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Or Why Trump’s Wars Should Seem So Familiar

MOAB sounds more like an incestuous, war-torn biblical kingdom than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, aka “the mother of all bombs.” Still, give Donald Trump credit. Only the really, really big bombs, whether North Korean nukes or those 21,600 pounds of MOAB, truly get his attention. He wasn’t even involved in the decision to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal for the first time in war, but his beloved generals — “we have the best military people on Earth” — already know the man they work for, and the bigger, flashier, more explosive, and winninger, the better.

It was undoubtedly the awesome look of that first MOAB going off in grainy black and white on Fox News, rather than in Afghanistan, that appealed to the president. Just as he was visibly thrilled by all those picturesque Tomahawk cruise missiles, the equivalent of nearly three MOABS, whooshing from the decks of U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and heading, like so many fabulous fireworks, toward a Syrian airfield — or was it actually an Iraqi one? “We’ve just fired 59 missiles,” he said, “all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing… It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five.”

Call it thrilling. Call it a blast. Call it escalation. Or just call it the age of Trump. (“If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the past eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference, tremendous difference,” he commented, adding about MOAB, “This was another very, very successful mission.”)

Anyway, here we are and, as so many of his critics have pointed out, the plaudits have been pouring in from all the usual media and political suspects for a president with big enough… well, hands, to make war impressively. In our world, this is what now passes for “presidential.” Consider that praise the media version of so many Tomahawk missiles pointing us toward what the escalation of America’s never-ending wars will mean to Trump’s presidency.

These days, from Syria to Afghanistan, the Koreas to Somalia, Yemen to Iraq, it’s easy enough to see Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump as something new under the sun. (It has a different ring to it when the commander in chief says, “You’re fired!”) That missile strike in Syria was a first (Obama didn’t dare); the MOAB in Afghanistan was a breakthrough; the drone strikes in Yemen soon after he took office were an absolute record! As for those regular Army troops heading for Somalia, that hasn’t happened in 24 years! Civilian casualties in the region: rising impressively!

Call it mission creep on steroids. At the very least, it seems like evidence that the man who, as a presidential candidate, swore he’d “bomb the shit” out of ISIS and let the U.S. military win again is doing just that. (As he also said on the campaign trail with appropriately placed air punches, “You gotta knock the hell out of them! Boom! Boom! Boom!”)

He’s appointed generals to crucial posts in his administration, lifted restraints on how his commanders in the field can act (hence those soaring civilian casualty figures), let them send more military personnel into Iraq, Syria, and the region generally, taken the constraints off the CIA’s drone assassination campaigns, and dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group somewhat indirectly to the waters off the Koreas (with a strike force of tweets and threats accompanying it).

And there’s obviously more to come: potentially many more troops, even an army of them, for Syria; a possible mini-surge of troops into Afghanistan (that MOAB strike may have been a canny signal from a U.S. commander “seeking to showcase Afghanistan’s myriad threats” to a president paying no attention); a heightened air campaign in Somalia; and that’s just to start what will surely be a far longer list in a presidency in which, whether or not infrastructure is ever successfully rebuilt in America, the infrastructure of the military-industrial complex will continue to expand.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

There are the terrorists, who get attention out of all proportion to their actual clout, and then there are those with big-time clout — I think of them as the terrarists — who get almost no attention at all. Back in May 2013, I came up with that term and here’s how I described those I thought it should apply to:

“We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be ‘terracide’ from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.

“The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.

“In the case of the terrarists — and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell — you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.”

Almost four years later, there’s a new set of names to be added to the ranks of those terrarists, including Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson, and every climate-change denialist and energy-company aider and abettor now in the ranks of the U.S. government. And almost four years later, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out, the early evidence of what their dystopian crimes will mean on a planetary scale is on display in Africa and Yemen — and it couldn’t be grimmer.

