Check out this article over on The Atlantic‘s website, The End of the American Century by George Packer. In it, Packer looks at the decline and fall of the American empire. He uses as his vehicle the life and career of the late Richard Holbrooke, who negotiated the end of the Bosnian war. For him, Holbrooke and his efforts at peacemaking represent the best that America can be, but also the worst, and he dates our decline from our rather underwhelming national performance in that effort.

Packer offers a number reasons for our stunning fall from sole-superpower status in the 1990s, when we were the undisputed leader of the world (both free and otherwise), to our rather pathetic condition now, a withering republic ruled by a illegitimate president, only counting the hours until China (or someone else) supplants us. But among those reasons was one in particular that struck me. To wit, he writes that our end began in 1998,  when, “The Republicans decided that destroying the president [Bill Clinton] was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped…”

And of course, that is absolutely right. Our government, and particularly (but not exclusively) the part of it that is run by the GOP, has spent two decades now doing nothing but attempting to destroy itself…

What is terrifying about that is that isn’t clear how we can pull back from that sort of behavior. Even now, even as Russian agents manipulate the White House, as China surges past us in power and influence, as Jihadists plot new mass murders…Trump tweets about shutting down SNL, Congressional Republicans drag out Hillary’s emails for one last tedious go, and Fox News dwells on the moral imperfection of Democrats, Progressives, and the crypto-communists under every bed.

And where have we seen this sort of thing before? Well, usually at the end of things…as when Roman generals saw no reason to confront the barbarians at the gate, not when there other Romans with whom to contend for supremacy.

It is thus not a promising sign that we have entered such a period in our history. Still, maybe there is hope, for sometimes…not always, but sometimes…there is a popular revulsion in a nation against the selfish aspirations of its leaders, against their blindness and self-regarding hubris. Sometimes…sometimes…the people rise up and sweep away the generals, the Senators, the Caesars …and establish in their place a nation of and by themselves…and which can defend itself from enemies exterior and within.

Let us aspire, then, to such a revulsion…

And dream of a nation reformed, renewed, and…






Michael Jay Tucker is the “sort of volunteer editor” of LR Net. He is also a writer and journalist who has published material on topics ranging from the Jazz Age to computers. (Among his small claims to fame is that he interviewed Steve Jobs just after that talented if complicated man got kicked out of Apple, and just before the company’s Board came begging him to come back.)

Tucker’s most recent book is Padre: To The Island, a meditation on life and death based on the passing of his own parents.

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