X Close

How Putin and Xi resurrected America Domestic disarray has created a myth of decline

(Lee Celano/Getty Images)

(Lee Celano/Getty Images)


June 23, 2023   4 mins

Future historians will struggle to explain the recent dramatic rise of America’s global power. Faced with a long list of irreconcilable differences at home, and two consecutive presidents whose distinguishing characteristic is the intensity of the opposition they provoke, this century is so often painted as one of US decline.

But the blatant contradiction between disarray at home and increased power abroad has a simple explanation: the greater part of American power does not derive from what the US itself, let alone individual presidents, are able to do, but from the cooperation and support it receives from friendly countries around the world. US power depends on the magnitude and the cohesion of its alliances — and the latter can change very quickly.

This, of course, is key. Years of talk in Europe of replacing the “increasingly outdated” US-directed Nato alliance with an alternative centred in the European Union ended abruptly last February when the Russians attempted to seize Kyiv in a day and Ukraine in a week. Had they succeeded, as both Russian and US intelligence had predicted (it was the always-wrong CIA that prompted Biden’s offer to evacuate Zelenskyy), Nato would have collapsed.

Yet because the Ukrainian guards fought off elite Russian paratroopers at the Antonov airfield, inaugurating fierce resistance across the entire front, and because the US and UK immediately reacted by promising military aid, a seemingly moribund Nato was suddenly resurrected.

Without waiting for discussions or agreements, some countries simply acted: Norway airlifted 2,000 LAW anti-tank weapons, which are point-and-shoot rockets, neither new nor advanced — but just the thing to fire at Russian armour flooding into the country. And its example was followed by Denmark, Canada and then others, while far more advanced missiles arrived very quickly from the US and the UK, inaugurating a flow of weapons from most Nato countries that still continues.

Seeing all this, Sweden’s government abandoned its long-cherished stance of neutrality to apply for Nato membership, while Finland, which shares a very long border with Russia, felt confident enough to sign up as well. Russian threats were met with ridicule: “We already have 50,000 Russians buried in our country from the last war… but we have room for many more.”

The United States thus suddenly found itself leading a thoroughly revived and expanded Western alliance the power of which has reach into North Africa and the Middle East. All of which greatly added to the sum total of American power, even if Biden sometimes stumbles and his Vice President sometimes laughs at the wrong time.

But the war in Ukraine is far from the only boost. In fact, now that Russia is declining in several ways, what has added to global American power is the emergence of a vast, if informal, Indo-Pacific de facto alliance to contain China.

Today, there is no equivalent of the “multilateral” North Atlantic Treaty that formally links the US and Canada to European states; nor is there a second Nato-style structure of multinational commands staffed by thousands of officers. Instead, in response to the threat from China, there are “joint activities”, ranging from constant diplomatic coordination and intelligence exchanges to an entire panoply of air, land and naval exercises that bring together American, Australian, Indian and Japanese forces, with lesser participations by Canada, Chile, France, the Philippines, South Korea, the UK and Vietnam.

Vietnam’s involvement is particularly revealing — and not only because it regularly hosts US and Japanese naval vessels and submarines where it most hurts Beijing: very close to the major Chinese submarine base on the island of Hainan. On paper, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has warm, indeed “fraternal”, relations with the Chinese Communist Party. In practice, however, the Chinese are constantly trying to dislodge the Vietnamese from their islands in the Gulf of Tonkin, and neither side forgets for a minute their bloody wars, both ancient and modern, including the 1979 conflict in which some 30,000 Chinese soldiers died. As a result, Vietnam, which started sharing intelligence with Australia many years ago, and has received much help from the Indian navy with its submarines, is now cooperating at sea with the US and Japan, receiving retired naval vessels from both.

As for India, whose armed forces have been steadily advancing in competence, it was not American diplomacy that overcame its long-standing “non-alignment” — but a very long series of Chinese territorial seizures, from Ladakh in the west to Arunachal in the east, some of which resulted in armed confrontations. For decades, whenever the two countries’ leaders met, Beijing only wanted to discuss the splendid opportunities for profitable economic cooperation and for vast joint infrastructure projects, brushing aside the border disputes as very minor matters that could be resolved by low-ranking officials. Then, in the subsequent months and years, while the grand economic projects were never actually implemented, Chinese border troops would creep forward to seize more territory.

This Chinese gambit worked beautifully until June 2020, when skirmishes at the high-altitude Himalayan border in Ladakh resulted in a number of casualties. When the Chinese stuck to its playbook again this year, India’s Foreign Minister rebuffed them decisively.

Why did the Chinese keep pushing India until it was forced into an informal but powerful alliance with the United States? The only possible explanation is that China’s rulers are too absorbed in invisible but constant intra-party intrigues and too distracted by everyday matters to acquire any serious understanding of the outside world. The result is that foreign nations are reduced to caricatures, with the Indians written off as dirty and weak.

China’s behaviour with India is certainly consistent with its equally irrational territorial claims elsewhere. Japan, for instance, has long been a very close US ally, but for a brief interval in 2010 when a new party came to power that gave in to neutralist temptations. Yet that ended abruptly on 7 September, 2010, when a Chinese fishing trawler with a reportedly drunk skipper collided with two Japanese patrol boats off the coast of the disputed Senkaku islands.

Instead of apologising, or at least ignoring what happened, China’s foreign ministry issued imperious demands for the immediate return of the captain and furious denunciations that incited mob attacks against Japanese offices and even visiting Japanese tourists — culminating in a series of incidents that seemed perfectly designed to rekindle Tokyo’s loyalty to Washington. Since then, Japan has built up its armed forces and, starting with prime minister Abe from 2012, it has re-emerged as an active ally of the US. Meanwhile, with Australia both now more pro-American and more interested in rebuilding its neglected armed forces, the US has capable allies across the Indo-Pacific that magnify its power — a principle reason why Xi’s threats to invade Taiwan have simmered down.

Neither Biden’s gaffes nor Trump’s tantrums can change the realities created by Putin and Xi’s bellicosity; America’s European and Asian alliances have rarely been so empowered. Indeed, the only consequence of America’s disarray at home is that the US cannot start wars to pursue fanciful aims, such as bringing democracy to Iraq or progress to Afghanistan. And that is just as well.


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

87 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Thor Albro
Thor Albro
10 months ago

I love these positive posts on Unherd, as a corrective to the “end is nigh” depressives who get far too much exposure. Of course, that assumes you feel a rebirth of “American power” is possibly a good thing…

John Riordan
John Riordan
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

“Of course, that assumes you feel a rebirth of “American power” is possibly a good thing
”

I certainly do. Given that the world needs a policeman and that the UK has been too small for the job for nearly a century, America is by far the next best choice.

Jim McDonnell
Jim McDonnell
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Congressional paralysis could terminate this in a heartbeat.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonnell

Congress is run by a uniparty despite appearances to the contrary. Only the foreign press thinks otherwise.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonnell

Congress is run by a uniparty despite appearances to the contrary. Only the foreign press thinks otherwise.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

It’s somewhat true. In order for the globalized world to exist, somebody has to enforce the rules and keep the sea lanes open. The US sort of fell into the role after the World Wars, and how well they’ve done depends on who you ask. America has always been an awkward fit for the role, being traditionally isolationist and inwardly focused, with a high level of diversity that practically guarantees a steady supply of internal disputes, and with an arcane and complex system of government power divided between state and federal authorities. The domestic unity and external ambition required to sustain an empire like the British simply doesn’t exist here and probably never will. America has the resources and military skill to succeed in the role of global policeman/superpower, but lacks the character and the will to ever fully embrace the role. The former will always be there because of America’s size and history. The latter must come from external pressures, both credible threats and encouragement from allies who need America to do what they’re good at, fight wars, threaten to fight wars, and design, build, and maintain the weapons to fight wars.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The US has learnt the lessons of 1919-1923, when they thought they had “fought the war to end all wars”, and indulged in gratuitous disarmament.

They did NOT repeat that mistake in 1945. All wars HOT or COLD are great for business, as Mr Luttwak must know.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

In the past 50 years, Americans have shown themselves to be good and the latter two, but not so much the “fighting wars” part.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

The troops do as told. When directed to dismantle ISIS, game over. Take away certain rules and the carnage that follows ends the conflict. The wars that the US abandoned were not because of a lack of fight but because politicians refused to accept the carnage of war and were afraid of “escalating”.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

The troops do as told. When directed to dismantle ISIS, game over. Take away certain rules and the carnage that follows ends the conflict. The wars that the US abandoned were not because of a lack of fight but because politicians refused to accept the carnage of war and were afraid of “escalating”.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The US has learnt the lessons of 1919-1923, when they thought they had “fought the war to end all wars”, and indulged in gratuitous disarmament.

They did NOT repeat that mistake in 1945. All wars HOT or COLD are great for business, as Mr Luttwak must know.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

In the past 50 years, Americans have shown themselves to be good and the latter two, but not so much the “fighting wars” part.

Jim McDonnell
Jim McDonnell
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Congressional paralysis could terminate this in a heartbeat.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

It’s somewhat true. In order for the globalized world to exist, somebody has to enforce the rules and keep the sea lanes open. The US sort of fell into the role after the World Wars, and how well they’ve done depends on who you ask. America has always been an awkward fit for the role, being traditionally isolationist and inwardly focused, with a high level of diversity that practically guarantees a steady supply of internal disputes, and with an arcane and complex system of government power divided between state and federal authorities. The domestic unity and external ambition required to sustain an empire like the British simply doesn’t exist here and probably never will. America has the resources and military skill to succeed in the role of global policeman/superpower, but lacks the character and the will to ever fully embrace the role. The former will always be there because of America’s size and history. The latter must come from external pressures, both credible threats and encouragement from allies who need America to do what they’re good at, fight wars, threaten to fight wars, and design, build, and maintain the weapons to fight wars.

