PATRICK LAWRENCE: The Strong, and the Merely Powerful

In the world order now emerging, it is genuinely strong nations that will prevail over those reliant on power alone, and force will have little to do with it.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, with Russian President Vladimir Putin during visit to Moscow in 2019. (Kremlin)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Vladimir Putin’s speech from the Kremlin last Friday, delivered to the nation and the world as four regions of Ukraine were reintegrated into Russia, was another stunner, in line with numerous others he’s made this year, demonstrating a fundamental turn in the Russian president’s thinking over the past eight months.

The implications of this new perspective warrant careful consideration. Putin has taken to looking forward and seeing something new, and in this he is hardly alone.

“The world has entered a period of a fundamental, revolutionary transformation,” Putin said while standing beside the leaders of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. Phrases such as this bear the weight of history. By way of magnitude, presidential speeches do not get any larger. Here is how the Russian leader expanded on the thought:

“New centers of power are emerging. They represent the majority — the majority! — of the international community. They are ready not only to declare their interests but also to protect them. They see in multipolarity an opportunity to strengthen their sovereignty, which means gaining genuine freedom, historical prospects, and the right to their own independent, creative, and distinctive forms of development, to a harmonious process.”

Putin has been speaking in this register since Feb. 4, 20 days before Russia launched its intervention in Ukraine and on the eve of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. In the Joint Declaration on International Relations Entering a New Era and Global Sustainable Development, issued with Xi Jinping, Putin and the Chinese president declared, “Today the world is going through momentous changes,”

“and humanity is entering a new era of rapid development and profound transformation. There is increasing interrelation and interdependence between the States; a trend has emerged toward redistribution of power in the world.”

Putin’s rhetoric has grown markedly sharper from February to last Friday. He has attacked the European Union for its “selfishness” and cowardice, the U.S. for its hegemonic aggression, including the genocide of Native Americans, and the West altogether for the “neocolonial” character of its relations with the non–West. Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, used to refer to Western nations as “our partners.” As of last Friday, yesterday’s partners are Russia’s “enemies.”

‘Irreversible Changes’

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, site of last month’s SCO summit. (Ekrem Canli, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

All very grim. Putin has made this turn toward confrontation reluctantly and out of frustration with the West’s obstinate refusal to negotiate the new security order that Europe so obviously needs. He is angry at the spectacle of wasteful violence and prolonged disorder. This is my read. But there is a certain brightness to his outlook that we must not miss amid the bleak, evident animosity.

“Global politics and economy are about to undergo fundamental and irreversible changes,” Putin asserted again, this time at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Council, held in Samarkand last month, “not based on some rules forced on [us] by external forces and which nobody has seen, but on universally recognized principles of the rule of international law and the U.N. Charter, namely, equal and indivisible security and respect for each other’s sovereignty, national values, and interests.”

In his Moscow address, he said: “They do not wish us freedom, but they want to see us as a colony. They want not equal cooperation, but robbery. They want to see us not as a free society, but as a crowd of soulless slaves.”

“Western countries have been repeating for centuries that they bring freedom and democracy to other peoples. Everything is exactly the opposite: instead of democracy – suppression and exploitation; instead of freedom – enslavement and violence. The entire unipolar world order is inherently anti-democratic and not free, it is deceitful and hypocritical through and through.

Let me also remind you that the United States, together with the British, turned Dresden, Hamburg, Cologne and many other German cities into ruins without any military necessity during World War II. And this was done defiantly, without any, I repeat, military necessity. There was only one goal: just like in the case of the nuclear bombings in Japan, to intimidate both our country and the whole world. …

The US dictate is based on brute force, on fist law. Sometimes beautifully wrapped, sometimes without any wrapper, but the essence is the same – fist law. The collapse of Western hegemony that has begun is irreversible. And I repeat again: it will not be the same as before.”

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This kind of talk is daring. It is a million miles from anything you will hear from any of America’s purported leaders, lacking all vision as they do. What is Putin talking about if not a new era in world history, the kind that gets its own chapters in the history texts of the future? What will distinguish this new era, we have to ask.

