The nationalist plank of radical-right, populist ideology asserts that the US is — and all the time can be — the overriding dominant world energy on each measure. But such a perception flies within the face of the legal guidelines of historical past, a inhabitants ecology view of nation-states and energy relations, and the life-cycle mannequin that has utilized to each empire and hegemonic state.
Charismatic Management and the Far Proper
There is no such thing as a persuasive argument to recommend that this mannequin is not going to apply to 21st-century superpowers. On the one hand, the MAGA bluster and noisy and intimidating rhetoric and related violence which have typified the US radical proper lately — particularly since Donald Trump’s election in 2016 — could possibly be regarded merely as the novel proper being themselves (conforming to stereotypes). Then again, it additionally suggests fear-based defensive posturing on the dawning realization that US exceptionalism shouldn’t be assured amidst the inexorable rise of China.
As US world energy declines, will radical-right assertions and targets primarily based on assumptions of US exceptionalism look more and more absurd and unachievable? Will a wounded and inherently paranoid radical proper grow to be much more reactionary and harmful? Is an ineffectual Republican Occasion, the “sick man” of American politics, a first-rate goal for a radical-right coup?
The US Exceptionalism Perception
Based on researcher Hilde Eliassen Restad — and mentioned by this writer in “The New Authoritarianism: A Danger Evaluation of the Alt-Proper Phenomenon” — the idea of US exceptionalism that has existed since WWII encompasses three important parts. First, the US is each totally different to and higher than the remainder of the world, not simply Europe and the “Outdated World.” Second, the US enjoys a singular position in world historical past because the prime chief of countries. Third, it’s the solely nation in historical past that has thwarted, and can proceed to thwart, the legal guidelines of historical past in its rise to energy, which can by no means decline.
These parts underscore a perception that US superiority and superpower standing are warranted and inevitable in each respect. This supremacist perception is embedded in US radical-right ideology. The US exceptionalism thesis doesn’t enable the US to just accept a primus inter pares position in relation to Russia and China, for instance. Trump’s radical-right model of US exceptionalism concerned slogans equivalent to “America First” and “Make America Nice Once more,” the rejection of numerous and allegedly un-American concepts equivalent to multilateralism and common well being care, the repudiation of ethnoreligious equality in favor of white Christian nationalism, and unilateral actions towards different international locations. Such motion included army strikes towards Iranian and Syrian targets, sanctions on Iran, Syria, Russia and China, and ethnoreligious discrimination towards residents of Muslim-majority international locations.
Maybe essentially the most salient ingredient of the US exceptionalism doctrine, as projected by the Trump administration, was that of infinite, undiminished, dominant US energy actually without end. Nevertheless, such a doctrine defies the legal guidelines of historical past, which assume a inhabitants ecology mannequin of nation-states wherein nations develop, mature and ultimately decline. As this writer has beforehand pointed out, implicit on this mannequin is the life-cycle idea and the inevitability of eventual decline. In 1997, William Strauss and Neil Howe utilized the idea of their examine of US historical past and its doubtless future within the 21st century.
Nonetheless, Trump and the US radical proper consider that the US will all the time be the dominant world energy and that no different nation will ever overtake and change it. More and more, this faith-based perception is being challenged by China on all major parameters — financial, army, political, science and know-how — and by Trump’s abject mismanagement and absent management throughout the COVID-19 disaster.
Particularly, Trump’s anti-Chinese language rhetoric and numerous makes an attempt to problem an expansionist China clearly reveal US nervousness that its perceived distinctive mantle shouldn’t be assured. Below the Trump administration, the US banned Huawei 5G know-how over what it perceived as a nationwide safety risk. Washington has additionally despatched naval forces to the Far East to problem Beijing’s declare to giant tracts of the South China Sea, together with islands underneath the sovereignty of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam
Exceptionalism vs. Navy and Diplomatic Failures
Each the veracity and validity of US exceptionalism have additionally been challenged by army and diplomatic failures. For instance, the inevitable collapse of the Iranian regime and/or its compliance with US calls for by no means materialized. That is regardless of the aggressive bombast of Trump and his courtiers, the imposition of extra US sanctions on Iran, the withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, the assassination of Basic Qasem Soleimani in 2020 by a US drone strike and bellicose statements implying an impending conflict.
