The Great Reckoning

From a vantage point in the not-too-distant future Andrew J. Bacevich looks back on 2019 as a year when, in retrospect, it was clear the United States had  passed a point of no return.

By Andrew J. Bacevich
TomDispatch.com

[Editorial note: This remnant of a manuscript, discovered in a vault near the coastal town of Walpole, Massachusetts, appears to have been part of a larger project, probably envisioned as an interpretive history of the United States since the year 2000. Only a single chapter, probably written near the midpoint of the 21st century, has survived. Whether the remainder of the manuscript has been lost or the author abandoned it before its completion is unknown.] 

Chapter 1: The Launch

From our present vantage point, it seems clear that, by 2019, the United States had passed a point of no return. In retrospect, this was the moment when indications of things gone fundamentally awry should have become unmistakable. Although at the time much remained hidden in shadows, the historic pivot now commonly referred to as the Great Reckoning had commenced.

Even today, it remains difficult to understand why, given mounting evidence of a grave crisis, passivity persisted for so long across most sectors of society. An epidemic of anomie affected a large swath of the population. Faced with a blizzard of troubling developments, large and small, Americans found it difficult to put things into anything approximating useful perspective. Few even bothered to try. Fewer succeeded. As with predictions of cataclysmic earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, a not-in-my-lifetime mood generally prevailed.

During what was then misleadingly known as the Age of Trump, the political classes dithered. While the antics of President Donald Trump provoked intense interest— the word “intense” hardly covers the attention paid to him — they also provided a convenient excuse for letting partisan bickering take precedence over actual governance or problem solving of any sort. Meanwhile, “thought leaders” (a term then commonly used to describe pontificating windbags) indulged themselves with various pet projects.

President Trump in 2019. (White House/Flickr)

In the midst of what commentators were pleased to call the Information Age, most ordinary Americans showed a pronounced affinity for trivia over matters of substance. A staggering number of citizens willingly traded freedom and privacy for convenience, bowing to the dictates of an ever-expanding array of personalized gadgetry. What was then called a “smartphone” functioned as a talisman of sorts, the electronic equivalent of a rosary or prayer beads. Especially among the young, separation from one’s “phone” for more than a few minutes could cause acute anxiety and distress. The novelty of “social media” had not yet worn off, with its most insidious implications just being discovered.

Divided, distracted, and desperately trying to keep up: these emerged then as the abiding traits of life in contemporary America. Craft beer, small-batch bourbon, and dining at the latest farm-to-table restaurant often seemed to matter more than the fate of the nation or, for that matter, the planet as a whole. But all that was about to change.

Scholars will undoubtedly locate the origins of the Great Reckoning well before 2019. Perhaps they will trace its source to the aftermath of the Cold War when American elites succumbed to a remarkable bout of imperial hubris, while ignoring (thanks in part to the efforts of Big Energy companies) the already growing body of information on the human-induced alteration of the planet, which came to be called “climate change” or “global warming.” While, generally speaking, the collective story of humankind unfolds along a continuum, by 2019 conditions conducive to disruptive change were forming. History was about to zig sharply off its expected course.

Craft beer was in vogue.

This disruption occurred, of course, within a specific context. During the first two decades of the 21st century, American society absorbed a series of punishing blows. First came the contested election of 2000, the president of the United States installed in office by a 5-4 vote of a politicized Supreme Court, which thereby effectively usurped the role of the electorate. And that was just for starters. Following in short order came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which the world’s (self-proclaimed) premier intelligence services failed to anticipate and the world’s preeminent military establishment failed to avert.

Less than two years later, the administration of George W. Bush, operating under the delusion that the ongoing war in Afghanistan was essentially won, ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq, a nation that had played no part in the events of 9/11. The result of this patently illegal war of aggression would not be victory, despite the president’s almost instant mission accomplished declaration, but a painful replay of the quagmire that U.S. troops had experienced decades before in Vietnam. Expectations of Iraq’s “liberation” paving the way for a broader Freedom Agenda that would democratize the Islamic world came to naught. The Iraq War and other armed interventions initiated during the first two decades of the century ended up costing trillions of taxpayer dollars, while sowing the seeds of instability across much of the Greater Middle East and later Africa.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed many areas of New Orleans. (Marines/Rocco DeFilippis)

Then, in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast, killing nearly 2,000 Americans. U.S. government agencies responded with breathtaking ineptitude, a sign of things to come, as nature itself was turning increasingly unruly. Other natural disasters of unnatural magnitude followed. In 2007, to cite but one example, more than 9,000 wildfires in California swept through more than a million acres. Like swarms of locusts, fires now became an annual (and worsening) plague ravaging the Golden State and the rest of the West Coast. If this weren’t enough of a harbinger of approaching environmental catastrophe, the populations of honeybees, vital to American agriculture, began to collapse in these very same years.

Americans were, as it turned out, largely indifferent to the fate of honeybees. They paid far greater attention to the economy, however, which experienced its own form of collapse in 2008. The ensuing Great Recession saw millions thrown out of work and millions more lose their homes as a result of fraudulent mortgage practices. None of the perpetrators were punished. The administration of President Barack Obama chose instead to bail out offending banks and large corporations. Record federal deficits resulted, as the government abandoned once and for all even the pretense of trying to balance the budget. And, of course, the nation’s multiple wars dragged on and on and on.

Protesters in NYC, Sept. 24, 2011. (Carwil Bjork-James via Flickr)

Through all these trials, the American people more or less persevered. If not altogether stoic, they remained largely compliant. As a result, few members of the nation’s political, economic, intellectual, or cultural elites showed any awareness that something fundamental might be amiss. The two established parties retained their monopoly on national politics. As late as 2016, the status quo appeared firmly intact. Only with that year’s presidential election did large numbers of citizens signal that they had had enough: wearing red MAGA caps rather than wielding pitchforks, they joined Donald Trump’s assault on that elite and, thumbing their noses at Washington, installed a reality TV star in the White House.

