Learning to Live in the World Instead of Ruling It

South Pool of 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan.

By John Grant

So how should Americans live in this new world? That’s the crossroads we’re at, the question at hand. Some advocate a very costly re-arming of America for a 21st century conflagration that, if past is prologue, would end with an even more weakened, declining America.

The 2016 presidential election suggests that America is at a crossroads. The right wants to hold onto a glorious, imperial past rooted in images of American exceptionalism. The left, when not in a state of confusion, wants progressive domestic reform – while both sides remain tied to an out-of-control National Security State.

I’m a Vietnam veteran and a 40-year veteran of the American anti-war movement. This movement has been unable to curb the failed Drug War, the civil-liberties nightmare called the War On Terror and it certainly failed to prevent the disastrous invasion/occupation of Iraq.

We live in the aftermath of an imperial dream set in motion a century ago by men like Teddy Roosevelt and firmly established as the National Security State after World War Two and during the Cold War. We’re now in the decline phase. The forces of technology and globalisation have brought us the “rise of the rest” – ie, China, India, Brazil and other, formerly developing “third world” nations that are becoming peer capitalist competitors. Much of the terrorism we face today is arguably rooted in the legacy of European colonialism and an incomplete de-colonisation process that began after World War Two. Today’s dangers aren’t new; they’re just more frightening because the warzones are no longer “over there”; the world has become an open Pandora’s Box. The Middle East, for example, is a hotbed of untenable structures left over from European colonialism. Western fear of Islam is hardly new either.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.