In 2013, I concluded: “To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?” Read Klare’s piece, think about the greenhouse gases that will be pumped into the atmosphere in prodigious amounts in the Trump years, and tell me that we’re not talking about the greatest crime of this or any other century and, even among the worst butchers of history, potentially the greatest criminals of all time

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Africa, Global Warming, TomDispatch Archives 

Now, we know. According to Todd Harrison, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the replacement cost for the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles recently dumped on an air base in Syria: $89 million. That not-exactly-decisive strike in Washington’s 15 years of war in the ever more chaotic Greater Middle East against… well, you tell me what or whom… was but a drop in the bucket. After all, the cost of those never-ending wars has already reached into the trillions of dollars. And keep in mind that these are wars in which, as U.S. Army major and TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen suggests today, the most all-American military word around may be “more” — as in more troops for Syria, more troops for Iraq, more troops for Afghanistan, and of course more missiles, planes, ships, advanced arms, you name it.

In that context, $89 million is a laughably small sum. Still, just for the hell of it, let’s think about what a figure like that might mean if spent domestically rather than on a strike of more or less no significance in Syria. That sum is, for instance, well more than half of the $149 million budget for the National Endowment for the Arts and also of the $149 million budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities, both of which the Trump administration would like to wipe out. It represents one-fifth of the $445 million the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also on Trump’s chopping block, gets from the federal government. That single strike also represents about a thirtieth of the $2.6 billion his administration wants to cut from the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and about a sixtieth of the $5.8 billion that it plans to excise from the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

So each time those Tomahawks are launched, or American planes or drones take off on their latest missions over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, or Somalia, or the next batch of U.S. troops heads for Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, or elsewhere in the Greater Middle East and those millions of dollars start to add up to billions and finally trillions, just think to yourself: that’s the arts, the sciences, public health, and environmental safety that we’re knocking off. Think of that as part of the “collateral damage” produced by our never-ending wars, or take a moment with Major Sjursen and imagine just how Washington might continue to lose those wars in the future with even greater flare and at even greater cost.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

Recently, historians Samuel Moyn and Stephen Wertheim wrote an interesting New York Times op-ed on why the last 15 years of failed American wars across the Greater Middle East seem to have taught our military and civilian leadership absolutely nothing. Hence, the recent 59-missile strike against a Syrian airfield — just the latest act that has “this can’t end well” written all over it. One small thing in their essay, however, caught my attention on a personal level. As a point of comparison for America’s twenty-first-century wars, in which lessons were the last thing to be drawn, the authors point to this country’s “long reckoning” with the consequences of the Vietnam War with which they are evidently impressed.

That comment hit a nerve in me, since the “reckoning” was, to my mind, largely one by the military high command, which proceeded to draw the lesson that protesters in arms were not the military force it had in mind and so junked the draft and the concept of a true citizen’s army. Similarly, the Reaganite right redefined Vietnam as a “noble cause” and then went about its war-making business (though — lessons learned, assumedly — largely by proxy), while Congress, which did indeed pass the War Powers Act in 1973 before Vietnam was even over, theoretically limiting the scope of presidential war-making powers, thereafter gave up the ghost of its own war powers. As a result, by my calculations, Americans had all of four war-less years (1975-1979) before the Reagan administration started all over again in Afghanistan (and, speaking of lessons unlearned, you know where that led in blowback terms). America’s two Afghan wars — with just over a decade off between the Soviet withdrawal from that country and 9/11 — have now lasted almost three decades with no end in sight. Then there were the three Iraq Wars, starting with Desert Storm in 1990-1991. The most recent is still underway. And don’t forget the Central American Contra wars of the 1980s, the invasion of Grenada (1983), the intervention in Lebanon (1983), the invasion of Panama (1989-1990), the Bosnian intervention (1992-1995), conflicts in two phases in Somalia (the early 1990s and post-9/11), and of course the present ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and so on.

In other words, those four years of “peace” aside, the years from 1975 to 2017 have been a veritable war fest for Washington. So let it not be said that, in the post-Vietnam era, we have ever truly come to grips with war, American-style, and what to make of it, no less what lessons to draw from it.

