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

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

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

As for me, I’ve always thought that TomDispatch represented my youthful urge to serve transferred to another dimension, my own aging version of citizen diplomacy. But enough about me. Consider instead what McCoy has to say about a world increasingly in chaos and what might be lost in it.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, North Korea 
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  1. repeating my comments from the article with one add on . . .

    I think it’s best to set reality to the real politic of which speak. The decline whether permanent, or just a temporary depression cannot be pinned to the current president, A slew of lousy strategic decisions have paved the way for our current course. And I m not talking about Vietnam a war that was horrible because we got a look first hand night after night of how all wars look — day after day and night after night — horror — such is war. And we know this because we have countless and countless renditions of what takes place in battle have been recorded in words, listened to via radio, filmed in stills and live action since ancient times. Soldier after soldier have rent asunder telling the insanity of killing another human being.

    It’s not what has or is happening outside the body that is eating us away. It has been a series of internal devastating choices regarding who we are. It has been monumental and small decisions of that violate ethics, rule of law (an over used phrase like law and order). And nothing reveals that in our history has been our seemingly easy means of embracing, and explaining away out hypocrisy and an inability to keep our word.

    Those are internal issues not external. We need to work on out infrastructure and the least of it relates to mortar and steel.

    I did not vote for the previous president. But there’s only one reason I can think of that has the current president tied up in knows about the previous executive and it’s not his policies. It is beyond strange in my view. I did vote for this president and his animosity for the previous executive interfering with his judgement in my view. And this business about the nobel peace prize — and those heck bent on promoting it — is a darkness, I don’t even want to contemplate is real.

    But I fear is real — ancient curse and wound we delivered to ourselves — may have nailed it. I hope not. Percy Walker (The American Conservative article by Ralph C. wood)

  2. We never were “America”. There were, originally, thirteen squabbling colonial states, each with it’s own particular culture. The squabbling boiled over several time as the colonies fought with each other over just what the new nation should look like.
    The last big fight was the war between the states. After that, the nation became consolidated, the nation of the victors, as is always the case.
    No longer individual states united, but one singularity, America, to be ruled from the Supreme Court. No law could be passed unless it was agreed to by the court. Court opinion varied based on the personalities of it’s constituents, and always whichever way the political wind was blowing.
    And America, as constituted in 1865, has evolved into what it is today. The national anthem, ironically, ends with a question. Increasingly, the answer is no.

  3. Rational says:


    VAWA is the most draconian, brazenly unconstitutional, anti-male, anti family illegal “law” on the books. Yet, men have been unable to make a dent in this barbaric law or get it repealed.

    Just imagine: A man comes back from work with flowers in his hand in an attempt to please his wife. He imagines that he will come home and relax, have a good dinner with his family, and after a long day at work.

    As he walks up to his door step, he finds papers stuck to his door, with his name on them. On reviewing them, he realizes it is an exparte restraining order against him which orders him that he should not enter HIS OWN house or contact his wife.

    He can’t even ask her—what’s all this about. Or why. Because if he does, he could be arrested and imprisoned.

    He has to turn back and go stay in a hotel. He has no change of clothes, he cannot access his work papers, and could get fired, or his checkbook to hire a lawyer, or his home computer, or talk to his children, even just to make sure they are safe, all the while the VAWA whore keeps playing this game.

    This happens every day, to thousands of men, most of them totally innocent. Only in America.

    VAWA whores start realizing that the legal system joke and lying pays. As a result, VAWA whores are more likely to turn to drugs, prostitution and all sorts of crime. Since VAWA, crime, even violent crime, among women has mushroomed out of control.

    Men need to set up websites and organize to repeatedly take VAWA up to Supreme Court and get this barbaric law repealed.

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