To the legions who had found the previous status quo agreeable, Trump’s ascent to the apex of American politics amounted to an unbearable affront. They might tolerate purposeless, endless wars, raise more or less any set of funds for the military that was so unsuccessfully fighting them, and turn a blind eye to economic arrangements that fostered inequality on a staggering scale. They might respond to the accelerating threat posed by climate change with lip service and, at best, quarter-measures. But Donald Trump in the Oval Office? That they could not abide.

As a result, from the moment of his election, Trump dominated the American scene. Yet the outrage that he provoked, day in and day out, had this unfortunate side effect: it obscured developments that would in time prove to be of far more importance than the 45th American president himself. Like the “noise” masking signals that, if detected and correctly interpreted, might have averted Pearl Harbor in December 1941 or, for that matter, 9/11, obsessing about Trump caused observers to regularly overlook or discount matters far transcending in significance the daily ration of presidential shenanigans.

Here, then, is a very partial listing of some of the most important of those signals then readily available to anyone bothering to pay attention. On the eve of the Great Reckoning, however, they were generally treated as mere curiosities or matters of limited urgency — problems to be deferred to a later, more congenial moment.

Item: The reality of climate change was now indisputable. All that remained in question was how rapidly it would occur and the extent (and again rapidity) of the devastation that it would ultimately inflict.

2013  Alder fire in Yellowstone National Park. (Mike Lewelling, National Park Service)

Item: Despite everything that was then known about the dangers of further carbon emissions, the major atmospheric contributor to global warming, they only continued to increase, despite the myriad conferences and agreements intended to curb them. (U.S. carbon emissions, in particular, were still rising then, and global emissions were expected to rise by record or near-record amounts as 2019 began.)

Item: The polar icecap was disappearing, with scientists reporting that it had melted more in just 20 years than in the previous 10,000. This, in turn, meant that sea levels would continue to rise at record rates, posing an increasing threat to coastal cities.

In early 2017, the western U.S. was hit by rain and flooding from a series of storms flowing on multiple streams of moist air. A satellite image of these “atmospheric rivers” shown here. (NASA)

Item: Deforestation and desertification were occurring at an alarming rate.

Item: Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic were seeping into the world’s oceans each year, from the ingestion of which vast numbers of seabirds, fish, and marine mammals were dying annually. Payback would come in the form of microplastics contained in seafood consumed by humans.

Item: With China and other Asian countries increasingly refusing to accept American recyclables, municipalities in the United States found themselves overwhelmed by accumulations of discarded glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, and paper. That year, the complete breakdown of the global recycling system already loomed as a possibility.

Item: Worldwide bird and insect populations were plummeting. In other words, the Sixth Mass Extinction had begun.

Polar bears in 2008 became the first species to be listed as endangered because of forecasted population declines from the effects of climate change. (National Park Service)

All of these fall into the category of what we recognize today as planetary issues of existential importance. But even in 2019 there were other matters of less than planetary significance that ought to have functioned as a wake-up call. Among them were:

Item: With the federal government demonstrably unable to secure U.S. borders, immigration authorities were seizing hundreds of thousands of migrants annually. By 2019, the Trump administration was confining significant numbers of those migrants, including small children, in what were, in effect, concentration camps.

Item: Cybercrime had become a major growth industry, on track to rake in $6 trillion annually by 2021. Hackers were already demonstrating the ability to hold large American cities hostage and the authorities proved incapable of catching up.

Item: With the three richest Americans — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet —controlling more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the entire population, the United States had become a full-fledged oligarchy. While politicians occasionally expressed their dismay about this reality, prior to 2019 it was widely tolerated.

Item: As measured by roads, bridges, dams, or public transportation systems, the nation’s infrastructure was strikingly inferior to what it had been a half-century earlier. (By 2019, China, for instance, had built more than 19,000 miles of high-speed rail; the U.S., not one.) Agreement that this was a problem that needed fixing was universal; corrective action (and government financing), however, was not forthcoming.

Item: Military spending in constant dollars exceeded what it had been at the height of the Cold War when the country’s main adversary, the Soviet Union, had a large army with up-to-date equipment and an arsenal of nuclear weapons. In 2019, Iran, the country’s most likely adversary, had a modest army and no nuclear weapons.

Item: Incivility, rudeness, bullying, and general nastiness had become rampant, while the White House, once the site of solemn ceremony, deliberation, and decision, played host to politically divisive shouting matches and verbal brawls.

To say that Americans were oblivious to such matters would be inaccurate. Some were, for instance, considering a ban on plastic straws. Yet taken as a whole, the many indications of systemic and even planetary dysfunction received infinitely less popular attention than the pregnancies of British royals, the antics of the justifiably forgotten Kardashian clan, or fantasy football, a briefly popular early 21st century fad.

People working on their fantasy football drafts. (Daniel Means/Flickr)

Of course, decades later, viewed with the benefit of hindsight, the implications of these various trends and data points seem painfully clear: the dominant ideological abstraction of late postmodernity — liberal democratic capitalism — was rapidly failing or had simply become irrelevant to the challenges facing the United States and the human species as a whole. To employ another then-popular phrase, liberal democratic capitalism had become an expression of “fake news,” a scam sold to the many for the benefit of the privileged few.

“Toward the end of an age,” historian John Lukacs (1924-2019) once observed, “more and more people lose faith in their institutions and finally they abandon their belief that these institutions might still be reformed from within.” Lukacs wrote those words in 1970, but they aptly described the situation that had come to exist in that turning-point year of 2019. Basic American institutions — the overworked U.S. military being a singular exception — no longer commanded popular respect.