This came to mind because, in today’s post, TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus plunges into movements past and oh-so-present, including the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era, and the degree to which they either have or, in the age of Trump, may come to grips with the deeper maladies of American society. It led me to remember my own experience in those Vietnam years. From perhaps 1968 to 1973 or 1974, I worked incessantly against America’s wars in Southeast Asia in a variety of ways. It was an essential part of my life. When Vietnam ended, however, like much of the antiwar movement of that time, I essentially moved on. It’s a great sadness, looking back, to realize that such a large-scale mobilization of the American spirit against the grimmest of wars, a movement whose members plunged deep into questions of American war-making and the nature of a society that could pursue such a conflict, somehow didn’t make it beyond the war years with its conclusions intact and so didn’t help prevent the endless wars to come. In that spirit and in the memory of what wasn’t, I hope Chernus’s piece sparks some thought about what could be.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

Let’s skip the obvious. Leave aside, for instance, the way Donald Trump’s decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian air base is but another example of what we already know: that acts of war are now the prerogative, and only the prerogative, of the president (or of military commanders whom Trump has given greater authority to act on their own). Checks, balances? I doubt either of them applies anymore when it comes to war, American-style. These days, the only checks written are to the Pentagon and “balance” isn’t a concept outside of gymnastics.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has learned that every wild defeat at home, every swirling palace intrigue that would make a tsar blush, can be… well, trumped by dumping 59 cruise missiles or their equivalent in some distant land to save the “beautiful babies.” (Forget the babies “his” generals have been killing.) Launch the missiles, send in the raiders, dispatch the planes, and you’ll get everyone you ever tweet-smashed — including Hillary, John, Nancy, Marco, and Chuck to applaud you and praise your acts. They’ll be joined by the official right wing (though not the unofficial one), while the neocons and their pals will hail you as the Churchill of the twenty-first century. Or at least, all of this will be true until — consult George W. Bush and Barack Obama on this — it isn’t; until the day after; until, you know, the moment we’ve experienced over and over during the last 15 years of American war-making, the one where it suddenly becomes clear (yet again) that things are going really, really wrong.

While we wait, here’s a suggestion that came to mind as I read the latest thoughts of TomDispatch regular retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Astore on the military-industrial complex in the age of Trump: Isn’t it time to give the corporate sponsorship of war its just due? After all, there’s hardly an object, building, museum, stadium, or event in civilian life these days that doesn’t have corporate sponsorship plastered all over it and built into it. In my hometown, for instance, baseball’s New York Mets play at Citi Field, while football’s Giants and Jets spend their seasons at MetLife Stadium. Given the role that America’s giant weapons makers play in our wars, and the stunningly successful way they spread their wares around the planet, isn’t it time for the growing war powers of the commander-in-chief to be translated into a militarized version of sponsorship?

Shouldn’t Raytheon, the maker of those 59 cruise missiles that Donald Trump used recently, be given full credit so that media coverage of the event would refer to the Raytheon Syrian Tomahawk Chop? Shouldn’t the next set of drone attacks in Yemen be called the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Harvesting? Shouldn’t any future strikes by the most expensive weapons system on this or any other planet be labeled the Lockheed F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter Storm? We’re in a new age of corporate enhancement. Isn’t it time for war to adjust and for the military-industrial complex to get the credit it so richly deserves?

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

It has to be one of the oddities of our history: the near-obsessive level of attention that, for almost 60 years, Washington has lavished on a modest-sized, impoverished island-nation of little strategic importance 90 miles off our southern coast. I’m talking, of course, about Cuba, which the U.S. has embargoed since 1959, as it hasn’t North Korea or any other country on this planet.

It was a U.S. bailiwick with an all-American autocrat running it until 1959 when Fidel Castro’s guerilla movement took the country by storm. Almost immediately, it would become the prize in the Cold War set-to between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Who of a certain age (I’m speaking, of course, about myself) could forget October 22, 1962? That night, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation by television and radio, offering a chilling warning about an ongoing nuclear stand-off with the Soviets over Cuba. “We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth,” he said, “but neither will we shrink from the risk at any time it must be faced.” Though we hadn’t known it until that moment, we were in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis during which the world came as close to ending as it ever has in our nuclear era.

