How Fast A Fade?

23:56 Fri 17 Oct 2008. Updated: 17:28 28 Jan 2009
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The current financial crisis, even though it appears to have died down a little, may have serious implications for the position of the US as the world’s greatest power. Economic crisis often precedes imperial collapse, and signs have been present for years that the United States has been spending far beyond its means. Aziz Huq discuss this issue in TomDispatch, with particular reference to the waning of British power after World War II.

Britain didn’t go through a terrible, rapid decline. There was no Mad-Max-style collapse of civilization, nor a Franco-style descent into fascism. If American decline is inevitable (and already here), then something like what happened to Britain wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

However, I have my doubts that that ruling class here, and the denizens of the political class, are as reasonable as those in Britain at the time. As Huq points out, much of the danger comes from overreach, the failure to recognize the new reality. I think the already-tenuous grip on reality of the political class here might deteriorate further as denial takes hold.

If the pre-eminence of the United States has functioned as a kind of psychological wage, a bonus for the economically-disadvantaged in this country, then noticeably dwindling power may cause significant unrest. Which could lead to the rise of dangerous idiots like this:

That’s Congressional Representative Michele Bachmann calling for investigation into “anti-Americanism”—not just in general, but among members of Congress. The concept that these people could be “anti-American” is fairly insane… but, of course, the question is what that would mean. In that clip, Chris Mathews was clearly disturbed by her comments, but he didn’t ask what the hell the term meant, or who would decide its definition. He didn’t ask if separatist Alaskan groups, for example, would qualify as “anti-American”… The same old right-wing crap, in other words, where protesting against abuses of American power, or even suggesting that significant improvement can be made to the country, is considered unpatriotic—but getting into horrifically wasteful and damaging wars isn’t.

And who will they blame, when things start to go wrong? Their cohorts and fellow party members, for hollowing out the country with parasitic ideologies and self-serving unrestrained greed? No. No, to protect themselves and their belief in themselves, they’ll invent new enemies, or revive old ones, and do their best to foment suspicion and hatred amongst others so that they can distract attention from just what they’ve been doing and keep their place at the table, not much caring if that table is shrinking.

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