Trump Presides Over Dwindling Greatness

Russia and China are forging stronger ties, gaining ground on the U.S. and rattling Washington, writes Dilip Hiro. 

By Dilip Hiro

President Donald Trump was partly voted into office by Americans who felt that the self-proclaimed greatest power on Earth was actually in decline — and they weren’t wrong. Trump is capable of tweeting many things, but none of those tweets will stop that process of decline, nor will a trade war with a rising China or fierce oil sanctions on Iran.

You could feel this recently, even in the case of the increasingly pressured Iranians. There, with a single pinprick, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei effectively punctured Trump’s MAGA balloon and reminded many that, however powerful the U.S. still was, people in other countries were beginning to look at America differently at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Trump wearing MAGA cap in 2016. (Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons)

Following a meeting in Tehran with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who brought a message from Trump urging the start of U.S.-Iranian negotiations, Khamenei tweeted, “We have no doubt in [Abe’s] goodwill and seriousness; but regarding what you mentioned from [the] U.S. president, I don’t consider Trump as a person deserving to exchange messages with, and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future.” He then added: “We believe that our problems will not be solved by negotiating with the U.S., and no free nation would ever accept negotiations under pressure.”

A flustered Trump was reduced to briefly tweeting: “I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!”

And soon after, the president halted at the last minute, in a distinctly humiliating retreat, U.S. air strikes on Iranian missile sites that would undoubtedly have created yet more insoluble problems for Washington across the Greater Middle East.

Keep in mind that, globally, before the ayatollah’s put-down, the Trump administration had already had two abject foreign policy failures: the collapse of the president’s Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (followed by that regime’s provocative firing of several missiles over the Sea of Japan) and a bungled attempt to overthrow the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

America’s Global Standing at a Record Low

What’s great or small can be defined in absolute or relative terms. America’s “greatness” (or exceptional or indispensable nature) — much lauded in Washington before the Trump era — should certainly be judged against the economic progress made by China in those same years and against Russia’s advances in the latest high-tech weaponry. Another way of assessing the nature of that “greatness” and what to make of it would be through polls of how foreigners view the United States.

Take, for instance, a survey released by the Pew Research Group in February 2019. Forty-five percent of respondents in 26 nations with large populations felt that American power and influence posed “a major threat to our country,” while 36 percent offered the same response on Russia, and 35 percent on China. To put that in perspective, in 2013, during the presidency of Barack Obama, only 25 percent of global respondents held such a negative view of the U.S., while reactions to China remained essentially the same. Or just consider the most powerful country in Europe, Germany. Between 2013 and 2018, Germans who considered American power and influence a greater threat than that of China or Russia leapt from 19 percent to 49 percent. (Figures for France were similar.)

China’s Xi with Russia’s Putin after talks in June 2019. (The Kremlin)

As for Trump, only 27 percent of global respondents had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, while 70 feared he would not. In Mexico, you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, confidence in his leadership was at a derisory 6 percent. In 17 of the surveyed countries, people who lacked confidence in him were also significantly more likely to consider the U.S. the world’s top threat, a phenomenon most pronounced among traditional Washington allies like Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.

China’s Expanding Global Footprint

While 39 percent of Pew respondents in that poll still rated the U.S. as the globe’s leading economic power, 34 percent opted for China. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 to link the infrastructure and trade of much of Southeast Asia, Eurasia, and the Horn of Africa to China (at an estimated cost of $4 trillion) and to be funded by diverse sources, is going from strength to strength.

One way to measure this: the number of dignitaries attending the biennial BRI Forum in Beijing. The first of those gatherings in May 2017 attracted 28 heads of state and representatives from 100 countries. The most recent, in late April, had 37 heads of state and representatives from nearly 150 countries and international organizations, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Leaders of nine out of 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations attended, as did four of the five Central Asian republics. Strikingly, a third of the leaders participating came from Europe. According to Peter Frankopan, author of “The New Silk Roads,” more than 80 countries are now involved in some aspect of the BRI project. That translates into more than 63 percent of the world’s population and 29 percent of its global economic output.

Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping is intent on expanding the BRI’s global footprint further, a signal of China’s dream of future greatness. During a February two-day state visit to Beijing by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Xi suggested that, when it came to Riyadh’s overly ambitious economic plan, “our two countries should speed up the signing of an implementation plan on connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with the Saudi Vision 2030.”

Flattered by this proposal, the crown prince defended China’s use of “re-education” camps for Uighur Muslims in its western province of Xinjiang, claiming it was Beijing’s “right” to carry out antiterrorism work to safeguard national security. Under the guise of combating extremism, the Chinese authorities have placed an estimated one million Uighur Muslims in such camps to undergo re-education designed to supplant their Islamic legacy with a Chinese version of socialism. Uighur groups had appealed to Prince bin Salman to take up their cause. No such luck: one more sign of the rise of China in the 21st century.

China Enters High-Tech Race with America

In 2013, Germany launched an Industry 4.0 Plan meant to fuse cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing with the aim of increasing manufacturing productivity by up to 50 percent, while curtailing resources required by half. Two years later, emulating this project, Beijing published its own 10-year Made in China 2025 plan to update the country’s manufacturing base by rapidly developing 10 high-tech industries, including electric cars and other new-energy vehicles, next-generation information technology and telecommunications, as well as advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, aerospace engineering, high-end rail infrastructure, and high-tech maritime engineering.