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Fair point Mr Albo! However, in this particular case, and regarding this particular subject, the modelling the author relies upon is based on inductive, even sentimental, reasoning. This is not 1946, and not even 1968. What is unfolding (“first gradually and increasingly suddenly”) in the USA: culturally, ideologically and socio-politically, has no analog for any historian to draw from.
“Future historians will struggle to explain the recent dramatic rise of America’s global power”.
That is mere assertion. But the facts are that besides some high tech trinketry, fracking rigs, and (expensive) weaponry the core US economy has been outsourced elsewhere, it’s national debt-to-GDP matches post WW2 levels – only this time without the engine or global reach or influence to claw it back. Its citizens are de facto wards of the state (almost 50% are net recipients of govt transfer-payment largesse) its demographics have fundamentally shifted, institutions are atrophied and/or captured, and at street level Americans do not seem like they much care for what the “American Dream” even means anymore. And they (mostly) seem to have little but distrust and contempt for each other; almost as much as most of the world now does, also.
I could go on…
The point is that a country/society like the USA was only ever going to destroy itself from within, and it’s doing a fine job. To pontificate endlessly about the challenges its “peers” and/or perceived “rivals” may (or may not) face is displacement activity. UnHerd readers should take a moment and listen to what Peter Turchin, founder of Cliodynamics, contributed to this very portal just the other day.
The decline of and then ultimately, I posit, the break up of the American Federation, whether de facto (culturally or economically) or de jure (secession) seems well underway. Sure, it will take a long time and with many twists and turns in the plot. But the historical forces that were once centripetal for US society have turned irretrievably centrifugal, amplified by the power of the internet. And yes, that is obviously also just an assertion, but I submit that the evidence in full view today better fits this perspective than Luttwak’s who, on the basis of an incomplete model, seems to believe that there exists some “innately embedded mean” for the US to regress back towards from here.
 

Arthur G
Arthur G
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

Whatever you say about the US, the Chinese situation is far worse. They are facing a massive aging of their population, and decline of their work force. Actual population decline started last year, and birth rates are now below one child per women. This is in a country stuck in the middle-income trap, with no effective pension.health-care scheme for retirees, and an economy propped up by production of excess housing and infrastructure.

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

The claim pertains to the USA which is about to sidestep reality and resume its rightful place at the head of the Great Human Table. Taking kicks at China adds little and solves less.

For what it’s worth I know China quite well; have criss-crossed it and still do business there. I’ll offer this Arthur: it is not for nothing that the west invented the phrase “oriental inscrutability”. The underlying nature of Chinese civilization, its essence, evades Western thinking, and western minds. Always has, most likely always will.
I find it curious how, despite have correctly predicted and/or assessed so little about China …well…ever… it doesn’t seem to give more people pause in their pronouncements about what China was, is and might (or will) become in global society.
Maybe it’s worth remembering that when Chinese culture was on top – you could say when China had the opportunity to seize its own “unipolar moment” – rather than colonize, re-educate or strip mine the West (or anywhere else), it withdrew into itself, banned ship building and spiraled into Confucian torpor.
How different to the endlessly proselytizing, all-seeing, all conquering races of Western Europe.
Lucky Europe

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

China failed to discover and plunder the Americas when it clearly had the opportunity to do so at the beginning of the 15th century

By allowing Europeans to do so, almost by default, meant that the World is, and shall remain ‘European’‘.

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago

Ah, and there you have it: Binary proposition; zero sum game. An expectation for multipolarity anchored by respect for the customs, narratives, histories and beliefs of the other is so…passe.
“Why not celebrate the End of History by supersizing your Mc Donalds with another (free!) side of Mc Donnel Douglas, messrs Chang/Ivanov/Suarez/Mdluli.
Quod erat demonstrandum

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago

Ah, and there you have it: Binary proposition; zero sum game. An expectation for multipolarity anchored by respect for the customs, narratives, histories and beliefs of the other is so…passe.
“Why not celebrate the End of History by supersizing your Mc Donalds with another (free!) side of Mc Donnel Douglas, messrs Chang/Ivanov/Suarez/Mdluli.
Quod erat demonstrandum

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

What a ridiculous comment. As if confuscian-era china would have or could have become a “unipolar” power; the concept didn’t exist then, nor could it have. e

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

You miss the very obvious point that “Unipolar” is a modern term, used here purely for convenience and illustration. When the Chinese had an opportunity to dominate other civilizations, they declined.
It is not controversial to make the observation that the West sees any other way of living as an existential threat. And forget the rhetoric. Judge the actions, and policy implementations.

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

You miss the very obvious point that “Unipolar” is a modern term, used here purely for convenience and illustration. When the Chinese had an opportunity to dominate other civilizations, they declined.
It is not controversial to make the observation that the West sees any other way of living as an existential threat. And forget the rhetoric. Judge the actions, and policy implementations.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

China failed to discover and plunder the Americas when it clearly had the opportunity to do so at the beginning of the 15th century

By allowing Europeans to do so, almost by default, meant that the World is, and shall remain ‘European’‘.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

What a ridiculous comment. As if confuscian-era china would have or could have become a “unipolar” power; the concept didn’t exist then, nor could it have. e

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

The claim pertains to the USA which is about to sidestep reality and resume its rightful place at the head of the Great Human Table. Taking kicks at China adds little and solves less.

For what it’s worth I know China quite well; have criss-crossed it and still do business there. I’ll offer this Arthur: it is not for nothing that the west invented the phrase “oriental inscrutability”. The underlying nature of Chinese civilization, its essence, evades Western thinking, and western minds. Always has, most likely always will.
I find it curious how, despite have correctly predicted and/or assessed so little about China …well…ever… it doesn’t seem to give more people pause in their pronouncements about what China was, is and might (or will) become in global society.
Maybe it’s worth remembering that when Chinese culture was on top – you could say when China had the opportunity to seize its own “unipolar moment” – rather than colonize, re-educate or strip mine the West (or anywhere else), it withdrew into itself, banned ship building and spiraled into Confucian torpor.
How different to the endlessly proselytizing, all-seeing, all conquering races of Western Europe.
Lucky Europe

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

Luttwak is talking about America’s global military, not economic, power.

Arthur G
Arthur G
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

Whatever you say about the US, the Chinese situation is far worse. They are facing a massive aging of their population, and decline of their work force. Actual population decline started last year, and birth rates are now below one child per women. This is in a country stuck in the middle-income trap, with no effective pension.health-care scheme for retirees, and an economy propped up by production of excess housing and infrastructure.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buchan

Luttwak is talking about America’s global military, not economic, power.

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Of course it is.
Unless you believe that world dominated by China is better option for the West.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Have you been to my country? Have you seen the once beautiful cities ringed with drug addicted, defeated people, many of them veterans of wars for “American-power?” People who can’t afford housing, partially because of outrageous inflation partially caused by our proxy war in Ukraine?
American “power’ is for the elites and by the elites only. The tiny .01% in our country. This article is bollocks.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

The awful inflation was created by an unrestrained Congress, not anything external. The defeated people are those held there by people who think they are being kind by ignoring them. Much easier to throw money than to implement helpful policies a bit at a time. Politicians rewarded for not solving problems?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

The awful inflation was created by an unrestrained Congress, not anything external. The defeated people are those held there by people who think they are being kind by ignoring them. Much easier to throw money than to implement helpful policies a bit at a time. Politicians rewarded for not solving problems?

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Id rather a 4000km border with US border states than a long border with Russia.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

A much better thing than Chinese or Russian power.

John Riordan
John Riordan
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

“Of course, that assumes you feel a rebirth of “American power” is possibly a good thing
”

I certainly do. Given that the world needs a policeman and that the UK has been too small for the job for nearly a century, America is by far the next best choice.

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Fair point Mr Albo! However, in this particular case, and regarding this particular subject, the modelling the author relies upon is based on inductive, even sentimental, reasoning. This is not 1946, and not even 1968. What is unfolding (“first gradually and increasingly suddenly”) in the USA: culturally, ideologically and socio-politically, has no analog for any historian to draw from.
“Future historians will struggle to explain the recent dramatic rise of America’s global power”.
That is mere assertion. But the facts are that besides some high tech trinketry, fracking rigs, and (expensive) weaponry the core US economy has been outsourced elsewhere, it’s national debt-to-GDP matches post WW2 levels – only this time without the engine or global reach or influence to claw it back. Its citizens are de facto wards of the state (almost 50% are net recipients of govt transfer-payment largesse) its demographics have fundamentally shifted, institutions are atrophied and/or captured, and at street level Americans do not seem like they much care for what the “American Dream” even means anymore. And they (mostly) seem to have little but distrust and contempt for each other; almost as much as most of the world now does, also.
I could go on…
The point is that a country/society like the USA was only ever going to destroy itself from within, and it’s doing a fine job. To pontificate endlessly about the challenges its “peers” and/or perceived “rivals” may (or may not) face is displacement activity. UnHerd readers should take a moment and listen to what Peter Turchin, founder of Cliodynamics, contributed to this very portal just the other day.
The decline of and then ultimately, I posit, the break up of the American Federation, whether de facto (culturally or economically) or de jure (secession) seems well underway. Sure, it will take a long time and with many twists and turns in the plot. But the historical forces that were once centripetal for US society have turned irretrievably centrifugal, amplified by the power of the internet. And yes, that is obviously also just an assertion, but I submit that the evidence in full view today better fits this perspective than Luttwak’s who, on the basis of an incomplete model, seems to believe that there exists some “innately embedded mean” for the US to regress back towards from here.
 

