Breach of Trust by Andrew Bacevich

The Donald in the Rearview Mirror

Donald Trump’s tenure as the 45th U.S. president may last another few weeks, another year, or another 16 months.  However unsettling the prospect, the leaky vessel that is the S.S. Trump might even manage to stay afloat for a second term.  Nonetheless, recent headline-making revelations suggest that, like some derelict ship that’s gone aground, the Trump presidency may already have effectively run its course. What, then, does this bizarre episode in American history signify?

Let me state my own view bluntly: forget the atmospherics.  Despite the lies, insults, name calling, and dog whistles, almost nothing of substance has changed. Nor will it. 

To a far greater extent than Trump’s perpetually hyperventilating critics are willing to acknowledge, the United States remains on a trajectory that does not differ appreciably from what it was prior to POTUS #45 taking office. Post-Trump America, just now beginning to come into view, is shaping up to look remarkably like pre-Trump America. 

A Nation Unmade by War by Tom Engelhardt

The World According to The Don(ald)

I know you won’t believe me. Not now, not when everything Donald Trump does — any tweet, any insult at any rally — is the news of the day, any day.  But he won’t be remembered for any of the things now in our headlines. No human being, it’s true, has ever been covered the way he has, so what an overwhelming record there should be. News about him and his associates fills front pages daily in a way that only something like a presidential assassination once did and he has the talking heads of cable TV yakking about him as no one has ever talked about anyone. And don’t even get me started on social media and The Donald.

Kill Anything That Moves

A Simple Equation Proves That the U.S. Armed Forces Have Triumphed in the War on Terror

4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It’s going to come up again later. But let’s begin with another number entirely: 145,000 — as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America. Similar legions of rifle-toting troops did the same after World War I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling through the urban canyons of midtown Manhattan? That followed the triumph over the Axis in 1945. That’s what winning used to look like in America — star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades. Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Trump called for just such a parade in Washington.  After its estimated cost reportedly ballooned from $10 million […]

“America First” Versus China’s Strategy of the Four Continents

As the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency and sixth of Xi Jinping’s draws to a close, the world seems to be witnessing one of those epochal clashes that can change the contours of global power. Just as conflicts between American President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister Lloyd George produced a failed peace after World War I, competition between Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and American President Harry Truman sparked the Cold War, and the rivalry between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, so the empowered presidents of the United States and China are now pursuing bold, intensely personal visions of new global orders that could potentially reshape the trajectory of the twenty-first century — or bring it all down. The countries, like their leaders, are a study in contrasts. China is an ascending superpower, riding a wave […]

A Nation Unmade by War by Tom Engelhardt

Or How to Fight a War of Ultimate Repetitiousness

Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was how I inadvertently launched the unnamed listserv that would, a year later, become TomDispatch. Given the website’s continuing focus on America’s forever wars (a phrase I first used in 2010), what choice have I had but to write about Afghanistan ever since? So think of this as the war piece to end all war pieces. And let the repetition begin! Here, for instance, is what I wrote about our Afghan War in 2008, almost seven years after it began, when the U.S. Air Force took out a bridal party, including the bride herself and at […]

The Arab of the Future 3: The Circumcision Years: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf

The Circumcision Years: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987

In the third installment of the acclaimed series from “one of the most prominent cartoonists in the world” (Smithsonian), the Sattouf family faces its toughest trials yet in the suffocating Syrian village that they call home.

A Nation Unmade by War by Tom Engelhardt

Mine, America’s, and Humanity’s

There was a period in my later life when I used to say that, from the age of 20 to my late sixties, I was always 40 years old; I was, that is, an old young man and a young old one.  Tell that to my legs now.  Of course, there’s nothing faintly strange in such a development.  It’s the most ordinary experience in life: to face your own failing self, those muscles that no longer work the way they used to, those brain cells jumping ship with abandon and taking with them so many memories, so much knowledge you’d rather keep aboard.  If you’re of a certain age — I just turned 74 — you know exactly what I mean. And that, as they say, is life.  In a sense, each of us might, sooner or later, be thought of as a kind of failed experiment that ends in […]

The Race for What's Left

Or Implementing the Sino-Russian Blueprint for a Tripolar World Order

The pundits and politicians generally take it for granted that President Trump lacks a coherent foreign policy. They believe that he acts solely out of spite, caprice, and political opportunism — lashing out at U.S. allies like Germany’s Angela Merkel and England’s Theresa May only to embrace authoritarian rulers like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. His instinctive rancor and impulsiveness seemed on full display during his recent trip to Europe, where he lambasted Merkel, undercut May, and then, in an extraordinary meeting with Putin, dismissed any concerns over Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential election (before half-walking his own comments back). “Nobody knows when Trump is doing international diplomacy and when he is doing election campaigning in Montana,” commented Danish defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen following the summit. “It is difficult to decode what policy the American president is promoting. There is a complete unpredictability in […]