As with BRI, the government and media then publicized and promoted Made in China 2025 vigorously. This alarmed Washington and America’s high-tech corporations. Over the years, American companies had complained about China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property, the counterfeiting of famous brands, and the stealing of trade secrets, not to speak of the pressuring of American firms in joint ventures with local companies to share technology as a price for gaining access to China’s vast market. Their grievances became more vocal when Donald Trump entered the White House determined to cut Washington’s annual trade deficit of $380 billion with Beijing.

As president, Trump ordered his new trade representative, the Sinophobe Robert Lighthizer, to look into the matter. The resulting seven-month investigation pegged the loss U.S. companies experienced because of China’s unfair trade practices at $50 billion a year. That was why, in March 2018, Trump instructed Lighthizer to levy tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

 Lighthizer, second from left with earpiece, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump at session on the global economy at G-20 Summit, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)

That signaled the start of a Sino-American trade war which has only gained steam since. In this context, Chinese officials started downplaying the significance of Made in China 2025, describing it as nothing more than an inspirational plan. This March, China’s National People’s Congress even passed a foreign direct-investment law meant to address some of the grievances of U.S. companies. Its implementation mechanism was, however, weak. Trump promptly claimed that China had backtracked on its commitments to incorporate into Chinese law significant changes the two countries had negotiated and put into a draft agreement to end the trade war. He then slapped further tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

The major bone of contention for the Trump administration is a Chinese law specifying that, in a joint venture between a foreign corporation and a Chinese company, the former must pass on technological know-how to its Chinese partner. That’s seen as theft by Washington. According to Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Yukon Huang, author of “Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong,” however, it’s fully in accord with globally accepted guidelines. Such diffusion of technological know-how has played a significant role in driving growth globally, as the IMF’s 2018 World Economic Outlook report made clear. It’s worth noting as well that China now accounts for almost one-third of global annual economic growth.

The size of China’s market is so vast and the rise in its per capita gross domestic product — from $312 in 1980 to $9,769 in 2018 — is so steep that major U.S. corporations generally accepted its long-established joint-venture law and that should surprise no one. Last year, for instance, General Motors sold 3,645,044 vehicles in China and fewer than 3 million in the U.S. Little wonder then that, late last year, following GM plant closures across North America, part of a wide-ranging restructuring plan, the company’s management paid no heed to a threat from Trump to strip GM of any government subsidies. What angered the president, as he tweeted, caught the reality of the moment: nothing was “being closed in Mexico and China.”

What Trump simply can’t accept is this: after nearly two decades of supply-chain restructuring and global economic integration, China has become thekey industrial supplier for the United States and Europe. His attempt to make America great again by restoring the economic status quo of before 2001 — the year China was admitted to the World Trade Organization — is doomed to fail.

In reality, trade war or peace, China is now beginning to overtake the U.S. in science and technology. A study by Qingnan Xie of Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Richard Freeman of Harvard University noted that, between 2000 and 2016, China’s global share of publications in the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics quadrupled and, in the process, exceeded that of the U.S. for the first time.

In the field of high technology, for example, China is now well ahead of the United States in mobile payment transactions. In the first 10 months of 2017, those totaled $12.8 trillion, the result of vast numbers of consumers discarding credit cards in favor of cashless systems. In stark contrast, according to eMarketer, America’s mobile payment transactions in 2017 amounted to $49.3 billion. Last year, 583 million Chinese used mobile payment systems, with nearly 68 percent of China’s Internet users turning to a mobile wallet for their offline payments.

Russia’s Advanced Weaponry

In a similar fashion, in his untiring pitch for America’s “beautiful” weaponry, Trump has failed to grasp the impressive progress Russia has made in that field.

While presenting videos and animated glimpses of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and underwater drones in a March 2018 television address, Russian President Vladimir Putin traced the development of his own country’s new weapons to Washington’s decision to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty with the Soviet Union. In December 2001, encouraged by John Bolton, then under secretary of state for arms control and international security, President George W. Bush had indeed withdrawn from the 1972 ABM treaty on the spurious grounds that the 9/11 attacks had changed the nature of defense for America. His Russian counterpart of the time, the very same Vladimir Putin, described the withdrawal from that cornerstone of world security as a grievous mistake. The head of Russia’s armed forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, warned then that the pullout would alter the nature of the international strategic balance, freeing up countries to restart arms buildups, both conventional and nuclear.

As it happened, he couldn’t have been more on the mark. The U.S. is now engaged in a 30-year, trillion-dollar-plus remake and update of its nuclear arsenal, while the Russians (whose present inventory of 6,500 nuclear weapons slightly exceeds America’s) have gone down a similar route. In that televised address of his on the eve of the 2018 Russian presidential election, Putin’s list of new nuclear weapons was headed by the Sarmat, a 30-ton intercontinental ballistic missile, reputedly far harder for an enemy to intercept in its most vulnerable phase just after launching. It also carries a larger number of nuclear warheads than its predecessor.

Putin meets in 2014 with young researchers at Russian Federal Nuclear Centre – All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, a key facility in Russia’s nuclear military complex. (President of Russia)

Another new weapon on his list was a nuclear-powered intercontinental underwater drone, Status-6, a submarine-launched autonomous vehicle with a range of 6,800 miles, capable of carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead. And then there was his country’s new nuclear-powered cruise missile with a “practically unlimited” range. In addition, because of its stealth capabilities, it will be hard to detect in flight and its high maneuverability will, theoretically at least, enable it to bypass an enemy’s defenses. Successfully tested in 2018, it does not yet have a name. Unsurprisingly, Putin won the presidency with 77 percent of the vote, a 13 percent rise from the previous poll, on record voter turnout of 67.7 percent.

