Nobody’s Century: Deglobalization and its Discontents

Despite concern inside the U.S. about rising authoritarianism, Chas W. Freeman Jr says what we are really witnessing is the retreat of representative democracy, constitutionalism, secularism and a rule-bound international order.

Dome of U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

By Chas W. Freeman, Jr
ChasFreeman.net

Chas FreemanThere is currently a good deal of hysteria here in Washington about something called “authoritarianism” allegedly taking the offensive against democratic systems of government.  A century ago, imperialists, colonialists, fascists and communists did indeed articulate theories about their superiority to democracy and seek to impose autocratic systems of government on others.  In World War II and the Cold War, ideology played almost as large a role as geopolitics.

Today there are plenty of countries in the grips of autocratic regimes, but there are none propagandizing on behalf of autocracy or “authoritarianism.”  The international appeal of authoritarian systems of government, if any, derives from the extent to which they deliver prosperity and domestic tranquility to their citizens.  In the case of China, this is considerable – vastly superior so far to democratic India, for example.  In the case of Russia, not so much.

Present-day systems of government in countries with authoritarian governments are specific to their birthplaces.  They are not exportable.  They have little in common with each other and, despite the way Americans lump them together, they don’t seem to feel a bond.

What is happening is not the advance of some sort of united front of the world’s many incompatible varieties of authoritarianism, but the retreat of representative democracy, constitutionalism, secularism, the rule of law, and the rule-bound international order. We are witnessing the erosion of systems built on the values of the European Enlightenment and implemented most radically here in the United States.  The West disseminated these values and imposed them on the world over the past two centuries.  They have been the foundation of global peace and development and remain the most widely accepted standards of good government.

As the Cold Peace that followed the Cold War ends in renewed hostility between great powers, it is not clear what values will shape a new world order, when and if one emerges.  This is deeply disquieting – especially when one acknowledges the active role of the present U.S. administration in unraveling the world order American hegemony invented, sustained and managed throughout the last half of the last century.

Anti-Trump protesters in Berlin, Sept. 23, 2016. (Avaaz/Flickr)

Citizens’ Diminished Confidence

Democracy is contracting, not because it is under pressure from foreign foes, but because citizens in democratic countries have diminished confidence in it.  They increasingly regard their elected leaders as incompetent, indecisive, self-serving, corrupt, contemptuous of them, and ineffectual or indifferent to their interests and needs.  Dissatisfaction with what democratic governments now actually deliver to their citizens fuels “populism” and empowers demagoguery.

Resistance to ethnic and cultural change takes the form of phenomena like “white nationalism” and fury at “political correctness” that appears to privilege previously despised minorities over those previously favored.  We are being reminded that populism has historically found its highest expression in various forms of ethno-cultural “fascism.”  Disillusionment with democracy creates fissures that geopolitical adversaries inevitably exploit.

Given citizen disenchantment with democratic dysfunction, democracy advocates are at a clear disadvantage in making the case against non-democratic systems.  It does not help that many democratic governments have deviated from their own constitutional traditions and entered various stages of constitutional crisis.

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Three years ago, in the United Kingdom, direct democracy by referendum displaced parliamentary sovereignty in deciding which way to go on Brexit.  Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s effort to preempt further parliamentary involvement in determining Britain’s relationship with Europe or its place in a world of shifting power balances has thrown British politics into a dispiriting muddle.

U.S. Presidency Authorizing War

Meanwhile, in the United States, the checks and balances of the separation of powers and bill of rights no longer effectively constrain government.  Despite the clear language of the U.S. constitution, the presidency has wrested the power to authorize wars of choice from the Congress.  The current president has gone further than any before in arrogating congressional power to himself.  Donald Trump has even managed in some respects to override the Congress’s power of the purse – its exclusive right to impose taxes, including tariffs, and to authorize or withhold the release of public funds for specific purposes, like building a wall on the Mexican border.  These constitutional changes are no trivial matter.  Consider their impact on war.

War is legalized murder.  Its currency is men’s souls.  No authoritarian leader abroad now has as much power to kill as many men and women in as many places or does so as the American president.  A self-sustaining professional military relieves ordinary Americans of any connection to America’s wars other than that of spectators in a televised sport or employment by the military-industrial complex.  This assures a high level of apathy that discourages public debate and frees the president to order and conduct wars as he wills for as long as he wants.  As a result, America has become by far the most opposed of all the industrial democracies to rule-bound resolution of disputes.  Washington habitually uses coercive measures, including warfare, to conduct its relations with foreign countries.

Similar trends toward the removal of longstanding checks and balances on the arbitrary exercise of state power are evident in non-democratic systems, including in regions of West Asia and North Africa.  Impatience with the pace of change is removing the traditional constraints on government decision-making that both parliamentary democracies and shura-governed societies have relied upon to avoid erroneous policies.  Authority is becoming concentrated in the hands of a very few, sometimes a single person. And it is increasingly intolerant of heterodox beliefs.

UN headquarters. (Flickr/Julien Chatelain)

Secularism & Multilateralism Both Sinking 

Secularism is the foundation of religious tolerance in Western society.  Rejected by Pakistan and Israel after World War II and then by the Islamic revolution in Iran, it is now under overt attack in India, with Muslims the greatest losers from this.  Demonstrative religiosity is gnawing away at tolerance in the United States.  The conflation of Islam with terrorism has entrenched Islamophobia in much of the West.  Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism alike all seem to be in the process of sponsoring violent prejudices against those of other faiths.

Due process is the conviction that it is not the outcome but the fairness of the way it is determined that legitimizes a decision and demands its acceptance.  This has been the essential theory of justice in the West for at least three centuries.  Due process fails when those making decisions exhibit conflicts of interest, corruption, amorality or prejudice.  Voters now attribute government neglect of their needs and aspirations to these very moral failings on the part of their leaders.

With people increasingly doubting the integrity of democratic governance and the rule of law, conspiracy theories spread with the speed of dark.  In this atmosphere, allegations of foreign influence in elections, as in the United States in 2016, produce hysteria that threatens to discredit the results of any and all electoral processes.  This further erodes confidence in democracy.

Meanwhile, impatience with international dispute resolution mechanisms that cannot guarantee desired outcomes reinforces disdain for multilateralism, promotes unilateralism, and rationalizes actions based on the idea that might can make right.  The growing lack of confidence in due process in the United States undermines the rule of law at home.  It also facilitates the rejection of international law and the institutions that implement it abroad – the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the multilateral development banks.  These pillars of the world order represent signal American diplomatic achievements facilitated by U.S. global primacy.  We are now learning that America’s maintenance of a liberal constitutional order at home is the prerequisite for its preservation of an open and cooperative order abroad.

Historic Trade Wars

In this context, the Trump trade wars mark an historic break with the past. The single world order formerly secured by the (mostly) benevolent hegemony of the United States is fracturing into multiple functional and regional architectures.  It is becoming an open question whether, in the absence of a hegemon, a unified order of any kind can exist at either the global or regional levels.

