Andrew Bacevich: How the US Blew the Post-Cold-War Era

Yves here. While this account is useful, it omits two events I regard as key. One is how the US was singularly responsible for the plutocratic land grab in post-Soviet Russia (see How Harvard Lost Russia), which led to a stunning fall in male lifespans, a rise of a class of oligarchs, which in turn led to the rise of Putin, whose success resulted from reining in the oligarchs to a degree and delivering a sustained improvement in economic conditions for ordinary people. The US fondness for neoliberal projects all over the world has not done much for international stability. But that is a feature, not a bug, for members of the industrial/surveillance complex.

Second is the fact that under Clinton, the US began to move NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries, contrary to a promise made by James Baker to Gorbachev. The Russians apparently regarded this as binding, while the legalistic US took the position that unless it was in writing, it didn’t count. George Kennan, hardly a slouch in the Cold Warrior department, said it would prove to be the worst geopolitical mistake the US had ever made in the modern era.

 By Andrew J. Bacevich, professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. Originally published at TomDispatch

The fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 abruptly ended one historical era and inaugurated another. So, too, did the outcome of last year’s U.S. presidential election. What are we to make of the interval between those two watershed moments? Answering that question is essential to understanding how Donald Trump became president and where his ascendency leaves us.

Hardly had this period commenced before observers fell into the habit of referring to it as the “post-Cold War” era. Now that it’s over, a more descriptive name might be in order.  My suggestion: America’s Age of Great Expectations. 

Forgive and Forget

The end of the Cold War caught the United States completely by surprise.  During the 1980s, even with Mikhail Gorbachev running the Kremlin, few in Washington questioned the prevailing conviction that the Soviet-American rivalry was and would remain a defining feature of international politics more or less in perpetuity. Indeed, endorsing such an assumption was among the prerequisites for gaining entrée to official circles. Virtually no one in the American establishment gave serious thought to the here-today, gone-tomorrow possibility that the Soviet threat, the Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself might someday vanish. Washington had plans aplenty for what to do should a Third World War erupt, but none for what to do if the prospect of such a climactic conflict simply disappeared.

Still, without missing a beat, when the Berlin Wall fell and two years later the Soviet Union imploded, leading members of that establishment wasted no time in explaining the implications of developments they had totally failed to anticipate.  With something close to unanimity, politicians and policy-oriented intellectuals interpreted the unification of Berlin and the ensuing collapse of communism as an all-American victory of cosmic proportions.  “We” had won, “they” had lost — with that outcome vindicating everything the United States represented as the archetype of freedom.

From within the confines of that establishment, one rising young intellectual audaciously suggested that the “end of history” itself might be at hand, with the “sole superpower” left standing now perfectly positioned to determine the future of all humankind.  In Washington, various powers-that-be considered this hypothesis and concluded that it sounded just about right.  The future took on the appearance of a blank slate upon which Destiny itself was inviting Americans to inscribe their intentions.

American elites might, of course, have assigned a far different, less celebratory meaning to the passing of the Cold War. They might have seen the outcome as a moment that called for regret, repentance, and making amends.

After all, the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, or more broadly between what was then called the Free World and the Communist bloc, had yielded a host of baleful effects.  An arms race between two superpowers had created monstrous nuclear arsenals and, on multiple occasions, brought the planet precariously close to Armageddon.  Two singularly inglorious wars had claimed the lives of many tens of thousands of American soldiers and literally millions of Asians.  One, on the Korean peninsula, had ended in an unsatisfactory draw; the other, in Southeast Asia, in catastrophic defeat.  Proxy fights in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East killed so many more and laid waste to whole countries.  Cold War obsessions led Washington to overthrow democratic governments, connive in assassination, make common cause with corrupt dictators, and turn a blind eye to genocidal violence.  On the home front, hysteria compromised civil liberties and fostered a sprawling, intrusive, and unaccountable national security apparatus.  Meanwhile, the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries conspired to spend vast sums on weapons purchases that somehow never seemed adequate to the putative dangers at hand.  

Rather than reflecting on such somber and sordid matters, however, the American political establishment together with ambitious members of the country’s intelligentsia found it so much more expedient simply to move on. As they saw it, the annus mirabilis of 1989 wiped away the sins of former years. Eager to make a fresh start, Washington granted itself a plenary indulgence. After all, why contemplate past unpleasantness when a future so stunningly rich in promise now beckoned?

Three Big Ideas and a Dubious Corollary

Soon enough, that promise found concrete expression. In remarkably short order, three themes emerged to define the new American age.  Informing each of them was a sense of exuberant anticipation toward an era of almost unimaginable expectations. The twentieth century was ending on a high note.  For the planet as a whole but especially for the United States, great things lay ahead.

Focused on the world economy, the first of those themes emphasized the transformative potential of turbocharged globalization led by U.S.-based financial institutions and transnational corporations.  An “open world” would facilitate the movement of goods, capital, ideas, and people and thereby create wealth on an unprecedented scale.  In the process, the rules governing American-style corporate capitalism would come to prevail everywhere on the planet.  Everyone would benefit, but especially Americans who would continue to enjoy more than their fair share of material abundance.

Focused on statecraft, the second theme spelled out the implications of an international order dominated as never before — not even in the heydays of the Roman and British Empires — by a single nation. With the passing of the Cold War, the United States now stood apart as both supreme power and irreplaceable global leader, its status guaranteed by its unstoppable military might.

In the editorial offices of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and the Weekly Standard, such “truths” achieved a self-evident status.  Although more muted in their public pronouncements than Washington’s reigning pundits, officials enjoying access to the Oval Office, the State Department’s 7th floor, and the E-ring of the Pentagon generally agreed.  The assertive exercise of (benign!) global hegemony seemingly held the key to ensuring that Americans would enjoy safety and security, both at home and abroad, now and in perpetuity.

The third theme was all about rethinking the concept of personal freedom as commonly understood and pursued by most Americans.  During the protracted emergency of the Cold War, reaching an accommodation between freedom and the putative imperatives of national security had not come easily.  Cold War-style patriotism seemingly prioritized the interests of the state at the expense of the individual.  Yet even as thrillingly expressed by John F. Kennedy — “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” — this was never an easy sell, especially if it meant wading through rice paddies and getting shot at.