In conventional weaponry, Russia’s S-400 missile system remains unrivalled. According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, “The S-400 system is an advanced, mobile, surface-to-air defense system of radars and missiles of different ranges, capable of destroying a variety of targets such as attack aircraft, bombs, and tactical ballistic missiles. Each battery normally consists of eight launchers, 112 missiles, and command and support vehicles.” The S-400 missile has a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles), and its integrated system is believed to be capable of shooting down up to 80 targets simultaneously.

Consider it a sign of the times, but in defiance of pressure from the Trump administration not to buy Russian weaponry, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, ordered the purchase of batteries of those very S-400 missiles. Turkish soldiers are currently being trained on that weapons systems in Russia. The first battery is expected to arrive in Turkey next month.

Trump talks with Turkey’s Erdogan at G-20 Summit, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)

Similarly, in April 2015, Russia signed a contract to supply S-400 missiles to China. The first delivery of the system took place in January 2018 and China test fired it in August.

Expanding Beijing-Moscow Alliance

Consider that as another step in Russian-Chinese military coordination meant to challenge Washington’s claim to be the planet’s sole superpower. Similarly, last September, 3,500 Chinese troops participated in Russia’s largest-ever military exercises involving 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships, and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Codenamed Vostok-2018, it took place across a vast region that included the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan. Little wonder that NATO officials described Vostok-2018 as a demonstration of a growing Russian focus on future large-scale conflict: “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.” Putin attended the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where Chinese President Xi was his guest. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defense spheres,” he declared, while Xi praised the two countries’ friendship, which, he claimed, was “getting stronger all the time.”

Map of Northern Sea Route along the coast of Russia. (Mohonu at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to climate change, Russia and China are now also working in tandem in the fast-melting Arctic. Last year Russia, which controls more than half the Arctic coastline, sent its first ship through the Northern Sea Route without an icebreaker in winter. Putin hailed that moment as a “big event in the opening up of the Arctic.”

Beijing’s Arctic policy, first laid out in January 2018, described China as a “near-Arctic” state and visualized the future shipping routes there as part of a potential new “Polar Silk Road” that would both be useful for resource exploitation and for enhancing Chinese security. Shipping goods to and from Europe by such a passage would shorten the distance to China by 30 percent compared to present sea routes through the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per voyage.

Icebreaker Yamal, August 2013. (International Maritime Organization via Flickr)

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic holds petroleum reserves equal to 412 billion barrels of oil, or about 22 percent  of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbons. It also has deposits of rare earth metals. China’s second Arctic vessel, Xuelong 2 (Snow Dragon 2), is scheduled to make its maiden voyage later this year. Russia needs Chinese investment to extract the natural resources under its permafrost. In fact, China is already the biggest foreign investor in Russia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the region — and the first LNG shipment was dispatched to China’s eastern province last summer via the Northern Sea Route. Its giant oil corporation is now beginning to drill for gas in Russian waters alongside the Russian company Gazprom.

Washington is rattled. In April, in its latest annual report to Congress on China’s military power, the Pentagon for the first time included a section on the Arctic, warning of the risks of a growing Chinese presence in the region, including that country’s possible deployment of nuclear submarines there in the future. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a meeting of foreign ministers in Rovaniemi, Finland, to assail China for its “aggressive behavior” in the Arctic.

In an earlier speech, Pompeo noted that, from 2012 to 2017, China invested nearly $90 billion in the Arctic region. “We’re concerned about Russia’s claim over the international waters of the Northern Sea Route, including its newly announced plans to connect it with China’s Maritime Silk Road,” he said. He then pointed out that, along that route, “Moscow already illegally demands other nations request permission to pass, requires Russian maritime pilots to be aboard foreign ships, and threatens to use military force to sink any that fail to comply with their demands.”

Leaders of the Arctic Council meet in Rovaniemi, Finland, May 6, 2019. (State Department/Ron Przysucha)

American Downturn Continues

Altogether, the tightening military and economic ties between Russia and China have put America on the defensive, contrary to Trump’s MAGA promise to American voters in the 2016 campaign. It’s true that, despite fraying diplomatic and economic ties between Washington and Moscow, Trump’s personal relations with Putin remain cordial. (The two periodically exchange friendly phone calls.) But among Russians more generally, a favorable view of the U.S. fell from 41 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2018, according to a Pew Research survey.

There’s nothing new about great powers, even the one that proclaimed itself the greatest in history, declining after having risen high. In our acrimonious times, that’s a reality well worth noting. While launching his bid for reelection recently, Trump proposed a bombastic new slogan: Keep America Great (or KAG), as if he had indeed raised America’s stature while in office. He would have been far more on target, however, had he suggested the slogan “Depress America More” (or DAM) to reflect the reality of an unpopular president who faces rising great power rivals abroad.

Dilip Hiro, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World,” among many other books. His latest book is Cold War in the Islamic World: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy” (about which he has recorded this podcast).

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57 comments for “Trump Presides Over Dwindling Greatness

  1. Josep
    July 15, 2019 at 19:25

    It says a lot when mainstream “conservative” Republicans in the US honestly believe leftist Democrats hate Jews and America. The list of such Democrats includes Tlaib and Omar. Exactly what is so “anti-Semitic” about questioning America’s relationship with Israel, much less Israel’s parasitic mooching of American taxpayers’ money? And what is so “anti-American” about bringing American troops home and ending American meddling in the Middle East?