There are various ways to interpret what Putin, Xi, and their allies among non–Western nations are working toward. In my view, they draw a distinction none has put into words but which is nonetheless essential to their vision: There are strong nations and there are the merely powerful. In the world order as we have it the powerful dominate — ever more evidently by force alone. In the world order now emerging, it is genuinely strong nations that will at last prevail over those reliant on power alone, and force will have little to do with it.

I have distinguished between the strong and the powerful since my years serving as a correspondent in East Asia, long back. The Vietnamese, the South Koreans, the Chinese in their way, even the Japanese in theirs: In these nations I saw a durability and coherence that had nothing to do with the size of their armies and air forces.

What was it that made them strong? The answers, of which many, came to me only after years of considering the question. I do not consider the answers anything like complete.

Strong nations serve their people as their primary responsibility. This is where I begin as I characterize them. They have a purpose, a telos, as the ancient Greeks put it, and a shared belief in the worth of their ideal. They have a commitment to advancing the well-being of their citizens — to constructive action in the interest of the commonweal. They value their cultures, their histories, their memories.

These common characteristics confer on strong nations solid but flexible social fabrics and an assumed sense of shared community. They are a source of identity and at the same time expressions of identity.

Ironically, strength of the kind I describe tends to generate power. But it is power judiciously deployed. Genuinely strong nations have no need to dominate others. They are ungiven to subterfuge or subversion, seeing no purpose in it. They value mutual benefit in their relations with others simply because this is the surest way to stability and a peaceful order.

Let us not traffic in impossible ideals or in the thought of nations as pure as snow. There are none. A strong nation may have many things about it that are not to be admired — awful things, even. A strong nation may also be powerful. China is such a case. I am of the view — and I realize there are others — that China does not use its power to malign purpose. Remove the Sinophobia and anti–Chinese paranoia, and the record supports this.

Power Alone

The chaotic individualism of New York City. (Public Domain/PxHere)

In the same unscientific fashion, let us consider the merely powerful.

Nations dependent on power alone lack the coherence found among the strong. In them you find that all relations are power relations. The social fabric is in consequence frayed. There is an evident atomization among the citizens of these nations, leaving them with no social bonds or common purpose and nothing to believe in.

When a nation’s ethos tips toward the pursuit of power, the polity is hollowed out. All the familiar social ills proceed from this — inequality, corruption, greed, and the collapse of mediating institutions through which people are able to express their political will.

The rampant, perverse corporatization of every aspect of life in unduly powerful nations represents the institutionalization of these characteristics. When everything is measured according to its potential to turn profit, we have to say that Margaret Thatcher was horribly right when she asserted, “There is no society. There are only individuals.” This is a key feature of nations that are merely powerful.

They are gatherings of survivors in constant struggle against one another.

The merely powerful consume what remains of their strength in the course of exercising their power. An example of this is the censorship regime that descends upon America like a long, dark cloud.

As digital media corporations act at Washington’s behest to control what can be said in public, they do more, much more, than impose an information monoculture upon Americans. This is the use of power to intrude on the full range of our interpersonal relations.

They are telling me what I can and cannot say to you. In this way they are destroying public discourse, and, in nations where we find it— not all — a vibrant public discourse conducted in public space ranks among the important sources of strength. They are also destroying people’s abilities to discern, to think, and to judge for themselves — another source of a nation’s strength. In strong nations that curtail free speech — and there most certainly are some — culture and tradition nonetheless strengthen communities, and leadership often uses them for this purpose.

This is how the exercise of power leads to the disintegration of the nation wherein power alone counts.

The US: A Once Strong Nation

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Matt Kozlowski/Wikimedia Commons)

Maybe it is obvious by now that I count the United States the premier example of a nation that is powerful but lacking in strength. There is no anti–American sentiment in this. It is simply because the exercise of power at the expense of strength is more advanced in the U.S., with its excessive corporatization and its excessive dependence on technology as an instrument of power, than anywhere else on earth.