Once the Cold War ended, however, the tension between individual freedom and national security momentarily dissipated.  Reigning conceptions of what freedom could or should entail underwent a radical transformation.  Emphasizing the removal of restraints and inhibitions, the shift made itself felt everywhere, from patterns of consumption and modes of cultural expression to sexuality and the definition of the family.  Norms that had prevailed for decades if not generations — marriage as a union between a man and a woman, gender identity as fixed at birth — became passé. The concept of a transcendent common good, which during the Cold War had taken a backseat to national security, now took a backseat to maximizing individual choice and autonomy.

Finally, as a complement to these themes, in the realm of governance, the end of the Cold War cemented the status of the president as quasi-deity.  In the Age of Great Expectations, the myth of the president as a deliverer from (or, in the eyes of critics, the ultimate perpetrator of) evil flourished.  In the solar system of American politics, the man in the White House increasingly became the sun around which everything seemed to orbit.  By comparison, nothing else much mattered.

From one administration to the next, of course, presidential efforts to deliver Americans to the Promised Land regularly came up short.  Even so, the political establishment and the establishment media collaborated in sustaining the pretense that out of the next endlessly hyped “race for the White House,” another Roosevelt or Kennedy or Reagan would magically emerge to save the nation.  From one election cycle to the next, these campaigns became longer and more expensive, drearier and yet ever more circus-like.  No matter.  During the Age of Great Expectations, the reflexive tendency to see the president as the ultimate guarantor of American abundance, security, and freedom remained sacrosanct.


Meanwhile, between promise and reality, a yawning gap began to appear. During the concluding decade of the twentieth century and the first decade-and-a-half of the twenty-first, Americans endured a seemingly endless series of crises.  Individually, none of these merit comparison with, say, the Civil War or World War II.  Yet never in U.S. history has a sequence of events occurring in such close proximity subjected American institutions and the American people to greater stress.

During the decade between 1998 and 2008, they came on with startling regularity: one president impeached and his successor chosen by the direct intervention of the Supreme Court; a massive terrorist attack on American soil that killed thousands, traumatized the nation, and left senior officials bereft of their senses; a mindless, needless, and unsuccessful war of choice launched on the basis of false claims and outright lies; a natural disaster (exacerbated by engineering folly) that all but destroyed a major American city, after which government agencies mounted a belated and half-hearted response; and finally, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, bringing ruin to millions of families.

For the sake of completeness, we should append to this roster of seismic occurrences one additional event: Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president.  He arrived at the zenith of American political life as a seemingly messianic figure called upon not only to undo the damage wrought by his predecessor, George W. Bush, but somehow to absolve the nation of its original sins of slavery and racism.

Yet during the Obama presidency race relations, in fact, deteriorated.  Whether prompted by cynical political calculations or a crass desire to boost ratings, race baiters came out of the woodwork — one of them, of course, infamously birthered in Trump Tower in mid-Manhattan — and poured their poisons into the body politic.  Even so, as the end of Obama’s term approached, the cult of the presidency itself remained remarkably intact.

Individually, the impact of these various crises ranged from disconcerting to debilitating to horrifying.  Yet to treat them separately is to overlook their collective implications, which the election of Donald Trump only now enables us to appreciate.  It was not one president’s dalliance with an intern orhanging chadsor 9/11 orMission Accomplishedor the inundation of the Lower Ninth Ward or the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the absurd birther movement that undermined the Age of Great Expectations.  It was the way all these events together exposed those expectations as radically suspect.

In effect, the various crises that punctuated the post-Cold War era called into question key themes to which a fevered American triumphalism had given rise.  Globalization, militarized hegemony, and a more expansive definition of freedom, guided by enlightened presidents in tune with the times, should have provided Americans with all the blessings that were rightly theirs as a consequence of having prevailed in the Cold War.  Instead, between 1989 and 2016, things kept happening that weren’t supposed to happen. A future marketed as all but foreordained proved elusive, if not illusory.  As actually experienced, the Age of Great Expectations became an Age of Unwelcome Surprises.

A Candidate for Decline

True, globalization created wealth on a vast scale, just not for ordinary Americans.  The already well-to-do did splendidly, in some cases unbelievably so.  But middle-class incomes stagnated and good jobs became increasingly hard to find or keep.  By the election of 2016, the United States looked increasingly like a society divided between haves and have-nots, the affluent and the left-behind, the 1% and everyone else. Prospective voters were noticing.

Meanwhile, policies inspired by Washington’s soaring hegemonic ambitions produced remarkably few happy outcomes.  With U.S. forces continuously engaged in combat operations, peace all but vanished as a policy objective (or even a word in Washington’s political lexicon). The acknowledged standing of the country’s military as the world’s best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led force coexisted uneasily with the fact that it proved unable to win. Instead, the national security establishment became conditioned to the idea of permanent war, high-ranking officials taking it for granted that ordinary citizens would simply accommodate themselves to this new reality. Yet it soon became apparent that, instead of giving ordinary Americans a sense of security, this new paradigm induced an acute sense of vulnerability, which left many susceptible to demagogic fear mongering.

As for the revised definition of freedom, with autonomy emerging as the national summum bonum, it left some satisfied but others adrift.  During the Age of Great Expectations, distinctions between citizen and consumer blurred.  Shopping became tantamount to a civic obligation, essential to keeping the economy afloat.  Yet if all the hoopla surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday represented a celebration of American freedom, its satisfactions were transitory at best, rarely extending beyond the due date printed on a credit card statement.  Meanwhile, as digital connections displaced personal ones, relationships, like jobs, became more contingent and temporary.  Loneliness emerged as an abiding affliction.  Meanwhile, for all the talk of empowering the marginalized — people of color, women, gays — elites reaped the lion’s share of the benefits while ordinary people were left to make do.  The atmosphere was rife with hypocrisy and even a whiff of nihilism.

To these various contradictions, the establishment itself remained stubbornly oblivious, with the 2016 presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton offering a case in point.  As her long record in public life made abundantly clear, Clinton embodied the establishment in the Age of Great Expectations.  She believed in globalization, in the indispensability of American leadership backed by military power, and in the post-Cold War cultural project.  And she certainly believed in the presidency as the mechanism to translate aspirations into outcomes.