In recent decades, the norm has been ever freer trade regulated by the market within parameters set by multilateral compacts and collegial dispute resolution mechanisms.  The United States now seeks to replace this system and its rules with neo-mercantilism in the form of government-managed bilateral trade balances and dispute resolution through economic attacks on opponents.  Supply chains have been the sinews of global economic growth based on comparative advantage.   American politicians have now decided to treat them as leverage with which to punish or coerce trading partners.  As Japan and south Korea are currently demonstrating, America’s deviation from past deference to rules and international comity is proving contagious.

Interdependence was once seen as a highly desirable way of stabilizing bilateral and coalition relationships and assuring market access. It is now viewed as a vulnerability.  Countries are hedging against reliance on long-established trading and investment partners by diversifying and indigenizing their sources of imported commodities, technology, and services.  As the unpredictability of U.S. and other nations’ policies increases, so do perceived risk and the volatility of capital and commodity markets.  Expanding uncertainty causes businesses to defer investment decisions and consumers to delay purchases.  This phenomenon is now visibly reducing economic efficiency and depressing growth across the globe.

In addition to its sudden embrace of coercive protectionism, Washington has weaponized its currency to project American extraterritorial power.  The United States now routinely uses its grip on the dollar – the de facto universal currency – to override the sovereignty of other governments by compelling them to comply with regime change projects or other policies they and their domestic publics oppose.  This places politics instead of markets in command of economic transactions, devalues supplier reliability, and discourages continued reliance on imports of goods and services from the United States.

Trump, joined by other U.S. officials, receives Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Oval Office, January 2019 (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour via Flickr )

President Donald Trump, joined by other U.S. officials, receives Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Oval Office, January 2019 (White House/Tia Dufour)

Declining Faith in Dollar

The dollar has long been the most convenient and secure currency in which to do business internationally.  It gained this status as a result of the global dominance of the United States after World War II.  The dollar retains its global supremacy in no small measure because oil and other commodities are still priced in it.  But it is a fiat currency in which there is declining faith.  Governments are coming to see transactions in dollars as risky.  Quite aside from concerns about U.S. fiscal policy, transactions in the U.S. currency can be curtailed or punished by arbitrary and capricious decisions in Washington against which there is no recourse.  Practices that all but their perpetrator find intolerable cannot last. Sooner or later they will be challenged and put to an end.

A search for ways to end dollar dominance of international transactions is now underway in a lengthening list of countries.  Some look for the Chinese yuan to replace the dollar.  But no nation – not even one as economically powerful as China – can hope to match the global dominance of the United States after World War II.  Whatever replaces the dollar-based international monetary system will not be a national currency, but a patchwork of currency swaps or a global reference currency created by multilateral agreement.

In a world in which alliances are loosening or disintegrating and bilateral antagonisms are multiplying and deepening, government regulation of trade and investment increasingly reflects national security judgments rather than efforts to promote prosperity or efficiency.  Some of these judgments verge on the paranoid.  Controls on scientific exchange and technology transfers are tightening.  Countries are banning or limiting foreign participation in ever more sectors of their economies.  The United States is demanding that others align with it against Russia and, especially, China.  The academy is being penetrated by gumshoes.  There is more than a whiff of McCarthyism in the air.

For the most part, both individuals and countries want to do business with whomever can produce the best goods and services at the lowest cost and deliver them on the fastest and most reliable schedule.  They do not want to subject their commercial choices to control by their security partners.  But the American effort to rollback China’s global influence and confine the use of Chinese technology is dividing the world into at least two distinct technological ecosystems.  The implications of this are potentially far-reaching.

Choosing Techno Realms

No country wants to be forced to choose between the United States and its actual or potential international rivals. The goal of most countries is to keep the bidding open.  But as technology and standards diverge in a world divided by contention between great powers, it will become progressively harder for smaller economies to avoid deciding with which techno-realm they should align themselves.  Each will embody its own set of interdependent economies, a dominant scientific educational system and language, and evolving standards that differentiate it from others.

If, as may be expected, countries opt for the zone in which their access to technology is least impeded by political posturing and export and travel controls, the realm in which China is preeminent could end up significantly larger than the American one.  It is entirely possible that, within such “techno-realms,” Chinese and other tongues will increasingly compete effectively with English as the dominant language of science.  That, in itself, would have a significant impact on world affairs.

Great and middle-ranking powers alike are substituting military confrontation and contention for the negotiation of differences with other countries.  Rising tensions and concerns about national security are walling up science and technology in sub-global “techno-realms.”  Again, the United States has led the trend.  It has largely abandoned diplomacy in favor of the adoption of maximalist positions that ignore the interests of other parties, reject dialogue, lack negotiating strategies, threaten the use of force, and demand unconditional surrender.  The result is escalating confrontation between America and a growing list of other countries.  So far, this approach has produced no agreed adjustments in relations.  America’s wars and those of its major security partners like Israel and Saudi Arabia no longer have fixed or feasible objectives or terms for their termination, so they never end.

F-35C Lightning II carrier variants prepare to take off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, 2017. (U.S. Navy/ Alora R. Blosch)

Explosive Arms Growth 

In military terms, the United States retains unchallenged offensive power.  Other great powers may be improving their ability to defend themselves against attack by the United States, but they lack the capacity to take the offensive against it.  Russia retains a nuclear deterrent sized to extinguish all life on this planet.  China has a credible ability to conduct a devastating nuclear counterattack on the continental U.S. as well as to destroy U.S. bases in Asia.  In the age of regime change wars, some smaller countries, like north Korea, have concluded that the only effective guarantee of their security is acquisition of a nuclear deterrent.  Many suspect that Iran has come or will come to the same conclusion.  If so, others in the region will also seek to acquire nuclear deterrents.  India and Pakistan are already at nuclear daggers drawn.  The risk that nuclear weapons could be used to decide the outcome of a desperate conflict is growing.

The unique ability of the United States to project power throughout the globe has led many countries to seek American protection against more powerful or bellicose neighbors.  It has caused others to arm themselves against possible American attack.  As American reliability has come into question, those countries reliant on U.S. protection have stepped up their efforts to bolster their own defense capabilities, while those who feel threatened have done the same.  The result is the rebirth of arms races and explosive growth in the international trade in arms.

Meanwhile, many abroad see American statecraft as increasingly erratic, self-centered, and rash.  This is provoking reconsideration by U.S. allies of the costs and benefits of military dependence on the United States.  Alliances are broad commitments to mutual aid.  Those contracted by the United States during the Cold War are evolving toward the narrow and conditional partnerships characteristic of entente (diplomatic jargon for a limited commitment for limited purposes, perhaps for a limited time).  In these circumstances, even a substantial military presence in any given region or country no longer assures the United States decisive political or economic influence there.