US failures in international coverage towards the Center East are encapsulated in a 2020 report for the Quincy Institute for Accountable Statecraft. The report argues that US assumptions about its distinctive standing and entitlement to dictate a “new world order,” which incorporates its domination of the area, are each misguided and never match for function. “Stopping hostile hegemony within the Center East doesn’t imply the US should play the position of hegemon itself,” the report states.
The report advocates a brand new holistic paradigm primarily based on regional safety and multilateral relations, wherein US bilateral relations with international locations within the Center East are decided by regional safety, moderately than the latter being a relentless casualty of particular person bilateral pursuits. US international coverage within the Center East has failed to realize its function. Diplomatically and militarily, the US was pushed out of Syria and marginalized by Russian and Iranian alliances with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Below Trump, Washington couldn’t drive Iran to capitulate to its nuclear and different calls for. In Yemen, the US-backed Saudi army offensive towards the Houthis rebels was unsuccessful. Lastly, a US try and introduce an imposed resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian battle that will have negated UN resolutions on Palestinian nationhood went nowhere.
The formal opening of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel in August 2020 is a constructive improvement and one more likely to profit US international coverage assumptions to some extent. But it additionally underscores the chance that the UAE sees mutual protection benefits towards Iran as extra necessary than its assist for the Palestinians. Nevertheless, in style assist for such a place amongst Arab nations shouldn’t be assured, and such negativity could show troublesome for Arab governments. As well as, the obvious enthusiasm for higher relations with Israel could masks an overriding concern within the UAE and Saudi Arabia that with out Israeli involvement, the US could embark on a strategic army withdrawal from the area, which might make them susceptible to any Iranian machinations.
These collective failures additionally point out that US supremacy and purported exceptionalism are in decline. These international locations which have relied closely on American supremacy for assist and safety — whether or not diplomatic, army, financial or psychological — towards enemies or predatory regimes could have to think about new security-and-defense insurance policies and preparations within the medium to long run. This is applicable not simply in relation to the Center East, but in addition to Southeast Asia that faces Chinese language expansionism and European members of NATO that endured repeated threats by Trump about diminished funding for the alliance and even American withdrawal. Nevertheless, the Biden administration is more likely to herald a return to conventional US assist for NATO, a minimum of within the brief time period. But the prospect of some future radical-right presidency may even see a return to a overview of American assist for NATO.
Nonetheless, the US decline can be a long-drawn-out course of all through the 21st century, moderately than a speedy collapse. The capability of the US to attempt to keep its superpower standing shouldn’t be underestimated. There can be moments of momentary rally and a few durations of hardly noticeable decline, however general, the downward pattern can be inescapable. No nation can defy the legal guidelines of historical past and their underlying life-cycle and inhabitants ecology fashions. Whereas “without end” is an extended, very long time, in historic phrases, nations have a extra restricted time period. Whether or not, as different declining imperial and quasi-imperial nations have accomplished over the millennia, the US will study to adapt and discover a new position in an evolving world order stays to be seen.
Over the remainder of this century, the US radical proper are more likely to proceed with their egregious ideology and actions. On the one hand, they’re more likely to be in denial in regards to the US decline. But on the opposite, they may in all probability take benefit the place they’ll by providing themselves because the nation’s solely viable savior from, or antidote to, such decline. Ominously, like a terrified harmful animal making an attempt to keep away from being caged and subdued, the novel proper are additionally more and more more likely to have interaction contained in the US in ever extra audacious and violent conduct designed to scare and cow moderates or challengers and even to subjugate mainstream political events and consultant democracy.
Anticipate to see, for instance, the GOP turned from a mainstream, one-nation, conservative occasion right into a nakedly authoritarian radical-right occasion akin to the AfD in Germany, Fidesz in Hungary and different populist far-right events — all courtesy of Trump and his Republican fifth columnists in Congress. Anticipate to additionally see a rise in on-line and social media assaults in addition to bodily violence towards radical-right targets, whether or not political, institutional, ethnoreligious minorities or different susceptible teams. The violent revolt on Capitol Hill in January, and different radical-right plots to abduct and even homicide distinguished politicians and officers, is a part of the “new regular.”
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.