Such commonplace convictions of the era, along with her vanguard role in pressing for the empowerment of women, imparted to her run an air of inevitability.  That she deserved to win appeared self-evident. It was, after all, her turn.  Largely overlooked were signs that the abiding themes of the Age of Great Expectations no longer commanded automatic allegiance.

Gasping for Air

Senator Bernie Sanders offered one of those signs.  That a past-his-prime, self-professed socialist from Vermont with a negligible record of legislative achievement and tenuous links to the Democratic Party might mount a serious challenge to Clinton seemed, on the face of it, absurd.  Yet by zeroing in on unfairness and inequality as inevitable byproducts of globalization, Sanders struck a chord.

Knocked briefly off balance, Clinton responded by modifying certain of her longstanding positions. By backing away from free trade, the ne plus ultra of globalization, she managed, though not without difficulty, to defeat the Sanders insurgency.  Even so, he, in effect, served as the canary in the establishment coal mine, signaling that the Age of Great Expectations might be running out of oxygen.

A parallel and far stranger insurgency was simultaneously wreaking havoc in the Republican Party.  That a narcissistic political neophyte stood the slightest chance of capturing the GOP seemed even more improbable than Sanders taking a nomination that appeared Clinton’s by right.

Coarse, vulgar, unprincipled, uninformed, erratic, and with little regard for truth, Trump was sui generis among presidential candidates.  Yet he possessed a singular gift: a knack for riling up those who nurse gripes and are keen to pin the blame on someone or something.  In post-Cold War America, among the millions that Hillary Clinton was famously dismissing as “deplorables,” gripes had been ripening like cheese in a hothouse.

Through whatever combination of intuition and malice aforethought, Trump demonstrated a genius for motivating those deplorables.  He pushed their buttons.  They responded by turning out in droves to attend his rallies. There they listened to a message that they found compelling.

In Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” his followers heard a promise to restore everything they believed had been taken from them in the Age of Great Expectations.  Globalization was neither beneficial nor inevitable, the candidate insisted, and vowed, once elected, to curb its effects along with the excesses of corporate capitalism, thereby bringing back millions of lost jobs from overseas.  He would, he swore, fund a massive infrastructure program, cut taxes, keep a lid on the national debt, and generally champion the cause of working stiffs.  The many complications and contradictions inherent in these various prescriptions would, he assured his fans, give way to his business savvy. 

In considering America’s role in the post-Cold War world, Trump exhibited a similar impatience with the status quo.  Rather than allowing armed conflicts to drag on forever, he promised to win them (putting to work his mastery of military affairs) or, if not, to quit and get out, pausing just long enough to claim as a sort of consolation prize whatever spoils might be lying loose on the battlefield.  At the very least, he would prevent so-called allies from treating the United States like some patsy. Henceforth, nations benefitting from American protection were going to foot their share of the bill.  What all of this added up to may not have been clear, but it did suggest a sharp departure from the usual post-1989 formula for exercising global leadership.

No less important than Trump’s semi-coherent critique of globalization and American globalism, however, was his success in channeling the discontent of all those who nursed an inchoate sense that post-Cold War freedoms might be working for some, but not for them.

Not that Trump had anything to say about whether freedom confers obligations, or whether conspicuous consumption might not actually hold the key to human happiness, or any of the various controversies related to gender, sexuality, and family.  He was indifferent to all such matters.  He was, however, distinctly able to offer his followers a grimly persuasive explanation for how America had gone off course and how the blessings of liberties to which they were entitled had been stolen.  He did that by fingering as scapegoats Muslims, Mexicans, and others “not-like-me.”

Trump’s political strategy reduced to this: as president, he would overturn the conventions that had governed right thinking since the end of the Cold War.  To the amazement of an establishment grown smug and lazy, his approach worked.  Even while disregarding all received wisdom when it came to organizing and conducting a presidential campaign in the Age of Great Expectations, Trump won.  He did so by enchanting the disenchanted, all those who had lost faith in the promises that had sprung from the bosom of the elites that the end of the Cold War had taken by surprise.

Adrift Without a Compass

Within hours of Trump’s election, among progressives, expressing fear and trepidation at the prospect of what he might actually do on assuming office became de rigueur.  Yet those who had actually voted for Trump were also left wondering what to expect.  Both camps assign him the status of a transformative historical figure.  However, premonitions of incipient fascism and hopes that he will engineer a new American Golden Age are likely to prove similarly misplaced.  To focus on the man himself rather than on the circumstances that produced him is to miss the significance of what has occurred.

Note, for example, that his mandate is almost entirely negative.  It centers on rejection: of globalization, of counterproductive military meddling, and of the post-Cold War cultural project.  Yet neither Trump nor any of his surrogates has offered a coherent alternative to the triad of themes providing the through line for the last quarter-century of American history.  Apart a lingering conviction that forceful — in The Donald’s case, blustering — presidential leadership can somehow turn things around, “Trumpism” is a dog’s breakfast.

In all likelihood, his presidency will prove less transformative than transitional. As a result, concerns about what he may do, however worrisome, matter less than the larger question of where we go from here.  The principles that enjoyed favor following the Cold War have been found wanting. What should replace them?

Efforts to identify those principles should begin with an honest accounting of the age we are now leaving behind, the history that happened after “the end of history.”  That accounting should, in turn, allow room for regret, repentance, and making amends — the very critical appraisal that ought to have occurred at the end of the Cold War but was preempted when American elites succumbed to their bout of victory disease.

Don’t expect Donald Trump to undertake any such appraisal.  Nor will the establishment that candidate Trump so roundly denounced, but which President-elect Trump, at least in his senior national security appointments, now shows sign of accommodating.  Those expecting Trump’s election to inject courage into members of the political class or imagination into inside-the-Beltway “thought leaders” are in for a disappointment. So the principles we need — an approach to political economy providing sustainable and equitable prosperity; a foreign policy that discards militarism in favor of prudence and pragmatism; and an enriched, inclusive concept of freedom — will have to come from somewhere else.

“Where there is no vision,” the Book of Proverbs tells us, “the people perish.”  In the present day, there is no vision to which Americans collectively adhere.  For proof, we need look no further than the election of Donald Trump.