Washington’s disparagement of the European Union and European NATO members has strained Euro-American solidarity.  Brexit, when and if it takes place, will add to the strain.  U.S. schizophrenia about Russia, with the president enamored of its leader and Congress determined to confront and isolate it, is a less visible but real threat to transatlantic politico-military unity and cooperation.  Differences over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program continue to fester.  Europeans do not share the American obsession with the rise of China and do not agree with Washington’s something-for-nothing appeasement of Israel.

U.S. bilateral defense cooperation with key allies is deteriorating.  Turkey is disengaging from America, looking away from Europe, and redefining itself as a mainly Middle Eastern power with independent ties to Russia.  Japan remains committed to the framework of its post-occupation alliance with the United States but is beginning to act outside it, courting Russia and exploring accommodation with China.  Japan’s US-brokered defense cooperation with south Korea is breaking down.  Meanwhile, the abiding U.S. preference for military rather than political approaches to defanging north Korea has strained relations between Washington and Seoul.  The Philippines has substituted appeasement of China for a role in American confrontation with it.  Australia is struggling to find a secure place for itself in an increasingly Sino-centric Asia.

In the Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Egypt no longer follow American guidance but act on their own independent judgments of their national interests and are working to diversify their international relationships.  India remains determinedly non-aligned even as it seeks to exploit American interest in recruiting it as an ally.  The United States has officially decided that China and Russia are enemies.

In short, politically, economically, and militarily a great deal is in motion.  Broken at the top, a new world order is being invented from the bottom up by people who are immersed in the artificial universes that the information-entertainment industry, social media, and political spin-doctors create.  Knowledge of current events now arrives via media that reinforce rather than challenge prejudices.  It is hard to think clearly about what’s happening and what it means when news of it arrives accompanied by “politically correct” interpretations designed to appeal to established narratives and exclude uncongenial interpretations.  “Alternative facts” trump real ones.

Summing It Up

If current trends continue, the world of the future seems likely to be one in which:

  • Both governments and surveillance capitalist corporations will enhance their ability to monitor and manipulate the societies in which they operate and those with which they compete. International cyber-attacks will grow in both frequency and severity.
  • The domestic and international eclipse of Western values will lead to a reduction in transnational advocacy of human rights, as Europe pursues the benefits of expanded economic relations with China, India, Indonesia, and other rising non-Western powers and joins the Trump administration in downgrading the importance it assigns to the promotion of democratic constitutionalism.
  • There will be little, if any, recovery of markets lost in the current trade wars. Apparently temporary shifts in trade patterns will persist.  Nations will strive to diversify markets and suppliers to minimize vulnerability to politically dictated interruptions of supply and demand.
  • Some regional blocs will lose members or break up entirely. The GCC and EU are currently endangered by internal disagreements.  NAFTA has been weakened.  NATO may be in the process of being flanked by European defense initiatives that could divide it.  Differences over how to deal with Sino-American rivalry threaten the unity of ASEAN.
  • Competing “techno-realms” have begun to divide the world between them. Incompatible technological standards and systems will take root in the countries affiliated with these realms.  Huawei and 5G are just the beginning of this partitioning process.  Scientific collaboration will be increasingly deglobalized and limited to interaction within compatible transnational communities.  Competition between “techno-realms” will speed the development of technology but slow its global diffusion.
  • Functional and regional institutions created by sub-global national communities will increasingly displace 20thcentury global institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the IMF, the World Bank, and so forth. We see this already in the growing role of regional groupings like the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the New Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to cite just a few examples.
  • The devolution of collective decision-making and capabilities to the sub-global level will reduce capacity to coordinate or muster worldwide responses to issues like global warming, sea level rise, nuclear proliferation, the need to enforce existing precepts of international law or for standard setting.
  • Shifting patterns of competition and cooperation between the political economies of nations and trading blocs will replace long-term bilateral commitments. Spot markets and multinational intra-company transfers will increasingly supplant both supply chains and long-term contracts for trade in commodities like oil.  (Saudi Aramco is wise to be securing markets by acquiring refineries abroad.)
  • As the global role of the dollar declines, currency risk will rise. New capital markets will be established to enable financial transactions to take place without the involvement of traditional financial centers like New York.
  • Longstanding bilateral alliance relationships will decay. Some will disappear, to be succeeded by a mixture of rivalry on some issues and cooperation on others.  So-called “special relationships” – whether in Europe, the Middle East, or East Asia – will attenuate and be replaced by a much heavier reliance on transactionalism.  No U.S. relationships will be exempt from change, including those with the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, which is the oldest U.S. security partner in the Middle East, dating to February 1945.
  • The United States will not abandon its efforts to sustain global stability, including in the Persian Gulf, but it will increasingly demand burden sharing by others even as they up their own defense capabilities, including by acquiring nuclear deterrents. Neither the United States nor any other great power can any longer guarantee the safety of client states.  If they choose to pursue military solutions to their disputes with neighbors, they will have to live with the consequences of retaliation for doing so.
  • The global arms trade will flourish even as countries strive for greater self-sufficiency in the indigenous manufacture of weaponry. Competition between vendors will intensify as new centers of military manufacturing join America, Europe, China, Russia, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, and the Koreas in vying for sales.  Candidate countries include India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

If the 19thcentury was Britain’s and the 20th America’s, the 21st century will be nobody’s.

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman chairs Projects International, Inc. He is a retired U.S. defense official, diplomat, and interpreter, the recipient of numerous high honors and awards, a popular public speaker, and the author of five books.

This article is from ChasFreeman.net

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46 comments for “Nobody’s Century: Deglobalization and its Discontents

  1. mary ellis
    October 8, 2019 at 13:28

    The current state of the world is well presented!

  2. vinnieoh
    October 8, 2019 at 01:33

    This statement is most telling:

    “But no nation – not even one as economically powerful as China – can hope to match the global dominance of the United States after World War II.”

    Spoken as one who spent his life in service of that effort. I’m not so sure Mr. Freeman; not that I believe any nation should have that ability. I wonder how many partisans of their time viewed their empire as the greatest, and the loss of it could only spell permanent chaos.

    As others here have pointed out, neither do I see that effort as being mostly benign. Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia; Iran/Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen; much of central and south America. It spans my entire lifetime; a blood red ocean of benevolence.

    As Gregory Herr pointed out, it is instructive to understand the “targeted audience” of this essay. Just as JFK’s often-quoted “Those that make peaceful change impossible, make violent revolution inevitable” was part of an address he gave to assembled wealthy and powerful central and south American business leaders. Ironic that at that very same time the US was involved in several “counter-revolutionary” operations there.

  3. Tim Jones
    October 7, 2019 at 20:20

    Truth: The USA’s elites have always had a goal to maintain an unequal distribution of resources for us. Broadly speaking, that was why NSA/CIA was formed.

