Bill Lind: Trump keeps America on the path to decline

Summary: Trump promised to give Americans hope for change. Populism, build a wall, scale back our foreign wars, etc. Instead, as Lind explains, Trump has kept us on the bipartisan path to an over-extended state and eventual decay. It is the classic pattern.

Trump bravely leads us into mad wars!

Man on horseback riding into battle - Dreamstime_108256905
ID 108256905 © Ilkin Guliyev | Dreamstime.

Following the Classic Pattern

By William S. Lind at Traditional Right, 19 February 2019.
Posted with his generous permission.

Great powers tend to follow a similar pattern of rise, a short time of dominance, overextension, and fall.  It is ever more clear that this country is following the classic pattern.  Our period of dominance ran roughly from 1945 to 1965; its end was marked by our defeat in Vietnam.  We are now in the latter stages of the phase of overextension.  Fall, I suspect, lies around the next corner.

The evidence is all around us.  The most dramatic is the Senate’s recent vote to oppose President Trump’s efforts to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan, withdrawals that would reduce our overextension {details here}.  The legislation was drafted by the Republican Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, and received overwhelming Republican support.  But the vote (technically a vote to cut off debate but indicative of the line-up on the substance) of 68 to 23 showed many Democrats also voted for continuing our overextension.  When the fall comes, neither party will have clean hands.

I would like to be able to say President Trump grasps the root problem, but as the pernicious neo-con influence on him grows, he too is stoking the fires of overextension.  His withdrawal from the treaty with Russia that limited intermediate-range missiles is one example.  His action is in direct opposition to his promise as a candidate to improve relations with Russia.  Instead, he has ended up driving Russia and China into alignment against us, giving this country an entirely avoidable rising threat to its diminishing power.

Another case of pushing our overextension further is the mad notion of intervening militarily in Venezuela.  Not surprisingly, two neocons, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Senator Marco Rubio, have concocted this witches’ brew.  The neocons cannot grasp the rule, demonstrated in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, that if you break it, you own it.  I’m sure Bolton is assuring yet another Republican president that if we intervene we will be met with cheers and flowers.  Don’t count on it.  The Latins would rather govern themselves badly than be “helped” to better government by American troops.

Why are we, and so many other countries before us, incapable of recognizing their overextensions and reducing their commitments?  Three factors seem to be in play.  The first is money.  The Washington Establishment makes heaps of money from a “defense” budget sized to rule the world.  Whether as campaign contributions, jobs and contracts after they leave office, or payments to family members working as lobbyists, senior Washington figures, civilian and military, are experts in “cashing in”.  Many arrive in Washington poor, but few leave poor.  Our trillion-dollar “national security” trough is the biggest in the world and the pigs have their snouts in it up to their ears.

Another cause is the psychological benefits of playing the “big man”.  Senators, generals, admirals, and high administration officials all like to swagger around the world, propping up their often fragile egos by representing “the only hyperpower”, “the indispensable nation”, and the like.  Modesty does not become them, or they would not have spent a lifetime crawling up the Establishment ladder in the first place.  They take any reduction in America’s world role as a personal hit to their own prestige.

Thirdly, the Washington and broader military elites insulate themselves from reality and from failure.  What subordinate dares tell a general that we have lost our recent wars?  Who among Senate staffers wants to be the bearer of bad news to his boss?  Our elites spend a great deal of effort making sure they do not come face-to-face with reality. In that, they are successful, if not in much else.

And so, regardless of what party is in power, our overextension will continue and even grow, until it all comes down in a heap.  I think that reckoning is coming soon.  In the meantime, if President Trump decides not to run again, a perfect replacement is waiting in the wings, someone to whom our situation would be entirely familiar.  Does anyone happen to know the email address of the Count-Duke of Olivares?

The Count-Duke (1587-1645) was prime minister of Spain’s Philip IV from 1621 to 1643. He involved Spain in foreign wars and attempted to centralize power, with a remarkable record of failure.. He led Spain’s attempt to recapture Holland, restarting the Eighty Years’ War – while Spain was fighting in the Thirty Years’ War. None of this ended well for Spain. See Wikipedia.


Editor’s note

Trump’s behavior in this, as in most things, is standard GOP far-right. He has dashed the hopes of Change aroused by his campaign. Pointless foreign wars, involvement in other nation’s civil disorders, and withdrawal from arms control treaties that have served us well – the mad policies that put America on the path to decline.

About the author

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia.

William Lind

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987). Most importantly, he is one of the co-authors of “Into the Fourth Generation“, the October 1989 article in the Marine Corps Gazette describing fourth generation warfare.

He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…

  1. His posts at TraditionalRight.
  2. His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
  3. His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see these posts …

  1. During the campaign – Trump says interesting things about foreign policy that scare our elites.
  2. Conservatives oppose the new START treaty – Just as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan.
  3. For 50 years Republicans have fought against treaties that brought peace.
  4. Trump & conservatives hate the treaties that keep us safe.
  5. Fear Iran’s nukes, coming very soon since 1984.
  6. Jessica Mathews: why scuttling the Iran deal is MAD.

Books about the crisis in climate science

Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World by Tom Engelhardt (2014).

Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa by Nick Turse (2015).

Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World
Available at Amazon.
Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa
Available at Amazon.

