Stop thinking of this country as the sole superpower or the indispensable nation on Earth and start reimagining it as the great fracturer, the exceptional smasher, the indispensable fragmenter. Its wars of the twenty-first century are starting to come home big time — home being not just this particular country (though that’s true, too) but this planet. Though hardly alone, the U.S. is, for the moment, the most exceptional home-destroyer around and its president is now not just the commander-in-chief but the home-smasher-in-chief.
Just this week, for instance, home smashing was in the headlines. After all, the Islamic State’s “capital,” the city of Raqqa, was “liberated.” We won! The U.S. and the forces it backed in Syria were finally victorious and the brutal Islamic State (a home-smashing movement that emerged from an American military prison in Iraq) was finally driven from that city (almost!). And oh yes, according to witnesses, the former city of 300,000 lies abandoned with hardly a building left undamaged, unbroken, unsmashed. Over these last months, the American bombing campaign against Raqqa and the artillery support that went with it reportedly killed more than 1,000 civilians and turned significant parts of the city into rubble — and what that didn’t do, ISIS bombs and other munitions did. (According to estimates, they could take years to find and remove.) And Raqqa is just the latest Middle Eastern city to be smashed more or less to bits.
And since the splintering of the planet is the TomDispatch subject of the day, what about the recent Austrian election, fought out and won by right-wing “populists” on the basis of anti-refugee sentiments and Islamophobia? Where exactly did such sentiments come from? You know perfectly well: from America’s war on terror and the much-vaunted “precision warfare” (smart bombs and the rest) that continues to fracture a vast swath of the planet from Afghanistan to Libya and beyond. In the Greater Middle East and Africa, people by the tens of millions, including staggering numbers of children, have been uprooted and displaced, their homes destroyed, their cities and towns devastated, sending survivors fleeing across national borders as refugees in numbers that haven’t been seen since a significant part of the planet was leveled in World War II. In this way, America’s 16-year-old war on terror has been a genuine force for terror, and so for the kind of resentment and fear that’s now helping to crack open a recently united Europe (and in the United States helped elect… well, you know just who).
And that’s only a small introduction to the largely unexplored American role in the fracturing of this planet. Don’t even get me started on our president and climate change!
As it happens, the fellow who brought the nature of this splintering home to me was TomDispatch regular John Feffer, who in early 2015 began writing for this website what became his remarkable dystopian novel Splinterlands. In it, he imagined our shattered planet in 2050 so vividly that it’s stayed with me ever since — and evidently with him, too, because today he considers just how quickly the splintering process he imagined has been occurring not in his fictional version of our world, but in the all-too-real one.