    Truth is that a consolidation of power in the USA, especially since NSA, CIA was formed, in 1952, that has married, especially, certain sectors of business and industry, powerful factions in Pentagon, factions in Intel, military and scientists (via proposals/contracts, NDA’s in SAPS and USAPS) and through much University research, MSM and most politicians, you have much control of info and resources in the world. Intel is now ‘everywhere you want to be’

  4. Tim Jones
    October 7, 2019 at 20:13

    Truth is that a consolidation of power in the USA, especially since NSA, CIA was formed, in 1952, that has married, especially, certain sectors of business and industry, powerful factions in Pentagon, factions in Intel, and Scientists (via proposals/contracts, NDA’s in SAPS and USAPS) and through much University research, MSM and most politicians, you have much control of info and resources in the world. Intel is now ‘everywhere you want to be’

  5. Robert
    October 7, 2019 at 16:39

    “This is deeply disquieting – especially when one acknowledges the active role of the present U.S. administration in unraveling the world order American hegemony invented, sustained and managed throughout the last half of the last century.”

    Mr. Freeman is wrong about this being deeply disquieting. I believe that we should be congratulating the present US administration for at least trying to unravel the American-invented “world order”, like trying to stop the perpetual ME wars, like trying to negotiate with rather than threaten Russia, like openly questioning the existence of NATO.

  6. Theo
    October 7, 2019 at 12:32

    Mr. Freeman seems to be out of touch with reality. Since WWII the U.S. has engaged in wars and regime change around the globe against representative democracy and economic predation and extolled a great many so-called Enlightenment values and democracy contradicted by its actions. Even before the war, the U.S. was engaged in wars and land grabs in order to consolidate its power in the hemisphere. Why do so many people like Mr. Freeman cling to these platitudes about American exceptionalism and goodness? It is not that no American leaders or thinkers have been distinguished by support for Enlightenment values. It’s just that in America business rules and business does not operate on Enlightenment values, nor does the military and the national security state.

  7. Antonio Costa
    October 7, 2019 at 11:59

    Trump has unmasked the US government. He called it draining the swamp, but it’s really exposing the underbelly, much of it in plain sight.

    I don’t know how much credit he deserves, but regardless he’s smashed the enterprise as the CIA, et al have tried to recover (cover up?) Humpty Dumpty. This has included the smashing of the imperial hegemonic NWO.

    Example: he’s been referred to as “mafia” in style, but those tactics have been US policy for many decades (Economic Hitman, by John Perkins). Trump is the manifestation of US policy sans the smooth talking, plausible deniability.

  8. Jeff Harrison
    October 7, 2019 at 01:09

    If I said that Mr. Freeman was clueless in St. Louis it would be giving him way too much credit. He is clearly ignorant of history and has the American myopia of our “exceptionalism”. Specifically…

    A century ago, imperialists, colonialists, fascists and communists did indeed articulate theories about their superiority to democracy and seek to impose autocratic systems of government on others. Better: A century ago, imperialists, colonialists, fascists, dictators, and democracies articulated theories about their superiority as a form of government. Communism is not a political system, it is an economic system. It typically flourishes in a political environment of totalitarian dictatorship, but not always. The author does, surprisingly, put his finger on the real problem of the early 20th century – the insistence by the various actors that everybody else should accept their political and economic system. This led to war(s).

    The next two paragraphs demonstrate the author’s total lack of understanding of societies. It is true that only the United States is propagandizing for it’s form of government/economic system and we’re lying about our export. We are not exporting democracy, we are exporting oligarchy (please note that out of the 25 richest people on earth, 15 of them are US citizens) and the economic system the US exports is laissez faire capitalism heavily colored with social Darwinism of the worst sort. The author notes that authoritarian governments are specific to their birth places. They are not exportable. And that is simply not true. NOBODY’S government is exportable, authoritarian or otherwise. That is the fallacious thinking of the early 20th century, especially promoted by the United States and the other colonial powers that somehow we were better, more advanced, etc etc than the savages and non-christian brutes of the rest of the world. In fact, the whole package of a society – political and economic systems etc are concocted by the society itself. No society will successfully coerce another society to accept their norms in favor of the norms they’ve had for generations. Attempts at such coercion will ultimately lead to disaster. As a warning to other readers of this guy’s drivel, whenever he doesn’t like somebody’s government, he calls it authoritarian weather it is or not.

    The next paragraph literally makes me gag. It is the epitome of arrogance, hubris, and stupidity. “the retreat of representative democracy, constitutionalism, secularism, the rule of law, and the rule-bound international order” is a joke. And a poor one at that. One hundred years ago, the only representative democracies were the US (sort of) full stop. England had popular representation but was still a monarchy. While that monarchy was not absolute, it wielded most of the power, Oliver Cromwell notwithstanding. Holland was (and still is) a monarchy. Germany was an absolute monarchy. France couldn’t make their minds up and bounced between a monarchy and a republic (I think they’ve have 5 or 6 by now). Italy largely got by on chaos. Russia was an absolute monarchy. Mr. Freeman is under the illusion that “The West” disseminated the concepts and principles of the enlightenment. They didn’t. Starting in the early 1500s (well before the enlightenment) Spain, France, England, and Portugal started spreading the principles of raping and pillaging less technologically advanced societies and making themselves wealthy on the backs of other men’s labor. And the line “They have been the foundation of global peace and development and remain the most widely accepted standards of good government.” is rich. What planet has this guy been living on? Is the peace he’s talking about WWII, WWI, the Russo-Japanese war of 1898, the Spanish American war of the same time frame, the Franco-Prussian war of 1875, the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s, or maybe the onslaught in the new world that led to the destruction of every single native society here, the theft of their land and their forced dislocation? Please somebody, find me the peace of which he speaks. As for the rule of law, that has a spotty record. Some societies had organizations that enforced the laws for the “little people” but the powerful have largely always been able to do whatever they wanted and get away with it and that includes the United States. They are the most widely accepted standards of good government by those governments who have no intention of paying them any attention, like the United States.

    Democracy is contracting because we don’t have a democracy. We have an oligarchy. People are finally figuring out that their vote doesn’t mean a damn thing. You can vote all you like and you won’t change anything and, since the rules for entry into the political system are rigged, you typically have a Hobbs choice for representatives. Just look at the last presidential election.

    One more egregious thing and I’m going to bed. “Secularism is the foundation of religious tolerance in Western society. Rejected by Pakistan and Israel after World War II and then by the Islamic revolution in Iran,” No. Secularism is a foundation of the Enlightenment (which I thought he said we’d been spreading around for 200 years). In addition to Pakistan and Israel he should include Saudi Arabia and most of the petty kingdoms of the Arabian peninsula but also India, Japan, a couple of countries in SE Asia, originally Turkey, and several European countries still have state religions.

    The man sounds good but he’s clueless.

    • Tim S.
      October 7, 2019 at 12:56

      Jeff Harrison, while there are a number of historical claims in Freeman’s article that won’t hold water, your historical ignorance is much greater.

      You say that a hundred years ago

      > England had popular representation but was still a monarchy.
      > While that monarchy was not absolute, it wielded most of the power,

      While the monarch (of Britain) was still respected and listened to (especially due to the considerable remaining influence of the aristocracy), it wielded almost no power (except in some extreme crisis situations).