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Of course it is.
Unless you believe that world dominated by China is better option for the West.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Have you been to my country? Have you seen the once beautiful cities ringed with drug addicted, defeated people, many of them veterans of wars for “American-power?” People who can’t afford housing, partially because of outrageous inflation partially caused by our proxy war in Ukraine?
American “power’ is for the elites and by the elites only. The tiny .01% in our country. This article is bollocks.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Id rather a 4000km border with US border states than a long border with Russia.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

A much better thing than Chinese or Russian power.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
10 months ago

I love these positive posts on Unherd, as a corrective to the “end is nigh” depressives who get far too much exposure. Of course, that assumes you feel a rebirth of “American power” is possibly a good thing…

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
10 months ago

Biden is an empty suit. His sole function is to serve as a power-gathering and channeling entity for other, far more capable people. Also, I have a feeling that although he and his ilk have the utmost of contempt for Donald J. Trump and his ilk, they view him as being a dope, but an American dope, and therefore, far cleverer than anyone else anywhere else, but not quite so clever as us. This tendency perhaps accounts for the odd continuity of American policy even between vastly differing administrations – they have contempt for who came before, but far greater contempt for anyone else, anywhere else. (I use contempt here in the mild and severe forms, depending on case and context.) At times, administrations have contempt for prior policy only because it didn’t go far enough, not for the policy itself. There’s a constant race to outdo the previous administration, and a desperate look at the next election to come, and the ticking clock that never stops. In China, Russia, and South Africa, it is not this way. Leaders have no fear of elections, and hate even their own countrymen with unbridled hatred, far worse than contempt.

Last edited 10 months ago by Samuel Ross
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

That’s the usually untold strength of democracy. Yes, it’s flawed and derided, but too often overlooked in the global power stakes.

Similarly with the covert “deep state” which, whilst highly sinister from one angle, also keeps things ticking over from another.

We hear much about the demise of democracy in terms of accountability to electorates, but there are very good reasons why authoritarian states seek to undermine us – they sense that hidden strength whilst maintaining their own through coercion. Luttwak’s article is therefore a timely and useful corrective to the “we’re doomed” brigade.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What planet do you live on? America power is a shell-game, only benefiting a tiny sliver of elites at the very top. I personally have a front row seat to the decay–in part of my job I work closely with homeless veterans in our excursions of “power” who have given up on life because they were asked to go and get TBIs and lose half their leg in a foreign country FOR this same tiny sliver of elites. Only the elites benefit from *American Power* these days, perhaps it has always been thus.
But sure as sh*t–if Biden and his neocon henchmen finally gets their wish of Article 5 being triggered, with our men and women dying on the vaunted Eastern European killing fields, there will be no picket fences to come back to. They will be returning to and probably living in the disease infested, drug addled tents ringing our city streets where so many veterans of “American Power” adventures reside.

Last edited 10 months ago by S Smith
harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

That “tiny sliver” encompasses the entire middle class and most of the working class, as well as the elites, all of whom benefit to greater or lesser extents. Do you really think American GDP per capita is at the top of the list only because of the 0.1%. How is life on Planet Zog?

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

You don’t even live in the U.S. do you?

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

You don’t even live in the U.S. do you?

jay bee
jay bee
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

American Exceptionalism – it’s hard to believe that journalists still cling to this faded and corrupt ideal.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Libya, Cambodia etc.etc.etc. – have they learned nothing?

William Paradise
William Paradise
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

S Smith, first I commend and thank you for your work with our damaged, homeless veterans – a very sad situation. But having served with the 4th Infantry Division in Viet Nam, I can say that LOTS of people came back from that war and lived healthy and productive lives. Can’t speak myself for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which you are probably more involved with, but I suspect the same. My point is that your second paragraph is a gross overreach, though I hope our direct involvement never happens.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

That “tiny sliver” encompasses the entire middle class and most of the working class, as well as the elites, all of whom benefit to greater or lesser extents. Do you really think American GDP per capita is at the top of the list only because of the 0.1%. How is life on Planet Zog?

jay bee
jay bee
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

American Exceptionalism – it’s hard to believe that journalists still cling to this faded and corrupt ideal.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Libya, Cambodia etc.etc.etc. – have they learned nothing?

William Paradise
William Paradise
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

S Smith, first I commend and thank you for your work with our damaged, homeless veterans – a very sad situation. But having served with the 4th Infantry Division in Viet Nam, I can say that LOTS of people came back from that war and lived healthy and productive lives. Can’t speak myself for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which you are probably more involved with, but I suspect the same. My point is that your second paragraph is a gross overreach, though I hope our direct involvement never happens.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What planet do you live on? America power is a shell-game, only benefiting a tiny sliver of elites at the very top. I personally have a front row seat to the decay–in part of my job I work closely with homeless veterans in our excursions of “power” who have given up on life because they were asked to go and get TBIs and lose half their leg in a foreign country FOR this same tiny sliver of elites. Only the elites benefit from *American Power* these days, perhaps it has always been thus.
But sure as sh*t–if Biden and his neocon henchmen finally gets their wish of Article 5 being triggered, with our men and women dying on the vaunted Eastern European killing fields, there will be no picket fences to come back to. They will be returning to and probably living in the disease infested, drug addled tents ringing our city streets where so many veterans of “American Power” adventures reside.

Last edited 10 months ago by S Smith
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

While I acknowledge America’s insular and self-aggrandizing tendencies, I don’t think many regard an American dope as still cleverer than any foreigner, in a way the a stereotypical antebellum Southerner may have regarded the dumbest and poorest white as still a sliver above any black man. Very few Americans with a high-school diploma or better are that self-impressed.
You assert that in Russia, China, and South Africa: “Leaders have no fear of elections, and hate even their own countrymen with unbridled hatred, far worse than contempt”. This is an intense overstatement, devoid of distinction and degree. Is that hyperbolic shot meant to refer to the current leaders of those nations only? Does that include Mandela and Gorbachev?
There’s a measure of validity in many of your points, but why not dispense with the rhetorical hyperextensions and absolute claims?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

That’s the usually untold strength of democracy. Yes, it’s flawed and derided, but too often overlooked in the global power stakes.

Similarly with the covert “deep state” which, whilst highly sinister from one angle, also keeps things ticking over from another.

We hear much about the demise of democracy in terms of accountability to electorates, but there are very good reasons why authoritarian states seek to undermine us – they sense that hidden strength whilst maintaining their own through coercion. Luttwak’s article is therefore a timely and useful corrective to the “we’re doomed” brigade.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

While I acknowledge America’s insular and self-aggrandizing tendencies, I don’t think many regard an American dope as still cleverer than any foreigner, in a way the a stereotypical antebellum Southerner may have regarded the dumbest and poorest white as still a sliver above any black man. Very few Americans with a high-school diploma or better are that self-impressed.
You assert that in Russia, China, and South Africa: “Leaders have no fear of elections, and hate even their own countrymen with unbridled hatred, far worse than contempt”. This is an intense overstatement, devoid of distinction and degree. Is that hyperbolic shot meant to refer to the current leaders of those nations only? Does that include Mandela and Gorbachev?
There’s a measure of validity in many of your points, but why not dispense with the rhetorical hyperextensions and absolute claims?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
10 months ago

Biden is an empty suit. His sole function is to serve as a power-gathering and channeling entity for other, far more capable people. Also, I have a feeling that although he and his ilk have the utmost of contempt for Donald J. Trump and his ilk, they view him as being a dope, but an American dope, and therefore, far cleverer than anyone else anywhere else, but not quite so clever as us. This tendency perhaps accounts for the odd continuity of American policy even between vastly differing administrations – they have contempt for who came before, but far greater contempt for anyone else, anywhere else. (I use contempt here in the mild and severe forms, depending on case and context.) At times, administrations have contempt for prior policy only because it didn’t go far enough, not for the policy itself. There’s a constant race to outdo the previous administration, and a desperate look at the next election to come, and the ticking clock that never stops. In China, Russia, and South Africa, it is not this way. Leaders have no fear of elections, and hate even their own countrymen with unbridled hatred, far worse than contempt.

Last edited 10 months ago by Samuel Ross
martin logan
martin logan
10 months ago

But…but…the BRICS are the future!
That’s why Modi is in Moscow, and why South Africa’s energy grid is the wonder of the world. That Vietnam is on the side of the US is simply another BRICS ruse.
Meanwhile, Russia lures the West into a false sense of victory, while it rushes massive forces across its Crimean bridge to Melitopol.
The BRICS are winning on every front!!

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  martin logan

More zero sum thinking from Mr Logan who, obtusely and resolutely, fails to imagine a world where, absent a paradigm shift in Western ideology, EVERYONE loses.

Peter B
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  martin logan

Rushes its forces … back to Moscow.
I know, it’s hard to keep up these days Martin.

Peter Buchan
Peter Buchan
10 months ago
Reply to  martin logan

More zero sum thinking from Mr Logan who, obtusely and resolutely, fails to imagine a world where, absent a paradigm shift in Western ideology, EVERYONE loses.

Peter B
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  martin logan

Rushes its forces … back to Moscow.
I know, it’s hard to keep up these days Martin.

martin logan
martin logan
10 months ago

But…but…the BRICS are the future!
That’s why Modi is in Moscow, and why South Africa’s energy grid is the wonder of the world. That Vietnam is on the side of the US is simply another BRICS ruse.
Meanwhile, Russia lures the West into a false sense of victory, while it rushes massive forces across its Crimean bridge to Melitopol.
The BRICS are winning on every front!!

Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago

America’s zenith was probably 2009-2012 after a couple of decades of flexing its international muscles post the fall of the USSR. Russia had been helping NATO with Afghan operations and had picked up a couple of prestigious sports tournaments as a result. China was a favoured trading partner with large-scale inward investments and off-shoring coming from the US and Europe.
The decline started sometime around the point that Europe allowed NATO to bomb Libya under American encouragement, as one of the Arab Spring initiatives to mobilise civil society groups for regime change. That, combined with claimed US attempts to interfere in the Russian 2012 elections, seemed to make both Russia and China much more wary about American ambitions with both countries making a turn against American hegemony. Russia with the invasion of Crimea post the American-backed Maidan revolution in Ukraine, and more subtly in China with the opening of the Belt and Road initiative (2013).
America’s pre-eminence may still hold, but it is facing international rivals who are openly challenging it and, by the looks of it, preparing for potential physical engagements (beyond Ukraine), while America is also facing economic and social clouds and a diminishing internal trust in American institutions and the American way. I have a nervousness that we might be in another Weimar/Louis XVI-stage of history, with the need to be alert to where this might go.

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

I feel like we’re in a three-way duel, with everyone pointing guns at their own feet. Let’s see who blows their big toe off first. It’s tragicomic how my country [the US] and Russia and China create so many avoidable tensions, when the alternative of minding one’s own business for the sake of frictionless trade is such an obviously simpler course of action. Is this what historians mean by a world sleepwalking into war? Because there seems to be a glaring absence of sensible leadership in the most powerful nations. Or perhaps this state of affairs is commonplace, brought about by the hubris of easy times, and by a failure to appreciate international harmony while we are enjoying it.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Well said!

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

I feel like we’re in a three-way duel, with everyone pointing guns at their own feet. Let’s see who blows their big toe off first. It’s tragicomic how my country [the US] and Russia and China create so many avoidable tensions, when the alternative of minding one’s own business for the sake of frictionless trade is such an obviously simpler course of action. Is this what historians mean by a world sleepwalking into war? Because there seems to be a glaring absence of sensible leadership in the most powerful nations. Or perhaps this state of affairs is commonplace, brought about by the hubris of easy times, and by a failure to appreciate international harmony while we are enjoying it.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Well said!

Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago

America’s zenith was probably 2009-2012 after a couple of decades of flexing its international muscles post the fall of the USSR. Russia had been helping NATO with Afghan operations and had picked up a couple of prestigious sports tournaments as a result. China was a favoured trading partner with large-scale inward investments and off-shoring coming from the US and Europe.
The decline started sometime around the point that Europe allowed NATO to bomb Libya under American encouragement, as one of the Arab Spring initiatives to mobilise civil society groups for regime change. That, combined with claimed US attempts to interfere in the Russian 2012 elections, seemed to make both Russia and China much more wary about American ambitions with both countries making a turn against American hegemony. Russia with the invasion of Crimea post the American-backed Maidan revolution in Ukraine, and more subtly in China with the opening of the Belt and Road initiative (2013).
America’s pre-eminence may still hold, but it is facing international rivals who are openly challenging it and, by the looks of it, preparing for potential physical engagements (beyond Ukraine), while America is also facing economic and social clouds and a diminishing internal trust in American institutions and the American way. I have a nervousness that we might be in another Weimar/Louis XVI-stage of history, with the need to be alert to where this might go.

Steve White
Steve White
10 months ago

Too much doom and gloom about American decline, or too much hope in revived American power says more about those who commit to those two outcomes than it does about the reality of the situation. It’s also a prison of two ideas that fails to recognize that both premises could be wrong. I think there is a potential third view, which is the fact that, if the US is in decline, that does not spell doom and gloom. It might if in desiring to cling to power by any means wins the day, and evil means become the institutional norm.
If we look at the US as a business, we could say that those fail all the time. Businesses through some sort of event often fail and go bankrupt. It doesn’t mean that the building they are in falls apart, or whatever tools, machines, or technology that the business worked though in order to offer its produce to the world all goes away.
What happens in that case is someone who thinks they know why it failed, and how they can do that business better comes along, buys the building and material aspects of the failed business and gives it another go with different ideas and principles in place.
This is really a good thing. The worst thing for that business would be if somehow insiders or even worse some malevolent outsiders were to somehow by hook and crook, trickery and deception were to take over the business for their own gain. Making life for the employees terrible, setting fire to any of their competitors, and threatening anyone who might not support their supremacy or become a competitor. That would indeed be something ripe for judgement and condemnation.
However, even in that case, the former idea that someone is always there to pickup the pieces of the failed business and try to do it better the next time always remains. So rather than “this is the end”, “this is a time of renewed opportunity” is the case for the failure of the prior model. Which, is far from a gloom and doom idea. 

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve White
Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Agree in theory about the false dichotomy, and the notion of nations as sort of businesses. One key difference, however, is that when businesses fail, if they are not immediately taken over by better management, they are taken apart and components redistributed. The building might become vacant for awhile. What does this look like when it happens to an entire nation?

Steve White
Steve White
10 months ago
Reply to  Shale Lewis

Look at Russia in 1990.

Roger Smith
Roger Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

more specifically the entire CEE region since the CCCP collapse. But we could say Greece since 2010, Argentina since 1998, Sri Lanka since 1965 or any other “developing” country which was lucky enough to be rescued by the IMF/WB by commencing a never-ending “development” and “poverty reduction” programme that somehow always magically stuck in a forever phase of “temporary” increases in starving to death, submerging in violence and escaping to suicide.

Roger Smith
Roger Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

more specifically the entire CEE region since the CCCP collapse. But we could say Greece since 2010, Argentina since 1998, Sri Lanka since 1965 or any other “developing” country which was lucky enough to be rescued by the IMF/WB by commencing a never-ending “development” and “poverty reduction” programme that somehow always magically stuck in a forever phase of “temporary” increases in starving to death, submerging in violence and escaping to suicide.

Steve White
Steve White
10 months ago
Reply to  Shale Lewis

Look at Russia in 1990.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

America is in STEEP decline, my friend. American power is for the elites, by the elites–damned the rest of us. We are in a neo-feudal state here.
The whole “Ukraine defense” operation is being run by a bunch of American and Atlanticist defense industry lackeys, Iraq War hangers-ons, and neocon sycophants, half a continent away, who completely and willfully misunderstand what is at stake and the entirety of the geopolitical essence of the Ukraine/Russian nexus. NATO, directed by these people on an entirely different continent, is an anachronism, with all the resultant folly that will be another forever war. Is it a life or death struggle for democracy? Hmm . . . strange that the U.S. and our Undead President should say so as the U.S. is almost certainly only a democracy in name anymore, and I’m not talking election fraud here. 
Neither political party represents the interests of the citizens they are supposed to represent, and the “progressive caucus” is perhaps the most laughable joke of all in my country at this point. We are *run* by corrupt and pedophilic billionaire technologists like Bill Gates. The progressive left goes about mouthing at least some semblance of care for the working class and poor, but they went all in on lockdowns, school shut-downs and the latest forever war, which all in there way completely destroyed the working and middle class in this country, especially with the proxy-war caused inflation, which is just a tax on the poor and lower middle-class.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Too much Kool-aid is bad for digestion.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

Yes, and you need to stop smoking Angel Dust.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

Yes, and you need to stop smoking Angel Dust.

Peter B
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Delusional nonsense.
The neo-feudal state is Russia. Not the US. It’s Russia that’s run like some early mediaeval country with a belief system the West left behind hundreds of years ago.
The US will be just fine.
Get a grip !

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Hmm, another bloodthirsty Brit who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, I suppose? Who’s relied on the U.S. blood and treasure for decades for security, without doing so much is to put in 10% of those security costs?
Have even been to America recently? San Francisco? LA? Portland? You are in for quite a shock. They look like 3rd world cities and are a disgrace; neglected American citizens, many of them veterans, in tent cities stretching as far as the eye can see–without healthcare, hope . . . And yet our “progressive caucus,” who are now apparently the water-carriers for the neocons, turn a blind eye in a warmongering fever, threatening to cancel the latest book by one of our greatest authors set in Russia.
We are a broken, sad country. But keep smoking the globalist crack, man. It won’t last much longer. . . .

