US Capitol invasion: The second instalment of the American Civil War begins
Donald J. Trump is America’s Nero. His elevation to the office of president in 2016 was not the aberration his liberal detractors argued. Rather it was a symptom of US imperial decline, the first seeds of which were planted with the evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975, setting in train a process that was deferred by the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, after Moscow’s own Vietnam in Afghanistan in the 1980s ended in similar fashion.
The invasion of Iraq by US military forces and its UK ally came over a decade into America’s unipolar moment, when imbued with triumphalism and End of History hubris, the Bush neocon administration set about shaping the world in its own image with the objective of establishing a new Pax America.
Iraq was intended in the first of what was envisaged would be a domino effect to assert complete dominance over the strategically vital Middle East in conjunction with its Israeli and Saudi allies, thus injecting an increasingly untenable hyper capitalist economic model with the invaluable input of new natural resources and the expanded output offered by new markets.
But what the fanatical ideologues in and around the Bush White House and Pentagon failed to factor into their objectives was the determination and ability of an occupied people to resist their intended role as mere pawns on a Western imperialist chessboard. The ensuing blithe disregard of the Iraqi people as a serious impediment to this neocon grand plan, on grounds of supposed racial and cultural inferiority, proved calamitous for Washington, which soon found itself paying a hugely damaging price for imperial overreach.
And yet it was all entirely predictable — at least for students of history armed with the knowledge gleaned thereby that overreach has been the undoing of every empire or hegemonic power that has hitherto existed.
The fruits of US and British military adventurism in Iraq, starting in 2003, was not democracy and pacification, but instead the eruption of Salafi-jihadism, sectarian carnage and the country’s near destruction. The human cost for the Iraqi people, and te people of the wider region since, has been elemental. The cost for Washington was measured in economic and strategic decline, the former reaching its apogee with the 2008 financial crash, the latter with Russia’s military intervention in Syria in 2015.
The election of Obama in 2008 as the nation’s first black president did not herald the advent of the post-racial America that his supporters, intoxicated with elixir of liberal idealism and cant, believed. It was instead merely a temporary assertion of substance-free magical thinking, designed to salve the pain of the country’s ethnic and racial minorities, who’d been left battered and bruised by the free market juggernaut that had turned their lives and communities upside down from the Reagan years on.
The other America, the one that never reconciled itself to the nation as a harmonious racial, religious and cultural melting pot, sat out the Obama years, nursing its guns and its hate while waiting for its champion to appear. This he did in the shape of the howling narcissist, gangster capitalist, and aspiring autocrat that is Donald J. Trump.
When Trump first appeared onstage as a putative Republican candidate at the start of the primaries in early 2016, the Washington establishment laughed. By the time he won the presidential election in November of that year, destroying in the process two political dynasties — Bush and Clinton — the laughter had stopped.
Standing atop the US Capital building during his inauguration, he did so as a man imbued with a sense of mission — the mission to restore the primacy of white supremacy by which the nation has always in truth been defined far more than by any happy talk about democracy and liberty. His one term presidency unleashed a war of all against all, taking advantage of the false consciousness that has long bedevilled and divided the American working class along racial and cultural lines.
American nationalism, exceptionalism and white supremacy can, however, only ever offer a temporary palliative to the economic and material reality of grinding poverty, inequality, and a system that eschews the public and collective while sanctifying the private and the individual. The alienation wrought, the chaos that has consequently defined the lived experience of millions in the land of the free, has been brutally exposed by Covid, revealing that in those polities in which the market decides all and the public nothing, the result in the last analysis is government by death cult.
America’s unipolar moment is over and the multipolar world is upon us. Thus the main challenge now facing Beijing, and to a lesser extent Moscow, is managing US imperial decline. The fading attempt by Trump to maintain national consensus round the flag and base instincts of tribalism has sown dragon’s teeth. Trump may be about to leave office, but he is far from about to leave the stage of American public life. Despite the fact that he operates in a post-truth firmament, despite the inordinate US death toll from Covid19, 70 million Americans still cast a vote for this unhinged and unreconstructed reprobate.
Trump has made racists comfortable in their racism, turned all that was solid into air, and ascribed to thuggery and violence — both white militia and police — a virtue nobility consonant with fascism.
The genie is now well and truly out of the box. Where it ends, who knows? That it is destined to end in blood is almost now guaranteed.
The salient question is whose?
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