In essence, the postmodern age was ending, though few seemed to know it — with elites, in particular, largely oblivious to what was occurring. What would replace postmodernity in a planet heading for ruin remained to be seen.

Only when…

[Editor’s note: Here the account breaks off.]

Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular and the author most recently of “The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory,” is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a Washington, D.C., think tank in formation.

This article is from TomDispatch.

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60 comments for “The Great Reckoning

  1. LJ
    July 28, 2019 at 15:07

    Should have included Starbucks, Trader Joe’s ,bacon and of course Medical Marijuana varieties, candies , oils etc. as “the abiding traits of life in contemporary America”. And what about red wine?

  2. dcouzin
    July 28, 2019 at 12:48

    The problem with this article is that the author conflates the USA with the world. It is ostensibly an article about the USA’s breakdown: “2019 …when … it was clear the United States had passed a point of no return.” But to give the article weight, worldwide phenomena are tossed on liberally: “the polar icecap”; “the world’s oceans”; “worldwide bird and insect populations”; “the Sixth Mass Extinction”; “the postmodern age”, etc. The USA comprises just 4.3% of the world’s population. In good scenarios, in fair scenarios, only that 4.3% suffer greatly when the USA breaks down. The other 95.7% generally waste less and whine less. I suggest to those in the USA who have lost hope in the USA that they leave while they can.

  3. triekc
    July 28, 2019 at 09:10

    Writers perpetuating the “government’s” 911 hoax that a small group men from our close ally Saudi Arabia, led by a Saudi monarch, multi-millionaire, decades long CIA asset US proxy war fighter, and family friend of a US president(s), living in a cave while suffering kidney failure, pulled off an attack that defied rules of physical science and aeronautics, nearly flawless execution, while the world’s premier intelligence and military establishment, ironically, were participating in war games to prepare for a terrorist attack, never saw it coming, keeps the oligarchs who orchestrated the event shielded from justice, and allows them to maintain control of the people through their american exceptionalism, representative government, and fair democratic elections con game. Those of us who know 911 was a false flag, also know, none of those ideas are real, just propaganda to keep us under control. US in its current state is not fixable without destroying the ruling class, delivering justice to war criminals, and starting over from the bottom.

    • Stephan Williams
      July 29, 2019 at 16:52

      I agree with you, triekc. This article is filled to the brim with false information and skewed “facts”. The author isn’t remotely an honest arbiter of the truth.

      Inflexible ideology has filled the hole left in his belief system since he rejected honest reason.

  4. Arch
    July 28, 2019 at 04:20

    A modern interpretation of the Kali Yuga.

  5. Jim Lukowitsch
    July 28, 2019 at 03:18

    Beautiful and ugly

    • boxerwar
      July 28, 2019 at 09:03

      ” don’t you know, that it’s true” – –
      THE WORLD IS A GHETTO … ?

      (massive homelessness
      streets lined with tents

      op ee oid addiction
      elementary school

      Drop Outs w/ middle
      school shoot outs /and

      early teen abortions /W
      POTUS Trump as our

      Deceiver N’Chief and
      Ascendent desultory (or)

      … sinister repository of
      Collectivist Banality (or)

      some convient valve to open
      the spigot of fragrant Fresh Air,

      “The Creator has a master plan-
      Peace & happiness for every man

      “Sly & ‘the family stone/feel me?
      Paul Walker’s Real blue eyes…

      A Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31
      ‘the Truth will always be stronger

      than a Lie spoken in deceit even as
      dawns early light is the renewal of

      “We have seen the enemy and it is us”

  6. John Hippy Scientist
    July 27, 2019 at 18:26

    This great piece reminds me of Jack London’s only sci-fi novel – The Iron Heel – which, by the way, is amazingly insightful and prophetic. It too is looking back – at the awful times when the oligarchs ruled the country, impoverished the workers, and used religion to support the establishment narrative. All back in the early 1900s. The best part are the quotes. For example:

    “No less an authority of the times than Carroll D. Wright, United States Commissioner of Labor, is responsible for the statement. From his book, entitled “The Battles of Labor,” is quoted the declaration that “in some of the great historic strikes the employers themselves have instigated acts of violence;” that manufacturers have deliberately provoked strikes in order to get rid of surplus stock; and that freight cars have been burned by employers’ agents during railroad strikes in order to increase disorder. It was out of these secret agents of the employers that the Black Hundreds arose; and it was they, in turn, that later became that terrible weapon of the Oligarchy, the agents- provocateurs. Never had labor received such an all-around beating. The great captains of industry, the oligarchs, had for the first time thrown their full weight into the breach the struggling employers’ associations had made. These associations were practically middle-class affairs, and now, compelled by hard times and crashing markets, and aided by the great captains of industry, they gave organized labor an awful and decisive defeat. It was an all-powerful alliance, but it was an alliance”

    One can download the book for free, btw…

  7. MBeaver
    July 27, 2019 at 17:10

    Everything running up and down, being massively hyped on the MSM, should not be trusted.
    Yet here, without much look at evidence, its gobbled down and fanatically defended as fact.
    Theres a reason why some people call it a religion. Actually many reasons.

    • boxerwar
      July 28, 2019 at 08:40

      ” don’t you know, that it’s true” – –
      THE WORLD IS A GHETTO … ?