And here was the odd thing: when the Soviet Union disappeared from the face of the Earth in 1991, an ebullient (if shocked) Washington declared ultimate victory, proclaimed itself the “sole superpower” on planet Earth, and then continued to embargo the island and obsess about it and its dangers as if the Cold War were still the global paradigm. Cuba has, in other words, been on this country’s mind for almost six decades now. Given this history, it’s hardly surprising that TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer would visit that island to escape from our increasingly bizarre “American” world and instead meet that world face to face.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cuba, TomDispatch Archives 

In 2003, not long after the American invasion, Dahr Jamail, a youthful freelance journalist from Alaska, headed to Iraq. He wasn’t then a reporter for anyone or, put another way, he was at that moment perhaps the most “unembedded” reporter on the face of the Earth. In the years to come, he would visit that occupied country numerous times, traveling alone (except for a translator) and remarkably fearlessly, as he reported vividly for a variety of publications, including (begining in 2005) this website, on the kinds of devastation the U.S. military brought to Iraq. He would write a book, Beyond the Green Zone, on his experiences.

Meanwhile, his own land still seemed far away indeed from war. Small groups of protesters aside, most Americans, even as their country militarized and the national security state became the fourth branch of government, continued with their lives as if the distant wars being fought in their name had nothing to do with them. Existing under the implacable buzz of Hellfire-missile-armed drones, experiencing special-ops raids, finding jihadists spreading in your town or city, watching your country shatter before your eyes, being uprooted from your home and put to flight, all of that and more was the unimaginable experience of foreign peoples in distant lands. All of it had nothing to do with Americans (or our policies or our military), even as so many of them became refugees or terrorists (neither of whom we wanted in this country).

So imagine Jamail’s surprise on discovering in Alaska that the U.S. military and its depredations were anything but far from our shores. He first covered the Navy’s war games in the Gulf of Alaska and the ways in which they represented a kind of war against the American environment in May 2015. It was a joint report for this site and the invaluable Truthout (where he continues, among other things, to write stunning monthly summaries of the latest news and scientific information on the effects of climate change on our world). Now, he returns with a jolting update.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

Human whats? In the Middle East and elsewhere, the Trump administration has begun to signal that human rights aren’t exactly on its agenda. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken the lead in this process in a round of personal diplomacy in the Middle East (with Trump’s generals not far behind). In early March, he wrote various “advocacy groups” that the administration was considering withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council to protest the records of some of its members, including Saudi Arabia and China. And then, as if to hint at what the value of such rights might really be in Washington, he signaled to Congress that the administration would, as the New York Times reported, “lift all human rights conditions on a major sale of F-16 fighter jets and other arms to Bahrain.” This means American arms dealers can sell their weaponry to that Sunni Persian Gulf monarchy, despite its grim repression of its majority Shiite population. And that, in turn, means that we can finally put something like an initial price tag on human rights, at least for the Shiites of the tiny kingdom that houses the U.S. Fifth Fleet: $3.8 billion ($2.8 billion for those 19 new fighter planes and a billion dollars more to support that country’s air force in various other ways).

We can similarly put a very partial price tag on the value of human rights when it comes to Yemenis. The citizens of that riven land are living at the edge of a potentially catastrophic famine and under regular air attack from Saudi Arabia and its allies (including Bahrain) in a disastrous American-backed two-year-old war that was meant to check Iranian influence in the region. It has already cost at least 10,000 lives and displaced millions. As for that very partial price tag, it’s $350 million for 16,000 Raytheon guided munitions kits that will turn dumb bombs into “smart” ones. Their sale to the Saudis had previously been blocked by the Obama administration in response to news about their air strikes against civilians in Yemen. Now, as a signal of the sort of heightened support the Trump administration expects to offer that country’s royal family — you know, the crew with that terrible human rights record — in its fight against Iranian influence in the region, it is releasing them. (Undoubtedly, more cluster bombs will be next on the list.)