The Age of Great Expectations has ended, leaving behind an ominous void.  Yet Trump’s own inability to explain what should fill that great void provides neither excuse for inaction nor cause for despair.  Instead, Trump himself makes manifest the need to reflect on the nation’s recent past and to think deeply about its future.

A decade before the Cold War ended, writing in democracy, a short-lived journal devoted to “political renewal and radical change,” the historian and social critic Christopher Lasch sketched out a set of principles that might lead us out of our current crisis. Lasch called for a politics based on “the nurture of the soil against the exploitation of resources, the family against the factory, the romantic vision of the individual against the technological vision, [and] localism over democratic centralism.” Nearly a half-century later, as a place to begin, his prescription remains apt.

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  1. vidimi

    Lasch called for a politics based on “the nurture of the soil against the exploitation of resources, the family against the factory, the romantic vision of the individual against the technological vision, [and] localism over democratic centralism.” Nearly a half-century later, as a place to begin, his prescription remains apt.

    even better would be the co-operative vision of the community against the romantic vision of the individual

    just one nit-pick in an otherwise fine article

  2. vlade

    I’m sorry Yves, but I don’t buy your narrative “NATO broke the promise” . NATO’s promise to Gorbatchev was not to deploy non-GERMAN troops in what used to be GDR. That was 1990s promise that Baker gave to Gorbatchev (and this is confirmed by Gorbatchev, see Baker did say “no inch east” in the opening stages of the discussion with Gorbatchev, but the ultimate agreement was only German troops in GDR (and that was enshrined in law, both German and international). I’d point out that one of the ideas Gorbatchev discussed there was to include Russia in NATO as well, as part of the supra-European security structure.

    Now, Gorbatchev also now says NATO expansion in 1993 was a mistake, and that it was against the spirit of what was discussed in 1990. But then you have to also look at the countries themselves, who were all pushing VERY hard to get into NATO, as they saw it (rightly or wrongly) as the only way how to get out of the Russian sphere of influence (much more so than EU accession). Especially Poland in its history was overrun by Russians at least once a century since about 1600s, and twice (or three times, depends on whether you count M-R pact in the post WW2 spoils division or not) in the 20th alone.

    I actually spoke to some people on the Czech side who were involved in the talks at the highest level (close to then Czech president Vaclav Havel), and US, including the US military, was very much against the expansion, and the Visegrad Four had to lobby with Clinton very very hard to get it.

    So the agency wasn’t NATOs, or even US military – that’s a very US centric view of the world that denies the people of anyone who isn’t US a say in their future – and I’d point out that regimes in those countries at the time were entirely legitimate, and NATO membership was (and still is) is supported by most of the populace there – seen exactly as about the only shield from Russian expansionist (which taking over Crimea did little to soothe).

    The problem wasn’t NATO expansion per se (in the 1990s). The problem was that US saw themselves as the victors in the Cold War, and showed (as per usual) little manganimity and understanding for the former foe. Almost as little as the Allies showed to Central Powers after WW1 and the disaster that casued later on, except now we have nukes.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, I think the history is very tangled. Certainly there was a very determined push by east European countries to get NATO and EU membership – probably even more for the former than the latter. From the 20th Century perspective of living anywhere east of Berlin or Vienna, the USSR/Russia always seemed the biggest threat to freedom and independence for the majority. Much of this I think arose from the perception of Germany (also of course an historic aggressor) as having been completely tamed and defeated post 1945. Its notable of course that even the new wave of anti-EU politician in eastern Europe tend to be quite pro-Nato (with some exceptions).

      But I think there was a lot of muddled thinking and bad faith on the part of both western Europeans and the US in the 1990’s. There was certainly open contempt for Russia in the 1990’s and a feeling they could be made do what they wanted. A policy which showed more consideration of Russian sensibilities would have been to focus on EU membership first, and perhaps a sort of softer NATO membership that would have specifically excluded foreign bases on those countries soil, but would have given more reassurances of protection in the event of Russian hostility would have been more appropriate. I think there are lots of echoes of pre-WWI in having what was originally a tight set of agreements between major powers aimed at a specific threat being extended much wider over small unstable countries.

      1. Tigerlily

        A policy which showed more consideration of Russian sensibilities would have been to focus on EU membership first, and perhaps a sort of softer NATO membership that would have specifically excluded foreign bases on those countries soil, but would have given more reassurances of protection in the event of Russian hostility would have been more appropriate.

        If NATO had in fact promised not to deploy any forces in Eastern Europe in perpetuity any “reassurances of protection” it gave would rightly have been regarded as worthless -not to mention invite obvious and grievous comparisons to the worthless security guarantee Britain and France extended to Poland in 1939 – because such reassurances would be made in the full knowledge of all concerned that NATO had already surrendered the means to give them effect.

        I also want to point out that until the annexation of the Crimea there were no NATO forces permanently stationed in either Poland or the Baltic republics. Poland requested 10 000 NATO troops two weeks after the annexation of the Crimea, and even now NATO is scrambling to find 600-800 troops to deploy on a “semi-permanent” basis to each of the Baltic republics.

        1. Praedor

          By “annexation of Crimea” you mean “reuniting Crimea with Russia”. The Ukraine is 100% a 20th century creation and Crimea was ALWAYS Russian until Kruschev, by fiat (and he a Ukrainian) simply gave Crimea to Ukraine without asking, without concern, for what the people of Crimea wanted.

          Russia didn’t “take” Crimea from Ukraine. Russia took back what was historically (and ethnically and culturally) theirs by long history.

          1. Vatch

            Crimea wasn’t Russian until it was annexed in 1783. Even after that, it contained a large non-Russian ethnic population. After the formation of the Soviet Union, Crimea was an autonomous Soviet Republic until 1946, when the Crimean Tatars were expelled, and Crimea was demoted to an oblast in the Russian Republic. In 1954 it was transferred to Ukraine.

            One can make a reasonable argument that Crimea wasn’t a valid part of Ukraine, since its dominant ethnic group was never the Ukrainians. But it is a great exaggeration to say that Crimea was always Russian. It took an act of ethnic cleansing to make it Russian.

            Your claim that Ukraine is a 20th Century creation is simply false. Yes, it was part of the Tsarist empire for a couple of centuries, but it had plenty of history prior to that.

            1. Tigerlily

              Thanks, Vatch.

              This and your previous post are models of lucid argumentation grounded on a firm grasp of historical context.