      > Germany was an absolute monarchy.

      Germany was a (limited) parliamentary democracy — the largest party in the Reichstag was the Social Democratic Party — with the Emperor still exercising some power, and the aristocracy being more influential.

      > Holland was (and still is) a monarchy.

      The Netherlands was and is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

      > Italy largely got by on chaos.

      The recently united country of Italy was a constitutional monarchy (instead of a republic, the conservative wing of the national indepence and unification movement having won out) that was at the time also a parliamentary democracy (about to be toppled by the new Fascist movement)

      > Russia was an absolute monarchy.

      Even Czarist Russia had no longer been an absolute monarchy — but that was two revolutions ago.

      — On the other hand, your scathing criticism of Freeman’s talk of “global peace” and good goverment and “rule-based order” is entirely justified.

    • Jeff Harrison
      October 8, 2019 at 12:06

      A hundred years ago was roughly 1900. I would like to point out that it was the nobility of Europe that started WWI, not an insignificant power.
      We can have a difference of opinion over how much power the British monarchy wielded but even today something like 1/3rd of the land in Britain is owned by British nobility and by some counts is even higher. I think it was just after WWI that tax laws were changed in Britain that caused the taxation of what you had vice what you earned which led to the end of the great estates of the nobility. I think you’ll find that the monarchs of Europe had far more power and control than you appear to realize in the 1900 timeframe. And, while an elderly queen on the British throne does wield little power today. Put a young king on the throne and I think you’ll find things are different.
      Germany was an absolute monarchy until the defeat of WWI when the Wiemar Republic was formed.
      Czarist Russia was an absolute monarchy until the 1917 revolution.
      Both Germany and Italy became unified countries in the spate of revolutions that took place in the 1848 time frame. Italy’s was more chaotic than Germany’s thanks to Bismark.
      Being an absolute monarch doesn’t mean you don’t have a Russian Duma or a German Reichstag. It means that the king doesn’t have to pay any attention to it if he doesn’t want to.

    • Jeff Harrison
      October 8, 2019 at 20:08

      Oh, and by the way, a constitutional monarchy isn’t a representative democracy

  9. October 6, 2019 at 22:24

    Having read through all the comments I note that there is near consensus that American hegemony has not been benign. I hope Charles Freeman reads them as well and recalibrates his views. The problem is with neoliberal economics and subsequent huge wealth and power inequality, not democracy. Lack of economic democracy has corrupted our democracy, as much of it as we ever had anyway. A way beyond old right and old left is with new economics based on ancient wisdom teachings – share the earth, keep for oneself what one creates / produces. Tax land / resources (economic rent/ unearned income) not wages and production. The Earth Belongs to Everyone! Time to fairly share our world.

  10. Richard
    October 6, 2019 at 20:54

    The essay is an important contribution. But you have to have a truly representative democracy to lose it. As long as we have the electoral college, which goes against the very principle of one person one vote (that counts), we don’t really have a democracy. If we really wanted to join the world’s democracies, we could also give all our citizens a day off for voting. And then if we wanted to go all in we could even make voting mandatory like Australia and 17 other countries. With only about 50% of eligible voters going to the polls during presidential elections, it says a lot about citizens participation in our democracy at the national level.

  11. Tedder
    October 6, 2019 at 09:03

    Ambassador Freeman’s essay is sobering; however, he seems to give undeserved credit to American hegemony. I reject that this was much of a force for good in the world. Furthermore, globalism as it stands depends on cheap transport achieved by fossil fuels. In a new, energy-reduced world, we will have to learn to get along without either global hegemony or global trade.

    • October 6, 2019 at 22:11

      Yes I agree that American hegemony has not been benevolent. Freeman leaves little room for hope or optimism of reforming democracy by founding economic earth rights democracy. Political democracy without fundamental ethics and policies of economic fairness was bound to fail. We need a new vision. I find it not in Freeman’s essay.

  12. Edward Roby
    October 6, 2019 at 07:33

    The author offers an internationally well-grounded and profound explanation for the fatally stuttering mechanics of a worldwide system that has prevailed since 1945. All the important dynamics driving the chaotic collapse of U.S. hegemony are convincingly identified. But he has apparently targeted the wrong audience, as demonstrated by a series of contentious comments that insist upon shoe-horning his excellent analysis into the parochial context of yet another show-boating U.S. presidential beauty contest. That’s just a side show to what is happening here in central Europe and is undoubtedly also obvious to observers in more remote corners of the world. We can thank Freeman for sharing a professional diplomat’s glimpse of the bigger picture — vastly more important, although it will never play anywhare in corporate-government mass media.

    • Gregory Herr
      October 6, 2019 at 12:51

      “…a series of contentious comments that insist upon shoe-horning his excellent analysis into the parochial context of yet another show-boating U.S. presidential beauty contest.“

      Entitle yourself to an obviously and blatantly false mischaracterization if you must.

      I should as well note that several assumptions or viewpoints expressed in this article are precisely what “plays well” within corporate-government mass media—American exceptionalism and benevolence, for example. Other examples are well-explained in the comments you obliviously deride. (Generally speaking, I agree, mass media doesn’t do “complexity” or “big picture” analyses).

      The “targeted audience” for Mr. Freeman was the 2019 Saudi Aramco Management Development Seminar.

  13. Zhu
    October 6, 2019 at 04:36

    US governance was always authoritarian for colored people and lower class whites. It grew more authoritarian in the course of the Cold War. Since 2001, the US has grown very authoritarian indeed. Kill lists, “disappearance” into secret prisons, torture, the Guantanamo prison camp, are not the institutions of a free country. We still have elections, but they change nothimg.

  14. Sam F
    October 5, 2019 at 21:34

    There are some truths in this article, but it is wrong that “Democracy is contracting… because citizens… have diminished confidence in it.” Citizens are disenchanted with corrupted institutions, not with democracy, because unregulated economic power led to absolute corruption of all branches of federal government and mass media. Those are the tools of democracy, without which we cannot restore democracy. Rebellion can lead to authoritarianism only where democracy cannot be restored.

    The article errs in stating that “the presidency has wrested the power to authorize wars of choice from the Congress” due to “the removal of longstanding checks and balances.” Actually
    1. The federal government is not authorized to conduct foreign wars, only to repel invasions; the defensive NATO treaty power has been abused to conduct foreign wars;
    2. Checks and balances never worked: the executive branch always had the de facto military power, and no checks were implemented upon the corrupt judicial branch. Checks and balances cannot work between branches of dissimilar function; it must operate within each branch: airplane wings and tires and engines cannot serve as backups of each other: each must function to work properly.

    The article misapplies the legal term “due process” when it means “democracy” and thereby loses important points. It is not “due process” but democracy that “fails when those making decisions exhibit conflicts of interest, corruption, amorality or prejudice.”