We are, of course, at the very beginning of the Trump era, which means so much yet remains to be known, though The Donald’s generals are clearly already ramping up America’s wars (and the civilian casualties that go with them) in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. In turn, that means sooner or later other classic aspects of America’s recent wars will undoubtedly be ramped up as well. With that in mind, we’ve turned to TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg and an expert on the “unholy trinity” of grim methods this country has brought to bear in its war on terror — torture, extraordinary rendition, and indefinite detention (think: Guantánamo) — to read Washington’s tea leaves and give us a preview of things to come and so of human rights in the age of Trump.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
A Nation Made by War and a Citizenry Unmade By It

On successive days recently, I saw two museum shows that caught something of a lost American world and seemed eerily relevant in the Age of Trump. The first, “Hippie Modernism,” an exploration of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s (heavy on psychedelic posters), was appropriately enough at the Berkeley Art Museum. To my surprise, it also included a few artifacts from a movement crucial to my own not-especially-countercultural version of those years: the vast antiwar protests that took to the streets in the mid-1960s, shook the country, and never really went away until the last American combat troops were finally withdrawn from Vietnam in 1973. Included was a poster of the American flag, upside down, its stripes redrawn as red rifles, its stars as blue fighter planes, and another showing an American soldier, a rifle casually slung over his shoulder. Its caption still seems relevant as our never-ending wars continue to head for “the homeland.”

“Violence abroad,” it said, “breeds violence at home.” Amen, brother.

The next day, I went to a small Rosie the Riveter Memorial museum-cum-visitor’s center in a national park in Richmond, California, on the shores of San Francisco Bay. There, during World War II, workers at a giant Ford plant assembled tanks, while Henry Kaiser’s nearby shipyard complex was, at one point, launching a Liberty or Victory ship every single day. Let me repeat that: on average, one ship a day. Almost three-quarters of a century later, that remains mindboggling. In fact, those yards, as I learned from a documentary at the visitor’s center, set a record by constructing a single cargo ship, stem to stern, in just under five days.

And what made such records and that kind of 24/7 productiveness possible in wartime America? All of it happened largely because the gates to the American workforce were suddenly thrown open not just to Rosie, the famed riveter, and so many other women whose opportunities had previously been limited largely to gender-stereotyped jobs, but to African Americans, Chinese Americans, the aged, the disabled, just about everyone in town (except incarcerated Japanese Americans) who had previously been left out or sold short, the sort of cross-section of a country that wouldn’t rub elbows again for decades.

Similarly, the vast antiwar movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was filled with an unexpected cross-section of the country, including middle-class students and largely working-class vets directly off the battlefields of Southeast Asia. Both the work force of those World War II years and the protest movement of their children were, in their own fashion, citizen wonders of their American moments. They were artifacts of a country in which the public was still believed to play a crucial role and in which government of the people, by the people, and for the people didn’t yet sound like a late-night laugh line. Having seen in those museum exhibits traces of two surges of civic duty — if you don’t mind my repurposing the word “surge,” now used only for U.S. military operations leading nowhere — I suddenly realized that my family (like so many other American families) had been deeply affected by each of those mobilizing moments, one in support of a war and the other in opposition to it.

My father joined the U.S. Army Air Corps immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He would be operations officer for the First Air Commandos in Burma. My mother joined the mobilization back home, becoming chairman of the Artist’s Committee of the American Theatre Wing, which, among other things, planned entertainment for servicemen and women. In every sense, theirs was a war of citizens’ mobilization — from those rivets pounded in by Rosie to the backyard “victory gardens” (more than 20 million of them) that sprang up nationwide and played a significant role in feeding the country in a time of global crisis. And then there were the war bond drives for one of which my mother, described in an ad as a “well known caricaturist of stage and screen stars,” agreed to do “a caricature of those who purchase a $500 war bond or more.”