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

It sounds like you have nothing but contempt for America. And all you do is rant like you only have things to shout but nothing to discuss, let alone learn. What a broken, sad act.
I agree that progressives as a whole are worsening things in America. But they are far from solely responsibility for all the blight and gross inequality. Hardcore corporate free-marketeers do much of the damage, and create a lot of unnecessary poverty and pollution too, with outsourcing and no sense of respect for the air, water, and soil (at the worst extreme). Both polar wings, right and left, are taking up way to much of our air as a nation.
Although I think you came to these comment boards more to shout and celebrate how right you are, I do agree with what you posted elsewhere, about the needless extremism on both sides here in America, with the interests of most non-elites lost in the shuffle.
If you’re gonna blame individuals for the actions of their government, I guess by that logic we’re both personally on the hook for a certain amount of bloodthirst, or at least willingness to see people die in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Or maybe you’re totally exonerated when you denounce what’s done on our supposed, collective behalf.
And I was not in support of long-term deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m not rah -rah about Ukraine either. But letting any nation annex a European country tends to have snowballing consequences that can reach American shores. It might not feel like European sovereignty matters to our national and cultural wellbeing more than an equivalent situation in Asia or on Mars, but it flat out does.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Fortunately the US at large is not those destroyed cities. Logically, those cities will fail as the tax base leaves. The residual destitute and those “elites” remain each in their isolation from each other. Many in the middle will suffer being left behind and from them there is always hope. That national divorce is underway and wise politicians may try to reform, again hope.
Still a lot of houses in Detroit falling apart but able to be restored with work and a bit of cash. We can hope our leaders decide business can help by finding work for people. Always with hope.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Nicely put. Also, if Detroit itself is not altogether destroyed, a world city like San Francisco can also rebound. Portland seems iffier, but not hopeless. To paraphrase Dante: Abandon not all hope, ye who dwell here!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Nicely put. Also, if Detroit itself is not altogether destroyed, a world city like San Francisco can also rebound. Portland seems iffier, but not hopeless. To paraphrase Dante: Abandon not all hope, ye who dwell here!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

It sounds like you have nothing but contempt for America. And all you do is rant like you only have things to shout but nothing to discuss, let alone learn. What a broken, sad act.
I agree that progressives as a whole are worsening things in America. But they are far from solely responsibility for all the blight and gross inequality. Hardcore corporate free-marketeers do much of the damage, and create a lot of unnecessary poverty and pollution too, with outsourcing and no sense of respect for the air, water, and soil (at the worst extreme). Both polar wings, right and left, are taking up way to much of our air as a nation.
Although I think you came to these comment boards more to shout and celebrate how right you are, I do agree with what you posted elsewhere, about the needless extremism on both sides here in America, with the interests of most non-elites lost in the shuffle.
If you’re gonna blame individuals for the actions of their government, I guess by that logic we’re both personally on the hook for a certain amount of bloodthirst, or at least willingness to see people die in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Or maybe you’re totally exonerated when you denounce what’s done on our supposed, collective behalf.
And I was not in support of long-term deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m not rah -rah about Ukraine either. But letting any nation annex a European country tends to have snowballing consequences that can reach American shores. It might not feel like European sovereignty matters to our national and cultural wellbeing more than an equivalent situation in Asia or on Mars, but it flat out does.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Fortunately the US at large is not those destroyed cities. Logically, those cities will fail as the tax base leaves. The residual destitute and those “elites” remain each in their isolation from each other. Many in the middle will suffer being left behind and from them there is always hope. That national divorce is underway and wise politicians may try to reform, again hope.
Still a lot of houses in Detroit falling apart but able to be restored with work and a bit of cash. We can hope our leaders decide business can help by finding work for people. Always with hope.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Hmm, another bloodthirsty Brit who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, I suppose? Who’s relied on the U.S. blood and treasure for decades for security, without doing so much is to put in 10% of those security costs?
Have even been to America recently? San Francisco? LA? Portland? You are in for quite a shock. They look like 3rd world cities and are a disgrace; neglected American citizens, many of them veterans, in tent cities stretching as far as the eye can see–without healthcare, hope . . . And yet our “progressive caucus,” who are now apparently the water-carriers for the neocons, turn a blind eye in a warmongering fever, threatening to cancel the latest book by one of our greatest authors set in Russia.
We are a broken, sad country. But keep smoking the globalist crack, man. It won’t last much longer. . . .

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Too much Kool-aid is bad for digestion.

Peter B
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Delusional nonsense.
The neo-feudal state is Russia. Not the US. It’s Russia that’s run like some early mediaeval country with a belief system the West left behind hundreds of years ago.
The US will be just fine.
Get a grip !

Roger Smith
Roger Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

for the sake of this totally naive analogue in which world politics evolve in a laissez-faire kind of free market where “different ideas and principles” refreshingly compete & the best one takes over the noble belt according to the Marquess of Queensberry Rules – …would you please remind me which possibly failing and bankrupting business can manage NOT to account for 61% of its $3.5 trillion in assets sixth time in a row and, more importantly, still have 5-6000 nukes to greet the liquidator?

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Agree in theory about the false dichotomy, and the notion of nations as sort of businesses. One key difference, however, is that when businesses fail, if they are not immediately taken over by better management, they are taken apart and components redistributed. The building might become vacant for awhile. What does this look like when it happens to an entire nation?

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

America is in STEEP decline, my friend. American power is for the elites, by the elites–damned the rest of us. We are in a neo-feudal state here.
The whole “Ukraine defense” operation is being run by a bunch of American and Atlanticist defense industry lackeys, Iraq War hangers-ons, and neocon sycophants, half a continent away, who completely and willfully misunderstand what is at stake and the entirety of the geopolitical essence of the Ukraine/Russian nexus. NATO, directed by these people on an entirely different continent, is an anachronism, with all the resultant folly that will be another forever war. Is it a life or death struggle for democracy? Hmm . . . strange that the U.S. and our Undead President should say so as the U.S. is almost certainly only a democracy in name anymore, and I’m not talking election fraud here. 
Neither political party represents the interests of the citizens they are supposed to represent, and the “progressive caucus” is perhaps the most laughable joke of all in my country at this point. We are *run* by corrupt and pedophilic billionaire technologists like Bill Gates. The progressive left goes about mouthing at least some semblance of care for the working class and poor, but they went all in on lockdowns, school shut-downs and the latest forever war, which all in there way completely destroyed the working and middle class in this country, especially with the proxy-war caused inflation, which is just a tax on the poor and lower middle-class.

Roger Smith
Roger Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

for the sake of this totally naive analogue in which world politics evolve in a laissez-faire kind of free market where “different ideas and principles” refreshingly compete & the best one takes over the noble belt according to the Marquess of Queensberry Rules – …would you please remind me which possibly failing and bankrupting business can manage NOT to account for 61% of its $3.5 trillion in assets sixth time in a row and, more importantly, still have 5-6000 nukes to greet the liquidator?

Steve White
Steve White
10 months ago

Too much doom and gloom about American decline, or too much hope in revived American power says more about those who commit to those two outcomes than it does about the reality of the situation. It’s also a prison of two ideas that fails to recognize that both premises could be wrong. I think there is a potential third view, which is the fact that, if the US is in decline, that does not spell doom and gloom. It might if in desiring to cling to power by any means wins the day, and evil means become the institutional norm.
If we look at the US as a business, we could say that those fail all the time. Businesses through some sort of event often fail and go bankrupt. It doesn’t mean that the building they are in falls apart, or whatever tools, machines, or technology that the business worked though in order to offer its produce to the world all goes away.
What happens in that case is someone who thinks they know why it failed, and how they can do that business better comes along, buys the building and material aspects of the failed business and gives it another go with different ideas and principles in place.
This is really a good thing. The worst thing for that business would be if somehow insiders or even worse some malevolent outsiders were to somehow by hook and crook, trickery and deception were to take over the business for their own gain. Making life for the employees terrible, setting fire to any of their competitors, and threatening anyone who might not support their supremacy or become a competitor. That would indeed be something ripe for judgement and condemnation.
However, even in that case, the former idea that someone is always there to pickup the pieces of the failed business and try to do it better the next time always remains. So rather than “this is the end”, “this is a time of renewed opportunity” is the case for the failure of the prior model. Which, is far from a gloom and doom idea. 

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve White
Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
10 months ago

We’re resurrected, really? *looks around* Great!

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
10 months ago

We’re resurrected, really? *looks around* Great!

Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter
10 months ago

Most sensible people in the world know, at heart, bad as Uncle Sam is, Putin or Xi is much worse. When they feel threatened by the latter, they run to Uncle Sam for protection.

Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter
10 months ago

Most sensible people in the world know, at heart, bad as Uncle Sam is, Putin or Xi is much worse. When they feel threatened by the latter, they run to Uncle Sam for protection.

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
10 months ago

“The only possible explanation is that China’s rulers are too absorbed in invisible but constant intra-party intrigues and too distracted by everyday matters to acquire any serious understanding of the outside world.”
Naturally, the CCP is constantly busy managing the economy, agricultural production, and rural development projects. These are all too important to be left to free markets! If people were allowed to interact unsupervised, it could result in disaster.
Which makes me a bit puzzled about the constant rumors that China is in the lead with artificial intelligence. How could such a micromanaging govt ever risk the development of a technology that might undermine its power? And how could they allow private companies, and millions of users, to train their systems on the uncensored data of the entire world? One can easily imagine what sorts of questions Chinese citizens might wish to ask the AI.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  Shale Lewis

Interesting point which is why the current AI, large language models, may not gain traction in China. We might suspect their efforts to be military oriented trying to capture western innovation for war fighting. Innovation is culturally difficult for the Chinese so AI supplementation may be a way around that difficulty. Still, networked scale for war may be very hard to do for offensive. Numbers matter of course but do require a lot of excess funding. And as the Russians are discovering maintenance of stuff also take a lot of money or it doesn’t work properly.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  Shale Lewis

Interesting point which is why the current AI, large language models, may not gain traction in China. We might suspect their efforts to be military oriented trying to capture western innovation for war fighting. Innovation is culturally difficult for the Chinese so AI supplementation may be a way around that difficulty. Still, networked scale for war may be very hard to do for offensive. Numbers matter of course but do require a lot of excess funding. And as the Russians are discovering maintenance of stuff also take a lot of money or it doesn’t work properly.

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
10 months ago

“The only possible explanation is that China’s rulers are too absorbed in invisible but constant intra-party intrigues and too distracted by everyday matters to acquire any serious understanding of the outside world.”
Naturally, the CCP is constantly busy managing the economy, agricultural production, and rural development projects. These are all too important to be left to free markets! If people were allowed to interact unsupervised, it could result in disaster.
Which makes me a bit puzzled about the constant rumors that China is in the lead with artificial intelligence. How could such a micromanaging govt ever risk the development of a technology that might undermine its power? And how could they allow private companies, and millions of users, to train their systems on the uncensored data of the entire world? One can easily imagine what sorts of questions Chinese citizens might wish to ask the AI.