When Jefferson and the signers wrote, debated, and sent the Declaration of Independence to George III to advise of their intent, they were announcing a strong nation, bound together in purpose and faith in itself — strong but hardly powerful. It has been this nation’s long, persistent abandonment of its founding ideals, ever accelerated as its pursuit of power came to dominate, that has rendered it weak.

The paradox: As America determined to make itself a world power, beginning with the Spanish–American War in 1898, it has steadily lost its strength in the way I use the term.

Power, as exercised by the merely powerful, acts primarily in the cause of its own self-preservation. It is thus put to malign purpose, deployed to the detriment of others, and is almost invariably a destructive force. Among its objectives is the destruction of the strengths of others.

Vietnam is a clear case. As they waged war against the Vietnamese people, U.S. forces infamously set about “destroying the village to save it”—that is, to shred the fabric of Vietnamese society so as to defeat it. American forces have since done the same elsewhere — in Syria, for instance, in Libya, in Iraq. You don’t have to approve of any given feature of these societies to recognize that what has been fundamentally at issue was their coherence, those ineffable things that bound them together as one even if it was a fractious unity. This is why we can now speak of these nations as “broken.”

We should consider the Ukraine conflict from this perspective — the wanton, useless destruction, I mean. And we should think about what it is the U.S. most wants to destroy as it presses its campaign to destroy Russia.

Then we can think again about Putin’s speeches over these past months, and the sentiments in them that many other nations—“the majority!”—share. I have long found Putin’s speeches, all available on the Kremlin web site, worth reading: Whatever else one may think of him, he has an excellent grasp of history and the dynamics of international relations.

In my read, the change that has come over the Russian leader dates to last December, when the U.S. threw sand in his face in response to his effort, via those two draft treaties Moscow sent to Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels, to fashion a new security order in Europe. That is when his anger arose.

That is when he said in effect, To hell with them. We will have to build a new world order on our own. China, by that time, had already given up on the West, and it was then the Russians and Chinese took their great leap forward together.

I am sure they share large measures of bitterness and anger as they look back over their deteriorated relations with the West. It is what they see looking forward that interests me far more. They are not talking about power as the principal feature of the order they now appear fully committed to realizing. They are talking about a world built by strong nations with shared purposes.

These are all in the speeches: the freedom of nations one to the other, the right to choose “forms of development,” interdependence, the authority of international law.

What is the raw pursuit of power next to these?

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.  His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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38 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: The Strong, and the Merely Powerful

  1. worldblee
    October 5, 2022 at 17:49

    This is an article that should be read in every school. Excellent work.

  2. evelync
    October 5, 2022 at 07:33

    Your views on this subject are shared, in their own way, here:

    and here:

    And a CODEPINK interview with 2 young people working in Africa included this moral/ethical point:
    Asked by the moderator how the people in their countries felt about China vs the U.S., the young man working in the Congo said that China as part of their Belt and Road initiative was building a monument to Lumumba, whereas the U.S. had him killed.
    And he continued – the people in the Congo know these things and base their views on that difference.

  3. Tom Dionne-Carroll
    October 4, 2022 at 23:11

    An extraordinary article even by your standards -i think there is a book in there to develop these ideas-our western societies are lost but there is something changing in this world and Pres Putin incarnates it as no one else-the great humanity the man has where force is always a last resort
    as for Ukraine-before a hurricane the tide pulls out and that is what we are seeing now remember LLovaisk the Ukr army was drawn into a corner and then obliterated be patient in -3 or 4 weeks we will see the huricane-

  4. LeoSun
    October 4, 2022 at 18:07

    “The US: A Once Strong Nation.” America is beautiful; but, she’s “GOT” an U G L Y side,” i.e., The Divided $tates of Corporate America,” “Let’s Go, Brandon; but, we know what they sayin’”

    WAR is NO small matter. Executive function is no small matter. Power is Powerful. Joey “Patriot Act” Biden’s been the leading proponent of NATO expansion within the U.S. political leadership for many years, before and after the Feb. 2014 coup.