  2. Jahaziel Bonilla Rivera
    July 14, 2019 at 13:14

    The fact that “America” is in a downward spiral is great news for the rest of the planet. It means that an Empire that invades, bombs, sanctions and overthrows democratically elected heads of state are in less danger than before. The sooner this wicked excuse of an “exceptional nation” disappears as an economic and military threat the better we all will be…..

  3. Lucy
    July 12, 2019 at 05:01

    It’s a pity the rulars haven’t learnt the world history at school.There used to be the roman empire .. and so on. And what?

  4. July 11, 2019 at 10:28

    Trump isn’t competent to make himself a sandwich without adult supervision, much less a country great. The only reason American rubes believed the MAGA trope is Reagan indoctrinated them with this same propaganda in the ’80s before Trump stole it.

    • KiwiAntz
      July 11, 2019 at 19:31

      O Society, I’m seeing a pattern here? Reagan was a D grade actor who acted with Monkeys? Trump’s a Reality TV Star who also works with Monkeys in the Whitehouse Zoo! Reagan was dumber than a sack of hammers & Trump is a boorish, ignorant toddler throwing his toys out of the cot? The dumber you are the more chance you have to be a President of America!

    • July 12, 2019 at 19:34

      Kiwi ~ You may be on to something, namely intelligence is not required to be president so long as you just “go with your gut.”

      Fake it till you make it!

      Oligarch patrons entitle presidents to make stupid and irrational decision, as well as force,others to pretend such leaders are correct instead of blithering idiots.

      Reagan, Dubya, and Trump are shining examples of being “right” even if everyone with any sense knows you are wrong. Trickle down economics, the invasion of Iraq, building a wall as a vanity project – YIKES!

      All of these were schemes your average elementary school kid can see are ridiculous and never should be taken seriously to begin with by voters and the press.

      Much of this is our fault as citizens for going along with the plans of clowns.

  5. Dunderhead
    July 10, 2019 at 22:23

    I’m actually grateful to Tromp for helping to make this happen, he may be Pres. doofus, disgusting in his personal habits, unread, wrong headed in his aggressive bluster but he’s driving this pig of an empire into its grave, let it be.

    • July 13, 2019 at 11:39

      I am in full agreement with you. It’s well past time that the truth about the United States is exposed. Trump is the perfect person to do it.

    • July 13, 2019 at 13:56

      Cutting off your nose to spite your face gets rid of the awful smell because it leaves you without the ability to tell how bad everything stinks. Sure, y’all can see Trump getting rid of the American empire by trashing the dollar and diplomacy as a good thing. He’s the best at breaking stuff. What a superpower!

      Problem is his take a jackhammer to everything plan (which really is only destruction for destruction’s sake with no intention or ability to fix anything) destroys any chance the governments and businesses of the world can cooperate long enough to reverse the Anthropocene climate crisis oblivion we witness and suffer.

      Trump’s legacy (assuming there will be anyone left to write about history decades from now) will be as the man who stared at the sun during an eclipse and threw gasoline on the bonfire we used to call humankind, just so he could watch us all go up in flames.

      In other words, the empire is collateral damage. We’re all going to die, which makes empire irrelevant to Trump’s intentional suicide.

  6. Robert Mayer
    July 10, 2019 at 18:56

    Tnx CN, Dilip… While reading your piece found myself reacting differently… early react: so would it matter who the govt dictators were… Red or Redwiteblu? 2 the peons the lack of say the same worldwide…
    Then around Russ Adv Weaponry you mention 911 Dilip… & provide cui bono4 the incident… who? arms & banks… DHS/ICE (& PrisonIndustryComplex PIC)… ©orpo©ops unacountable2 any but bottomline 1%invs!!!!
    Yes Tmp admin voiced particularly obnoxiously…But… Viet (yellowman), Afghan/ Iraqi (brown religion) African (Darker still) ALL CuiBono from op2 join Civilization… (Euro that is)!
    Consider coverup of tec history: China had PAPER & PRESSES 6-700 AD!
    Remember… Back when IceBreaker Ships were NEEDED?
    NoMo Necess!

  7. Pete
    July 10, 2019 at 16:46

    Greatness, to fools, only comes from the barrel of guns. Civilized nations are sick of US war mongering the world over. They cannot compete with butchery, thus ostracism is the new vogue.

  8. Truth first
    July 10, 2019 at 14:33

    “Dwindling Greatness”??? Huhhh.

    Are you talking about the country that has killed more innocents since WW2 than any other? The country that has exported more killing equipment than any other? The country that started the nuclear weapons debacle? The country that has more people in prison than any other? The country with more billionaires than any other? The country that is more responsible for climate change than any other? The country with more obesity than any other. The country that pissed away more of their vast resources than any other?

    Just where does the “Greatness” come in??

    • July 10, 2019 at 19:17

      Great in the sense Hitler was great. Big.

    • Antonio Costa
      July 11, 2019 at 07:41

      This is a stuggle for empire. Empires look to dominate, not cooperate.

      Trump ran on a quasi-anti neoliberal globalist stance. The idea was, at least in public, to reintroduce sovereignty into trade. One of his first acts was to deep 6 the TPP. The TPP was a corporate trade agreement to undermine China’s BRE. Trump had other “ideas”.

      I suspect many on the left applauded the demise of the TPP as a principle to enrapture the East in a NAFTA on steroids, with horrible outcomes for US Mainstreet.

      Neoliberalism established the world economic order since 1970s. The world economy is ensnared in it. Trade wars and sanctions exacerbate this corporate arrangement, which is a large part of the ant-Trump sentiment here and abroad.