David Boath
David Boath
10 months ago

It’s an absolute iron law of history – anywhere, any time – that democracies always appear to be in more trouble than they really are and dictatorships always appear to be in less trouble than they really are. Think Berlin Wall 1989 and how fast that unravelled. Or ask Ceaucescu how well he thought things were going from that balcony in Bucharest in 1991. Also, leadership is about being clear what your values are and persuading – not ordering -others to follow. Professor Luttwak is 100% correct and our media need to go and read a history book or two and think about the longer term……

David Boath
David Boath
10 months ago

It’s an absolute iron law of history – anywhere, any time – that democracies always appear to be in more trouble than they really are and dictatorships always appear to be in less trouble than they really are. Think Berlin Wall 1989 and how fast that unravelled. Or ask Ceaucescu how well he thought things were going from that balcony in Bucharest in 1991. Also, leadership is about being clear what your values are and persuading – not ordering -others to follow. Professor Luttwak is 100% correct and our media need to go and read a history book or two and think about the longer term……

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago

A succinct and accurate summation of the present map of geopolitical power. Two vainglorious and misguided autocrats have handed the USA foreign policy victories that they could never have won otherwise. They have also impacted domestic politics. China, in particular, is the one issue just about everybody agrees on. One of the most common tropes last midterm was for one candidate to accuse the other of being soft on China, or having past business dealings with China, and so on. Russia, on the other hand, is universally loathed. The ‘opposition’ to the Ukraine war amounts to a handful of libertarian and isolationist types objecting to how much money is being spent on the war and/or wanting a stronger push for negotiations to end the bloodshed. As much as Americans fight over internal issues, they tend to rally against external threats without much prompting from leadership. It’s one of the reasons the US excels at open warfare.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

My dear sir, my country is rotting before my eyes and is a disgrace. There is much opposition toward further involvement in Ukraine–if it turns into all out war that the neocons and our Undead President want, the U.S. will find its death-knell. The elites have raped our country of its treasure and one-time greatness through the endless wars and the American left is but a shadow of itself and warmongering to boot.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That last was exactly my point also – Americans, left and right, hold contempt for each other, thinking the other side fools and churls, but still esteem each other as Americans.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Again, an element of truth, with over 100 million Americans out of 330 million to falsify your overstatement, Yet your hyperbole is a little too close the truth for comfort here, except in this: esteem (beyond mere tolerance) for one’s fellow Americans of different backgrounds and opinions may be at an all-time, overall low here in the States.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Again, an element of truth, with over 100 million Americans out of 330 million to falsify your overstatement, Yet your hyperbole is a little too close the truth for comfort here, except in this: esteem (beyond mere tolerance) for one’s fellow Americans of different backgrounds and opinions may be at an all-time, overall low here in the States.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

My dear sir, my country is rotting before my eyes and is a disgrace. There is much opposition toward further involvement in Ukraine–if it turns into all out war that the neocons and our Undead President want, the U.S. will find its death-knell. The elites have raped our country of its treasure and one-time greatness through the endless wars and the American left is but a shadow of itself and warmongering to boot.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That last was exactly my point also – Americans, left and right, hold contempt for each other, thinking the other side fools and churls, but still esteem each other as Americans.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago

A succinct and accurate summation of the present map of geopolitical power. Two vainglorious and misguided autocrats have handed the USA foreign policy victories that they could never have won otherwise. They have also impacted domestic politics. China, in particular, is the one issue just about everybody agrees on. One of the most common tropes last midterm was for one candidate to accuse the other of being soft on China, or having past business dealings with China, and so on. Russia, on the other hand, is universally loathed. The ‘opposition’ to the Ukraine war amounts to a handful of libertarian and isolationist types objecting to how much money is being spent on the war and/or wanting a stronger push for negotiations to end the bloodshed. As much as Americans fight over internal issues, they tend to rally against external threats without much prompting from leadership. It’s one of the reasons the US excels at open warfare.

martin logan
martin logan
10 months ago

The real flaw in non-western nations like China and Russia is that they can only function as autocracies. Citizens tolerate the autocrat because they fear their fellow citizens more.
Now we see how Putin’s brand of autocracy is collapsing before our eyes. All it takes is one problem that the autocrat cannot or will not solve, and the whole edifice goes down–along with a considerable part of the population.
Xi is already making mistakes that would be identified and addressed in any western nation. But everyone in his leadership will remain silent until it is too late. Indeed, look how the One Child Policy and the COVID lockdown persisted long after they made no sense.
But because neither nation dares to open up its politics and govt to the critics, regimes and dynasties will collapse as they always have in the past.
Each time taking a few million citizens with them.

martin logan
martin logan
10 months ago

The real flaw in non-western nations like China and Russia is that they can only function as autocracies. Citizens tolerate the autocrat because they fear their fellow citizens more.
Now we see how Putin’s brand of autocracy is collapsing before our eyes. All it takes is one problem that the autocrat cannot or will not solve, and the whole edifice goes down–along with a considerable part of the population.
Xi is already making mistakes that would be identified and addressed in any western nation. But everyone in his leadership will remain silent until it is too late. Indeed, look how the One Child Policy and the COVID lockdown persisted long after they made no sense.
But because neither nation dares to open up its politics and govt to the critics, regimes and dynasties will collapse as they always have in the past.
Each time taking a few million citizens with them.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
10 months ago

A pretty good article; although I disagree with one point. Even if Ukraine rolled over quicker than a Russian hooker, NATO would have had a resurgence, possibly even more powerfuy than it did.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
10 months ago

A pretty good article; although I disagree with one point. Even if Ukraine rolled over quicker than a Russian hooker, NATO would have had a resurgence, possibly even more powerfuy than it did.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
10 months ago

I wonder if Thomas Fazi agrees?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

I’m betting not.

Peter B
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Frankly, who cares ?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

I’m betting not.

Peter B
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Frankly, who cares ?

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
10 months ago

I wonder if Thomas Fazi agrees?

Marko Bee
Marko Bee
10 months ago

Writes article about resurgence of American power. Proves it by example after example of other countries stepping up, largely without American “leadership.“ Points out the decay and disarray in USA domestically. Points out the weakness of at least two American presidents.

i am sorry. If this is what you think resurgence looks like, I would hate to see what you consider the necessary ingredients for the demise of a civilization.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Marko Bee

Yes, this article of bollocks. America is in shambles–the elites are the only ones benefiting from said “power.”

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Marko Bee

Yes, this article of bollocks. America is in shambles–the elites are the only ones benefiting from said “power.”

Marko Bee
Marko Bee
10 months ago

Writes article about resurgence of American power. Proves it by example after example of other countries stepping up, largely without American “leadership.“ Points out the decay and disarray in USA domestically. Points out the weakness of at least two American presidents.

i am sorry. If this is what you think resurgence looks like, I would hate to see what you consider the necessary ingredients for the demise of a civilization.

karlheinz r
karlheinz r
10 months ago

yes, the usa are the mighty one eyed king of wokistan.

karlheinz r
karlheinz r
10 months ago

yes, the usa are the mighty one eyed king of wokistan.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
10 months ago

What this essay confirms is that geopolitical strategists have no interest in the quality of the daily social and economic life of real people. It’s all about aggregate power, which means nothing.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
10 months ago

What this essay confirms is that geopolitical strategists have no interest in the quality of the daily social and economic life of real people. It’s all about aggregate power, which means nothing.

Kip Calderara
Kip Calderara
10 months ago

Good article, high time we counted our plusses and saw how far they overshadow the others.

Kip Calderara
Kip Calderara
10 months ago

Good article, high time we counted our plusses and saw how far they overshadow the others.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago

What a load of bollocks. 
The American empire and it’s corrupt, elite, Atlanticist power base is in steep decline–one only sees our shameful exit from Afghanistan and add into that another forever war on the backs of American taxpayers in Ukraine which, by design, has no end in sight and will bleed our country’s treasury further dry.  
Have you seen our cities? Our once great cities are ringed with thousands of tents of defeated and drug addicted people, many of them filled with veterans of all our recent disastrous displays of “power.” My country is also currently rendered apart by political extremism on the left and right, almost unbelievably the left has become a warmongering edifice that is but a shell of its old, civil libertarian self. 
The American “empire” is a hollowed out and destroyed middle-class, and poor who can’t afford housing and are in said tents on city streets. American empire and power only works by and for the elites–the pedophilic billionaire class like Bill Gates and our Undead President, who launders money in Ukraine by the bucketfuls. Indeed, it’s the family business. 
American power. How I wish to never see that statement again. 

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Would you prefer Russo-Chinese power? Because you can be quite certain that the American collapse you hastily declare and celebrate won’t result in a benign replacement.
I relate to a portion of your impassioned lament, but I’m convinced it could very well get worse than American global pre-eminence. Our moral authority is indeed shot, but that was already true when our politics were less extreme and polarized, when homelessness and other economically-driven catastrophes were less rampant. We should handle ourselves better overseas, maybe with a touch of uncharacteristic humility, but surrendering the lead role is unthinkable at present.
I might have a different view if I thought a retreat from the world stage would force us to confront our domestic woes in a useful way.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Jesus Christ, man, this isn’t a Zero Sum game. I realize I’m trying to discuss this with a bunch of bloodthirsty Brits who seem to get hard after reading this article, but your lack of understanding of the nuances of international diplomacy are stunning.
Why, again, are we the world’s policemen? All our blood and treasure has gone to waste since, arguably, World War 2, for a false assurance of “security.” Ask the working class in the Rust Belt about “security” or the black Americans in the inner city. For Gods sake, we don’t even have universal healthcare in this country, but we can still send over 100 billion to the unbelievably corrupt country of Ukraine, for a fight that we have no stake in.
Also, when is the UK going to man-up and find a way to create security without relying on the blood and treasure of your former colony half the world away? It’s pretty shameful if you ask me.

