“Empires won by conquest have always fallen either by revolt within or by defeat by a rival.”
John Boyd Orr, 1949
Before the discovery of oil and the internal combustion engine, the United States existed only as an obscure experiment of the West. Besides France, no other nation had any significantly positive relationship with America. Unless, of course, you include Great Britain meddling in our affairs and threatening our newfound sovereignty. On land of which was previously held and cultivated by indigenous Native Americans. The United States fought battles from within and abroad in order to put our newly established democratic republic on paper. After declaring independence and ratifying the Constitution, America struggled to blaze a trail for human civilization throughout the 19th century. A bloody civil war ended just as the nation mourned an assassination of its leader. This sputtered the country into a recession and an overwhelming time of uncertainty. The country finally ended slavery but now found itself broke and lacking many of the obvious civil rights, purposed for women, minorities, and immigrants. Billionaires Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie took virtual control of the nation’s government and its economy. And it took another century, battered by two world wars and two more assassinations, before the Civil Rights Act of 1965 passed, ending segregation by custom and by law.
Our nation has had serious growing pains, carrying with it a disturbing past that we can not, and must not, condone nor repeat, despite the overall achievement of national independence. It is patriotic humility that all Americans must adopt if we wish to avoid a fatal blow to our existence, giving way to a new world order, without any US stamp of approval.
After World War II Italy and western European nations were left in physical and economic ruin. As the dust settled from the most deadly and costly war in human history, our present-day allies in Europe stood in rubble in the defeat of fascism. Russia and Europe were in dismay and eastern Asia stood aside without any industry to get involved. It was only America, its economy, military, intelligence, and social courage, to keep democracy and capitalism at the forefront of human civilization. During the reconstruction phase, Great Britain and France had the United States to lean on, and partner with. A partnership that cemented and carried European-American relations to this day. The era of fascism and colonialism had been diminished but the threat of the Soviet Union and communism remained in tact, giving way to the peak of the Cold War.
The Communist coup of Czechoslovakia in 1948 motivated the US Congress to approve $5 billion of aid to western European nations a couple months later. It was also intended to give aid to the damaged Soviet Union and its eastern European allies. However, they rejected the offer on grounds that the US was overtly infiltrating Europe to gain economic and political control. They feared that a strong US-Europe relationship would evolve into an anti-Soviet bloc, preventing Moscow from seizing their own control over the war-riddened and poverty-srtrickened population. US Secretary of State George Marshall led a project unifying 16 European countries by providing them with military, industrial, and agricultural machinery and supplies along with loans and grants to boost their flattened economy. Marshall represented the United States alongside British and French officials as they worked together, strengthening ties between Europe and America. Under the Marshall Plan and other contributions, Europe rose to become another economic and industrial superpower with the United States. For the first time in history, the experiment spawned by the American Revolution seemed to be a worldly achievement. America and its democratic institutions took the top spot on the world stage. Asia lacked industry, Europe was rebuilding, and the Soviets committed to state owned operations. The United States government, intelligence, military, and economic plight put us ahead for the rest of the 20th century. It was during this time period that bonds between transatlantic nations, economies, and general security were molded: the United Nations was founded in 1945, NATO in 1949, and the ECC in 1957, which later became the European Union in 1993.
The United States now spends, annually, around $600 billion to fund troops and bases in 178 countries. US forces overseas are concentrated in Germany, South Korea, Japan, and Afghanistan. Strategically located to defend ourselves, and our allies, from adversaries, such as Russia or China. These alliances and organizations were put in place to share intelligence, protect trade and resources, and secure American democracy and European integration from Chinese communism and the Soviet regime.