      (massive homelessness
      streets lined with tents

      op ee oid addiction
      elementary school

      Drop Outs w/ middle
      school shoot outs /and

      early teen abortions /W
      POTUS Trump as our

      Deceiver N’Chief and
      Ascendent desultory (or)

      … sinister repository of
      Collectivist Banality (or)

      some convient valve to open
      the spigot of fragrant Fresh Air,

      “The Creator has a master plan-
      Peace & happiness for every man

      “Sly & ‘the family stone/feel me?
      Paul Walker’s Real blue eyes…

      A Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31
      ‘the Truth will always be stronger

      than a Lie spoken in deceit even as
      dawns early light is the renewal of

      “we have seen the enemy and It Is Us”

  8. Hawaiiguy
    July 27, 2019 at 16:35

    Fact number 1, arctic polar bears have increased 4 fold in the last 30 years, fact number 2, there has been no measurable increase in sea levels not expected over the past 50 years, fact number 3, the planet has been cooling rapidly since the peak of solar cycle 24. Fact number 4, humanity will be begging for coal fired power within years or at most a decade as the next prolonged maunder minimum sets in. If carbon had any effect on warming the planet they’d surely be building them at breakneck speed. Alas there’s not not reasoning when it’s total human input is less than.. 0035 % of.. 04%. But yes 2019 is going to be remembered I think, especially starting on 11 Nov 2019.

    • Dave
      July 28, 2019 at 07:27

      All of that is wrong, by the way. The polar bear population was estimated at about 20,000 back in the 1970s when they were nearly hunted to extinction. When they were protected in 1973, the population rebounded a bit, but is now back around 20,000.
      (https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/population/)

      In 2014, global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average—the highest annual average in the satellite record (1993-present). Sea level continues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year.
      https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevel.html)

      The proof that the planet is warming is absolutely beyond doubt. Anyone who still thinks the solar cycle outweighs the man-made warming is completely ignoring the actual statistics. (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/)

      The idea that we need more coal power will only become reality if another war starts over oil, because that will kill off such a high percentage of the human race.

      • Marty
        July 29, 2019 at 22:24

        Tidal gauge measurements show a much smaller rise in sea level. There is a whole literature on why the satellite measurements might over estimate. Does anyone care?

      • hawaii guy
        July 30, 2019 at 17:06

        I care, as I hate seeing billions and billions wasted on fake science, that goes for the wholly idiotic big bang gang of misfit chalkboard queens. All one need do is pick up Halton Arps book on peculiar quasars and see via observation we aren’t accelerating anywhere.

      • Marty
        July 31, 2019 at 13:29

        I strongly suggest “The Galileo of Palomar: essays in honor of Halton Arp” , Fulton and Kokus, ed. (Amazon). Kokus makes a very strong case against the 4mm/yr sea level rise.
        See also Smoot, Tectonic Globalony.

      • Hawaiiguy
        July 31, 2019 at 02:20

        Really you’re siting “nasa” if you did even 5 minutes of objective research you’d find, via real non computer modeled data the earth is in fact not warming. The IPCC AR reports have lost every single ounce of credibility with even a cursory challenge. And NASA just warned solar cycle 25 may be the lowest in 200 years, and that must have been hard to admit for them. . The planet is already bearing that out with South America getting brutal Antarctic blasts not seen in decades, same with pretty much all continents, Colorado and Michigan still have snow drifts and record cold just blasted all records across America. Atlanta to Austin just rewrote its record books for cooling for June July 2019. The summer ice is an entire 1 meter or more thicker than expected in arctic. It’s turned the majority of icebreakers back to dry land this summer as they expected at most 2m annual ice which has been melting for the past few solar cycles, but that’s officially over for the coming cycles it appears. Global cooling is no joke, it is the most dangerous climate change by far. Carbon lifeforms need heat to survive, cold kills!. It’s all solar cycles, mini cycles, macro cycles. Just like the cooling period from mid 1930s to late 1970s, or the much longer maunder period or the centuries long middle ages period which was in fact warmer than what we’ve been panicked about. People are beyond delusional if they think a warm planet is a bad thing. Enjoy it while it lasts as it’s going to get really frigging cold for prolonged decades. Food grows when it’s warm, even if it warmed 2 deg C, lower it 2 deg C though and more than half the planet will die as crop losses would be catastrophic. Just look at the damage the cooling is currently causing in N America, Europe and Russia. And it has only cooled a tiny amount but crop losses may be up to 40 percent this year. N America has had its coldest 8 month period in decades, but you need to research to find it like most factual data. Beware the computer modeling weather “makers” they certainly didn’t earn a Nobel Prize ie Michael Mann.
        Stay Warm as long as you can though, you’ll need it.

      • Marty
        July 31, 2019 at 13:41

        Much of the confusion over global temperature is caused by confusion over altitude of the measurements. The Huntsville satellite record shows little increase since 1998. It’s at the altitude where the green house effect should be strongest. The increase in surface temperature, should, in a sane world, vindicate Roger Pielke land use, land cover theory of climate change.

      • Hawaiiguy
        July 31, 2019 at 02:26

        Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid believer in environmental protections. Over fishing, mass food production, poisoning rivers, lakes, oceans etc is seriously messed up and criminal. And I’m pretty certain that’s a reason the sun has predictable cycles, to cull the horrid beast on the planet. It’s not like it can trust the beast to regulate itself.

      • Marty
        July 31, 2019 at 13:48

        I’ve been active in the environmental movement since 1970. It sickens me to watch the science being abused and turned into an ideaology.

    • ML
      July 28, 2019 at 12:25

      Arctic polar bears have increased in numbers fourfold? Links to evidence-based articles/statistics, please. I’d say a definitive not!

      • hawaii guy
        July 30, 2019 at 17:03

        BooYah,

        Polar bear populations are still growing despite global warming, according to new research.

        The new population estimates from the 2016 Scientific Working Group are somewhere between 22,633 to 32,257 bears, which is a net increase from the 2015 number of 22,000 to 31,000. The current population numbers are a sharp increase from 2005’s, which stated only 20,000 to 25,000 bears remained — those numbers were a major increase from estimates that only 8,000 to 10,000 bears remained in the late 1960s.

    • TS
      July 28, 2019 at 15:58

      > Fact number 1 …..