    Stunning!!! ..i.e., PATRICK LAWRENCE, “They are telling me what I can and cannot say to you.”

    “In this way they are destroying public discourse, and, in nations where we find it— not all — a vibrant public discourse conducted in public space ranks among the important sources of strength.”

    “OH, TAKE ME BACK TO THE START.” DECEMBER 31, 2016, Happy New Year!!! “OhBama Just Authorized A Shadowy New ‘Anti-Propaganda’ Center.”

    December 23, 2016, “OhBama green lights the creation of a new federal center ostensibly aimed at countering foreign propaganda and disinformation. THE HEAD OF THE CENTER WILL BE APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT, MEANING THAT A DONALD TRUMP NOMINEE WILL LIKELY SIT AT ITS HELM.”

    “another, STUNNER!” “I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me, so that everyone remembers this: people living in Lugansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye become our citizens forever.” (VLADIMIR PUTIN).

    And, b/c PATRICK LAWRENCE’S after action review is outstanding!!! “NooooooBody wants to go home now. There’s too much going on!”

    SEPTEMBER 30, 2022: “Today the world is going through momentous changes; and, humanity is entering a new era of rapid development and profound transformation. There is increasing interrelation and interdependence between the States; a trend has emerged toward redistribution of power in the world.” (VLADIMIR PUTIN)

    “To hell with them. We will have to build a new world order on our own. China, by that time, had already given up on the West, and it was then the Russians and Chinese took their great leap forward together.” (PATRICK LAWRENCE).

    MAY 6, 2019: “As the EAGLE got more and more threatening, the BEAR and the DRAGON got closer and closer in their strategic partnership. Now both BEAR and DRAGON have too many strategic links across the planet to be intimidated by the EAGLE’S massive Empire of Bases or those periodic coalitions of the (somewhat reluctant) willing.” (PEPE ESCOBAR)

    “This IS where we stand now. And once again, we reach the end – though not the endgame. There’s still no moral to this revamped fable, “The Eagle, The Bear and The Dragon.” (hxxps://

    STUNNED, again, by Antonio Gutterres,. The wolf @ the door?!?” Gutterras straight-up blew a hole in “our” heart; and, “EVERYBODY, feels the wind blow.”

    YESTERDAY, 9.26.22, GUTERRES was all about “Eliminating nuclear weapons, ‘Is Not Only Possible, It Is Necessary’ UN Chief Antonio Gutterres. “TODAY, “ imo, the White House’s Board of Executioners “Got” to Gutterres, i.e., “We have all kinds of ways to attain our ends,” (The FOX).

    Regardless, One Belt. One Road Initiative (BRI), is rockin! Unipolarity vs. MultiPolarity. “These are all in the speeches: the freedom of nations one to the other, the right to choose “forms of development,” interdependence, the authority of international law.” (PATRICK LAWRENCE)

    “It’s Organic. DON’T Panic,” i.e., “SAVE The PLANET” DON’T Nuke It!

    The PLAN to eliminate, eradicate, suffocate “The Conflict,” the Collusion, the Corruption, the Contempt: AND, Combatting the Hate of People, Cultures, Countries thousands of miles away, W/O WAR, effective, YESTERDAY, “A PLAN to SAVE The PLANET” LIVES!!!

    “A Plan to Save the Planet,” developed by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the Network of Research Institutes. A Plan to Save the Planet is a provisional text, a draft built out of the analyses and demands of our people’s movements and governments. It asks to be read and discussed, to be criticised and developed further. This is a first draft of many drafts to come. Please contact us at plan@thetricontinental[dot]org with your criticisms and your suggestions, since this is a living document. This document will eventually advance through our movements and our institutions, building towards a resolution at the United Nations to SAVE The PLANET.” (VIJAY PRASHAD)

    “The institutions responsible for the current crisis will not transform themselves,” (David Korten)


    • robert e williamson jr
      October 5, 2022 at 20:36

      Great stuff LeoSun, keep it up!