10 thoughts on “Bill Lind: Trump keeps America on the path to decline”

  1. Trump is an effect, not a cause; he’s just riding it down. We are lucky it’s not much, much worse, because as a people we have done nothing to deserve better.

    1. Tom,

      Exactly, well said.

      “Every nation has the government it deserves.”
      — Joseph de Maistre (lawyer, diplomat, philosopher), Letter #76 dated 13 August 1811, published in Lettres et Opuscules.

      “Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
      — attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson.

  2. Godfree Roberts

    I knew the Count-Duke professionally, but not personally. He and Philip were well aware of Spain’s decline and attempted to reverse it but found that vested interests in the form of independent provinces and conservative grandees thwarted their every move. Late in life they confessed their failure to one another.

    Btw, the cost of maintaining 45,000 professional soldiers in the Netherlands was even higher then than it is now.

  3. The rise of various populist parties across to planet ought to prove to the establishment figures that there is dissatisfaction with the current course of events. It reflects a pathological blindness to history and a grotesque foolhardiness.
    The problem is that with the rise of populism, it is a delicate balance between a relatively orderly resolution, whether good or bad, and a descent into utter chaos. Humans do not have a good track record for being able to avoid the latter.

    In addition, what can be taken away from the mueller report is, even if there was no criminal collusion, that, as David French said, trump is astonishingly weak. If you read cliff sims account of the White House, assuming that he is not a profiteer, this analysis match’s up quite well.

    1. Isaac,

      “The problem is that with the rise of populism, it is a delicate balance between a relatively orderly resolution, whether good or bad, and a descent into utter chaos.”

      Populists tend to value order. If they tip, it is into authoratarian. Leftist regimes tend to tip into chaos.

      “Humans do not have a good track record for being able to avoid the latter.”

      Quite false. We remember those episodes because they are are.

      “Trump is astonishingly weak.”

      How odd then that he has been able to implement the standard GOP agenda almost in full, and even much of the far-right agenda. Trump is a clown, but he has been a remarkably successful clown. Which I predicted immediately after the election. That is the deep meaning of Trump’s election.

      1. I might be using the term populist incorrectly; if so, I apologize for the confusion.

        When I say that trump is weak, I mean that he is personally weak not governmentally weak. He is relatively easy to influence, as his announcements, walkbacks, and actual polices indicate, at least in my analysis.

        I could be completely mistaken, though. These are bewildering times. The current tech revolution is most definitely a malign influence on us.

      2. Issac,

        Other people are mysteries even when we know them socially or at work. Other people’s marriages are famously mysteries, even to those who know them. All this applies 10x to public figures.

        We are given clear visions of our public officials. JFK was athletic and a good family man. President Ford was clumsy. VP Dan Quayle was stupid. All of these were not just wrong, but backwards. JFK was a drug addict, almost a cripple, and a serial womanizer. Ford was one of our most athletic presidents. Quayle was often brilliant (his “Murphy Brown” speech was a prescient warning, and ignored).

        What about Trump? Is he “weak”? I doubt he seriously intended to become President (perhaps it was like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s run to become California’s governor, a fun marketing opportunity). Perhaps is strong but he just doesn’t care, or doesn’t care much. He is having fun making decisions, sending Tweets. Perhaps he has contempt for a people that would elect someone so unqualified to lead them. That would be quite rational.

        What is populism?

        To our leftist news media, it is just a bad thing – a box with no content (much like boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails). It is in fact a coherent political doctrine, as progressivism is on the Left. To learn about it, see these posts.

        Populism is reshaping the West. Here’s what we can expect to get.
        Racism is the dark side of populism. Will it divide and defeat us?
        Look at the beginning: Excerpt from “The Jacksonian Tradition“ Walter Russell Mead.

  4. The Man Who Laughs

    I agree that trump has been unable to alter the trajectory of the country in any meaningful way. (Or of the Republican Party, which is what it is, and better men than Trump have failed to change that.) I do, with respect to his foreign policy, at least, grade a bit on the curve. Trump has been faced with an attempted coup d’etat by the security agencies, and yes, I do think that’s fair interpretation of recent events. God only knows what would have happened, or what he feared would have happened, if had made foreign policy decisions that actually could have been interpreted as somehow favoring Russia. He’s been accused of treason and collusion as it is. Honestly, I question who has de facto control over the military these days. Given what happened when Trump raised the subject of leaving Syria, I’m not sure it’s Trump.

    As for some kind of invasion of Venezuela, I’ll believe it when I see it. The rule seems to be that we have to have a patina of international approval, and that means finding coalition partners, who may or may not have useful military contingents to contribute. I can’t see anyone signing on for that. If the rule is “You broke it you bought it”, then the Venezuelan ownership of their country is ironclad and absolute. No outside invasion is coming, and with a Soviet style internal security system in place, no internal coup is possible. Those people are on their own.

    I think that Trump’s failures in domestic policy are more serious for the future of the country, but that’s not meant as a ringing affirmation of his foreign policy.

  5. I had thought that one of the few upsides on the Donald was, he was aware that people are sick of (new) wars. I don’t think he would get a major “rally round the flag” outcome if he started a war with Venezuela or Iran. However I expect John Bolton is hoping, in Iran’s case, that they’ll provide a casus belli.

  6. Thank the Lord for Donald Trump – standing up against the Chinese communist lying, cheating, mass-murdering regime and taking a harsh stand against us sponging European Quislings – both a few decades overdue.

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