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The End Of The New American Century 

By David Martin 

09/08/05 "ICH"
-- -- It’s over. The New American Century proudly proclaimed by neo-conservative theoreticians has ended before it’s hardly begun. 

This was supposed to have been a golden age, the time during which the United States of America would add its name to the roll call of great empires of history and assert its unchallengeable hegemony over the modern world. 

This triumph of American will, the final culmination of its manifest destiny to extend its reach beyond its bordering seas and encircle the globe in its grasp, was to have been ensured by the force of our arms and the irresistible power of our capitalist economy. But the mighty colossus that aspired to stand astride the world has been unmasked as a feeble old man unable to take care of his own people. 

This unmasking has been accomplished by the triple catastrophes of the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the presidency of George W. Bush. 

Iraq was supposed to have been America’s warning shot to the rest of the world. It was supposed to have said, “We are the top dog now. Mess with us and this is what you will become, a country reduced to rubble and run by our corporate thugs.” 

But the Iraqis ignored the memo. They’d been down this route before with the British, and they weren’t any more willing to abide the new kid on the block. Two years after pulling down the statues of Saddam Hussein, American soldiers are stuck in the latest made-in-the-Pentagon quagmire and sinking fast. The same military that steamrolled Saddam’s weakened and bribed forces can’t make any headway against a shadowy insurgency that gets stronger every day. 

Comparisons with Viet Nam, the last great American humiliation, abound. But there is one significant difference between the two conflicts. After years of fighting the Japanese and the French, the Vietnamese had an underground command and control structure and a well-trained, battle-hardened army in place to greet the invading Americans. 

The Iraqi resistance, in contrast, arose overnight out of the ruins of Saddam’s regime. There is no charismatic Iraqi Ho Chi Minh to rally around. There is no brilliant General Giap to formulate battle strategy. There are only faceless fighters armed with cell phones and wireless remotes. And every day that goes by, the American military is shown up as a bumbling giant in the eyes of other countries and would be guerilla movements. 

By itself, the snafu that is Iraq might be dismissed as an anomaly, another example of how difficult it is for a superior military force to defeat an indigenous insurrection. Then Hurricane Katrina came blowing in to leave behind a federal government stripped bare of any pretense of effectuality. 

Katrina blew back the curtain of the self-proclaimed richest nation in the world to reveal poverty rivaling economic poorhouses like Haiti and Bangladesh. American can-do couldn’t organize disaster relief as efficiently as Cuba during last year’s Hurricane Ivan or Sri Lanka and Indonesia after last year’s tsunami, a natural disaster that did not give emergency officials days of warnings that it was on the way. A flood control system that local, state, and federal officials agreed needed to be maintained and upgraded was allowed to fall into disrepair because available dollars were more urgently needed to fight a vanity war in the Middle East. 

We lucky ones not in Katrina’s path can only watch the horrific post-hurricane images on television and shake our heads with shame and bewilderment at the Keystone Kop relief effort. Foreigners watching Katrina’s saga unfold must be laughing at our pathetic efforts once they recover from their shock at seeing the scope of American ineptitude. All around the world, we ask ourselves the same question, “How could this happen in America?” 

The answer is a simple one. We have entrusted George W(Who, me?) Bush to lead us. One must have to go back to some of the inbred imbeciles at the end of long lines of European royal dynasties to find a more clueless, self-deluded figurehead in charge of a national government. This is a man for whom reality is an artificial construct of campaign slogans, bureaucratic doublespeak, and public relations spin; whose minions once boasted about being able to create reality just by speaking it. 

Wherever he has placed his heavy hands on government policy, he has weakened us as a nation. Because he wanted to strut around like a low rent Napoleon and style himself a “war president,” he has stretched our military to the breaking point. His obsession with turban-wearing terrorists has siphoned funds needed to maintain the infrastructure that protects us from natural disasters and keeps our society running smoothly. He has strip mined environmental protections it has taken two generations to put in place. His economic policies parrot the voodoo orthodoxy of Ronald Reagan: let the rich get richer and the benefits will trickle down to all segments of society. Katrina has shown us, however, that while a rising tide may lift all boats, it drowns those too poor, too feeble, and too dark to afford their own boat. 

George Bush fought the law — the law of nature and history — and the law won. Now he’s taking us all down with him. And the glow you see off to the west is the sun setting on the New American Century.

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