  5. Jon Adams
    October 4, 2022 at 09:32

    On Oct 04 western media reports that the Russians are being defeated on the battlefield.

    The NATOstans are gloating.

    Since 2003 I think I have been praying for real limits to the American empire, which does what it pleases to the world.

    I was in Mosul in 2004, when Paul Bremer took over as leader of Iraq. One of his first items of business was attempting to package and sell the confiscated Iraqi state industries to international corporations at a conference in London.

    Cargill wants to own Ukraine wheat fields. That summarizes “American interests” in foreign lands.

    • evelync
      October 5, 2022 at 10:47

      Thank you, Jon Adams:
      “Since 2003 I think I have been praying for real limits to the American empire, which does what it pleases to the world.

      I was in Mosul in 2004, when Paul Bremer took over as leader of Iraq. One of his first items of business was attempting to package and sell the confiscated Iraqi state industries to international corporations at a conference in London.

      Cargill wants to own Ukraine wheat fields. That summarizes “American interests” in foreign lands.”

      You remove the curtain, Mr. Adams.
      “The banality of evil”…

      Our criminal leadership DNC/GOP get away with spouting “American interests” as their rational for what we do, and are never challenged to explain “whose interests”.

      The 2 entrenched parties create wedge issues to divide us and confuse us.
      They misuse/abuse those who “serve”
      And the “interests” of the vast majority of Americans who struggle with health care, low wages, while the $trillions are frittered away.

      I think con man/politically savvy Trump read the angst of people heartsick at the wars, who believed he might change things – I guess he wasn’t as war like – but he placed Pompeo at CIA who did Julian Assange in while DNC is too shaking in their boots to release him.

      Thank you.

  6. Cynic
    October 4, 2022 at 01:08

    For what is the point of power if you do not take care of the weak? What is the point of wealth if you do not take care of the poor? USA has turned the point of power towards making ever-increasing riches for the richest. Where does that ever stop? The billionaires have more money than they can ever spend, for what then you continue to make the 99.9% poorer just to add a few zeros to the richest? When the greed of the richest outweighs the anguish of the poor in the eyes of the leaders, the country is but doomed. The word Profit is but an necessary evil in society, like the production of feces is necessary for the human body, just to sustain itself. Put an necessary evil as the objective for use of power in that society, is like eating as much junk food as you can so that you can produce the maximum amount of the stinkiest excrement your body can produce. Sooner or later, the body collapses in that big pile of manure.

  7. October 3, 2022 at 20:19

    They were just saying, in the break room TV on CNBC, how “Putin’s back is to the wall.” I think that rather the US has it’s back to the wall whether they realize it or not.

    • Realist
      October 3, 2022 at 23:38

      Precisely my take. If I believed anything disseminated by the American or Western media, I would think that the Russian populace are hunting Putin like a rat with notions of lynching him like the Italians did to Mussolini. “Putin on the precipice,” they are ALL saying. Maybe our Yankee Doodle Dandies could never run a military disciplined, organised and motivated well enough to defeat third world adversaries, even with their shock and awe scorched earth approach, but they sure all have their stories straight when it comes to the lies and propaganda they are ordered to dispense.

    • Jon Adams
      October 4, 2022 at 09:33

      It does look like Putin’s back is against the wall.

      Reports are that the Russians are being driven out; and that the Russian military has collapsed.

      • October 5, 2022 at 11:43

        Another way of looking at it could be, Russia got what it wanted and have left those areas to the Ukrinians. We may be spinning it as victory but Ukraine has lost 15% of it’s territories. This is just my take based on watching continuous lies spewed in the western media while reality is not so rosy. No difference than the lies of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya……..

  8. Lois Gagnon
    October 3, 2022 at 19:59

    I think what you are describing Patrick is the severing of the social contract. Neoliberalism, the system Thatcher and Reagan imposed on their countries and exported to the world, is based on that ideology. Russia and China experimented with neoliberalism for a while, but caught on to its destructive impulses. Unfortunately for us and the world, Washington and Europe seem unable to reverse course and are determined to enforce this system on humanity at all cost. It will kill us all if it’s not brought down.

