DECLINE & FALL MARK II

Decline and Fall?

Someday – perhaps sooner than we think – a new Edward Gibbon in China or India will surely sit down to write The History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. Hopefully it will be but one volume in a larger, more progressive oeuvre – The Renaissance of Asia perhaps – and not an obituary for a human future sucked into America’s grasping void.

I think she’ll probably classify self-righteous American “innocence” as one of the most toxic tributaries of national decline, with President Obama as its highest incarnation. Indeed, from the perspective of the future, which will be deemed the greater crime: to have created the Guantanamo nightmare in the first place, or to have preserved it in contempt of global popular opinion and one’s own campaign promises?

Obama, who was elected to bring the troops home, close the gulags, and restore the Bill of Rights, has in fact become the chief curator of the Bush legacy: a born-again convert to special ops, killer drones, immense intelligence budgets, Orwellian surveillance technology, secret jails, and the superhero cult of former general, now CIA Director David Petraeus.

Our “antiwar” president, in fact, may be taking US power deeper into the darkness than any of us dare to imagine. And the more fervently Obama embraces his role as commander in chief of the Delta Force and Navy Seals, the less likely it becomes that future Democrats will dare to reform the Patriot Act or challenge the presidential prerogative to murder and incarcerate America’s enemies in secret.

Enmired in wars with phantoms, Washington has been blindsided by every major trend of the last decade. It completely misread the real yearnings of the Arab street and the significance of mainstream Islamic populism, ignored the emergence of Turkey and Brazil as independent powers, forgot Africa, and lost much of its leverage with Germany as well as with Israel’s increasingly arrogant reactionaries. Most importantly, Washington has failed to develop any coherent policy framework for its relationship with China, its main creditor and most important rival.

From a Chinese standpoint (assumedly the perspective of our future Ms. Gibbon), the United States is showing incipient symptoms of being a failed state. When Xinhua, the semi-official Chinese news agency, scolds the US Congress for being “dangerously irresponsible” in debt negotiations, or when senior Chinese leaders openly worry about the stability of American political and economic institutions, the shoe is truly on the other foot. Especially when standing in the wings, bibles in hand, are the mad spawn of 9/11 – the Republican presidential candidates.

Mike Davis teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Riverside.

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One Response to “DECLINE & FALL MARK II”

  1. I completely agree with Mr. Mike Davis.

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