      Interesting evidence to support the multiple-universe hypothesis …

    • SocratesPublicService
      July 28, 2019 at 18:54

      Many thanks for these ‘facts’, as they are ‘facts’ would you please provide your sources so that they can be verified?

  9. Jimmy G
    July 27, 2019 at 15:45

    A cute bit of fluff, with a couple of sentences mentioning the violations of the Obama years, and that’s to be expected, it’s always someone else’s fault, isn’t it.
    I didn’t know CN had decided to begin a cartoon section.

  10. Zhu
    July 27, 2019 at 02:31

    It is worth remembering that a large share of otdinary Americans were preoccupied with getting food sbd shelter. Issues higher on tje hierarchy of beeds didnt get much attention.

  11. Jeff Blankfort
    July 26, 2019 at 23:20

    Brilliant! The below passage summed it up:

    “Divided, distracted, and desperately trying to keep up: these emerged then as the abiding traits of life in contemporary America. Craft beer, small-batch bourbon, and dining at the latest farm-to-table restaurant often seemed to matter more than the fate of the nation or, for that matter, the planet as a whole.”

  12. Broompilot
    July 26, 2019 at 21:14

    So, am I to believe that Bacevich is not available to comment on his unfinished article here? Or explain its unfinishedness? Or has no control over the storage of his works in progress?
    This is the reason I don’t use the Tomdispatch website. More than once I thought I was reading the advertised work of writers I regard highly, only to find I just read an overly long pre-analysis by somebody that doesn’t interest me.

  13. delia ruhe
    July 26, 2019 at 19:21

    This reads like an excellent overview of Bacevich’s most recent book, The Age if Illusions. I hope it excites readers to read that book.

  14. Gregory Herr
    July 25, 2019 at 20:50

    “Expectations of Iraq’s “liberation” paving the way for a broader Freedom Agenda that would democratize the Islamic world came to naught.”

    No such expectations, no such agenda, no such “failures”.

    The origins of why the U.S. government is essentially run by the enforcement arm of Wall Street, namely the CIA, is illustrated in the Zapruder film—ever since that day, Justice and Truth have been in the crosshairs whenever they try to raise their heads and make themselves known.

    The invasion/occupation of Iraq was “successful” for the perpetrators. They “got away with it”, they made money, and they set the stage for steps to come. “They” are not concerned with Treasury accounting, or the rank-and-file, or “collateral damage”, or any notions of ethics and morality. They want profits and full spectrum dominance—damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

  15. Tom Kath
    July 25, 2019 at 20:11

    A lovely piece of fictional prose! Almost everyone on earth is currently oppressed by some sense of impending doom. It reminds me of the classical example of the symbolic legendary Lemmings, rushing towards the cliff with the same foreboding of a storm, changing weather, or a fire.

  16. July 25, 2019 at 18:58

    Great article!

    • CitizenOne
      July 26, 2019 at 01:09

      Too often does the “Reply” button not get clicked to respond to a post. It is just another affirmation of our collective disease to post our comments without commenting and engaging others. Mea Culpa for I am guilty too. This article demands that we engage with each other and not fall into the lost chapter of history that could have been but was just, in the end, an unfortunate lost opportunity to spark change.

      Alfred Nobel accidentally stumbled upon and read his premature posthumous obituary in a Paris Newspaper. It read like the contents of this article in which it erroneously visited a future state excoriating the man who had invented Dynamite blaming him for the deaths of millions and the escalation of the destructive power of war to maim and kill. Upon reading his premature obituary Nobel suddenly saw how history would view his legacy. Historians would view Nobel’s life not as a tribute to a great wealthy man who had achieved great status and wealth but as a pariah and profiteer of war enriching himself payed for by the deaths of millions.

      After his epiphany that the World would see him posthumously as an agent of mass death and destruction he endeavored to change his legacy by creating “The Nobel Prizes” which awarded those people who materially enhanced humanity. That legacy has long outlived Nobel’s role in his long term research efforts to create ever more destructive explosives.

      Nobel experienced a wake up call due to a mistake that he and not his brother had been killed published by a newspaper with a pre prepared obituary.

      What can we learn from this as it applies to the great reckoning?

      1. The News will hold up a story about an issue that fundamentally threatens our existence.

      2. The News will never publish information that might create a risk to themselves from wealthy stakeholders.

      3. The News will never attempt to change the hearts and minds of the industries that create death and destruction as long as they have the power to protest and will always wait until they feel it is safe to publish controversial news.

      4. The News is completely controlled by the money makers and the movers and shakers that it perceives are its special donor class they need to protect in order to get their money.

      5. It was only by accident that an institution dedicated to rewarding and recognizing those people who advance frontiers and benefit humanity was created. If not for Nobel’s day of reckoning there would never have been a Nobel Prize.

      • hawaiiguy
        July 30, 2019 at 16:58

        When the “Nobel” committee sees fit to award the charlatans such as Michael “hockey schtick” Mann, President Barrack “lets destroy the best north african nation we can, largest unjustified, highly illegal summary execution via drones” Obama, Henry Kissinger, Higgs boson CERN scam etc I can only conclude that yes, humanity is coming to an abrupt end as we know it. Perhaps it will be a mass culling via 5g at 47 V/m2 or the no longer deniable ice age and pole shift. For certain the words “By Nov 11, 2019 it will be too late” are going to ring like the moon very soon.

      • Marty
        July 31, 2019 at 13:09

        After Climategate and all the papers showing that Mann’s knocked stick was an artifact of his smoothing technique it’s amazing that Mann still has a job.
        My old mentor, Asim Barut considered the Higgs Boson to be one of the greatest intellectual fallacies of all time. Elaborate ?