Kill Anything That Moves

The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces

Early last month, at a tiny military post near the tumbledown town of Jamaame in Somalia, small arms fire began to ring out as mortar shells crashed down. When the attack was over, one Somali soldier had been wounded — and had that been the extent of the casualties, you undoubtedly would never have heard about it. As it happened, however, American commandos were also operating from that outpost and four of them were wounded, three badly enough to be evacuated for further medical care. Another special operator, Staff Sergeant Alexander Conrad, assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Forces (also known as the Green Berets), was killed. If the story sounds vaguely familiar — combat by U.S. commandos in African wars that America is technically not fighting — it should. Last December, Green Berets operating alongside local forces in Niger killed 11 Islamic State militants in a firefight. Two months […]

The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark

Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy

I. On a hot day in the summer of 2014, in the Civic Park neighborhood where Pastor R. Sherman McCathern preached in Flint, Michigan, water rushed out of a couple of fire hydrants. Puddles formed on the dry grass and splashed the skin of the delighted kids who ran through it. But the spray looked strange. “The water was coming out, dark as coffee, for hours,” McCathern remembered. The shock of it caught in his throat. “Something is wrong here.” Something had been wrong for months. That spring, Flint, under direction from state officials, turned off the drinking water that it had relied upon for nearly fifty years. The city planned to join a new regional system called the Karegnondi Water Authority, and while it waited for the KWA to be built, it began bringing in its water from the Flint River. McCathern didn’t pay much attention to the politicking […]

A Nation Unmade by War by Tom Engelhardt

Opioids, Donald Trump, and War

When you think of addiction in America today, one thing comes to mind: the opioid epidemic. And it should. It’s serious. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 64,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016 (more than died in the Vietnam War), an average of 175 people a day. In that year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 11.5 million Americans “misused” pain medication. (Note that such figures are still on the rise.) Only recently, the surgeon general issued a rare national advisory “urging more Americans to carry naloxone, a drug used to revive people overdosing on opioids.” This crisis of addiction has already cost the country an estimated $1 trillion since 2001 and might, in the next three years alone, cost more than half that much again. The United States, however, has two other crises that, in the long run, will cost Americans far more. Yet they get remarkably little […]

The Race for What's Left

The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China

On May 30th, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a momentous shift in American global strategic policy. From now on, he decreed, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), which oversees all U.S. military forces in Asia, will be called the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). The name change, Mattis explained, reflects “the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” as well as Washington’s determination to remain the dominant power in both.    What? You didn’t hear about this anywhere?  And even now, you’re not exactly blown away, right? Well, such a name change may not sound like much, but someday you may look back and realize that it couldn’t have been more consequential or ominous.  Think of it as a signal that the U.S. military is already setting the stage for an eventual confrontation with China. If, until now, you hadn’t read about Mattis’s decision anywhere, I’m not surprised since the media […]

Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society by Thomas Frank

Reports from a Sinking Society

The essays collected here scan over many diverse aspects of American life, but they all aim to tell one essential story: This is what a society looks like when the glue that holds it together starts to dissolve. This is the way ordinary citizens react when they learn the structure beneath them is crumbling. This is the thrill that pulses through the veins of the well-to-do when they discover there is no longer any limit on their power to accumulate.

Breach of Trust by Andrew Bacevich

The Gravy Train Rolls On

“The United States of Amnesia.” That’s what Gore Vidal once called us. We remember what we find it convenient to remember and forget everything else. That forgetfulness especially applies to the history of others. How could their past, way back when, have any meaning for us today? Well, it just might. Take the European conflagration of 1914-1918, for example. You may not have noticed. There’s no reason why you should have, fixated as we all are on the daily torrent of presidential tweets and the flood of mindless rejoinders they elicit. But let me note for the record that the centenary of the conflict once known as The Great War is well underway and before the present year ends will have concluded. Indeed, a hundred years ago this month, the 1918 German Spring Offensive — codenamed Operation Michael — was sputtering to an unsuccessful conclusion. A last desperate German gamble, […]

Chosen Country: A Rebellion in the West by James Pogue

A Rebellion in the West

The Best People You Could Possibly Imagine It was snowing the night I got to the refuge. It had snowed for almost the entire drive from Portland, and it was only with some difficulty and by the use of tire chains that I’d made it over Mount Hood and through the desert. The drive to Burns, where I checked into what the clerk told me was the last room at the local Days Inn, had taken eight hours, which is not so much longer than it takes to drive in any direction from the town to a city of any size—by measure of distance from an interstate it is the remotest corner of the lower forty-eight. The snow was six inches deep on the streets and falling fast, and there were hardly any cars on the road aside from deputies’ cruisers, bearing the markings of counties from all across Oregon. […]