    Best of luck to the newly emerging alliances in that endeavor.

    • Susan Siens
      October 5, 2022 at 16:52

      Just what I was thinking, Lois. Interestingly, to some extent the social contract reemerges when there is a crisis such as the hurricane in Florida. But humans need a social contract ALL the time, not just occasionally.

      And the rampant greed of the predatory capitalists dooms the U.S. We have an incredibly unhealthy population as we have allowed the medical-industrial complex to do little besides drug people and chop them up, we have allowed industrial agriculture to peddle ersatz foods often filled with toxic chemicals, and now we are looking at masses of people losing their homes due to the banksters and hedge funds wanting to own ALL the land and ALL the housing. We are paying and will pay more for our love of violence, speed, and greed.

  9. Guy St Hilaire
    October 3, 2022 at 19:47

    Wise words from Patrick Lawrence .A pity that the Western world does not understand the major changes in store for humanity and does not participate in the changes that are on the horizon for humanity and indeed the planet.

  10. Sylvia
    October 3, 2022 at 19:11

    Well done. I wouldn’t change a word.

    • YesXorNo
      October 6, 2022 at 02:08

      Yes, Sylvia.

      This is one of the most deeply thought articles I have read in long time. It seems that Mr. Lawrence was inspired by Putin’s speech to match its impact.

      Philosophy is a game of the definitions of words. Patrick plays with powerful and strong to draw some very insightful observations on the interrelation between society and strength.

      Thank you, Consortium News, for publishing this important work.

  11. Utu
    October 3, 2022 at 17:51

    When you say “When Jefferson and the signers wrote, debated, and sent the Declaration of Independence to George III to advise of their intent, they were announcing a strong nation, bound together in purpose and faith in itself” I would say it was several strong nations announcing themselves. Joel Garreau, David Hackett Fischer and Colin Woodard have all written about American ethno-regionalism and stateless nations within the US.

    These nations really were only bound together after the Civil War, which was the beginning of the American imperial project, first against the Native Nations and then with the Hawaiian Annexation and the Spanish-American War on the larger stage. Whether the US as a singular nation has the strength to survive the coming changes, we shall see.

  12. ray Peterson
    October 3, 2022 at 17:31

    Sounds like a prophetic curse on America worthy of a secular Isaiah:
    “. . . atomization, no social bonds or common purpose and nothing to believe in.”
    Just who are the people “. . . having no hope and without God in the World” (Eph.2.1)?
    Could the Christian message be more alive in Russia and China than with
    Trump’s evangelicals?

  13. Britton Kerin
    October 3, 2022 at 16:35

    “it was then the Russians and Chinese took their great leap forward together”

    this article lionizes Russia and China in a way that isn’t at all necessary to oppose the current madness in Ukraine. The extremely poor choice of words here stands well for the whole thing

  14. Jeff Harrison
    October 3, 2022 at 16:30

    As I have said before, well put, Patrick. In reality Margaret Thatcher was full of it. Mankind is a social animal. In the wild, we do not survive well on our own. However, the United States especially has relied on power for most of its existence. When Europe first came to the new world, the Europeans were not terribly more technologically advanced over the denizens of the rest of the world (except possibly the Chinese) but thanks to non-stop warfare in Europe they became more technologically advanced. Europe has spent the last 500 years stealing the rest of the world from their indigenous inhabitants with the US a leading practitioner. You can’t steal from a man without being more powerful than he. Hence “The West’s” reliance on power for so long. Today, power is less important than it was. I think it best represented by Nicaragua’s severing diplomatic ties with Holland over Holland’s arrogant decision to cancel (after a number of years of doing nothing) funding for a hospital in Nicaragua over some alleged failure on Nicaragua’s part in the realm of democracy and human rights (no doubt prompted by their master, the US, since Washington is displeased that Mr. Ortega is the president again). Zhou En-lai’s principles for peaceful coexistence #3, non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states applies here, Holland.