World War II was distinctly a citizen’s war. I was born in 1944 just as it was reaching its crescendo. My own version of such a mobilization, two decades later, took me by surprise. In my youth, I had dreamed of serving my country by becoming a State Department official and representing it abroad. In a land that still had a citizen’s army and a draft, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t also be in the military at some point, doing my duty. That my “duty” in those years would instead turn out to involve joining in a mobilization against war was unexpected. But that an American citizen should care about the wars that his (or her) country fought and why it fought them was second nature. Those wars — both against fascism globally and against rebellious peasants across much of Southeast Asia — were distinctly American projects. That meant they were our responsibility.

If my country fought the war from hell in a distant land, killing peasants by the endless thousands, it seemed only natural, a duty in fact, to react to it as so many Americans drafted into that military did — even wearing peace symbols into battle, creating antiwar newspapers on their military bases, and essentially going into opposition while still in that citizen’s army. The horror of that war mobilized me, too, just not in the military itself. And yet I can still remember that when I marched on Washington, along with hundreds of thousands of other protesters, it never occurred to me — not even when Richard Nixon was in the White House — that an American president wouldn’t have to listen to the voices of a mobilized citizenry.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

Whatever the relations may or may not have been between Donald Trump and his crew and Vladimir Putin and his crew, here’s one thing that the two presidents do not have in common: popularity. According to polls, Putin’s approval rating was at 82% late last year. In his 17-year reign, he’s never fallen below the 60% mark, and when his figures did drop modestly, his military-first projection of Russian power in the Crimea and then Syria turned things around. Trump, on the other hand, barely squeaked to victory last November without even winning the popular vote — you remember all those undocumented aliens, millions of them, who snuck into the polling booths! — and his approval rating recently hit a distinctly non-Putinesque 36% in a Gallup poll, a figure unique for American presidents in their “honeymoon” periods and below all-time lows for, among others, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Dwight Eisenhower, and even Gerald Ford.

And if we’re talking about the rest of the global roster of right-wing populists TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy focuses on today, things don’t look much better for The Donald. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, for instance, who has loosed his country’s police in a brutal killing campaign that’s littered Filipino urban landscapes with the bodies of thousands of drug pushers and users, stood at an 83% approval rating in January, down from his September 2016 high of 86%. Unfortunately for Trump, in the wake of the recent Obamacare fiasco, there’s no obvious way to recover domestically, no less soar to the heights presently reached by the Russian and Philippine strongmen. He does, however, have at his command something that neither Putin, Duterte, or any other populist figure can call upon: a military unparalleled on the planet — and don’t for a second think that, if things continue going this badly, it won’t cross his mind that creating his own “Crimea” might have certain plusses, that “bombing the shit” out of distant enemies (rather than murdering pushers at home) might perk up those polling figures a bit. Taking out enemies, as McCoy makes clear, is an eternally popular way for such politicians to make their mark. The only problem: if the U.S. military is unparalleled in its destructive power in these years, it’s also had an unparalleled inability to bring any conflict it enters to a positive conclusion or, as Trump puts it, to start “winning wars again.”

It’s a record that would worry any populist looking for advantage and it’s part of a larger historical record, now including the election of Donald J. Trump, which should bring the word “decline” (as in the decline and fall of…) to all our lips. Alfred McCoy has had that very word on his mind for a while. His timely new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, will be published this fall at a moment when all of this may seem far more obvious. In the meantime, on our increasingly fragmented, seemingly degrading planet, he does something you don’t often see and groups the whole crew of global populists of our moment in one place to consider just what we should make of their rise — and our potential fall.

(Reprinted from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
Tom Engelhardt
About Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tomdispatch.com is the sideline that ate his life. Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last three decades, as an editor in book publishing. For 15 years, he was Senior Editor at Pantheon Books where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman's Maus and John Dower's War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Metropolitan's The American Empire Project. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for Tomdispatch.com. He is married to Nancy J. Garrity, a therapist, and has two children, Maggie and Will.

His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books), has just been published.


Personal Classics
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower