of former enemies, we learned to trade with the world, and we helped create the global democratic order. It benefited us greatly. Just one thing most Americans do not appreciate is the fact that the United States Dollar is the global reserve currency it gave us incredible trade advantages, for example. If that goes, we could see hyperinflation.
As the empire rose we saw an expanding economy and a stable middle class, and we had the reputation of the good guys in the world. We even defeated the greatest for the country ever saw, without, thankfully, using our nuclear arsenal. We did come close to the Cold War going hot a few times, but overall we won.
Now we are seen as a global laughing stock, Human rights are for sissies and the only thing that matters is money, the president has signaled. The more money, the more likely we are going to turn a blind eye to other nation’s violations. Oh, you killed a journalist, sure whatever, show me the money! And Jamal Khashoggi is the latest in a series of these matters where money trumps all else. This is a signal of a fast declining power that is surrendering its place in the world.
Is Russia interfering in US Elections? Who cares? Kim Jun Un killing his brother with chemical weapons, whatever. The Russians attempting the murder of a former spy in the United Kingdom? Who cares? In fact, this president has signaled he will not mind surrendering another US Person, this time to Turkey. And believe you me, morale in the Intelligence Community must be low. It is not like their number one customer cares what they tell him, or why?
The rising crisis in the Crimea will be another signal to Russia that they can reconstitute the Empire. As the crisis started to unfold, the president again chided Western allies on Twitter.
This signals to the world that we really do not care about things we once did. And while you could make an argument that we have done business with pretty nasty characters in the past, we are not even pretending anymore.
So how is that related to things like E-Colli and your post thanksgiving turkey salad? Quite simple. It is not just the death of national values, but also food safety infrastructure, which this is part off. cost money. Regulations, which the president suspended, work. And we are living through the consequences. But we as a country have a few other priorities. These priorities do not add value, ultimately, to a society. What they do add is fear.
Let me explain.
The United States, especially since the September 11 attacks, has invested ever-increasing amounts of money in the national security state. We have also increased our investment in the armed forces, and have spent $5.6 trillion, which is a very large amount of money on war. The return on this investment has not been more security for the country or better basic scientific research. We do not have a medical system that covers all. We do not have a food safety system that is working. And if you do not believe me, how many times have you thrown away the lettuce? At home, we are now disinfecting our veggies and fruit, which I never expected to do in the United States.
If we were to look at this purely from a return on investment, it really has not been a good bet. Moreover, we have a terrorism problem. It is homegrown, and it is coming from radicalized Americans who are in some ways the consequences of less opportunity, and the worst economic conditions. Yes, they are also coming from things like poor water systems and poor food safety systems, as well as the worst medical system among wealthy countries.
Think of the alternatives to those funds we have spent in the armed forces, and all ancillary consequences, such as more vets. Incidentally, privatizing the Veterans Administration is not the solution either, but we have chosen not to fund that fully either. We needed to respond to the 911 attacks, however, the war in Iraq was not justified. They did not attack the United States and historians will likely note that as the high watershed for the American empire. As is, that was the point when our influence also started to wane. Those of us who paid attention saw the difficulty President George W Bush had in putting together a coalition, and when compared to his father, it was a spectacle to watch.
This brings us to this matter. How are the actions of President Donald Trump-related to an empire in decline? They betray a few things. The first is that they lay bare the values of money over morals. If you are a source of business for the United States (and it is not even as significant as the president claims) we will surrender our national values. This is precisely what countries in decline do. And we should also ask what are the personal interests of President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia? His Northstar, if you will, is his personal enrichment.
Moreover, our global influence is wanting and fast. His America First philosophy is part of the problem. The president knows this. That he does not understand how we got there is beside the point. That he rejects the role of the country over seventy years and is instead turning towards toxic nationalism is beside the point.
Saudi Arabia has always been complicated. The reason the president is embracing the Saudis has nothing to do with geopolitical issues. This is from MSNBC back in 2015:
“In 2015, before he was president but around the time he started running, Donald Trump registered eight shell companies that all included the word ‘Jeddah’ in the company name… Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia.
“Trump creating eight shell companies with that city name in the company name — based on past Trump organization practices — that would seem to indicate that the president was planning to build a hotel in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t build that hotel, at least he hasn’t yet. Those companies were dissolved shortly after he was elected president.