      • CitizenOne
        August 1, 2019 at 00:56

        I have heard of the pole shift and its causality for creating Global Warming. It is blamed on the nuclear disaster of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima in Japan in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami.

        But I disagree with that theory. Global Warming is caused by CO2 emissions and the poles have not shifted nor does Global Warming have anything to do with the nuclear power industry or CERN and its discovery of the Higgs Boson which is not a scam but just science. Michael Mann is not a charlatan, he is a scientist.

        There is no connection between Obama and Kissinger and the Higgs Boson nor do any of these figurative people have anything to do with the phenomenon of Global Warming.

        What you are saying might as well be a gripe that domesticated cats and the SPCA are responsible for the destruction of the environment. The Cats are in on the fix to use the SPCA as a tool to disseminate disinformation about the coming Martian attack from the “Cat Planet”which is Mars and the Nobel Prize committee is building large shelters to ensure the survival of cats when the big meteor strike or nuclear strike wipes out humanity but ensures that feline critters shall inherit the Earth.

        Anyone can dream up paranoid fantasies about a whole bunch of nonsense. Henry Kissinger can be placed at the top of the Obama administration and particle physicists can be can be linked in a fantasy to blame the coming environmental catastrophe on a Higgs Boson Scam.

        Perhaps our fate will be assigned to Mister Rogers and his nefarious plot to destroy the World in order to pave the way for the destruction of the planet.

        Perhaps the end will come from militarized Dolphins that give birth to human like Aquarian Mammals with opposable thumbs and vastly superior brains that will swim deep into the bottom of the oceans and detonate nuclear bombs strapped on their backs to blast the Planet into dust.

        All of this is pure nonsense and as a reply to your post such plots of fancy do nothing but create confusion and doubt among the persuadable population to disbelieve what the scientists are telling us about our precarious perch on the edge of extinction due to Global Warming.

  17. Greg Cantin
    July 25, 2019 at 16:59

    Excellent! Please “find” the next chapter asap.

  18. DJ Anderson
    July 25, 2019 at 16:49

    Skipped right over the 2011 US complicity in the failed state of Libya, 8 years of civil war in Libya & in Syria resulting in hundred thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, billions in destruction and the undermining of the EU borders causing a right wing political shift contributing to Brexit. Then there was the surge in the Afghan War in 2009 that in 3 years cost more money and more lives than the previous 7 years culminating after 18 years of the longest war in US history to no victory and no happy ending, so put that in the recipe, please.

  19. Nick
    July 25, 2019 at 15:34

    Speaking as a millennial who reads CN for their excellent reporting and analysis, I have to say that this kind of finger-wagging Boomer purple prose is distracting from the strengths of this website, and makes it difficult to recommend to my peers.

    • ML
      July 25, 2019 at 18:25

      Intergenerational warfare is not good for our growth and understanding. I love listening to our elders. They have so much to teach, whether it be good or bad. And you and your peers, with any luck, will be old some day, too. This was an excellent piece.

  20. July 25, 2019 at 10:48

    A small point – a quibble, really – but may I respectfully point out that Walpole, Mass, is not a coastal town. I lived there for many years and can vouch for the fact that there was nary a whiff of seaweed or salt in the air.

    • don
      July 25, 2019 at 21:33

      not yet…

    • TS
      July 28, 2019 at 16:04

      > A small point – a quibble, really – but may I respectfully point out that Walpole, Mass, is not a coastal town.

      But that’s just the point! When mean sea level rises 3-4 metres (conservative estimate), things will be different.

  21. Slammy
    July 25, 2019 at 10:14

    This kind of sucked to be honest.

  22. Lolita
    July 25, 2019 at 09:26

    Between the threat of “atmospheric rivers” and polar bears endangered, this article has managed to show very little research let alone understanding of meteorology while recycling the usual. So sad to read this here.

    • Hmmm
      July 26, 2019 at 01:29

      Agree. Bacevich is good on American military misadventurism. But when he wanders into things like climate change outside of his field, he often does exactly what he warns against: accepting conventional wisdom and mainstream media distortions at face value.

      • norecovery
        July 26, 2019 at 22:53

        The Sixth Mass Extinction was all he needed to write about as the context for The Great Reckoning (he did mention it and linked an article to it), by connecting biodiversity loss to the climate crisis and placing all of humanity squarely within the ultimate victim group.

  23. Walter
    July 25, 2019 at 07:14

    The DoD is itself in poor shape…see> https://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2019/07/war-profiteers-and-demise-of-us.html Seems that the US cannot supply her own military….

    The last act? loot the treasury.

    The last Policy? Pay the Army.

    Obviously these two constitute a unitary pair…

    The gold is gone…

    The next shoe to drop will be?

