The American Century is over. As the 20th century turned into the 21st century there was an effort to turn the new century into one completely dominated by the United States corporations. This attempt was spearheaded by a right wing organization called The Project for the New American Century.
This “project” was started in the 1990s by conservative “intellectual” William Kristol and other hardliners. Mostly “chickenhawks” who love the idea of using military force on other parts of the world while eschewing any participation in any wars themselves. Other key figures in the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) were the members of the Bush family, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others.
When the Supreme Court ended the vote count in Florida in 2000 and gave GW Bush the presidency it allowed this group to come to power. Recall the when GW Bush was searching for a running mate in 2000 his family chose Dick Cheney to lead the search for the “best man” for the job. Cheney ended up choosing himself. Rumsfeld, another member of the PNAC then was appointed Secretary of Defense.
In this context the attack on 9/11 occurred. In power was a group of people who firmly believed that the US should lead the world , not by example or as a haven for democracy, but as a belligerent military force. So, although Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the PNAC goal was to capture the oil fields and control that major resource.
So, in direct violation of international law and the Security Council of the UN, the US invaded Iraq. The catastrophe that followed lead to the destabilization of the Middle East, emergence of ISIS and a continued crisis that we see even playing out today.
The “New American Century” had turned out to be short lived. And a bust.
The second half of the 20th century was certainly dominated by the US. Not just by US military power, but by the exporting of American values. Democracy replaced colonialism as an organizing force in much of the world. JFK’s Peace Corps was probably the most effective propaganda tool for democracy. Americans were seen as decent, good people. Rich, spoiled, but with a conscience and eager to help. Those days are gone.
Any moral or ethical superiority that may have existed (even if only illusory) has long gone. We now live in a new world.
The USA has lost not only it’s moral ascendancy, but has become largely irrelevant to much of the world. We are no longer a place to look to for leadership. We are a place to sell stuff. And Americans, no matter how much they complain, are flush with wealth compared to most of the rest of the world.
Donald Trump did not cause this. But he has accelerated the trend. It is a good development, in my mind, the the US no longer dominates the world economy. But the desire to “go it alone” as Trump has done, has eliminated much of the influence for good the US has had in the past. Isolationism and excessive nationalism lead to WW1 . And WW2.
Rejection of international agreements and institutions did not begin with Trump. I recall Mr Reagan attacking the UN and suggesting it could sail away into the sunset across the Atlantic. Geography aside, that sentiment became the mantra of the GOP and the right wing in the 1980s. And continues even today. It is based on an ignorance of history and an arrogance of power.
But in the 21st century the ideas of the 20th no longer hold. At least not in the rest of the world. Russia has re-emerged as a czarist regime after a brief fling with democracy. China is aggressively spreading its influence into every continent. The sleeping giant Napoleon had warned us about has awoken. The European Union, abandoned by the US and attacked by Putin, is strengthening itself in response. India is on the move. Saudi Arabia and Israel are both arming at alarming rates,poised for the inevitable conflict.
The US is no longer the awesome force it once was. That was an inevitable process. But the US has become a side show. An observer of global problems, no longer a participant in solving them. The 21st century was never going to be an American Century. Trump had nothing to do with those global realities.
But, by removing the US from international agreements and international solutions, the Trump folks are contributing to the inevitable catastrophe of extreme nationalism. Any student of history knows where extreme nationalism leads. The US has become the world’s gun dealer. Leadership without a national conscience. Without a plan for a positive world.
Without US positive engagement in global organizations the 21st century could very well become the Century of Chaos and Totalitarianism. While the US may sit on the sidelines, it will not be able to avoid the effects. The tsunami will not be stopped by a wall.