“But then three days after Trump’s inauguration, lobbyists working for the Saudi government went out of their way to make sure the American press reported that they were spending almost $300,000 to put up a gigantic Saudi entourage at the Trump Hotel in Washington.
“The Trump Hotel in Manhattan has sort of been on hard times recently. Its revenues have declined for two straight years. But in the first few months of this year, that hotel turned its fortunes around, basically got bailed out. For the first time in years, revenue at the Trump Hotel in Manhattan increased thanks specifically to a very, very, very profligate and expensive visit from the Saudi crown prince — and his entourage too.
“Donald Trump has a business history and a business present with Saudi Arabia, and that’s the kind of thing we never have had to factor in before when considering why president was acting a specific way toward a specific country.”
So why is it that Trump cannot follow American principles of at least paying lip service to human rights? His bank account. We have the same issue with Russia and a few other places around the world. His instinct is to embrace kleptocrats, and he is one. Incidentally, his ties to the Russian mob go back three decades, according to Vox.
And he was trying to get a Trump tower in Moscow, it has been his wet dream, a few times. They have collapsed every time. The last one, the Miss Universe contest in Moscow. So expect crickets as the Ukraine crisis deepens. This is a clear signal of a defining power.
The Essential Man and America First
This brings us back full circle. The country is in a pickle. I cannot blame Trump for the Global War on Terror, or the historic mistake of going into Iraq, That would be George W Bush. However, Trump is a continuum of the corruption that has infected Washington. He is just an extreme example of this kleptocratic tendency that infects declining powers.
His view that money trumps everything else is not unusual. It is the norm actually. His idea that we need to close down the country is accelerating the process of decline. His priorities, to put more money into the Department of Defense and to build a border wall, to keep undesirables out, is what countries in decline do. Especially when immigration is actually at an all-time low, on the southern border. (To be fair, there has been a small increase from Central America, but that is mostly blowback to generational policies.)
What Trump represents is the fear of many white, working class, men. And it is mostly men. They have seen their lives get progressively worst as jobs leave the United States. They are turning their fear and hate for minorities and Trump is encouraging them. It is an old trick. And the best part is that those jobs have mostly been automated out of sight, and those that come back, bring the robots with them.
Declining nations produce men like Trump. Those people once were the crazy uncles at Thanksgiving dinners. There, they are just bizarre, even adorable. Once they start to take power, there is extreme danger in that. The Archie Bunker archetype is annoying on the tv, but once in power, they continue their politics of hate and division. They have no real solutions to the crisis at hand. Like Trump, most of these populists have no ideas that will even start to deal with the crisis. What they offer is deflection, hate, and xenophobia. In short, they offer tribalism, and the form it takes is extreme.
None of this involves investment in infrastructure, but plenty of finger pointing as to why all is falling apart. Nor do they care to invest in things like food safety, or a solid education. Nor will they care to take care of the people, meaning no universities and no medical care. They only care to spend public money in one thing, the national security state, and the military. And when they can, to loot the state and enrich themselves.
Attacks on Authorities and Institutions
If you are wondering why Trump attacks the media, the courts, Congress and any other old institutions are because they are a direct challenge to his power. This is also a feature of declining nations. The latest calculated attacks on the courts and the media are precisely about that.
This is about the country and institutions. This is about the present, the past and the future. There is a direct connection to the past. This is a line to the founders and the Constitution. One that the present president ignores. Perhaps he does not know or understand, the document he pledged to protect. This is the oath:
>”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
And this is the link to the future and a declining nation. We are faced with a chief executive who does not understand or accept, his constitutional duties. Nor does he believe in the most basic of science, technology, or trade. His base cheers him on because they accept the attacks on institutions as the only way to save those institutions. They do not trust any experts on anything, save their personal doctor, maybe. Many of them are also in the anti-vax bandwagon.
This goes hand in hand with the belief that you can deregulate anything since the market will be best. Oh never mind that lettuce is still contaminated with E-Coli, and so is ground beef and other food items. Did you enjoy your turkey? I hope you cooked it well.
Declining nations show those cracks in things like basic services, and a lack of respect for institutions. They also show it in things like weak educational systems, and deficient health care. The reaction is to blame all but the bad choices we have made in how we spend government funds.
We desperately need to have a conversation on this. How are we going to stop, if not reverse course. The decline is baked into the cake. Do we face collapse, or do we face a soft landing?