Poetic Justice

I have now lived to see six different American presidents, starting from George H.W. Bush to what is now the Biden presidency. I have always been a keen observer of things from a young age, and cursed with somewhat of a photographic memory. What I can attest to is that at least from a psychosocial standpoint – and if we put aside the economic and material factors – life has gotten progressively worse for Americans over the course of these six presidencies, not better. It has gotten so bad, that we are now at a point where the opposing political party in America’s two-party political system is speaking of carrying out a “Myanmar-like military coup” in order to seize and maintain power so that the opposing party never takes power again.

            Ironically, in an “Institutions and Processes” class I took as a grad student studying American foreign policy at American University, we once discussed the possibility of a military coup in the United States over a class assignment. Prior to that, a history professor pondered over the possibility of such an occurrence in the United States when I was an undergraduate student. Obviously, I was too naïve to understand the gravity of such a scenario at such a young age. As Aristotle once wrote, it is useless to teach a young person political science unless they have lived through it. Well now I am living through it, and all those in-class discussions about the possibility of a military coup in the United States are being discussed out in the open in mainstream American society.

            In trying to grapple with why the political situation has become so bizarre in the United States, one must turn to the nexus between domestic policy and foreign policy. Although many armchair intellectuals and people in comfy or sinecure positions wish to de-couple these two things, domestic policy and foreign policy are very much intertwined. Grave follies in Afghanistan and Iraq are directly connected with the political situation in the United States today. After all, and as the former CIA agent Milton Bearden once wrote, Afghanistan is “The Graveyard of Empires.” One need not go beyond the British and Soviet experience to arrive at this conclusion. As a result, a declining America is juxtaposed with a rising China within the international system due to America’s grave follies overseas in the course of the last two decades.

But on the bright side, the end of American global hegemony heralds a new stage in American foreign policy, namely, the age of globalization. The whole point of analysis or leadership is to figure out where things are headed. As Mao Zedong said: “The cardinal responsibility of leadership is to identify the dominant contradiction at each point of the historical process and to work out a central line to resolve it.” As the strategic context for foreign policy shifts from one based on global hegemony to one based on globalization, so will the strategy. Thus, the worship of “hard power” is relinquished in favor of a focus on either “soft power” or “smart power” when dealing with other countries and nations. Social issues are very much at the forefront of a globalized age, given that the end of global hegemony means the end of an addiction to the employment of militaries and money in order to bend the will of other nations. These social issues pertain to race and sexuality to a high degree, given that a globalized age coincides with a postmodern epoch in an intellectual and philosophical sense.

And when it comes to these issues – namely, race and sexuality – countries like Iran, Russia, and China are far more progressive than the United States. Thus, in an age where power is derived from a reckoning with issues such as race and sexuality, Iran, Russia, and China are far more powerful than the United States. In fact, issues such as race and sexuality have gotten more controversial and worse over time in the United States, not better. Energy and momentum are very much in favor of China in the international system, and Iran and Russia have largely banded with the Chinese when it comes to international politics. Moreover, after 500 years of Western domination over the international system, things are going back to normal in the sense that the Middle East (Iran) and Asia (China) dominated their respective regions.

Now, the balance of power favors them in both the Middle East and Asia after 500 years of Western domination. Is this “Poetic Justice”? Or will the pendulum settle somewhere in the middle whereby equilibrium is established in the international system between East and West? How things turn out is very much connected with one’s approach towards China, as well as America’s reckoning with the end of global hegemony and thus reality in a globalized and postmodern setting in the international system. Otherwise, denial and delusion will merely lead to a worsening of the situation, and it will also lead to cognitive dissonance and a major migraine headache.

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