              Having been around long enough to grasp the general tenor of many of the comments regarding the current situation in Europe and the former USSR I wasn’t looking forward to wading into that particular swamp myself! ;)

              1. Vatch

                I think it was Vlade who posted the previous comment. Different person, same letter “v”. He writes knowledgeable comments about this set of topics.

                1. Tigerlily

                  Oops…it appears I owe an apology to Vlade!

                  Thanks for setting me straight, the quality of the posts and similarity in names obviously let me to assume too much.

            2. sid_finster

              I knew Ukrainian soldiers who had been stationed in Crimea, prior to its return to Russia.

              They said it was like occupation duty. The populace hated them, saw them as a hostile occupying force and wanted them gone.

              This jives with the sentiments of the people from Crimea that I knew. I never met a one that didn’t despise Ukraine.

            3. animalogic

              All well & good, but a very large majority of Crimeans voted to be incorporated into Russia. In the absence of evidence of massive voter fraud, & given the reality of the “new” Ukraine, no one should question the legitimacy of Crimea returning to Russia.

            4. Kukulkan

              Crimea wasn’t Russian until it was annexed in 1783.

              So you’re saying Crimea has been Russian longer than any state in the Union has been part of the United States — the first to join being Delaware in 1787.

              Does this line of reasoning that such recent unions don’t really count also apply to American states? Should the United States be dissolved so things can return to the borders of 1750? Or does it only apply when it involves Russia?

              The people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia. The point of democracy is that you’re supposed to accept the results of a vote, preferably with good grace — something that seems lost on Americans these days, as those on the losing side just start looking for some bit of sophistry (birth certificates, allegations of Russian hacking) to invalidate the results.

              1. Vatch

                I was responding to Praedor’s statement that Crimea has always been Russian. It hasn’t always been Russian, and for a significant part of the time that it was Russian political territory, most of the people were not ethnically Russian. They weren’t Ukrainian, either. That’s all.

        2. JTMcPhee

          And gee, why is NATO “Scrambling” to find troops to garrison in another set of countries? What geopolitical conditions are real, and which BS are us mopes supposed to believe and feed into our fear generators “going forward (sic)?” What are our rulers and great patently incompetent but very well compensated and demonstrably corrupt military, security (sic) and “statecraft” sh!tes doing to cool down, stand down, stop wasting huge amounts of time, talent and money ginning up more threats and counter threats and Grand Strategies? What’s the End of the Great Game, or does it just go on until all the resources are exhausted, or the cheating officers that “man” and “woman” the Land Based Leg of the Service-Competition-Everyone-Has-The-“Right”-To-A-Share-Of-The-Carcass-Absolutely-Must-Have Triad, or some glitch, as there have been many of, in all the circuitry and mechanisms and algorithms does an “Oopsie” and we all and a lot of other species get to die? Not to mention the bugs and nanodevices and autonomous killing machines that the grim enthusiasts of the Geopolitical Masterbatorium just can’t wait to get on line?

          Putin’s no saint, but Jeebus, Kissinger and Brxzyzeniski and Nuland and all the rest? The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight? Do they get to run us all into the grave, because we Policy Addicts go along with the insane “logic” of whatever the hell it is that “NATO” in all its idiotic parts is doing? Was the Crimea a casus belli? though it seems to people who are deep in the Think Tanks think EVERYTHING is a casus belli, and never ask any questions of the sorts that Sun Tzu counseled ought to be asked, long before and at every point in any “war” action…

          I know, money rules, Empire is inevitable and so very seductive to have all that Power (“and not use it”) especially if one is paid in gelt or psycho-satisfaction to go all grim-visages warrior in a Game of RISK! that for some reason never ends up with one Player owning the entire world…

          This disabled Vietnam vet offers a big FU, to all the Fokkers, armchair or ergonomic Battlespace Manager or Foggy Bottom delicate or Langley overstuffed chairs, who are driving the vast bus we all have to ride in off the cliff, all happy with their impunity and immunity and faux self-created, self-p[rolonged, terminal Grand Responsibilities. Show how smart you are, send another 300 Marines to Iraq, and another 300 to Notagainistan, for “we won’t say combat” involvement in the futility and corruption and destabilization and destruction there… Who will be the last Troop, and the last “noncombatant,” to die in this old-as-civilization idiocy? Who Fokking cares, really, as long as it is one of those “Enemies…”

          1. oh

            Well said! My deepest sympathies to you for being forced to go to Vietnam and for becoming disabled through no fault of your own.

          2. susan the other

            great points – we need to cut through all the crap, which involves a certain degree of humility on our part – that is what Bacevich is also pleading for… it’s difficult for us to overcome our empty arrogance.

          3. Tigerlily

            JTMcPhee I am sincerely sorry for what you have experienced and I would be the last person to suggest that you are not entitled to the full measure of your anger.

            I hope you can appreciate that I am the product of a different set of experiences. To the extent I understand your position it is that the US foreign policy establishment is so compromised by perfidy that nothing it does is legitimate. That’s a position that (to say the least) lacks nuance, and easily degenerates into outright nihilism.

            Yes the world is a mess, but there was never a time when that wasn’t true. Napoleon is credited with observing that a country without it’s own army is fated to have someone else’s, and I think that is equally true for foreign policy. We can fight for the world we want or we can have others impose their preferences on us. What we can’t do is abdicate responsibility for our collective future and then complain things didn’t really turn out the way we had hoped.

    2. Kemal Erdogan

      No, that was precisely what was promised; But promises means nothing, and frankly, Gorbachev must have been either stupid or traitor to accept such promises in lieu of real and tangible concessions.

      In my view, the biggest mistake was not NATO expansion but rather the looting of the Soviet Union. If the major soviet republics was to be integrated within the western alliance more or less in the same manner as Germany, the situation today would have been very different. Instead of sucking soviet resources over a longer term like Germany does to the EU, west was salivating on the prospects of literally new loots thus awaken the pray.

      That made the people of Russia and many others feel disgust, and they resisted at the first opportunity they got. Now, there is no way Russia can be put under the american influence. This is all more remarkable because most Russians had admired the empire so much thus putting them under American umbrella would have been so easy. Putin, for example, was ready to play ball with the west but their insistence on total dominance disgusted even him. I am sure the global elite recognizes this but some still cannot get over how they let this pass.