  15. John Nicholas Manning
    October 3, 2022 at 14:19

    It is shame that those in power in western nations will not even read opinions such as this. Having in the last 15 years developed relationships with Asian people and their societies, I have seen the significant difference between the western ideal of individual liberties being called civil rights and the responsibility to a society in Asian countries being called civil rights.

    For the first 30 years of my life the USA stood out as the country that best looked after the welfare of its people (despite its contunuous wars). For the last 35 years of my life China has stood out as the country that has best looked after the welfare of its people. The political structures behind these countries could not be more different. Social welfare is about ethics and honesty not politics.

    • Humwawa
      October 4, 2022 at 17:59

      As a Westerner, I appreciate Western type of individualism, while understanding its limitations. From my experience in the Far-East, I appreciate Eastern type collective society, while understanding its limitation. These are archetypes that have grown from the beginning of civilization. The Asian rice farmer was only able to survive within the community, which maintained the irrigation system for the paddy fields. The Western wheat farm, on the other hand, was able to lead a life of self-sufficiency even without a community.

      To master future challenges, such as climate change, we need both traditions. We need to take the best from each. In the past, the East prospered by learning Western technology, today its necessary for the West to learn from the East and non-Western societies.

      • Susan Siens
        October 5, 2022 at 16:54

        I would suggest thinking about how long the Asian rice farmer has been farming rice, and then considering how long the Western wheat farmer has been destroying the soil and water with industrial agriculture.

  16. Peter
    October 3, 2022 at 13:54

    In the 1990’s I visited Russia in business several times, in total about 20 trips each lasting between 2 to 4 weeks. The 1990’s was of course a time of intense economic and social stress in Russia pretty much imposed by western adviced on how to “manage” the crisis. Despite this, as we have seen today, a new country rose from the ashes. Why?

    In 1995 I met many who had not been payed in 6 months, among other doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers. One it particular, a highly skilled surgeon told me that because of his growing family he worked extra as an ambulance driver to make ends meet. However, he didn’t get payed as an ambulance driver either, so he started his private practice treating wealthy patients – which turned out as profitable.

    Oh, I said – so now you have quit your job as a surgeon and ambulance driver and focusing on your own practice? His face turned blank, confused and after a while he said: No – no – then people would be dying, I can’t quit my jobs!

    I have many times since reflected on this memory from almost 30 years back- if such bad times would hit the city where I live – would I expect there to be working hospitals if staff had not been payed for six months? Probably not, and there wold be no other help either. In my mind, thats the difference between a strong and merely powerful nation

    • Susan Siens
      October 5, 2022 at 16:56

      And think about people starving after WWII but refusing to eat the seed they needed for planting the next season. A way of thinking we have utterly lost in the West.

  17. Tim N
    October 3, 2022 at 12:52

    An excellent analysis, Patrick. My fear is that the US or one of their nationalist or fascist toadies in Ukraine or elsewhere will do something desperate and stupid.

    • WillD
      October 3, 2022 at 23:18

      Many people around the world fear this, too – and quite justifiably. The collective west has done more stupid, and dangerous, things in the last 9 months than ever before. And, with the blatant sabotage of the Nordstream pipelines, the recklessness is only getting worse.

  18. William Waugh
    October 3, 2022 at 11:35

    About the US, you say, “It has been this nation’s long, persistent abandonment of its founding ideals, ever accelerated as its pursuit of power came to dominate, that has rendered it weak.”

    What ideals would those be?

    • kim pursell
      October 3, 2022 at 13:29

      The ideals would be those expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution.

      • Rebecca Turner
        October 4, 2022 at 04:00

        That all (propertied, white) men are equal. That women, enslaved people, poor men and native people are not equal to those men. Is that what you are referring to?