    The article errs that “Trump trade wars” “mark an historic break with the past” rather than the longstanding US “economic attacks on opponents.” Economic and information war are long overdue for treatment as war within the meaning of the Constitution: those who alter US policy by taking campaign bribes make economic war against the US which is very properly judged to be treason.

    The article errs that Israel and Saudi Arabia are “major security partners” when both detract severely from US security. Israel has been a constant serious problem for the US, which can buy oil from KSA and anyone else without military action.

    Despite these errors, the article makes some true statements and conclusions.

  15. Chet Roman
    October 5, 2019 at 17:00

    This article seems to have been written by a deep state actor that is conflicted with his support of many of the neoliberal policies implemented over the last 30 years and his justified disdain of the U.S. imperialist war policies.

    “Dissatisfaction with what democratic governments now actually deliver to their citizens fuels “populism” and empowers demagoguery.”

    Yes, because the “democratic” government do not represent the wishes of the public but rather the oligarchs and corporate overlords.

    “the presidency has wrested the power to authorize wars of choice from the Congress.”

    No, it was not wrested; a Congress subservient to special interests gave it willingly.

    “Donald Trump has even managed in some respects to override the Congress’s power of the purse – its exclusive right to impose taxes, including tariffs, and to authorize or withhold the release of public funds for specific purposes, like building a wall on the Mexican border.”

    Trump won because he campaigned on issues the public supported like the forced demographic changes imposed by the “diversity” cabal not is not supported by the majority of the voters. He actually had policies that the public supported, how else could such a vulgar inexperience conman be elected president over “the most qualified presidential candidate”.

    “Resistance to ethnic and cultural change..”

    Let’s be clear, this was resistance to forced and imposed ethnic and cultural demographics that no one voted and imposed by a cabal that claims nonsense like “diversity makes us stronger”.

    “In recent decades, the norm has been ever freer trade regulated by the market within parameters set by multilateral compacts and collegial dispute resolution mechanisms.”

    There is no such thing as “free trade”; it is organized corporate control of trade for their exclusive benefit. The concept of “comparative advantage” is a 19th century idea that is way past its shelf life. The wholesale transfer of millions of jobs to China only benefited corporate profits without considering the impact on working Americans. The productivity of American workers continued to increase the past 30 years but the corporations absorbed all the resulting added profits.

    The reason for the dissatisfaction of democratic governments is that they are not democratic and do not represent the interests of the public. It’s as simple as that.

    • bob lich
      October 6, 2019 at 12:30

      The wholesale transfer of millions of jobs to China only benefited corporate profits without considering the impact on working Americans. The productivity of American workers continued to increase the past 30 years but the corporations absorbed all the resulting added profits. – Exactly, well said.

  16. John Neal Spangler
    October 5, 2019 at 15:34

    The US destroyed the “rule based international order” by constantly violating the UN treaty, the WTO and its precursors, and the US Constitution. Every CIA regime change is against the UN law. A lot of the trade “agreements” violate the trading laws. The President goes into war without a Declaration of War and Congress does nothing. The US has acted like a Fascist Thug country since WWII while using the awesome propaganda power of the MSM and Hollywood to put out a since PR image. Congress puts on Sanctions (against UN and WTO treaties) because AIPAC wants them to. The Supreme court votes the way they want and uses twisted logic to justify it. FBI carries out obvious false flag attacks against America and MSM covers it up. This is a lawless degenerate Evil Empire. The chickens are coming home to roost.

  17. Douglas Houck
    October 5, 2019 at 13:44

    A basically well written piece reviewing the current status of the US and it’s world order.

    The author incorrectly attributes many of the US’s failures to the current administration, most likely becuase he personally doesn’t like President Trump. The most glaring example is the statement that “Despite the clear language of the U.S. constitution, the presidency has wrested the power to authorize wars of choice from the Congress. The current president has gone further than any before in arrogating congressional power to himself.” Show me one new war that President Trump has started. Now show me the wars that Clinton, Bush and expecially Obama started.

    There is one blindness to the author’s assessment of world conditions and that is his unquestioned belief in American greatness. “The single world order formerly secured by the (mostly) benevolent hegemony of the United State…”. Unfortunately, nothing can be further from the truth. That belief in American Exceptionalism has been a primary factor resulting in the demise of the US’s simgle world order, and for good reasons. Americans thought they were god’s gift to the world and therefore they could only do good.

    Just as American Exceptionalism is nothimg more than a slight revamp of the Old South’s White Supremacy, both idoeologies have led to fatal delusional hubris. What is happening now is the establishment of what the new world order is going to be, and as the author correctly states it will not be America’s Century. It most likely will the the Asian Century.

  18. Peter Moritz
    October 5, 2019 at 09:17

    “The United States will not abandon its efforts to sustain global stability”

    The obvious and evidenced falsehood of this statement devalues the article in its entirety. If such a simple untruth can stand – how much of the rest of the article is as much nonsense?

  19. TomG
    October 5, 2019 at 09:09

    As power concentrated into ever-larger institutional structures (e.g., WTO, World Bank, INF and US Military) we witnessed the inevitable narrow, ponderous, top down solutions that ignore the nuance of place, people and circumstance. It is not a bit surprising the clock is winding down on this world order, and it seems inevitable that nimbleness of trade, exchange and ever-shifting alliances will be forefront in the reordering.

    The most unfortunate aspect to this, as Mr. Freeman points out in his last bullet point, is the explosion of arms trading as though that is the best offense to the shifting alliances. Of course, all it actually accomplishes is misery, migration, eco-destruction and development of evermore ‘advanced’ weapon systems–so pouring gas on the fire. Whether small ‘kamazi’ armed drones flying in like a swarm of locusts, hypersonic armed warheads or plain old fashioned boots on the ground weapons, it seems inevitable that the narcissistic, autocratic leaders ultimately can’t help themselves into ensuring that we be the one species that seems hell-bent on our own destruction. We prefer power to patience and pride to humility while making us evermore vulnerable to stupidity, fear, violence and death.

  20. Seamus Padraig
    October 5, 2019 at 07:16

    This is a disappointing piece in numerous ways. I used to have a lot of respect for Chas Freeman fifteen years ago for standing publicly against the Iraq War during those oh-so-dark days of the Bush Administration, but I guess he was always just another swamp thing at heart, and now he’s showing us his true colors. Any way you slice, it’s still sad …

    Democracy is contracting, not because it is under pressure from foreign foes, but because citizens in democratic countries have diminished confidence in it. They increasingly regard their elected leaders as incompetent, indecisive, self-serving, corrupt, contemptuous of them, and ineffectual or indifferent to their interests and needs.

    I’m afraid our author has gotten the causal inference backwards here. It’s precisely because our rulers are “incompetent, indecisive, self-serving, [and] corrupt” that the voters regard them as such and are realizing that democracy effectively no longer exists. Voter discontent is not causing the loss of democracy; it’s the other way around.