      Putin still supports neoliberalism but this too will pass as neoliberal order is controlled by New York bankers and only way out is another world order, which is exactly what Russia and China started building. Departure of Russia from neoliberal order, I believe, will seal the fate of neoliberalism as it just it exactly 100 years ago.

    3. fresno dan

      January 9, 2017 at 4:49 am

      Thank you for your perspective – it adds to my understanding.

      1. susan the other

        I was under the impression that the USSR took over eastern Europe to protect Russia and communism from large contingents of rabid fascists and that they didn’t really want those territories, in fact they were a burden.

        1. H. Alexander Ivey

          You know, when you take off the Russia-is-the-great-Satan glasses (a state that can only do evil things), and ask questions like: “What would I do if my neighbors had aided and abetted the soldiers who invaded my country, killed my people, and stole what ever they could get their hands on?”. The answer would be like what Russia did. Seek protection, seek revenge, and seek assurance it won’t happen again. (You will get something else but that is another posting.)

    4. olga

      You are plain wrong. Just read what Gorbachev has to say on the subject – and he was there. NATO expansion was not expected by the Russians, is considered a betrayal of promises, and is to a large extent responsible for the renewed sense of paranoia in Europe and Russia. Whether US military was against it is irrelevant (or whether Vysehrad four lobbied for it) – it was done and it damaged relations. And it continues to do damage – as the buildup of troops and equipment has escalated.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, and to underscore the point, George Kennan, who presumably also has impeccable US sources, effectively confirmed that reading via his objections.

        vlade does not help his credibility by having his dates wrong. Clinton pumped for NATO expansion in 1997 and the new members did not join until 1999.

        Further, NATO IS a US project. We fund all the damned budgets. Members are supposed to pay 2% of GDP but no one does. The only one who even bothers trying to fake the numbers is the UK, and that is by classifying a ton of domestic security expenditures as NATO when they’d make them regardless.

    5. mauisurfer

      NATO’s Eastward Expansion Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?

      Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has accused the West of breaking promises made after the fall of the Iron Curtain, saying that NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe violated commitments made during the negotiations over German reunification. Newly discovered documents from Western archives support the Russian position.

      After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

      On Feb. 10, 1990, between 4 and 6:30 p.m., Genscher spoke with Shevardnadze. According to the German record of the conversation, which was only recently declassified, Genscher said: “We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.” And because the conversion revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: “As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.”

      Shevardnadze replied that he believed “everything the minister (Genscher) said.”

      In 1996, Gorbachev wrote in his Memoirs, that “during the negotiations on the unification of Germany they gave assurances that NATO would not extend its zone of operation to the east,” and repeated this view in an interview in 2008.

      1. mauisurfer

        What the US secretary of state said on Feb. 9, 1990 in the magnificent St. Catherine’s Hall at the Kremlin is beyond dispute. There would be, in Baker’s words, “no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east,” provided the Soviets agreed to the NATO membership of a unified Germany. Moscow would think about it, Gorbachev said, but added: “any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable.”

        Now, 20 years later, Gorbachev is still outraged when he is asked about this episode. “One cannot depend on American politicians,” he told SPIEGEL. Baker, for his part, now offers a different interpretation of what he said in 1990, arguing that he was merely referring to East Germany, which was to be given a special status in the alliance — nothing more.

        But Genscher, in a conversation with Shevardnadze just one day later, had expressly referred to Eastern Europe. In fact, talking about Eastern Europe, and not just East Germany, was consistent with the logic of the West’s position.

        If East Germany was to be granted a special status within NATO, so as not to provoke the Soviet leadership, the promise not to expand the alliance to the east certainly had to include countries like Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, which directly bordered the Soviet Union.

        same spiegel article cited above

    6. TedHunter

      vlade: You are right about the Baker-Gorbachev discussions, Gorbachev’s view of NATO. You could have added Putin’s early view of NATO.

      One more thing: chronology matters. CEE governments were probably not influenced by invasions in past centuries by Russia. Maybe they were influenced by the Hitler-Stalin pact. Probably they were still under the shock of the Cold War occupation (1953 Berlin, 1956 Hungary, 1968 Prague).

      But if in the early 1990s any CEE gov needed any arguments FOR a NATO membership as a protective, defensive measure against Russian aggression, all they had to do was turn on their TVs. A number of “frozen wars” started in the early ’90s. Here goes:

      11/1990 – Transnistria (Moldavian SSR)
      01/1991 – South Ossetia (Georgian SSR)
      08/1992 – Abkhazia (Georgian SSR)

      There is no doubt about Russia’s political support of all insurgent forces. Russian military involvement has been overstated at the time (and later). There is no doubt that Transnistria was the creation of a group within the Russian military (led by gral Lebed, later promoted to become governor of a Russian region, not really a sign of disavowing him, is it). Russian military support in South Ossetia is certain. Abkhazia is a more mixed issue.

      All these conflicts started before CEE governments applied for NATO membership.
      11/1991 – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary start coordinating towards NATO membership application. Invited in 1997, joined in 1999 (minus Slovakia).
      05/2000 – “Vilnius group” decides to push towards membership; the group includes the Baltics and Romania and were influenced by the First Chechen War (1994-6). They will join NATO in 2004.

      Again: Russian support of insurgency in these “frozen conflicts” was never open and followed the handbook of hybrid warfare (not a Russian invention, by the way). If Moscow really had no involvement in these insurgencies, and given the recent history of occupation and destruction in CEE, they should have distanced themselves 24/7 from any involvement in these conflicts. Moscow never did. This might have been caused by Russia really being involved; by a tendency of Russian foreign affairs towards boisterous declarations and a show of strength; or by a desire to “balance” internal politics, as many Russians at the time were fleeing the recently independent republics of Central Asia under horrific conditions. No matter what the reasons were: the Russian reaction towards the 3 frozen conflicts showed CEE governments that the “new Soviet Union” (later: the “new Russia”) is behaving exactly like the “old Soviet Union”.

      Maybe the US has wasted many chances in the 1990s. Russia did as well. Unfortunately.

  3. Patrick Reilly

    Thanks for the link to the Christopher Lasch article. Please note that page 35 thereof is missing.