But by the time the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, China and India began loosening up their markets and state control. Specifically for corporations, allowing foreign investment and international trade. Both China and India have acquired nuclear weapons and both have ramped up their military spending and capacity. Despite European and American influence, China and India have quietly and patiently built themselves up in preparation for an opportunity to position themselves back in the ranks of power. And it was a clear skied Tuesday morning in 2001 that marked a turning point in world history. No longer was the United States invincible in the public eye. We were heroes in the second World War, we won the Cold War, deterred Iraq in the Gulf War, and still carry with us the most powerful intelligence and deep state apparatus the world has ever seen. But on September 11th, 2001 our reputation, principles, and government were put to the ultimate test. How would the most powerful and richest nation in the world handle such an unprecedented attack on its own soil? Would this nation stick to its founding principles and integrity? Could America and its allies adapt accordingly to such a blow?
The 9/11 attacks, in dramatic fashion, displayed before the world a new form of transnational threat. Rogue-state bad actors were now able to use our own resources as a means to train and execute a terrorist attack on our watch and soil. Both the United Nations and NATO agreed to support the United States and its allies to militarily intervene with Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Wars that helped dump America into $20 trillion of debt while turning its intelligence agencies inward on its own citizens. Soon after the 2001 attacks, legislation began to be passed, with bipartisan support, providing US intelligence agencies the freedom to share data between branches, expand executive control over military action overseas, and, most importantly, the allowance to utilize metadata of American citizens. To make matters worse, the crash of 2008, known as the Great Recession, sent ripple effects throughout the world’s economy. The US housing market bubble had popped, and took down with it, the world’s most powerful financial firms, suffocating the automotive industry.
From Wall Street to Downing Street, capitalism failed. Homelessness, sudden poverty, and the loss of jobs struck a blow to the morale of many Americans and Europeans. So when 2016 rolled around, the United Kingdom and the United States electorate fired shots at globalization, sending shockwaves around the world.
The Resistance in Seattle, New York, London, and Manchester made their voices heard on the major cable news networks, at award show ceremonies, and on late night television shows. While the Revolt of the Midwest, Appalachia, and Yorkshire and the Humber took their angst to the polls. Ukip leader Nigel Farage became the figurehead of the Brexit referendum as the US Republican nominee, Donald Trump, paved his way to the White House. These men are considered a laughing stock to the mainstream media and global elites. But to those from flyover country, these guys are revolutionaries. The Revolt elected Trump and his campaign mastermind, Steve Bannon, primarily on grounds that they would finally put an end to mass illegal immigration. Bannon considered this to be the key in tapping into the anxiety of working class Americans. An influx of low-wage workers has driven down these people’s wages in the most vulnerable areas, particularly the traditional swing states. And this gave a rise to a populist revolt, filling arenas across the country for major campaign events by Trump. His nationalistic policies inspired usual-democratic districts to go red in 2016. Working class Americans voted to reverse time and get back their fair share of the pie, which has abandoned them in recent decades. Instead of admitting the role of low-cost automated technology on the industrial workforce in the Western world, the Trump campaign promised to bring jobs back from overseas and reopen coal mining plants. A promise that has become unreachable, due to the advances of the 21st century. However, as we’ve seen again and again, to those of the Revolt, reality isn’t as sweet as victory.
Today, we are no longer threatened by the Iron Curtain or Chinese Communists. Instead, we are now experiencing a nationalistic revolt from within. Our social networks are entrenched in a virtual modern-day civil war. Historical evidence of rural revolts over urban elites can be found for centuries but more recently in Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, among others. Tribal leaders of the open land would condemn urban leaders for concentrating too much power among the ruling elite class. While urban leaders would, in fact, be centralizing government into the biggest cities of the state; Tehran, Riyadh, Mosul, etc. In the 21st century we face a new revolt. The rural population of the most powerful nations and militaries the world has ever seen are now fighting back, against the entire political establishment. Americans put Donald Trump in the White House, the British voted to leave the European Union, and the French nearly voted in the National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen. All of whom represented the Revolt and their demands to tear down transnational organizations, global elitists, and the deep state. This should be alarming to all Americans, whether or not you’re part of the Revolt or Resistance.
