As Lao Tzu famously said: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Thus, many experts and scholars – one of which I mentioned in the previous post – have predicted that Washington is headed towards doom and gloom based on a number of economic, political, and social indices and metrics. The economic symptoms of collapse began with the 2008 global financial crisis, as well as spending trillions of dollars on unnecessary wars. Thus the 2008 global financial crisis – combined with the effects of trillions of dollars spent on unnecessary wars – has led to the inflation and shortages we are seeing in the United States at the moment. Combine the policy of sanctions with the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis and the effects of unnecessary wars, and you get a broader explanation for the inflation and shortages of the present moment. Also, seeing a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh before the president was set to give a speech there on infrastructure is a harbinger for what may come in the years ahead.
Moreover, the economic symptoms of doom and gloom are intertwined with both the political symptoms and social symptoms of doom and gloom in Washington. In a book titled “In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Anti-Democratic Politics in the West,” the author Wendy Brown argues that “neoliberal rationality prepared the ground for the mobilization and legitimacy of ferocious antidemocratic forces in the second decade of the twenty-first century.” One of the major antidemocratic forces to arise in the Western world and thus one of the major political and social symptoms of doom and gloom was the Trump-inspired populism we have witnessed over the course of the last few years in the United States.
Jean-Michel Paul, in a book titled “The Economics of Discontent: From Failing Elites to the Rise of Populism,” also argues that the main impetus behind the political and social dimensions of populism are economic conditions. Paul wrote:
“The logic of populism may be deeply rooted in the rational economic grievances of the over-burdened members of society who have now become the dissenting majority. But it also incorporates emotional and cultural components that cannot be wished away. What can and should be done, with all urgency, is to dial down the economic pressure on the dissenting majority and to restore the capacity of the state to play its role, not in place of the markets, but as the steel skeleton, the provider of structure and infrastructure, within which markets operate. This will buy time for politics to address these cultural grievances without jeopardizing our economies and the gains we have collectively achieved through global economic cooperation.”
Thus, the economic dimension of impending doom and gloom is intertwined with both the political and social dimensions of doom and gloom. But while Brown and Paul argue that the economic dimension is the cause behind the political and social dimensions of doom and gloom, some have flipped the cause and effect. Joseph A. Tainter, in a book titled “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” has argued: “A society has collapsed when it displays a rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity.”
Andrei Martyanov, in a book titled “Disintegration: Indicators of the Coming American Collapse,” has argued that the impending doom and gloom in Washington results from an “interplay” of “calamitous forces.” These “calamitous forces” are America’s “media-intellectual elites,” economic and military forces, and also racial and ethnic divisions. In turn, the impending doom and gloom stemming from the “interplay” of these “calamitous forces” has led to the decline of America’s military power which has underpinned the American-led global order for a number of decades. In a book titled “Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning,” Martyanov argues that while the United States “lays claim to a whole set of interests which are global in scale…once the realities of the American experience in continental warfare are understood, they hardly testify to the US being the continental warfare power it claims to be.” Martyanov adds:
“For a nation whose foreign policy elite, mostly made up of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, count the US as a source of benevolent hegemony or even call it a benevolent empire, its continental warfare record is not that impressive. That record would have been no issue if the United States hadn’t based her real and perceived hegemony on military power, but that is not the case.”
Watching a puppet government in Afghanistan collapse in ten days – despite all the military aid and training that was provided to it over the course of about two decades – reinforces Martyanov’s argument. But as mentioned on a number of occasions, the most important part of military and strategic planning is foresight and intuition, which is something that is lacking in Washington’s strategic planning. I will end this blog post with a quote from Joseph Schumpeter, upon which all of us should reflect for the time being:
“The success of everything depends on intuition, the capacity of seeing things in a way which afterwards proves to be true, even though it cannot be established at the moment, and of grasping the essential fact, discarding the inessential, even though one can give no account of the principles by which this is done.”