    Resistance to ethnic and cultural change takes the form of phenomena like “white nationalism” and fury at “political correctness” that appears to privilege previously despised minorities over those previously favored.

    Chas, have you seen the Labour Party’s bizarre new manifesto, wherein foreigners (even from outside the EU) are to be given the vote in Britain? What do you think of the Democratic Party’s newfound love of ‘open borders’? Is it really “racism” just to want a country of your own? If so, then what were all those wars of independence about?

    Three years ago, in the United Kingdom, direct democracy by referendum displaced parliamentary sovereignty in deciding which way to go on Brexit.

    Uh, no. Not really, Chas. It was parliament itself that authorized the Brexit referendum (just as it had authorized a Scottish independence referendum a few years earlier) and pledged to honor it. Parliamentary sovereignty was not undermined until a few weeks ago, when Britain’s branf-new ‘supreme court’ (wonder where they got that idea from!) overruled both Queen and parliament on the proroguing question.

    Meanwhile, in the United States, the checks and balances of the separation of powers and bill of rights no longer effectively constrain government. Despite the clear language of the U.S. constitution, the presidency has wrested the power to authorize wars of choice from the Congress. The current president has gone further than any before in arrogating congressional power to himself.

    Very deceptive language, Chas. It was Clinton and Bush who did all that ‘wresting’, not Trump. And while it is totally fair to criticize the Orange One for failing to end any of the old wars started under Bushbama, in the interest of fairness, it should also be pointed out that he happens to be the first US president in decades not to start any new ones — at least not yet!

    • Laninya
      October 6, 2019 at 08:59

      I don’t think any of those US presidents had to do too much ‘wresting’, however. Congress has quite willingly and willfully pushed its responsibilities off on others. Hence all the fuss about liberal v. conservative Supreme Court justices and who gets to appoint one. Justices are supposed to be above the partisan fray. But, members of Congress prefer for certain laws to be made from the bench rather than to have to debate them on the floor of Congress. Thus, representatives on both sides of the partisan fray try to elect justices who will do the dirty work for them. Similarly, not wishing to be held responsible for authorizing murder and mayhem abroad, they quietly write the presidents cartes blanches to do the dirty work for them. Notice what happens when a president fails to send troops or bombers here or there, or when a president announces an end to military engagement somewhere. Then we see who’s really doing the ‘wresting’.

    • Seamus Padraig
      October 8, 2019 at 15:32

      Fair point. There are times, in fact, when Congress seems more warlike than Trump.

    • TomG
      October 6, 2019 at 12:28

      Seamus, I actually had some naive hope that Trump would select Mr. Freeman as his secretary of state at the beginning of his term. That said, you have summarized well every point that bothered me with his writing here. I guess he is far more a beltway-boy than I realized.

    • Seamus Padraig
      October 8, 2019 at 15:30

      Yup. I guess if you’re an outsider-president like Trump, the conundrum you face is: where do you find experienced help in Washington that is not already part of ‘the Swamp’?

    • Tim S.
      October 7, 2019 at 13:19

      With a name like Seamus Padraig, you should know better:

      > Chas, have you seen the Labour Party’s bizarre new manifesto, wherein foreigners (even from outside the EU) are to be given the vote in Britain?

      Nothing especially bizarre about that. Some foreigners — in particular citizens of the Republic of Eire resident in the United Kingdom — have been allowed to vote in British elections for many years.

      > when Britain’s brand-new ‘supreme court’ (wonder where they got that idea from!) overruled both Queen and parliament on the proroguing question.

      Well, they probably got the idea more from the EU, which was getting somewhat disturbed by this outlier nonconstitutional system of government without any formal balance of powers. And pray how did that court “overrule” the Queen (who had no choice at all in the matter) and Parliament (which was in an uproar in opposition to be prorogued)?

      It was, of course, BoJo who sought to ride roughshod over Parliament, and the Supreme Court which protected its rights.

    • Seamus Padraig
      October 8, 2019 at 15:28

      Nothing especially bizarre about that. Some foreigners — in particular citizens of the Republic of Eire resident in the United Kingdom — have been allowed to vote in British elections for many years.

      I know about the Irish precedent. But Ireland is a rather small country of about 3 million–you can’t compare that with the rest of the world!

  21. Phyllis
    October 5, 2019 at 06:40

    An excellent analysis, but one which is rather soft gloved on the role of the U.S. during its now ending hegemony.

    Continuous warring, and economic subjugation of many a state via IMF/WB bribes to foreign leaders which enriched them and subjected their populace to suffering. China has learned from this and is now using the same mechanism to push its influence.

  22. Paolo
    October 5, 2019 at 05:32

    Good article.
    In the old days the USA was the wealthiest country in the world, and everyone loved it. Hadn’t it been for American help, us Europeans would not have recovered from WWII as fast as we did. And every treaty and international organisation was sponsored and financed mostly by the USA.

    Back here in Italy we say «sempre sia lodato il fesso che ha pagato», ( the dummy who paid shall always be praised). We have an ancient wisdom that comes from well knowing that the wealthy, or perhaps their heirs, sooner or later loose their mind and waste their money.

    Who would ever have imagined that one day the USA would have the most monstrous debt in the world?

    Remember the old song “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”

    Once I lived the life of a millionaire, spendin’ my money I didn’t have a care
    I carried my friends out for a good time, buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine
    When I begin to fall so low, I didn’t have a friend and no place to go
    So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again, I’m gonna hold on to it ’til them eagles grin
    Nobody knows you, when you down and out
    In my pocket not one penny, and my friends I haven’t any

  23. Cormora
    October 4, 2019 at 23:41

    I don’t think the US has ever promoted a rules-based order, regarding institutions. It’s refused to join many treaties, weapons stuff and the ICC, climate stuff, etc. At the same time it badgers countries who are actually party to those treaties to abide by them. And uses those institutions as threats and punishment. The recent Iran deal is a good example. The US abandons it, not a party to it anymore, then tells the world that Iran must abide by it. This sort of thing has gone on for decades.

    “Differences over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program continue to fester.”

    Iran doesn’t have a nuclear program. If by “nuclear program” you mean weapons.

    • AnneR
      October 5, 2019 at 09:03

      Yes. This article left me aghast at its Orwellian whitewashing of reality. And this is also an agreement with mbob.

  24. Gregory Herr
    October 4, 2019 at 22:37

    I don’t know about the hysteria in Washington, but the authoritarianism plebians like me here in the sticks are concerned to correct is actual and accelerating (thanks Bush-Obama). Setting aside the dearth of prosperity and “domestic tranquility” for the most of us, “America” is now a “national security” surveillance state with tightly controlled mass media, unreliable vote counts, tightly controlled political “representation”, and a severely unjust “criminal justice” system that imprisons at ridiculously high rates while allowing police and courts to ruin lives arbitrarily and without accountability. Due process, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech (is thought a crime yet?) are now imperiled in this great “democracy”.