      At bottom these economic arrangements (and perhaps the BRE) are doomed to collapse. Why? Physics. We’ve exceeded the Earth’s capacity to rejuvinate with adherence to the mantra of the economic growth paradigm. Civilization collapse or species extinction or both are in the offing at this rate.

  9. July 10, 2019 at 13:18

    The days of American Exceptionalism are over, except in the tiny minds of the remaining faithful. We have lost our innocence, really this loss of innocence happened decades ago, after the ’60s with the Vietnam and JFK and MLK tragedies.

    Donald Trump’s incompetence makes it so clear we dare not look away and kid ourselves it is otherwise. It is what it is. A clown show.

  10. July 10, 2019 at 12:49

    Greatness has to do with ethics, integrity, honor, truthfulness, the capacity to listen, to be moved, to acknowledge error . . . i.e. to be capable of participating in history and creating it through the power of inward dynamic change. In none of these ways is America “great.” The constant measurement of “greatness” by economics, weapons, consumer goods, is symptomatic of our death-state, our stagnation, and of our baneful influence on the planet.

    America REPENT!

  11. Mary Saunders
    July 10, 2019 at 12:20

    The articles and comments here are so substantial. I am glad I discovered this source. A diversity of perspectives is also so helpful. In a visit to China in 2001, I was blown away by the sophistication and resilience of the professionals I encountered on a health-centered visit. China has the capacity to swallow a nasty western chemical corporation whole and to part out its world-threatening bits and salvage what bits may be constructive as opposed to harmful. I do not think Germany, having bought a horrific biocide corporation, has the capacity to part it out very well. When I saw clover growing in street medians in China in 2001, with a similar practice only arriving in the U.S. many years later, I understood what Paul Hawken and others said about the natural-capital writings in the U.S., where essentially few businesses listened, as opposed to China, where there was intense interest. Janine Benyus and others have worked on huge projects in China, to sequester water, re-fill ancient aquifers, and judiciously re-tree. Maybe there are such projects going on in the U.S., but I do not know of them if they are. Russia, in contrast to the U.S., is staging itself as an organic-growing powerhouse. Sigh.

    • Bob Van Noy
      July 10, 2019 at 13:11

      Mary Sanders, excellent response, thanks. Your attitude is right on and a bit of what I was trying to address below. We have, at hand, a great opportunity to redirect our many misdeeds toward a more aware and sustainable future. Paul Hawken realized this years ago. It is now our turn to recognize the scope of problems and fix what we still can…

    • Antonio Costa
      July 10, 2019 at 13:18

      Mary Saunders thank you for posting this comment. I’m immersed in our ecological destruction and our growth paradigm, so I’m cautiously optimistic about the rise of China since much of this cannot be done without massive resource (natural capital) extraction which must end.

      The West has devoured much of the planet and we’ll pay dearly as a planet for our insatiable ways. Humans have always been the most invasive of species.

      Anyway you raise important eco-salient points. We need to end the war on nature, and that includes military slaughter.

      On another front my only hope with the last president was his “power” to greatly reduce our foreign footprint. He expanded it and it’s up to Trump – the uncouth representative of imperial empire – to end it through failure.

    • July 10, 2019 at 19:29

      Huge restoration projects can turn the carbon problems around and feed us all.John Liu documentary on restoration shows amazing before and after pictures. Joel salatin,Polyface farms shows fossil fuel free sustainable farming. All on you tube

  12. July 10, 2019 at 11:30

    Venezuela is NOT a regime! Why do so-called progressives continue this fiction? Maduro was elected via a legitimate process, which is more than can be said for the US!

    • AnneR
      July 10, 2019 at 12:19

      William Bowles – absolutely true. Venezuela has a completely, legitimately elected government and president. Jimmy Carter has affirmed the total legitimacy and truly democratic nature of Venezuela’s elections, including the last one which returned Maduro to the presidency.

      The west, and the US particularly, are all too keen to denigrate the governments of those countries on its hate list by never calling them governments but regimes.

      A regime is an authoritarian government of one kind or another – can be a monarchy, an autocracy, an oligarchy, a military government and so on. This country has an autocratic/plutocratic government, one in which the power resides in the hands of the oligarchs, plutocrats and their chums (who might also be members of this club) in Congress and the WH. This is a regime.

    • Truth first
      July 10, 2019 at 14:18

      No matter. A legitimate leader means nothing to the Americans if that leader does not toe the American line.

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    July 10, 2019 at 11:29

    Empires come…empires go…Nothing is forever.

  14. July 10, 2019 at 11:25

    Still, Trump declined to attack Iran, and declined to invade Venezuela. He may even be overseeing a truce in Afghanistan. Can you imagine what his more aggressively warmongering competitors and critics would have done, and what we might be suffering now as a result? Give the Devil his due.

    • rosemerry
      July 10, 2019 at 16:23

      Surely, as with Iran, destroying a country economically is a kind of invasion , which under Obama also helped to devastate Venezuela.

      This is what Israel also does to Palestine constantly even when not actually bombing and shooting.

  15. Mike from Jersey
    July 10, 2019 at 11:23

    I was talking to a friend of mine about this issue. It seems like the fall of the USA is inevitable. But the USA has gone through bad times before and “righted the ship.” The thing that worries me about this time is threefold.

    One, there is no longer a commitment to basic decency. When I was growing up in the fifties, no one would suggest that torture was legitimate for any purpose. The memory of Nazi Germany was too fresh in people’s mind. Now people commonly say that they “support torture if it will stop terrorism.” That is a statement which is both naive and barbaric at the same time. It shows both a lack of sophistication as well as a lack of decency. Too many people these days lack both.

