It’s Also American Power. How is this line of Russian tanks that have been destroyed a picture of “American” power? Certainly the counter-offensive in Southern Ukraine that allowed the Ukrainians to retake Kherson puts an exclamation point on the courage, effectiveness, and brilliance of the Ukrainians in combatting the Russian invasion.
And that’s certainly the case.
At the same time, Ukrainian prowess also serves as a real time demonstration of American global pre-eminence. Russia remains a threat because of its nuclear stockpile, but it’s now clear that Russia isn’t strong enough to count as a primary or even a secondary rival to the U.S. The Ukraine invasion bogged down within a couple weeks as it became apparent that the Russians had a bad plan, bad tanks, and a poor command and control set up as well as unmotivated, untrained conscript troops. After 9 months, the Russian air wing still doesn’t have control of Ukrainian air space and the Russian navy has not been able to impose itself from the Black Sea. To the contrary, U.S. weapons, communications and political leadership have all been demonstrated to be top notch and are far superior to anything Russia has to offer. Before the Ukraine invasion, American military superiority was questioned after more than 30 years of being essentially unchallenged. But it’s been proven yet again that the U.S. military far outstrips its rivals in almost every way.
The Troubles. But if American military pre-eminence is more striking than ever, the U.S. is also an troubled, unstable, and potentially very dangerous country. America is a nation of unrivalled wealth and power with severe problems and the 45,000 annual gun deaths, raging opioid epidemic, decreasing life spans among the majority white population, and increasing wealth disparities have been getting worse. The military may be superior, but investment has fallen behind in almost all non-military sectors of American society and U.S. transportation, education, and health care do not compare well to other advanced industrial countries. Perhaps worse, the refusal to invest in these areas is now baked into the American political cake and there’s very little in the way of proposals for solutions or political will to change the situation.
Chronic Instability. American government and society have also become unstable during the seven years since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015. On Jan. 6, 2021, the United States came very close to having its government and constitutional system overthrown as a result of the MAGA assault on the Capitol. If MAGA insurrectionaries had caught Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and other Representatives and Senators, they would have carried out a massacre and kept Donald Trump in office as an authoritarian dictator. Insurrectionary pressure kept up throughout 2021 and early 2022 as Republicans placed more voting restrictions on Democratic constituencies, overturned the abortion rights guaranteed by the Roe v Wade decision and ran candidates eager to overturn future elections while also developing a new language of “groomers” and “pedos” to accuse LGBT’s, teachers, doctors, and Democrats more generally of conspiracy to sexualize and seduce young children. However, the most insurrectionary initiative of post-Jan. 6 Republicans was to refuse vaccinations against Covid. By refusing vaccination, rural Republicans in particular showed that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to refuse cooperation with a Democratic administration AND the large multicultural, socially liberal majority in American society.
The United States has become chronically unstable because of the relations between the three layers of the right-wing ecosystem. For the sprawling sphere of conservative/fascist activism, the main question is whether they’re willing to violently overthrow American government and society to bring American society back to the patriarchy and white supremacy of the White American Republic, i.e., “take back our country.” For the insurrectionaries who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the answer to that question is an obvious “yes” and the same is the case for Christian dominionists, election conspiracists, gun absolutists, and the wide variety of anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and anti-feminist fascists who are active in Republican politics and right-wing activism. For other activist conservative groups like CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) and Tucker Carlson of Fox News, the U.S.does not need a violent takeover and the right can establish a Hungarian style authoritarian regime if MAGAs could win couple more national elections. Whether it’s through violence or Hungarian style authoritarianism, most GOP activists seem committed to overthrowing the democratic political system in the U.S.
The larger layer of Republican voters and top layer of GOP elites and officeholders are much more attached to American political institutions and much more ambivalent about the idea of overthrowing democracy or returning to 1950’s style segregation and patriarchy. At present, that bottom and top attachment to traditional political institutions keeps GOP activists somewhat in check. However, it’s easy to imagine insurrectionist fervor boiling over again and the United States will be an unstable country as long as conservative activists are itching for new opportunities to overthrow the Constitutional system.