If you think of the age of Trump as a spectator sport, then perhaps the truly riveting show isn’t on the president’s Twitter feed or in his latest shout-outs to the press or at another of those “cabinet meetings” where everyone is obliged to publicly praise you-know-perfectly-well-who (and so does he). I wouldn’t for a second claim that any of those weren’t spectacles in a media world in which the very word “spectacle” is now spelled D-o-n-a-l-d-T-r-u-m-p. Still, if you’re into such things, I don’t think there’s a better one around than watching the president and his crew assiduously working to dismantle, piece by piece, an American imperial system, a genuine world order, that was almost three-quarters of a century in the making.
From his regular swipes at NATO to those threatened tariffs on German cars, from the ditching of the Iran nuclear pact to the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, from the cutting of U.N. peacekeeping funds to leaving the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, from the threats against the international criminal court to those leveled at just about any trade pact in sight, America First has turned out to be a curious kind of America Second policy. After all, the structure of much of our planet since the middle of the last century has been an America First one (even if Donald Trump is clueless on the subject). Now, it’s being ditched and, in doing so, The Donald seems to be speeding up a process that, historically speaking, was already underway.
In that context, TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy, author of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, offers a monumental look at what American decline is likely to mean in the context of the collapse of past world orders and on a planet that, thanks to climate change, seems to be in its own kind of decline.