    1. Tigerlily

      I think Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, first published in 1994 shortly after his death, is a forgotten classic. Lasch was well ahead of his time in foreseeing how the rise of technocratic, transnational elites would dissolve the social contract that in the postwar era had kept the interests of haves and have nots at least loosely aligned and lubricated a considerable degree of wealth transfer from the former to the latter, which in turn would lead to socio-economic polarization.

      If he were alive today I’m sure he would be appalled by a President Trump even as he recognized that this was the logical culmination of the trends he himself had identified all those years ago.

      Lasch was notable for other trenchant social criticism, including identifying narcissism as the dominant trait of the postwar American psyche and challenging some tenets of second wave feminism. As befits a fearless and original thinker he didn’t fit neatly into any established intellectual paradigm.

      He died on February 14 1994 and now I think of him every Valentine’s Day. I guess I’m something of an admirer.

  4. Sound of the Suburbs

    Globalisation was accompanied by an ideology, neoliberalism, that was guaranteed to fail.

    The problems were there at the start but were ignored, it was always going to go wrong in exactly the way it has.

    Francis Fukuyama talked of the “end of history” and “liberal democracy”.

    Liberal democracy was the bringing together of two mutually exclusive ideas.
    Economic liberalism – that enriches the few and impoverishes the many.
    Democracy – that requires the support of the majority.

    Trying to bring two mutually exclusive ideas together just doesn’t work.

    The ideas of “Economic Liberalism” came from Milton Freidman and the University of Chicago. It was so radical they first tried it in a military dictatorship in Chile, it wouldn’t be compatible with democracy. It took death squads, torture and terror to keep it in place, there was an ethnic cleansing of anyone who still showed signs of any left wing thinking.

    It was tried in a few other places in South America using similar techniques. It then did succeed in a democracy but only by tricking the people into thinking they were voting for something else, severe oppression was needed when they found out what they were getting.

    Margaret Thatcher bought these ideas to the West and the plan to eliminate the welfare state has only recently been revealed. Things had to be done slowly in the West due to that bothersome democracy. The West has now seen enough.

    It was implemented far more brutally in the developing world where Milton Freidman’s “Chicago Boys” were the henchmen of “The Washington Consensus”. The IMF and World Bank acted as enforcers insisting on neoliberal conditionalities for loans.

    Global markets punished those not towing the neoliberal line and kept nations in their place. As Nelson Mandela was released from prison the South African Rand fell 10%, someone like this was going to be pushing up wage costs and would be bad for the economy.

    Looking back it was a grand folly of an international elite whose greed overcame even a modicum of common sense.

    Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” will take you through all the gory details.

    Underlying neo-liberalism is a different economics, neoclassical economics, which is heavily biased towards the wealthy. Inequality and a lack of demand in the global economy were also guaranteed from the start.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      The world is saturated in debt and if rates rise this is going to blow the neo-liberal experiment sky high.

      Neo-liberalism is a system that uses debt to keep going and the world has nearly maxed out. It’s underlying neoclassical economics uses spurious assumptions about money and debt and so no one sees the problems coming.

      2008 – “How did that happen?”

      Twelve people were officially recognised by Bezemer in 2009 as having seen 2008 coming, announcing it publicly beforehand and having good reasoning behind their predictions. They all thought the problem came from excessive debt levels.

      Having all our mainstream experts using spurious assumptions about money and debt, doesn’t actually stop the whole thing blowing up.

      Attributing 2008 to a “black swan” has allowed us to think more debt can be used to solve a debt crisis, needless to say the debt levels are much higher than 2008 and excessive debt has now spread through emerging markets. China and emerging markets are not going to provide an engine of growth next time.

      The other day I was watching a particularly apocalyptic video from Peter Schiff, he is no fool, he was one of the twelve that saw 2008 coming. Steve Keen is another one of the twelve and he is of the same opinion.
      (Ignore first 50 secs. just intro).

      Most people don’t realise money = debt, all the money in existence has a corresponding amount of debt.
      We can see what Steve Keen saw by looking at the US money supply.

      No, it wasn’t a black swan and if the FED could have understood what the money supply was telling them they could have nipped it in the bud.

      M3 was going exponential and a credit bubble was forming, Steve Keen saw it in 2005.

      The spurious assumptions on money and debt in neoclassical economics leave you blind.

      1. Praedor

        Aha, but the bubble is beside the point. The entire US economy from Clinton onward is BASED on bubbles of one type or another to create the feeling of (false) wealth. Bubbles are INTENDED because it fools many into thinking, as they ride upon the inflation of the bubble, that they are making bank. Clinton’s economy “boom” was based on telling people that their homes are “investments” that they need to borrow against to buy “stuff”. Lots of stuff. FEEL rich while you actually go deeply into debt on a bubble-inflated home equity loan.

        Can’t repeat the real estate bubble again and again so the Fed feeds a different bubble each cycle. Real estate this cycle, stocks the next, etc.

        1. Sound of the Suburbs

          “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Irving Fisher 1929.

          Ben Bernanke can see no problems ahead in 2007.

          Both used neoclassical economics and believed markets reach stable equilibriums but these events are nearly eighty years apart.

          Neoclassical economics version 2 has not corrected this fundamental mistake from neoclassical economics version 1.

          Don’t get fooled again.

          Too late we just have been.

    2. Webstir

      Liberal democracy was the bringing together of two mutually exclusive ideas.
      Economic liberalism – that enriches the few and impoverishes the many.
      Democracy – that requires the support of the majority.

      Trying to bring two mutually exclusive ideas together just doesn’t work.

      This statement depends on who the mutually exclusive ideas are intended to work for. They worked spectacularly for the Davos Class. Which I might add, was the class that came up with the idea. They sold a lie that the media — who is wholly controlled by them — took hook line and sinker. That the establishment media are peddling the fake news angle so vociferously is telling. But the problem in my mind isn’t “fake news” per se. It is the uncritical peddling of fake ideologies.

      I think a quote from the 2016 Mann Booker Prizewinner’s “The Sellout” by Paul Beatty is instructive on this point: “People eat the shit you shovel them.” And man alive, have the 99% ever been shoveled some shit in the “Age of Great Expectations.”

      And btw — thanks for the link Yves. That was instructive.

