Alfred McCoy

US Imperial Decline in Geopolitical Perspective


Eurasia (orthographic projection). Credit: Keepscases / Wikimedia Commons

Historian Alfred McCoy has quickened my interest in the discourse of geopolitics applied to the waning state of US empire.  His book, In the Shadows of the American Century:  The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (Chicago:  Haymarket Books, 2017), makes a clear case that the end of global dominance is near.  The question is what kinds of disruption and what degree of violence the imperial fall will occasion.  What might a post-imperial era mean for Americans and others caught up in the transition?  From the perspective of geopolitics, McCoy sees a number of mostly disturbing possibilities.  His observations are valuable for indicating the challenges ahead.  (more…)

Trump the Strawman


President Donald J. Trump is greeted by Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, for their second summit meeting. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump’s fizzled summit meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is yet another occasion for commentary on this president’s unfitness for office, particularly in matters of foreign affairs.  The failure in Hanoi was Trump’s greatest blunder so far, according to Simon Tisdall, a foreign affairs commentator for the Guardian.  It was another “Trump vanity project.”  His “self-reverential style of personalized, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants diplomacy” is irresponsible in nuclear talks, per se, and ineffectual more generally.

Tisdall’s summary of Trump’s failed leadership is stunning: (more…)

Ending Endless War?

U.S. Army vehicles in Afghanistan. (Credit:  U.S. Army)

U.S. Army vehicles in Afghanistan. (Credit: U.S. Army)

Has the regime of continuous warfare finally run its course?

Scanning recent commentary on US military engagements, I noted an emerging sense of America as a wandering empire, meandering from one engagement to the next and back again, as if it lacked an agenda for militarism other than war for war’s sake. Perhaps US imperialism is a spent project and the time has arrived to consider a different way of engaging the world?

The editors of The Nation raised a version of this question when they asked, “What’s wrong with Obama’s decision to keep troops in Afghanistan”? Their answer—that those troops are propping up an unpopular government’s tenuous grip on power—prompted them to conclude that Congress’ post-9/11 “blank check for endless war” has left the US and its military forces lacking a strategy other than “eternal conflict, which has only fueled regional chaos, provoked more terrorism, and led to a catastrophic refugee crisis. It is time for an end to endless war.” (more…)

Too Bad to be True

Statue of Liberty. (Credit: Derek Jensen)

Statue of Liberty. (Credit: Derek Jensen)

One nasty attribute of U.S. exceptionalism in this era of perpetual war is the endless exemptions America gives itself from the constraints of international law.

As historian Alfred McCoy observes, the U.S. routinely defies the very rules it helped to write for an international community of nations governed by law. The sum of exceptions includes “endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes in defiance of national boundaries, torture on demand, and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy.” Why do Americans so seldom perceive this lawbreaking record as jarring and disconcerting? (more…)