    We, the plebians, aren’t concerned to defend “democracy” ideologically, nor are we worried about being imposed upon from without—what we want is the actual upholding of our Constitution and a government of accountability and transparency to its citizens. It is not that we have diminished confidence in “democracy” we don’t even have it (anymore?) to begin with.

    I won’t belabor this post with pushback against fawning over the the World Bank and the IMF, or the idea of a “mostly benevolent” American hegemony.

    There was no Cold Peace after the Cold War and renewed hostilities are one-sided. And where has the author been about America’s wars and having “fixed objectives”? Unless killing anything that moves (Korea, Vietnam) counts as a fixed and feasible objective with “terms of termination”.

  25. Tom Kath
    October 4, 2019 at 20:54

    A quaint dose of nostalgia for the “benevolent” power of the good old USA is evident in the ambassador’s treatise. Someone not born of it however, necessarily questions his assumptions, predominantly about that benevolence.
    The beautifully phrased passage, “Conspiracy theories spread with the speed of dark”, may well be challenged with “Conspiracy theories spread with the speed of conspiracies.”

    The “Goodies and Baddies” perspectives so evident in this piece are a reminder of America’s fundamental “Hollywood” perspective of history.
    – A very illuminating article nonetheless.

  26. peon d. rich
    October 4, 2019 at 19:54

    Yeah, it looks bleak for business as usual. But that is the inevitable outcome of U.S. hegemony that sought profit and economic expansion rather than the Enlightenment values that the author claims are in decline globally. What he describes but mis-interprets are the forces escaping from a global system that foisted the creation of oligarchy as democratic. Lost in a neo-colonial fog, he doesn’t see the crises and faltering of neo-liberal globalism as the opportunity to escape the colonial legacy. Had the West for over a century and especially the U.S. post WWII made positive steps toward that end, we wouldn’t be in this mess today. Quit bemoaning the fall of empty ideology and recognize reality – we sucked as a global leader, from cold-war liberal warriors to free-trade, free-market dogmatists.

  27. mbob
    October 4, 2019 at 19:27

    Sorry, but this article seems particularly clueless.

    “Democracy is contracting, not because it is under pressure from foreign foes, but because citizens in democratic countries have diminished confidence in it.”

    No. It’s contracting because it effectively no longer exists. The super-wealthy and their corporate forces have systematically usurped it. Jimmy Carter pointed out we no longer have a democracy in the US — we live in an oligarchy. The author’s determined unwillingness to face that reality makes this article especially pointless. The failure of democracy was due solely to its inability to prevent corporate takeover.

    “The single world order formerly secured by the (mostly) benevolent hegemony of the United States …”

    Mostly benevolent? Since when? The US world order has systematically protected corporate interests since the inception of the US. It has trampled people’s rights all across the globe to do so. Sure, it’s benevolent — to the corporations which control it. Why does the author pretend otherwise?

    “In recent decades, the norm has been ever freer trade regulated by the market within parameters set by multilateral compacts and collegial dispute resolution mechanisms. ”

    Ever freer? Yes. Corporations are ever more free. Trade agreements protect corporate power and profits at the expense of everything else, including the integrity of the planet’s natural protective cycles.

    The author seems to long for a time when governments, corporations and media worked harmoniously together against the public, and no one seemed to notice.

    Theres too much wrong with this article to do it justice.

    I’m disappointed in seeing it here.

  28. October 4, 2019 at 16:58

    The late Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright warned about the dangers of militarism years ago in his 1972 b0ok, The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. Ending the draft took the average citizen out of the equation clearing the way for protest free military adventurism. Bring back the Draft. Here are a few quotes from Senator Fulbright’s book, wise advice, which went unheeded, of course.

    “The danger to public policy arises from civilian authorities adopting the narrowness of outlook of professional soldiers-an outlook restricted by training and experience to the use of force. As we have developed into a society whose most prominent business is violence, one of the leading professions inevitably is soldiering. Since they are the professionals, and civilian bureaucrats refuse to challenge them, the military have become ardent and effective competitors for power in American society.”

    “There seems to be a lack of concern among too many people about the state of the nation, and a too easy acceptance of policies and actions of a kind that a generation ago would have appalled the citizenry. The apparent broad acceptance of the “volunteer army” idea comes to mind- a concept completely at variance with our historic development. Up to now, a blessing of our system has been that those who go into the military service, whether by enlistment or through the draft, could hardly wait to get out. But today, because of the exigencies of the times, there is a chance that we may turn our back on this fundamental principle: a large, standing professional army has no place in this Republic.”

  29. Sally Snyder
    October 4, 2019 at 15:32

    Here are some interesting recent comments from Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu regarding Russia’s military, America’s spending on its military and the world’s last war: viableopposition.blogspot.com September 2019

    While Washington loves to point the finger at Russia for its alleged interference in the affairs of both Georgia and the Ukraine, Russia’s Minster of Defense notes that the massive military budget of the United States is used to fuel disastrous conflicts around the world, all in the name of “bringing democracy” to nations like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya where the United States has spearheaded nation rebuilding exercises.

    • michael
      October 4, 2019 at 22:39

      America is The Exceptional Nation. We do not accept International Law. We do not prostrate ourselves before the International Courts. We do not honor our treaties (Clinton went back on Reagan-Gorbachev’s agreement not to move NATO bases “an inch” closer to Russia than West Germany; Bush and Trump unilaterally abrogated the ABM treaty and INF treaty. After Bush Cheney lied us into Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama lied us into ongoing National Emergencies and sanctions in Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Venezuela and Burundi and added wars with Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, and overthrew democracies in Honduras, Egypt and Ukraine. Trump has only passed a National Emergency in Nicaragua, and needs to add more wars or risk being removed from office.
      As blowback, all our top politicians and intelligence agencies know they are above the Law, and can continue to engage in corruption without challenge. They too are all exceptional.

    • LJ
      October 5, 2019 at 19:59

      Pepe Escobar use to refer to this process as Empire of Chaos. I don’t know who originally advanced the sarcasm. The USA and multi national corporations benefit from the seemingly illogical, if not anarchistic application of American ( USA ) Dominance in the world through destabilizing of any and all. Look at DOLLAR HEGEMONY.and don’t blame Nixon. He would have done it better and we here in the USA would have had National Health Care Insurance too if he hadn’t been kicked to the curb. Go figure. In short , what I’m sayin’ is we got we we deserved. This toxic ‘ pas de deux ‘ between the two political parties started a long time ago. Chinese proverb: Man takes drink, Drink takes drink, Drink takes man. A Pox on both there houses….,signed Mercucio

    • Tedder
      October 6, 2019 at 08:59

      The US blaming Russia for interference in Ukraine and Georgia is “the pot calling the kettle black,” or a form of psychological projection. There is no doubt that the war in Georgia was an American ploy, while the interference in Ukraine by the Americans is well documented.

    • Tim Jones
      October 7, 2019 at 21:14

      Well said.

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