    3. susan the other

      I think the contradiction between neoliberal economics and democracy can be reduced further to the diametrically opposed goals of capitalism (well being for all in a fair and managed theater of exchange) and free markets which have become dangerously libertarian – to the degree that they destroy the functions of capitalism – and vice-versa, well managed capitalism (the only kind that is not turned into fascism by liberal economics) destroys the hubris of free markets. Life is full of choices – do we want frenzied free markets or do we want some functioning form of capitalism?

  5. toshiro_mifune

    Reading this reminded me of the Peace Dividend we were supposed to get in the wake of the collapsing Soviet Union. Alas, we never got it.
    We squandered a perfectly good empire on McMansions and Ford Explorers. At least Rome got coliseums and orgies.

  6. Enquiring Mind

    Age of Great Expectations brings to mind a recursive acronym, indicative of a type of tunnel vision and failure to learn from the past, tempered by a preternatural optimism that is thought to be in the Tocquevillian American DNA.

  7. DJG

    Excellent article. Christopher Lasch’s prescription is food for thought, although I agree with vidimi that we have to get beyond a romantic conception of the individual. In fact, I submit that we are in a new baroque, dominated by religious insanity (like the first baroque with its Spanish Inquisition and tortuous Calvinist theology), economic excesses (just as Spain looted the Indian nations of the New World of their gold in the first one), and individual fear.

    I would caution Bacevich, who is usually better than this, and in general: Psychobabble isn’t going to get us anywhere. And I’m seeing so much of it.

    From the article:
    “Coarse, vulgar, unprincipled, uninformed, erratic, and with little regard for truth, Trump was sui generis among presidential candidates.”

    Bacevich has never read about Andrew Jackson, who sponsored the Trail of Tears forced on the Cherokee and the Choctaw nations? Bacevich has never heard of Strom Thurmond’s presidential run? George Wallace’s presidential run? (And let us not forget the laughable claim that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified presidential candidate in U.S. history, except for, ohhhh, Jefferson, Washington, and Madison.)

    One problem in the analysis of U.S. history is to think of the U S of A and of U.S. individuals as sui generis. They aren’t. Vlade points out above that the Visegrad Four (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) were actors in NATO expansion. Considering that Romania was an economic and social basketcase when it acceded to the EU, I’d venture that the EU made a mistake or three, also.

    So we require more hard-headedness in analyzing our context and how events arise. As always Bacevich is good as an analyst, and some details may not matter in understanding the rise of Trump, but the solution also is not yet discernible. What I would say is that the democratic mindset, which is skeptical yet still inclined toward participation in public events is a serious way, is in disrepair. Class warfare and endless war for empire have caused damage.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe some day people will start asking seriously what outcomes they want from the political economy they perforce must live in. “Are you better off today than you were XX years ago?” And maybe (not at all likely) come up with an organizing principle (like, maybe, some iteration of the Golden Rule?) that if at all adhered to, might lead to something other than climate collapse or some Soylent Green or other apocalyptic future…

      I know, no chance to amass a huge pile of wealth and rents and vain attempts to overwhelm the personal pleasure centers in that kind of future… So “No Sale…”

        1. oh

          Thanks for the link. It’s so well written! I look forward to the neo-liberals to achieve thermodynamic equilibrium with the surroundings!

          1. Webstir

            I’m going to assume sarcasm from the exclamation points. The basic point is that any economic theory that doesn’t account for the physical laws of our planet needs to go on the scrap pile of history. In a nutshell: All mainstream economic theories are shit. If you didn’t understand the textual source, here is a great video by Steve Keen explaining the same concept:

  8. Arizona Slim

    What’s conspicuously absent from many of these “collapse of the Soviet Union” narratives? Chernobyl.

    That 1986 explosion — and the bungled disaster response — probably did more to bring down the Soviet Union than Reagan’s military buildup or Gorbachev’s moves toward reform.

  9. juliania

    Yves’s two caveats are extremely important in assessing this article. I have a couple more. The first is the omission of the glaringly obvious theft of candidacy which occurred during the Democratic primary and did not occur in the Republican one. And the second is the article’s description of Trump voters as “…those who nurse gripes and are keen to pin the blame on someone or something.”

    Then too, I will just say that the mandate so far is not a negative one because Trump hasn’t taken office yet, and in fact some positive occurrences have seemed to be happening in the Middle East to restore several nations there to what they had been before ‘great expectations’ got into the mix.

    Just my two cents. Some people’s great expectations are not other people’s great expectations. Mine are for a peaceful world and a restoration of sanity between nations.

    1. gepay

      it didn’t happen to Trump (the theft of the primaries) but it did happen to Ron Paul. It was noticed that mainstream media would report on the results of Republican primaries and the report would go .
      1. Romney 3. Santorum 4,;;;; Ron Paul it should be remembered -no matter some of his stupid economic beliefs (although how would an audit of the FED hurt the real economy) – was the only Presidential candidate in the recent past that ever mentioned the cost of the US empire with its military industrial complex – no, the only possibly viable candidate. It is true he was not the threat that Bernie Sandeers was to Clinton but the Republicans took no chances. Of course, the Russians did not release the emails of the Republican National Committee.

  10. JustAnObserver

    It would seem that we are, and will be for some time yet, living through the world Gramsci described as:

    “the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

    For the morbid symptoms we have not just Trump but Hillary Clinton, DNC denialism, Putin paranoia, …

    1. PKMKII

      DNC denialism, Putin paranoia

      Which self-evidently go together. Thus creating an inverse political throwback: The Republicans have co-opted a white, working-class-oriented economic propaganda and promising to build big projects, while the Democrats have been reduced to babbling about Russian conspiracy theories, as their economics of a bygone era of prosperity, felled by economic collapse, have been reduced to the margins.

  11. susan the other

    I don’t think Trump is uniquely unfit to take us in a positive direction, since I can’t name a president who has succeeded in doing this. Some of the blame rests with us. We could just stop going to this party.

  12. RBHoughton

    I think Professor Andrew Bacevich has got his three big ideas in reverse order. The big thing in an American milieu is the concept of personal freedom and there is no-one on the scene in the last two centuries, no-one, who had that subject nailed as well as Thomas Paine.

    That is where we start from and we then tailer the other big ideas into their proper shapes by applying the Rights of Man and chucking-out any exceptions.

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