    Two, there is no longer a commitment to basic morality. Everyone is out for themselves. A country cannot survive if there is no commitment to a public purpose. I blame Reaganism’s “greed is good” for that problem.

    Three, it is bad enough that the USA is going down but the USA has nuclear weapons. More and more I read about the Pentagon planning for the use of “tactical nuclear weapons.” That is the type of thing that might convince a Russia or a China to preemptively strike – for the same reason that you “put down” a rabid dog.

    • Truth first
      July 10, 2019 at 14:22

      I used to live in China. When talking to Chinese co-workers they often said that they worked so hard to make their country a better place. When was the last time you heard an American say that?

    • July 10, 2019 at 19:33

      Well said Mike from Jersey, Thank you

      • Mike from Jersey
        July 11, 2019 at 14:44


        I don’t like to write things like I wrote above. It makes me sad to see what has happened to my country.

        I still hope that somehow, someway we can turn things around.

    • druid
      July 11, 2019 at 13:56

      I came to the US in 1973 – loved it. I think there are still many decent people here, but more and more you are right. I think especially at the top, decency and morality has evaporated!

  16. Jill
    July 10, 2019 at 11:11

    I feel sadness on reading your article. You represent a large part of the “left” wing in our nation. Here is your definition of greatness: ” …-should certainly be judged against the economic progress made by China in those same years and against Russia’s advances in the latest high-tech weaponry…” Greatness is a measure of ethical actions taken by a nation. The US has failed miserably on this account.

    Economic progress can be a measure of a commitment to social justice but clearly, neither China nor the US has that internal commitment in its “leadership”. The building of high-tech weaponry has nothing to do with greatness. In some cases, it may have to do with necessity, but it is never something to trot out in the service of one’s nation’s “greatness”. I’m sad that a “left” wing person would say such things. To me, this underscores just how depraved the thinking in the US has become.

    What America had and still does have is raw power to enforce its cruelty and lies, both on individuals. Examples of this include: Assange, Manning, countless poor people wrongfully in prison due to lack of money to prove their innocence, and torture victims both in domestic and foreign prisons such as Gitmo and even more obscure black sites.

    This raw power is somewhat waning as a few of our lies and false flags aren’t going over like before. Our economic power is most certainly waining. Massive social inequality and the emphasis on war/war contracting and all the corruption that this entails is not sustainable. We do not have a functioning economic system.

    It’s interesting that you see stopping the bombing of Iran as “embarrassing”. This is the way powerful people in the chickenhawk neocon class see it. Everyone else sees it as a good. If you do not agree that it was “embarrassing”, perhaps you might note that while pointing out that only a very small group of religious lunatics and/or rapacious war criminals see it that way.

    I realize I am coming down hard on you but I am really sick of “leftists” who essentially agree with neocons and neoliberals. That’s not being a leftist. There is a difference between greatness (which is a function of individual or a nation’s ethics) and raw power. We still have plenty of raw power left. After all the UN just declared our crushing economic sanctions on the people of Venezuela as A.OK. by them! We are still able to maintain multiple fictions in the Middle East, fictions which are destroying so many people and their nations. We’ll see what the powerful can do with their exposure as sadist pedophiles via the Epstein case.

    It is my hope that the US’s raw power will decline into non-existence. That will happen when enough people in this nation act with greatness and demand we be a nation of justice and peace.

    • A. B. Olaba
      July 10, 2019 at 12:09

      The US began to decline it’s greatness when JFK, RK an MLK were assassinated.

      • michael
        July 11, 2019 at 07:36

        And Fred Hampton and Malcolm X had come around to the idea of uniting the Poor rather than just Blacks, so were also assassinated.
        Likely the Intelligence agencies were involved in all five assassinations in the ’60s (and more).

    • Jill
      July 10, 2019 at 13:43

      I wanted to add here are a few ways the US funds its “greatness”: 1. “Ship Seized In Record $1.3 Billion Cocaine Bust Belongs To JPMorgan”

      2. look into info coming out about the trade taking place in the Green Zone of Iraq. What has come out is shocking but only a small amount of info has come out so far.

    • July 10, 2019 at 19:37

      EXCELLENT POST,thank you

  17. Alan Ross
    July 10, 2019 at 10:47

    I do not expect Russia or China to be benign including when it comes to the U.S. As we still blindly go after being an oppressive empire, we may be losing our last chance for world cooperation before our decline leaves us poor negotiating positions.

  18. Zhu
    July 10, 2019 at 10:13

    The US has been declining for decades. Perhaps defeat jn Vietnam marks the beginning.

    • Curious
      July 12, 2019 at 01:04

      Or, why were we there at all?

  19. Robert
    July 10, 2019 at 09:27

    Regardless of how correct Khomenei is, his resistance to direct (or indirect) negotiations between Iran and the USA is misplaced. Negotiations are always better than war. Trump has been fed enormous amounts of misinformation about Iran, and his overtures to negotiate should be welcome.