Retreating from globalization will do more harm to society as a whole than it would be to have rural communities take a hit in their transition away from traditional manufacturing jobs into more high-tech and service-based occupations. Nationalism has proved itself, time and again, ill-equipped for the advancement of technology and communication on a global scale. This is the harsh reality of the 21st century. The era of depending on agriculture, manufacturing, and mining to provide for a whole family and pension is over. It isn’t coming back. Our civilization now depends on automated technology, service, finance, and free trade. Yes, communities across the Midwest, Appalachia, stretching into Europe will be decimated and economically squeezed. But that is a part of progress and the evolution of peace and mankind. Understandably, the courage to change the paradigm of your family tree is a difficult pill to swallow, however, it is required if we wish to keep our families up to speed in a rapidly innovative society. Will there be a Revolt in the meantime? Yes. But the future of the human species and our planet has ultimately become reliant and dependent on a globally structured economy and alliance
Although China & India are on pace to sit on the throne of economic power, our economy continues to grow at a steady pace. The problem is too many Americans are coddling on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. Hard left or hard right. We are stuck in echo chambers of people with similar viewpoints and perspectives. This leads to us defending certain ideas that may not actually be what’s best for the country as a whole. It’s time to start talking more pragmatically about today’s critical issues, with open dialogue and even some compromise. There is much more at stake than personal reputation. While Americans argue about how politically correct a post was on social media, China is teleporting a photon into earth’s orbit, India has liberated their markets to boost the economy, Russia is meddling in our elections, and the Middle East continues to lack stability despite the overthrow of Saddam Hussain, Osama bin Laden, and Muammar Gaddafi. Russia and Iran continue to support Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, as they partake in a devastating proxy civil war. Amidst the chaos is the refugee crisis in Europe. Jihadists, Islamists, and conservative Muslims are attempting to integrate into European culture, spelling concern for Europeans. While America may not face as severe of migrant predicament, we are struggling to coexist with ourselves, inching us closer to tribal and clan-like groupings. Healthcare, climate change, drug prices, criminal justice, immigration and religious freedom are still among the most heated debates among Americans. Lacking culture and patriotism, we are becoming weaker as the tides of emerging markets accelerate.
When China passes America in GDP within the next 20 years, and India follows, the United States, for the first time, will not be the pinnacle of economic power. So even if the Middle East stabilizes and Europe succeeds at integrating refugees and rebuilding the Middle East with a 21st century Marshall Plan, America will still have to adapt to being the second or even third-rate economy of the world. Our intercontinental ballistic missile technologies will be going head to head with North Korea, a nation whose economy literally exists because of China. 83% of North Korean exports go to China while 85% of imports come from China. If you are using an iPad, iPhone, or Mac to read this essay, the product in front of you is manufactured in China. Apple, a US technology empire, is the most valuable company in the world. A company of which that manufactures all of their major products in China with Chinese labor. The future of America is far from certain. And that leaves us with a serious question: How soon will it be before we fall from the perch of unfathomable power?
It is up to the will of the American people to no longer take our greatness for granted. We still are the greatest and most powerful nation on earth. But this is due to the trials and tribulations of our great ancestors. America is our jewel, a jewel with abrasions, but a jewel nonetheless. Our culture, our music, our films, our politics, our science, our technology, and our ingenuity is what got us here. This is what motivates Russia to interfere with our democratic institutions. If Russia can instill doubt on our process and proceed with breaking up our transatlantic alliances, then we will be sure to join the infamous list of the world’s failed empires of the past. It is our duty, as Americans, to look our opposition in the eye, not with disdain, but with determination. Are we as great as we should be? Are we as great as we could be? We, the people, can truly decide the fate of our nation. Educating ourselves, raising a family, volunteering, starting a business, and voting, taking some sort of accountability for our own obligations to this country. Regardless of what happens in Washington or in your state capital, each one of us has the responsibility, as United States citizens, to participate in the betterment of this land, rather than resorting to cynicism and polarization.
“Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort? In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.“
John F. Kennedy, 1961