Last edited 10 months ago by S Smith
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

You are so intemperate, man. Why can’t you moderate your tone, my good chap? Nah, say what you want of course, believing every thought you have as if all your opinions are truth itself, dude.
By the way, I’m an American who sometimes sounds like a Brit, because I talks pretty good and, I admit, can be pretentious or whatnot.
I’m worried about our country too, holmes. I just don’t share your level of disgust and seeming near hopelessness. Asking a whole nation to “man up” is an hilariously stereotypical thing for an American to type though.
And of course it’s not a zero-sum game. So ease up on the all-or-nothing rhetoric. Later pal.
(But I hope you have a good weekend, if that’s possible).

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sorry, pal, as the Uncle of two military aged young men and father of two girls aged 17 and 13, you warmongerers, the whole lot of you, deserve nothing but contempt and derision, celebrating “America” and its military prowess (what a joke, by the way) while the whole country rots and burns. Pox on all of you.

Last edited 10 months ago by S Smith
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I thought that was the type of meanspirited, self-righteous nonsense you were pretty much all about, but I gave you an opportunity to show something, anything different.
I am not a warmonger. For someone who throws that word around, you don’t sound like any kind of a pacifist, but like an angry, war-like personality, maybe fueled by booze–not crack or angel dust though–at least in this version of you. Check your mirror.
You’re raising the heat on American extremism right now. I hope you’re not among those who are ready to start another actual civil war to prove how much they love/hate America. Doubt your daughters would admire this act of yours.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You are a joke, pal.

You aren’t a warmonger and yet it sounded like you supported the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and now our money laundering Biden Crime Syndicate’s Ukraine Adventure? What lala land do you live on? It’s all so transparent; the whole goddamm thing is a racket, that the progressive left, a movement I once loosely ascribed to, is ALL IN on. They are holding hands with the neocons and jumping into a fiery hellscape of blown apart bodies, death machines and forever wars that benefit who? The war profiteers and their “thinktanks.”

I have an idea. Why dont you read one of Bacevichs books? Better yet, visit a think tank that really matters, The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. You obviously also have no concept of history: and are too stupid to realize that this isn’t Sudatenland 2.0. These sources may help your little brain.

Oh and I’m not MAGA. That’s also an insult. I’m a redpilled former progressive who can see exactly what our war machine is about.

Have a fun warmongering weekend.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I seem to have insulted you somehow. How rude of me. It “sounded like” I supported those campaigns why? Don’t trust every voice in your head. Please stop believing every thing you think in that seeing-red head of yours. Read the Gospels, with a focus on the non-supernatural content, or listen to some good music.
Demonizing and ridiculing everything you disagree with is what…the height of wisdom?
Have a fun series of isolationist tantrums. Or snap out of it. Your choice.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What a painful irony that you mention the non-supernatural content of the Gospels. The whole impetus behind the 20th century’s great non-violent movements were inspired by Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You. Of course you are too stupid to know this.

Of course, he’s Russian, so he should be censored and despised, right?

Our founding fathers are spinning in their graves knowing that your type of American exists, all-in on war and “liberal interventionism” whilst our country devolves into mayhem. The part about “foreign entanglements?” Remember that part? Of course you don’t.

The chickens are coming to roost, my friend, the whole rotten edifice that is our forever wars has bled America dry. Build your walls and get your private security! 

Although, considering where we are headed, it won’t protect you when your face starts melting off due to the atomic sheen.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I am aware of the late work of Tolstoy you mention, which stupidly assume I have not read (I have, 30 years ago, and in part only–it is unevenly interesting to me).
In my recollection–and I have also seen comments on it by later writers–Tolstoy’s theological musings are largely abstract and otherworldly, more a defense of transcendent Christian faith than a call to action in this world. Perhaps I’m wrong though: Have you read it more recently or carefully than I have? It has beautiful and moving passages, for sure.
But it’s absurd to credit that single work with all the nonviolent movements of the previous century. No mention of Gandhi or MLK? In my far from unique (and perhaps ethnocentrically Western) view, the Gospels themselves remain the most vibrant single–or quadruple–source of a compassionate, nonviolent ethos. But there is an ancient tradition of ahimsa, or non-harm in several Eastern traditions too, including Hinduism and Buddhism.
You are a head-on-fire doomsayer of extreme, irrational proportions–at least right now. I could stand to be far more humble and kind, and so could you.
If you insist on it, good luck prepping for an apocalypse that you sound at once panicked and eager to see come.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“De Vogue and others, who, professing the doctrine of evolution, regard war as not only inevitable, but beneficial and therefore desirable–they are terrible, hideous, in their moral perversion. The others, at least, say that they hate evil, and love good, but these openly declare that good and evil do not exist. All discussion of the possibility of re-establishing peace instead of everlasting war–is the pernicious sentimentality of phrasemongers. There is a law of evolution by which it follows that I must live and act in an evil way; what is to be done? I am an educated man, I know the law of evolution, and therefore I will act in an evil way. “ENTRONS AU PALAIS DE LA GUERRE.” There is the law of evolution, and therefore there is neither good nor evil, and one must live for the sake of one’s personal existence, leaving the rest to the action of the law of evolution. This is the last word of refined culture, and with it, of that overshadowing of conscience which has come upon the educated classes of our times. The desire of the educated classes to support the ideas they prefer, and the order of existence based on them, has attained its furthest limits. They lie, and delude themselves, and one another, with the subtlest forms of deception, simply to obscure, to deaden conscience.
Instead of transforming their life into harmony with their conscience, they try by every means to stifle its voice. But it is in darkness that the light begins to shine, and so the light is rising upon our epoch.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Interesting reflections. Tolstoy was indeed an educated, and brilliant man.
“Instead of transforming their life into harmony with their conscience, they try by every means to stifle its voice”. A broad stroke with a truthful brush.
I still don’t see how moral diagnosis and insight of this kind leads directly to, or deserves credit for, nonviolent movements on a general or large scale. While influential, this Tolstoy work is far less widely read than his short stories and famous long novels.
Even so, I find the passage worthwhile and thought provoking and thanks for sharing it, no sarcasm intended. The kingdom of Heaven, and the pits of Hell, are indeed within us.

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart
even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains
an un-uprooted small corner of evil.

Above from The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (as you likely know). I’ve only read a small portion of it so far, but I intend to read more.
(I know a bit about a lot of books, and a lot about quite a few. I’d like to be a better student and scholar than I am, but now that my eyesight is diminished in my early 50s, I find it harder to go right though a very long or difficult book. Maybe audiobooks can “save me”?).
If you’ve not read it yet I think you might find William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell to be worthwhile, powerful even, weird as it in in some ways.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“Everywhere the same story is repeated. Not only the government, but the great majority of liberal, advanced people, as they are called, studiously turn away from everything that has been said, written, or done, or is being done by men to prove the incompatibility of force in its most awful, gross, and glaring form–in the form, that is, of an army of soldiers prepared to murder anyone, whoever it may be–with the teachings of Christianity, or even of the humanity which society professes as its creed.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

1,000 more narrowing-column posts or so and you can share the entire text (I remember the book as being comparatively short– tempted to Google, but will resist). Tolstoy’s tone is kind of ranting or angry-prophetic, very absolute; perhaps that why you esteem it so highly?
Nah though, I’ll probably give this book another look thanks to your “digital intervention”. Gonna move on to the next board now so the last word is yours–or Leo’s–if you want.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

You should read some of the comments on this article, pal. You may have second thoughts about us being involved in another senseless, prolonged forever war. Americans are sick of them.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

C’mon man! I hate war too. I don’t know why you insist on thinking I’m an apologist for any needless, let alone “forever” war.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

C’mon man! I hate war too. I don’t know why you insist on thinking I’m an apologist for any needless, let alone “forever” war.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

You should read some of the comments on this article, pal. You may have second thoughts about us being involved in another senseless, prolonged forever war. Americans are sick of them.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

1,000 more narrowing-column posts or so and you can share the entire text (I remember the book as being comparatively short– tempted to Google, but will resist). Tolstoy’s tone is kind of ranting or angry-prophetic, very absolute; perhaps that why you esteem it so highly?
Nah though, I’ll probably give this book another look thanks to your “digital intervention”. Gonna move on to the next board now so the last word is yours–or Leo’s–if you want.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“Everywhere the same story is repeated. Not only the government, but the great majority of liberal, advanced people, as they are called, studiously turn away from everything that has been said, written, or done, or is being done by men to prove the incompatibility of force in its most awful, gross, and glaring form–in the form, that is, of an army of soldiers prepared to murder anyone, whoever it may be–with the teachings of Christianity, or even of the humanity which society professes as its creed.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Interesting reflections. Tolstoy was indeed an educated, and brilliant man.
“Instead of transforming their life into harmony with their conscience, they try by every means to stifle its voice”. A broad stroke with a truthful brush.
I still don’t see how moral diagnosis and insight of this kind leads directly to, or deserves credit for, nonviolent movements on a general or large scale. While influential, this Tolstoy work is far less widely read than his short stories and famous long novels.
Even so, I find the passage worthwhile and thought provoking and thanks for sharing it, no sarcasm intended. The kingdom of Heaven, and the pits of Hell, are indeed within us.

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart
even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains
an un-uprooted small corner of evil.