    • mark
      July 10, 2019 at 19:57

      This would just be seen as a sign of weakness, nothing else.
      It would just encourage further aggression.
      You have to deal with scum sucking subhuman filth like Trump in the only language they understand.
      You cannot negotiate with Trump and his chaotic, inept, corrupt, dysfunctional, ramshackle, nepotistic regime of billionaires, neocons, war criminals, rabid Zionist fanatics, religious nutjobs, superannuated generals, conmen, chancers, grifters, halfwits, nitwits and dimwits.
      Attempts to do so are not just a complete waste of time, they are positively dangerous.
      In any case, what point is there in trying to negotiate with the United Snakes?
      They have been there, done that, and bought the T shirt.
      The US freely entered into an agreement with Iran and four other countries after 6 years of exhausting negotiations – and promptly ripped it up.
      Any agreement freely entered into by the US isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
      You cannot negotiate with Nazi Germany On Steroids.
      US sanctions on Iraq cost the lives of a million children in Iraq. “A price worth paying”, according to that Zionist bitch Albright.
      They are currently trying to do the same in Yemen (100,000 dead children, over a million cases of cholera.)
      40,000 have died in Venezuela so far through US economic strangulation.
      Tillerson was crowing that economic strangulation of the DPRK had caused fisherman to take risks and some of them had drowned.
      Children have died in Syria for lack of basic medicine.
      They are trying to do the same in Iran. They want Iranian children to starve to death and die for lack of medicine.
      Would you “negotiate” with a bunch of psychopathic filth trying to murder YOUR children???
      If so, you must be some kind of FREAK.
      I hope that one day soon, Americans have to watch their children die in front of them for lack of food or basic medicine. ONLY THEN will they understand what they have inflicted on so many tens and hundreds of millions over so many decades.
      Only then will they finally clean up their act – like Germans starving and freezing in the rubble of their ruined cities in 1945.
      That day may be coming a lot sooner than anybody realises. There will be nothing so richly deserved in human history.

    • michael
      July 11, 2019 at 07:43

      Trump repudiated the Obama/ Kerry agreement with Iran, just as Clinton repudiated the Reagan Gorbachev agreements, just as Bush II unilaterally repudiated the ABM treaty. The US set up Saddam Hussein, then knocked him down. The US agreed to leave Libya and Ghaddafi alone if he stayed away from nuclear weapons, remember Hillary’s cackle?
      No one should trust anything the US says. Negotiations are generally an American smoke screen to give the CIA more time to prepare.

  20. vinnieoh
    July 10, 2019 at 09:19

    Only 8:30 a.m. and this piece made me want to start drinking already. At 66 with declining health I won’t be around to see how all of this gallops into the future, and I think I’m glad of it. This planet was indeed a paradise during our tenure here on its cosmic geologic timescale. Our very inquisitiveness has revealed to us how tenuous though our continued existence may be. The atmospheric layer is thin and dependent on the health of the surface, and our oceans though vast are capable of being poisoned by us.

    How little man has changed. Mr. Hiro wasn’t being overtly judgmental, but I will be. Would Russia have proceeded so aggressively with weapons development had the US not acted as it has over the last 30-some years? Possibly, but we assured that they would. As for China, its size always has seemed to make inevitable that it would one day become dominant, and so it is especially troubling that they seem determined to repeat every single mistake made during western industrialization, and are even capable of perpetrating others much worse.

    Xi will tolerate no dissent and no deviation from the dictates of his government. Whatever he is doing to the Uighurs he (they) will do to any and all as their reach and influence expand. So humanity exchanges one overlord for another. Their methods of oppression, exploitation, and control just have a different flavor and accent than ours, developed during “our” century.

    I nominate MBS as the archetype of sleaze. We, humanity, own him – he’s one of us, and what a perfect icon of grasping calculating opportunism is he. There is probably a parallel Chinese proverb to our “if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.” It would be fascinating to know just how MBS is truly regarded in Xi’s circle.

    I’d better get busy doing something or I will start drinking.

    • jaycee
      July 11, 2019 at 13:15

      “One million detained Uighurs” is commonly referenced, and has been laundered throughout the MSM with such frequency it has achieved the status of common wisdom even as there is no verification whatsoever for the claim. The notion traces back to assertions made by exile groups, who speak from outside the country and who hold a partisan bias. Verification should be simple – one million persons is a lot of people, the detention camps should be visible from space. No real effort has been made to verify the claims, even as their utility as a hammer by which to bash the PRC is obvious. It’s just another of the mendacious lies which are deliberately promoted and float freely through the mediascape.

    • druid
      July 11, 2019 at 14:11

      Currently the US is the biggest danger in the world. In the future I can see China taking that role!

  21. Bob Van Noy
    July 10, 2019 at 08:58

    Now this is Realpolitick. I think this is the first article that begins the discussion about what America faces going forward. It has been clear for many years that America was loosing its advantages in things like international automobile manufacturing and the virus has spread to all aspects of society especially the failure of our system of government. We are in grave jeopardy but if we have the presence to prevail Politicly, we are also presented with a great opportunity to get it right.

    None of this is surprising given the deep, long term corruption that has been going on for decades. While leadership directed the Country in directions that the populace never approved, the people remained sufficiently uninformed to be able to respond. The good news is that there is still time to adjust and properly respond…

  22. Daniel Osazuwa
    July 10, 2019 at 05:02

    The next US recession will be the end of the US hegemony built around the Dollar. The Fed, BOJ,BOE,ECB etc collusion of 2008 will not repeat itself without something on the table for the likes of China, Turkey, India, Russia etc. knowing fully well the US, EU and Japan QE themselves to NIRP. The replacement of swift with a new global payment mechanism will be one but we should be prepared for war any attempt to bring back the gold standard.

    The QEed countries swimming naked will be exposed with the coming tidal wave. Not if but when.

  23. July 10, 2019 at 03:48

    China started the trade war in the ’80s. US corporations and governments instantly surrendered, killing our own workers and economy to serve China and enrich the corporate shareholders.

