As the COVID-19 continues to batter the globe, savage the global economy, and equally unsparing to the United States, American intelligentsia has begun questioning as to whether the projection of power – based on the military industrial complex – is at all worth it if COVID-19 throws a mighty 5,000-man battleship out of commission?
Professor Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan and East Asian affairs expert in New York, believes the COVID-19 has exposed the inner weaknesses and contradictions of the US like never before; It spends hundred of billions of dollars on lethal armaments but has not enough COVID19 testing kits, ventilators, and hospital beds. People are dying because they don’t have insurance. Across the US, COVID-19 has killed more more people than in the 19 years of military operations in Afghanistan, far more deaths than those lost to 9/11 terrorist attacks and the numbers may soon surpass the number of US troops killed in the the Vietnam War. meaning thereby that “all the stuff we spend billions on to protect them is COMPLETELY USELESS.” As a consequence of COVID19-induced losses the US will most like not have the discretionary income it had in the past to project power as it has been doing until recently.
Rubin thinks that if in the aftermath of the Corona chaos, Trump gets reelected it may mean even more bad news for the US; he has insulted our allies and immediate neighbors, needlessly provoked our rivals, exacerbated conflict with opponents imposed protectionism that is hurting US export industries like commercial agriculture, and generally made the US look extremist and bigoted.
Donald Trump has only highlighted the symptom of political polarization that already existed. But it is a one-sided polarization in which the Republican Party turning into a a far right nationalist, protectionist, racist party like the National Front in France, elbowing out the rational right
Prof Rubin expressed these views in response to questions by Matrix Mag. Below are the questions and answers in detail:
Matrix Mag (MM): Will and how is COVID-19 likely to impact USA global hegemony?
Barnett Rubin : How the pandemic affects global hegemony depends on how it affects the entire balance of power: hegemony is a relationship, not an inherent characteristic. The U.S. will emerge from this only slowly with a weakened economy and a huge budget deficit the magnitude of which will certainly impact credit markets.
The US has postponed the deadline for filing income taxes, and the record high rate of unemployment means tens of millions of people are not paying payroll taxes, so the government’s revenue must be taking a dive, though we don’t have data yet. Congress passed a bill allocating $2 trillion (that’s 12 zeroes) for economic recovery, and it’s not enough. There will be trillions more. Taken all together it means that the US will not have the discretionary income it had in the past to project power.
MM: What does COVID-19 mean for the US-China rivalry? Who gains or loses?
Barnett Rubin: At first it looked like China would be strengthened by the pandemic. But now there are growing questions about how the closed nature of the Chinese system contributed to the spread of the disease.
China’s aid diplomacy is faltering because of the large amount of faulty equipment it is supplying as it sends masks and other protective equipment around the world. There were already rising questions about Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but now it is an open question how an economic policy based on connectivity will fare in an era of social distancing. Hence it is not clear to what extent China will be able to benefit from the weakening of the US.
MM: Has Trump accelerated the decline in USA geopolitical leverage and how?
Barnett Rubin: This is likely to be a major theme of his rival candidate Biden’s campaign. Trump has insulted our allies and immediate neighbors (NATO, Canada, Mexico), needlessly provoked our rivals (China), exacerbated conflict with opponents (N. Korea, Iran, Venezuela), imposed protectionism that is hurting US export industries like commercial agriculture, and generally made the US look extremist and bigoted. Do I need to say more?
MM: Can Trump’s conduct lead to balkanization within?
Barnett Rubin: Trump is a symptom of political polarization that already existed. But it is a one-sided polarization: the Republican Party is no longer a conventional center-right party like Christian Democrats in Europe. It is a far right nationalist, protectionist, racist party like the National Front in France. The rational right has practically disappeared -Mitt Romney was the sole Republican senator to support impeachment. One by one its remaining spokesman are either surrendering to Trump or joining the Democratic Party.
This creates tensions within the Democratic Party because the rising inequality had created a genuine left movement for the first time in decades. At the same time that sincere conservatives and moderates are joining the Democrats out of despair with the direction taken by Republicans, the youth of America, especially people of color, are being radicalized. Bernie Sanders was the first leader of this movement, but his successor will probably be Alexandria Octavia-Cortez, (D-NY), who represents parts of New York City in Congress. There is a huge gap between young and old among Democrats, especially among Black and Latino Democrats. We will have to see if they all succeed in uniting to elect Biden. Bernie Sanders has an Op-Ed in the NYT t…
Geographically, the difference between the coasts and the so-called “heartland”, between the so-called “red” and “blue” states is accelerating. The Trump supporting parts of the country are also science deniers, like some of your ignorant mullahs. We have them too. Their religion is political power. Trump has done such a poor job in coordinating response to the pandemic that the governors of groups of states on both the east and west coasts are forming associations to cooperate. People are trying to come up with names for these association. A popular suggestion is the “United States of America.” We think that would be a good idea. So far no one is talking about secession, but there is talk about nullification — the refusal of states to enforce federal law. …
MM: Trump reelection: Will it be good news or bad news?
Barnett Rubin: You are asking me about a hypothetical event that God willing will never happen. There is a growing body of opinion, and I am part of it, that says that the re-election of Trump means the effective end of democracy in the United States. His supporters are on the offensive trying to prevent young people and people of color from voting. The Supreme Court, which is packed with Trump appointees, allows all kinds of things it would have forbidden in the past. Trump claims that millions of “illegal immigrants” (i.e. people of color, Muslims) vote, and if he loses, it is not clear that he will go peacefully. He may claim that the victory was based on fraud, and we will have a situation like Afghanistan, but there is no United States to put pressure on the United St…
MM: What does COVID-19 mean for the superpower and the its military industrial complex?
Barnett Rubin: We now see emerging discussion in the media of how mistaken the US national security and defense priorities have been. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on advanced weapons systems but then see a 5,000-man battleship is put out of commission by a virus.
We have F-35s, but no COVID19 testing kits, ventilators, and hospital beds. People are dying because they don’t have insurance. We have lost more people to this pandemic than in 19 years in Afghanistan, far more than on 9/11, more than in the Korean War, and it may pass the toll of the Vietnam War. And while our people are being killed in unprecedented numbers, all the stuff we spend billions on to protect them is COMPLETELY USELESS. I think the US is not the only country that will have to rethink its priorities.
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