    Extortion and mutiny…

    Rather ordinary…

  24. Curious
    July 25, 2019 at 03:26

    This is very good article Mr Bacevich, and many thanks.
    I couldn’t help but have this subliminal feeling of a huge MSM distractingly still unfolding as you write this. It’s almost as mundane as a shell game at the circus or a magic trick to distract the eyes so no one sees the white elephant in the corner about to take center stage.
    Personally I think our current media is either enamored, or has some silly celebrity fondness still with this celebrity myth in TV. I feel like I’m watching a ‘ Bedtime for Bonzo’ repeat. Where you hit home was your statement “ the noise is masking the signals” It wouldn’t surprise me if Trump checks Google to see if he is at the top of the search to make sure his ‘masking’ is working..
    Trump is campaigning for another two years rather than solving any issues. People seem to not know this. When he was on the stump in 2015-16 he told his ‘’’believers’ he would be working so hard for them he wouldn’t even have time to comb his hair. What a joke he is. $110 million for playing golf is not criticized as far as I can see. His use of Air Force One as a taxi cab also has no critics of note. Why? He is burning through taxpayer money all the time but most people don’t seem to notice, or care? He’s spending more time trying to get /a second term he has put any productive agenda to help the millions of Americans, as a side show for his ego. What has he accomplished, except asking for a list of Obamas agenda and then invalidating all of them was his goal. He even said last Thanksgiving out loud, ‘too bad I can’t take the pardon away from the turkeys Obama pardoned last year. That statement went over a lot of heads but it shows his focus clearly.
    Since he values Fox and Friends over his intelligence community, and killing the science community, is telling. People voted for him as a “great” business man and I still hear this drivel, but people forget he has declared bankruptcy 4-5 times. Is this a business man with above average acumen who didn’t get bailed out by daddy? My guess is no, since he still owes Deutsche Bank 300 million dollars. His trade acumen is nonexistent. His “ greatness” of making the farmers great again led China to not import soy beans, so he surreptitiously coughed up 12 Billion dollars to help the farmers, and yet where is the outcry? What business acumen does this imply? The defenders of Trump as a business man par excel-lance don’t seem to talk how he screwed our own farmers along with many trade mortalities. Now China is diverting to Russia for soy beans so what will this genius in the White House do now? Cough up another 12 billion to show how “businesslike “ he is.
    There is so much to dislike here and I like your article even despite my rant. I’ll close with this which I have posted on CN before saying Trump is the embodiment of this movie about The Charlie Wilson War. We are in the midst of ad nauseam distractions without substance. In the aforementioned movie, the was a scene where Philip Hoffmann, playing the CIA role when they were in Turkey, said effectively about Clinton’s Monica issue: we ( the CIA) love sexual scandals because we can park an aircraft carrier group in any part of the world and people in the US don’t even know about it since they are so attracted/distracted by the sex, and the trivia.
    Truer words were never spoken. As Trump lurches on social media, misspelling crazy distractions or versions of hate, we have air craft carriers within shooting distance of Iran, a goal of Bolton for over 13 years Who made Bolton President?. As Americans dilly dally over Trumpisms on anti- social media we have the military in position all over the world. Why are Americans asleep? They care about stupid trivial tweets and don’t even know where their armed forces are, and can’t even identify the countries they are in.. Or even still as an example of Trumps appointments hiring billionaires since they are so smart, hiring a billionaire to run the schools and convert them to charters, or his other appointments (treasury) that will do more damage in the future than his $100 million golf games and his Air Force One $24,000/hr personal playground (probably a low ball figure). I’m really surprised Rick Perry is still in the department he wanted to get rid of. He must be flying under the radar, or his glasses are fooling people, or maybe he cleaned up Hanford and we never heard about it.
    Trump spends tax money as if is printed paper…. oh wait, I guess that part is true. I can’t wait until Deutsche Bank releases their records of Trumps’ debts. That would be a thrill, how he paid off bank debts with Deutsche Banks other capital funds like hedge funds etc. That used to be either immoral or against the law.
    I apologize for the length of my reaction, but you hit a cord in me…..Trump himself is a distraction from some real issues. War with Iran and/or whoever is enemy de jour, like Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, NK, and now maybe China and Russia. What a great diplomat people voted for!!! The key, at the heart of your article is how distracted we, as Americans are in out daily lives. If we really were caring people the images of Yemen would make most moral people in the US vomit up their Starbucks. But it is not shown, to the shame of our media. They voted for a TV personality because the average American watches Tv 6 hrs a day. That is the only reason. Boob-tube reality show personality who is ‘tough’ and knows how to fire people. Have we ever had a president who constantly talks about the Tv ratings of other shows? I don’t think we ever had. He’s tunnel visioned into TV land still crying about his lack of an Emmy and is still fixated on TV instead of the world.
    *** Off topic, but one final note to ponder for the uncritical members of our communities. I watched a bit of the Jesse Ventura show when he is free to speak his mind on RT, but not the US (irony?) but he made a good point when the subject of Big Pharma and Capitalism was the topic and the price of insulin was talked about. The man who invented insulin in Canada took no money for his patent, but look what has happened to the US of A in its greed. The patent was zero dollars, and in the US a dose is now climbing to $800 or so, Why? They put no R&d in the product.

    Remember Trumps rant in Florida about how the US will never be socialistic? Jesse had a rejoinder to that and said, think about this: our military is the most socialistic entity in the US. If we are against socialism why do we give the military most of our money? They have no vote as members, and the chain of command is anything but democratic. It’s a need to know basis and no one has a vote. That is socialism defined, nearing on fascism. Just imagine, the very people who always say “support our troops”, or “thank you for your service” are actually saying I’m glad you live in a socialistic society, while we pretend to be anti-socialist. They even have government/ socialist medical treatment when millions of voters have none. This is very true and people don’t even think about this very often.
    Peace.
    I got stirred up. I’ll go away for awhile and stay silent since this was too long. Cheers.

    • Juan Rodirguez
      July 26, 2019 at 11:43

      Thank you Curious for taking the time to write out your thoughts. I enjoyed reading through your comments just as I enjoyed reading the essay by Bacevich. (Regarding your last thoughts on the secret socialism of our military, my mother (who never spent a day in the military) was able to receive extensive and expensive medical care throughout her long life through Tri-care medical insurance extended to her via my father’s time in the military. Of course, when he was alive, neither of my parents knew about that insurance being available to them, and they were both paying hundreds of dollars per month for private medical insurance.) I am however surprised to find that so many climate change deniers visit and leave comments below articles at this web-site. I would hope that Consortium News readers – aware of artificialness of our political parties and the oligarchy (Zionist and others) who are actually running our country – would not be so skeptical of the climate change happening in front of their very eyes. Do they not see that is is our ruling oligarchs who are making the existing scientific data proving these climatic changes out of their grasp. Or, are they so in love with their cars, trucks, and massive carbon producing military they don’t want to believe, or make any changes to their lifestyles?