    Trump’s answer is misplaced. A real economic nationalist would start by punishing the US corporations who traitorously work for China. Force them to return home. Confiscate their assets and jail the directors and boards if they disobey.

    • Litchfield
      July 10, 2019 at 15:00

      I agree.
      But that would be “nationalism,” not globalism!!
      You know that globalism is a religion.

    • mark
      July 10, 2019 at 20:04

      China didn’t “steal” any US jobs.
      China didn’t do jack sh*t.
      US billionaires outsourced US production to China to exploit Chinese cheap labour.

  24. Gary Weglarz
    July 10, 2019 at 01:33

    Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign line was/is as completely disconnected from reality and as vacuous and meaningless as Obama’s equally BS campaign lines “Change You Can Believe In” and “Hope and Change.” These are all simply “ad campaign” lines. The equivalent of the endless meaningless drivel used to sell us soap, and cars, and alcohol and deodorant. In this case what is being “sold” to us is the opportunity to take part in choosing the means of our own imprisonment. Let’s see, this campaign cycle should I choose tweedle dee, or should I choose tweedle dum? Decisions, decisions!

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      July 10, 2019 at 08:43

      The sad part is that such slogans work, have always worked…. because most people (not only Americans) cannot think critically… It is the nature of the human species. Just follow the herd behind the “leader”. In the past, this had helped tribes survive. But today, the sheeple are marching behind one pied piper after another chanting “Change you can believe in” and/or “MAGA”… marching towards a precise….

      • michael
        July 11, 2019 at 07:50

        What happened to “America Has Never Stopped being Great!” ?
        You have to take humor where you find it…

    • Jill
      July 10, 2019 at 11:52

      Gary, very well said.

  25. Jeff Harrison
    July 9, 2019 at 22:02

    A good piece. It does parrot the US line about aggression in Russia and China. It fails to give hard numbers. The US spends approximately $1T a year on the military (after you include the nuclear program under the Dept of Energy and Veteran’s affairs under HHS) vice ~$66B for Russia and ~$225B for China.

    I found Pompous’ claim of Russian illegalities on the Northern Route which passes quite close to a number of their islands as well as their landmass to be amusing. As if the US cares about legalities when we ignore them and I doubt that Pompous knows where Russia’s boundaries are on the Northern route. They tried to claim that the drone Iran shot down was in international airspace.

    • michael
      July 10, 2019 at 10:42

      Russia has always been an ice- and land-locked country, with desperate attempts to establish warm water ports for trade (that always required military first since their enemies weren’t keen on competition). Global warming is a godsend for Russia, and it would be insane for Canada to ignore similar opening of shipping routes.

      It is amazing that people who pursued cheap labor and sending manufacturing jobs abroad are now suddenly concerned about the inevitable, predictable ramifications twenty years later (where were their heads?) Bill Clinton in particular built “Communist” China into a World Power, doing away with human rights certifications (PERMANENT favored nation trade status) , sending high end technologies (including military) along with manufacturing jobs, the initial basis of China’s “biggest march forward”. Supporters argue that this was in support of encircling Russia, our biggest bogeyman. China will always be a bigger threat than Russia, and the two will likely continue and expand their pact similar to the EU.

      While Trump is fighting a losing battle (after sending your technologies abroad, the cat’s out of the bag, and protective tariffs have nothing left to protect), I for one think America’s “failures” (North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran– all of which he inherited from preceding Presidents, just look at who passed the on-going National Emergencies in all these countries; Nicaragua is Trump’s) are much preferable to our “wins” in Libya (which our neocons and neolibs think is our most effective model), Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Guatemala, Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. It is not clear what Americans gained with our displays of power (and wasted $trillions) in such places (although clearly allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia benefited immensely). The world may no longer fear and respect Trump as it did with Bush and Obama, but that will only hasten the inevitable decline of American imperialism and increase cooperation between most other nations.

  26. KiwiAntz
    July 9, 2019 at 21:39

    The recent Brohaha over the British Ambassadors comments on Trump & what the World really thinks of America sums up what the other World Leaders at the G20 also think, behind the scenes? Everyone knows that Trump is a ignorant buffoon & that America is a disfunctional, untrustworthy & duplicitous actor! Trump is trying to make Israel great again, or MIGA not MAGA & this Strategy is blowing up in his face? Pompous Pompeo, Revolting Bolton & Nasty Netanyahu, the B Team of imbeciles, are trying to false flag Trump, kicking & screaming, into a War with Iran after sabotaging the JCPOA deal! Then in one humiliating pin prick from Iran that burst Trumps, America is the greatest Military Power & MAGA bubble, the Iranians shot down this $120 million dollar US Drone with one $20 thousand dollar missile & turned it into high priced scrap? This deflated the Bubble of American superiority in one foul swoop? That one action shocked the Americans? Why? Because this Iranian bunch had the barefaced gall to retaliate & defend itself against a Global tyrant! Then further humiliation was heaped on Trump when he backtracked from retaliatory strikes? The World & it’s Leaders are now seeing that the US & Trump is a Toothless paper Tiger? All bark & no bite? Nothing but a spoiler & disruptor using divide & rule tactics against Nations who are amalgamating efforts to rally against this US Bully & thwart its deathcult agenda’s? The dying, waning, shoddy second rate Empire is now reduced to mindless threats of sanctions, Trade wars & kidnapping a rival powers Citizens such as China’s Huawei CEO or pirating & hyjacking Iranian Supertankers as payback for this Iranian pinprick humiliation using the Tinpot UK vassal as its lapdog to break International Law. The End of the Empire is nigh & everyone will be glad to see the back of it!

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