Above from The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (as you likely know). I’ve only read a small portion of it so far, but I intend to read more.
(I know a bit about a lot of books, and a lot about quite a few. I’d like to be a better student and scholar than I am, but now that my eyesight is diminished in my early 50s, I find it harder to go right though a very long or difficult book. Maybe audiobooks can “save me”?).
If you’ve not read it yet I think you might find William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell to be worthwhile, powerful even, weird as it in in some ways.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“De Vogue and others, who, professing the doctrine of evolution, regard war as not only inevitable, but beneficial and therefore desirable–they are terrible, hideous, in their moral perversion. The others, at least, say that they hate evil, and love good, but these openly declare that good and evil do not exist. All discussion of the possibility of re-establishing peace instead of everlasting war–is the pernicious sentimentality of phrasemongers. There is a law of evolution by which it follows that I must live and act in an evil way; what is to be done? I am an educated man, I know the law of evolution, and therefore I will act in an evil way. “ENTRONS AU PALAIS DE LA GUERRE.” There is the law of evolution, and therefore there is neither good nor evil, and one must live for the sake of one’s personal existence, leaving the rest to the action of the law of evolution. This is the last word of refined culture, and with it, of that overshadowing of conscience which has come upon the educated classes of our times. The desire of the educated classes to support the ideas they prefer, and the order of existence based on them, has attained its furthest limits. They lie, and delude themselves, and one another, with the subtlest forms of deception, simply to obscure, to deaden conscience.
Instead of transforming their life into harmony with their conscience, they try by every means to stifle its voice. But it is in darkness that the light begins to shine, and so the light is rising upon our epoch.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I am aware of the late work of Tolstoy you mention, which stupidly assume I have not read (I have, 30 years ago, and in part only–it is unevenly interesting to me).
In my recollection–and I have also seen comments on it by later writers–Tolstoy’s theological musings are largely abstract and otherworldly, more a defense of transcendent Christian faith than a call to action in this world. Perhaps I’m wrong though: Have you read it more recently or carefully than I have? It has beautiful and moving passages, for sure.
But it’s absurd to credit that single work with all the nonviolent movements of the previous century. No mention of Gandhi or MLK? In my far from unique (and perhaps ethnocentrically Western) view, the Gospels themselves remain the most vibrant single–or quadruple–source of a compassionate, nonviolent ethos. But there is an ancient tradition of ahimsa, or non-harm in several Eastern traditions too, including Hinduism and Buddhism.
You are a head-on-fire doomsayer of extreme, irrational proportions–at least right now. I could stand to be far more humble and kind, and so could you.
If you insist on it, good luck prepping for an apocalypse that you sound at once panicked and eager to see come.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What a painful irony that you mention the non-supernatural content of the Gospels. The whole impetus behind the 20th century’s great non-violent movements were inspired by Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You. Of course you are too stupid to know this.

Of course, he’s Russian, so he should be censored and despised, right?

Our founding fathers are spinning in their graves knowing that your type of American exists, all-in on war and “liberal interventionism” whilst our country devolves into mayhem. The part about “foreign entanglements?” Remember that part? Of course you don’t.

The chickens are coming to roost, my friend, the whole rotten edifice that is our forever wars has bled America dry. Build your walls and get your private security! 

Although, considering where we are headed, it won’t protect you when your face starts melting off due to the atomic sheen.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I seem to have insulted you somehow. How rude of me. It “sounded like” I supported those campaigns why? Don’t trust every voice in your head. Please stop believing every thing you think in that seeing-red head of yours. Read the Gospels, with a focus on the non-supernatural content, or listen to some good music.
Demonizing and ridiculing everything you disagree with is what…the height of wisdom?
Have a fun series of isolationist tantrums. Or snap out of it. Your choice.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You are a joke, pal.

You aren’t a warmonger and yet it sounded like you supported the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and now our money laundering Biden Crime Syndicate’s Ukraine Adventure? What lala land do you live on? It’s all so transparent; the whole goddamm thing is a racket, that the progressive left, a movement I once loosely ascribed to, is ALL IN on. They are holding hands with the neocons and jumping into a fiery hellscape of blown apart bodies, death machines and forever wars that benefit who? The war profiteers and their “thinktanks.”

I have an idea. Why dont you read one of Bacevichs books? Better yet, visit a think tank that really matters, The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. You obviously also have no concept of history: and are too stupid to realize that this isn’t Sudatenland 2.0. These sources may help your little brain.

Oh and I’m not MAGA. That’s also an insult. I’m a redpilled former progressive who can see exactly what our war machine is about.

Have a fun warmongering weekend.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I thought that was the type of meanspirited, self-righteous nonsense you were pretty much all about, but I gave you an opportunity to show something, anything different.
I am not a warmonger. For someone who throws that word around, you don’t sound like any kind of a pacifist, but like an angry, war-like personality, maybe fueled by booze–not crack or angel dust though–at least in this version of you. Check your mirror.
You’re raising the heat on American extremism right now. I hope you’re not among those who are ready to start another actual civil war to prove how much they love/hate America. Doubt your daughters would admire this act of yours.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sorry, pal, as the Uncle of two military aged young men and father of two girls aged 17 and 13, you warmongerers, the whole lot of you, deserve nothing but contempt and derision, celebrating “America” and its military prowess (what a joke, by the way) while the whole country rots and burns. Pox on all of you.

Last edited 10 months ago by S Smith
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Quite ugly and offensive. The repeated tirades are pointless. Hopefully, there will be better days.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Hmmm. The whole act of war is pointless. But…all you warmongerers are all alike. You love your “liberal interventionism” because it makes you feel all fuzzy inside, and is an easy out to solving amazing complex and difficult problems through what used to be channels of diplomacy; it’s simply laziness and stupidity.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

You aren’t helping to solve complex and difficult problems (whose answers are nevertheless obvious to you?) or raise awareness, just ranting and foaming at the mouth, hurling self-righteous denunciations at commenters who’ve done nothing to deserve this bullshit from you.
I don’t know (for sure) that you’re not a self-aware person, but please get some more love into your heart and mind right away. Maybe you’re just having a terrible week, and even wingnuts and trolls have souls worth saving. Please take care.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

You aren’t helping to solve complex and difficult problems (whose answers are nevertheless obvious to you?) or raise awareness, just ranting and foaming at the mouth, hurling self-righteous denunciations at commenters who’ve done nothing to deserve this bullshit from you.
I don’t know (for sure) that you’re not a self-aware person, but please get some more love into your heart and mind right away. Maybe you’re just having a terrible week, and even wingnuts and trolls have souls worth saving. Please take care.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Hmmm. The whole act of war is pointless. But…all you warmongerers are all alike. You love your “liberal interventionism” because it makes you feel all fuzzy inside, and is an easy out to solving amazing complex and difficult problems through what used to be channels of diplomacy; it’s simply laziness and stupidity.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

You are so intemperate, man. Why can’t you moderate your tone, my good chap? Nah, say what you want of course, believing every thought you have as if all your opinions are truth itself, dude.
By the way, I’m an American who sometimes sounds like a Brit, because I talks pretty good and, I admit, can be pretentious or whatnot.
I’m worried about our country too, holmes. I just don’t share your level of disgust and seeming near hopelessness. Asking a whole nation to “man up” is an hilariously stereotypical thing for an American to type though.
And of course it’s not a zero-sum game. So ease up on the all-or-nothing rhetoric. Later pal.
(But I hope you have a good weekend, if that’s possible).

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Quite ugly and offensive. The repeated tirades are pointless. Hopefully, there will be better days.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Jesus Christ, man, this isn’t a Zero Sum game. I realize I’m trying to discuss this with a bunch of bloodthirsty Brits who seem to get hard after reading this article, but your lack of understanding of the nuances of international diplomacy are stunning.
Why, again, are we the world’s policemen? All our blood and treasure has gone to waste since, arguably, World War 2, for a false assurance of “security.” Ask the working class in the Rust Belt about “security” or the black Americans in the inner city. For Gods sake, we don’t even have universal healthcare in this country, but we can still send over 100 billion to the unbelievably corrupt country of Ukraine, for a fight that we have no stake in.
Also, when is the UK going to man-up and find a way to create security without relying on the blood and treasure of your former colony half the world away? It’s pretty shameful if you ask me.

Last edited 10 months ago by S Smith
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

Would you prefer Russo-Chinese power? Because you can be quite certain that the American collapse you hastily declare and celebrate won’t result in a benign replacement.
I relate to a portion of your impassioned lament, but I’m convinced it could very well get worse than American global pre-eminence. Our moral authority is indeed shot, but that was already true when our politics were less extreme and polarized, when homelessness and other economically-driven catastrophes were less rampant. We should handle ourselves better overseas, maybe with a touch of uncharacteristic humility, but surrendering the lead role is unthinkable at present.
I might have a different view if I thought a retreat from the world stage would force us to confront our domestic woes in a useful way.

S Smith
S Smith
10 months ago

What a load of bollocks. 
The American empire and it’s corrupt, elite, Atlanticist power base is in steep decline–one only sees our shameful exit from Afghanistan and add into that another forever war on the backs of American taxpayers in Ukraine which, by design, has no end in sight and will bleed our country’s treasury further dry.  
Have you seen our cities? Our once great cities are ringed with thousands of tents of defeated and drug addicted people, many of them filled with veterans of all our recent disastrous displays of “power.” My country is also currently rendered apart by political extremism on the left and right, almost unbelievably the left has become a warmongering edifice that is but a shell of its old, civil libertarian self. 
The American “empire” is a hollowed out and destroyed middle-class, and poor who can’t afford housing and are in said tents on city streets. American empire and power only works by and for the elites–the pedophilic billionaire class like Bill Gates and our Undead President, who launders money in Ukraine by the bucketfuls. Indeed, it’s the family business. 
American power. How I wish to never see that statement again.