dinsdag 22 mei 2018

Tom Engelhardt 288

May 22, 2018

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, The Hidden Meaning of American Decline

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Remember that a signed, personalized copy of historian Alfred McCoy’s breakout Dispatch book on American decline, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, is still yours for a contribution to this website of $100 ($125 if you live outside the U.S.). Of it, Andrew Bacevich said, “This is history with profound relevance to events that are unfolding before our eyes.” Indeed! And while you’re at it, don’t forget that a signed copy of my own new book, A Nation Unmade by War, is also available. (Thanks to all of you who already contributed for a copy. You’re champs!) Of it, Ann Jones says, “We Americans have learned to sleep through our multiple wars, but Tom Engelhardt relentlessly shakes us awake.” So wake up! Don’t wait another second! Check our donation pagefor the details! Tom]

When I was young, I often imagined myself as an American diplomat. Back in the early 1960s, it seemed like serving my country in such a role would be an honorable, even glorious, path to take. Can you believe that I ever thought such a thing in this twenty-first-century moment when diplomats by the hundreds are being pushed out of, or have fled, the State Department? I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that, despite my dreams, I’m not today the U.S. ambassador to South Korea (or Germany or Turkey or scores of other countries) -- not that, these days, anyone is. As those of you who read TomDispatch might guess, I never ended up in the State Department or anywhere else in the U.S. government in a job dealing with the rest of the world. Instead, sometime in the 1960s, in the midst of the horrors of the Vietnam War, my urge to serve went into opposition and I’ve never looked back.

However, that ancient Tom Engelhardt and his dreams popped imto mind again this week when I read today’s piece by historian and TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy, author of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, whose take on this country's fall from imperial grace looks ever more eerily accurate as the Trump era progresses, day by day, tweet by tweet. Only this week, for instance, National (in)Security Advisor John Bolton evidently tried to depth-charge the coming North Korean talks in Singapore by comparing that country's nuclear situation to what he called the “Libyan model.” Who -- certainly not Kim Jong-un and crew -- could forget what happened to de-nukedLibyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi? (In Hillary Clinton’s infamous words, laughingly said, about the U.S. intervention in his country in 2011, “We came, we saw, he died.”) And then President Trump, evidently misunderstanding what “the Libyan model” even was, followed up by directly threatening the North Korean leader with Gaddafi’s fate. Brilliant! But I digress.

McCoy, thinking about what American decline amid such “diplomatic” chaos means on a planet in its own kind of decline, reminds us that in these last decades the urge to serve globally wasn’t mine alone (or that of my then-future wife who joined the Peace Corps in 1964). There has, in fact, been a certain American tradition of grassroots involvement with the world -- ranging from evangelicals to military veterans to Peace Corps volunteers -- a tradition that we might indeed sadly lose in the chaos of an American world turning itself upside down.

As for me, I’ve always thought that TomDispatch represented my youthful urge to serve transferred to another dimension, my own aging version of citizen diplomacy. But enough about me.  Consider instead what McCoy has to say about a world increasingly in chaos and what might be lost in it. Tom
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Preserving the Positive Legacy of an Empire in Decline
By Alfred W. McCoy
Month by month, tweet by tweet, the events of the past two years have made it clearer than ever that Washington’s once-formidable global might is indeed fading. As the American empire unravels with previously unimagined speed, there are many across this country’s political spectrum who will not mourn its passing. Both peace activists and military veterans have grown tired of the country’s endless wars. Trade unionists and business owners have come to rue the job losses that accompanied Washington’s free-trade policies. Anti-globalization protesters and pro-Trump populists alike cheered the president’s cancellation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The idea of focusing on America and rebuilding the country’s tattered infrastructure has a growing bipartisan appeal.
But before we join this potential chorus of “good riddance” to U.S. global power, it might be worth pausing briefly to ask whether the acceleration of the American decline by President Trump’s erratic foreign policy might not come with unanticipated and unpleasant costs. As Americans mobilize for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential contest, they might look beyond Washington’s mesmerizing celebrity scandals and consider instead the hidden consequences of the country’s ongoing withdrawal from the global arena. Indeed, this fitful, uncontrolled retreat carries with it such serious risks that it might be time for ordinary voters and political activists alike to put foreign policy, in the broadest sense, at the top of their electoral watch list.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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