        • BOSTONIAN
          October 4, 2022 at 20:21

          Exactly. The “liberty” the Founders cherished is related to our understanding of the term only by a trick of language. In the Roman Republic, on which their ‘checks and balances’ system was based, “libertas” meant the right of the owner class to exploit property, chiefly land and slaves, without interference. In the first election of 1788-89, precisely 43,782 men were able to cast votes, out of an American population of nearly four million. Since the Jacksonian populist 1830’s the story of the United States was the struggle to graft a genuine popular democracy onto the bare bones of the Founders’ aristocratic republic. That struggle was finally lost, just as it was with the Romans after they triumphed over Carthage, their equivalent of our 1945, when both became the great powers of their world. Even as they elected Consuls as usual and Senators, who met and debated and passed laws as they always had, their institutions, like ours, became empty shells, gutted of their power to serve any but the elite.

    • October 3, 2022 at 14:20

      Read the Declaration of Independence. Consider the historical context of the Enlightenment. Don’t be a troll or a nihilist.

    • Pam
      October 3, 2022 at 17:20

      exactly- I’d like to know that too.

    • Mikael Andersson
      October 4, 2022 at 16:24

      Will, those “ideals” are assumed. Merely to mention them is to conjure them with no need to define them or for them to exist. They are similar to the “rules-based system”. As Mr Putin asked recently, “The West is insisting on a rules-based order. Where did that come from anyway? Who has ever seen these rules?” Neither the rules nor the ideals exist and can be made up to suit any purpose. I think we all understand what Patrick was getting at with his point. Regards.

  19. mgr
    October 3, 2022 at 10:48

    “Strong nations serve their people as their primary responsibility” [above article]. This is the truest, most powerful statement ever. China, for example, some 20+ years ago decided to eliminate extreme poverty from her society. And they did it. How about that? In contrast, despite “America’s war on poverty”, this has been a bridge too far, too far to even try for the “richest, most powerful nation on earth,” the “creator of history”, and all manner of assorted drivel. All that power, and not a clue what to do with it, which is why it is dribbling away.

    The US led “rules based order” is literally nothing more than “Do as I say, not as I do.” There is absolutely no strength in that whatsoever, just selfish interest. And day by day, those purely selfish interests are more and more on display. The mask is slipping and America sabotages herself. As the greed increases, now without limit, so does the self-harm. As the saying goes, “Be careful or you just might end up where you are headed…”

    • Rick
      October 3, 2022 at 20:11

      You are right.
      “Strong nations serve their people as their primary responsibility.“ —Is a very powerful statement. When you look at the United States with all it’s massive social problems— homelessness, a mafia police force, millions lacking healthcare, underfunded schools, resisting fighting climate change, not taxing the rich to help benefit us all. You actually realize how weak America is. And our presidents starting wars based on lies and not charged with crimes against humanity. Biden, in my mind has committed one of the greatest country crimes by provoking Russia into a war and then stopping any form of a peace process. And then sabotaging the Nordstream Pipeline An act of terrorism so Europe will be forced to buy American LNG. Shame on America. On the flipside, you see a very poor country that is very strong. It provides healthcare and education to all its citizens . I’m looking forward to Russia and China and all like-minded nations leading the way and hopefully America can come to his senses and follow along also.

    • JohnO
      October 3, 2022 at 21:09

      Nicely stated. If I had clinical goggles to assess the course that America has been on, I think it is a chronic case of imbalance that manifests as severe dysfunction. The ideals embodied in the writings of the founders often defined freedom as the purview of the individual, and the solution for protecting the free individual was a highly constrained state. The Supreme Court has, over generations, consolidated this vision as the meaning of America, and for the American masses, this has meant rhetorical nods to community with no intended follow through. A skeletal version of community that provides no capacity for addressing collective needs.
      I see part of this imbalance as intended from the getgo by some of the nation’s founders. The contempt in some of Madison’s letters for the “dangerous” majority, I think, contributed to racial segregation and ethnic divisions in later generations. And as the dogmatic attachment to the 2nd Amendment makes a mockery of the security of the community, America has perhaps never aspired for balance, adopting an adolescent’s simplistic rationale: If a little is good, more is better. This is a blueprint for extremism.

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