  25. Mark Dierking
    July 24, 2019 at 22:36

    Thanks to AJB for concise refresher course. I am just glad that we have “philanthropists” like Gates, Bezos and Buffet to lead us forward using technology and money out of the labyrinth and back to the peace of Walden Pond to which many of us aspire.
    I am going now to contribute to CN as futile as it may seem to be.

  26. July 24, 2019 at 22:28

    Great article covering so much. Among all those things, two things were of interest. Solid waste, if ever there is a problem needing immediate attention and conducive to imaginable solutions, it is solid waste. The other was the miles of rapid transit in China versus ours. What impact does that have on carbon emissions? Hard to think how the resistance to rapid transit replacing the miles traveled in automobiles could be overcome. On one side the supporters of rapid transit and on the other side just about everyone else.

    Everything Andrew Bacevich has to say is important but how do we change course that must begin with a new mindset?

  27. SteveK9
    July 24, 2019 at 22:06

    If it makes anyone feel better, the US is not the only country in the World. In fact, at this moment Russia and China are developing a new ‘World Order’, which may be more successful at leading humanity out of the list of problems noted here.

    As a side note: I wish people would realize that the availability of energy, and mitigating its effects on production is not a problem. We have the solution, it’s called nuclear energy. We have only to use it … and we will it’s as inevitable as adding 2 plus 2 and getting 4.

    • Truth first
      July 25, 2019 at 11:52

      Yes we have nuclear energy. In fact we have a FREE completely SAFE nuclear FUSION plant that supplies us with more energy than we could ever use. Tragic that some people are still in favor of dangerous and inordinately expensive nuclear FISSION plants.

    • richard baker
      July 25, 2019 at 13:07

      And nothing could ever go wrong, of course. Fukushima never happened. Groundwater contaminated with radioactive waste from the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state is not flowing freely into the Columbia River.

      Let us know when you have solutions to those problems before acting like they don’t exist, how about?

      • DW Bartoo
        July 25, 2019 at 19:08

        Having been working down wind of Three Mile Island, on a certain occasion …

        I can but agree with your most reasonable request, richard baker.

        DW

  28. DW Bartoo
    July 24, 2019 at 21:35

    My deepest and continuing appreciation to CN for the remarkable number of articles this site has presented, recently, dealing with certain issues of manifold and manifest planetary environmental crises.

    The vexation, denial, and angry displacement this causes the two legions of doubters who congregate here to snort their derision is quite remarkable to behold.

    Frankly, there is little point in trying to engage most of them in any kind of rational discussion as they regard, as diabolically silly, any concerns about human causation or even well-researched suggestions that industrialization and corporate agricultural practices or corporate flesh production methodologies have made major contributions to things “happening”, ranging from pollinator extinction to increasing global atmospheric and oceanic temperatures to be, in a stunning display of profound cognitive dissonance, to be nothing less than a vast corporate propaganda scheme, designed to tax and regulate us all to certain death, or a nefarious and sinister Chinese hoax, apparently launched to undermine our confidence as world class consumers, now quite incapable of manufacturing any of the things we rush to the Mall to purchase, well beyond duct tape and plastic, in order to prove, somehow, that “these colors don’t (we’re numb—ber one!!!) run.” Those inscrutable Chinese!!! And meddling Ruskies!!!

    Some may find these sessions with animated doubters to be draining and even depressing. Especially the constant refrain that, “There is nothing to worry about! Eat! Drink! Make merry! (Mary?),
    for things have never been better. If a little CO2 feeds the trees, which breathe it in and give us Oxygen, well (by gum!) a lot of CO2 had just got to be wunnerful”.

    Professor Pangloss would be most chuffed.

    However, dinna let it phase ya, as old Mother Nature is not fooled. She’s quite got our number and should we shuffle off this mortal coil, even taking all other creatures with us, turning everything into a cesspool of radioactivity or riding seas or nuclear winter, rest assured, the Earth will abide.

    The Earth does not need us.

    And, if we are foolish enough to think that we’ve no need of the complex web of life that supports our very existence on this rather remarkable planet, the closest thing to paradise that humans will ever know, well guess who might not be half do clever as they imagine themselves to be?

    There might yet come to be a vast number of come-uppances and surprises!

    So, sit back, enjoy the righteous indignation.

    We may not see it’s like again for a million years … or so.

  29. Marty
    July 24, 2019 at 21:13

    Much confusion about climate change is the result of using the terms climate change, global warming, and green house effect as if they are the same thing. Anything but.
    The climate is changing. A large component is man made. Average global temperature is most likely an underestimate of the damage being done. The confusion comes from trying to fit observations to the green house gas model.
    A good example was given by the auther, deforestation and desertification. They are very serious causes of climate change that have little to do with the green house effect.
    Go back to the 70’s and look at role the nuke complex player in demonizing co2.

  30. JWalters
    July 24, 2019 at 20:40

    “Even today, it remains difficult to understand why, given mounting evidence of a grave crisis, passivity persisted for so long across most sectors of society.”

    To a great many people it is very easy to understand. Extreme financial power controls both the press and the government. This financial power is centered in a few big banks, and extends into controlling shares of the major industries (including media) and controlling campaign contributions. The major profit center for these financial oligarchs is war. But everyone in the establishment is deeply fearful of even speaking about them, outside of whispers at midnight, with no smartphones in the room. A collection of relevant evidence is at http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

  31. July 24, 2019 at 20:04

    What’s the cliche? History is written by the victors. Of course, if/when this Anthropocene extinction burst culminates in Mad Max world, humans may lose the ability to read and write all together. Planet of the Apes becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. WINNING!

    https://osociety.org/2019/03/02/why-the-anthropocene-is-not-climate-change/

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