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General News    H3'ed 2/8/21

Tomgram: John Feffer, The Unreliable Superpower

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Here's a question for you: Can you rely on this country? Or have we, at least enough of us, gone stark raving mad in these last years? At the moment only 32% of Republican voters believe that election 2020 was "free and fair." We've just recently learned that our previous political "leadership" directed the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI to focus their attention on the dangers of" you guessed it, Antifa and the left, and instructed them not bother with groups that obviously posed no threat like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or other right-wing nationalists.

Oh, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican representative from Georgia who once put her Facebook stamp of approval on the assassination of Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic congressional leadership, supported QAnon conspiracy-thinking, and recently blamed California's wildfires on "Jewish" space lasers, only recently got appointed to the House education committee and then removed from the same committee. (Who, after all, could question her ability to educate the rest of us in her own distinctive fashion?) Meanwhile, the previous president, who's never stopped claiming that the last election was stolen from him and called his supporters to Washington on January 6th, assuring them that it would "be wild," now golfs at Mar-a-Lago and threatens to launch a new "MAGA" party. Oh, and he also took an in-person fealty oath from Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as he awaited his impeachment trial in the Senate (and its foregone conclusion, no matter which lawyers represent him). In his wake, you undoubtedly won't be surprised to learn that state Republican Parties are now putting yet more effort into restricting the vote to those they prefer.

This is, of course, the America now headed by 78-year-old President Joe Biden. (Don't expect him to have a second term in office.) No wonder, as TomDispatch regular John Feffer, author of the Splinterland series of novels and columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus, suggests today, much of the world now hesitates to recognize the United States as the most exceptional, indispensable nation around. Tom

The World Welcomes Biden But Hedges Its Bets
Will Political Volatility Be America's Downfall?

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The nightmare is over. The vanquished beast has crawled back to Mar-a-Lago to lick his wounds. The heroes are hard at work repairing the damage. As America returns to the international stage, the world heaves a collective sigh of relief.

That, at least, is the story the incoming Biden administration is telling. "America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back," as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the administration's nominee for U.N. ambassador, put it shortly after the election. According to this narrative of redemption, the globe's Atlas shrugged off its burden during the four years of Donald Trump's tenure but is now ready to reassume its global leadership responsibilities.

Don't believe it, though. Much of the rest of the world seems visibly queasy at the prospect of sitting on America's shoulders, since who's to say that Atlas won't shrug again?

And perhaps Atlas wasn't such a responsible fellow in the first place.

Over the last several decades, the United States has displayed all the hallmarks of a country suffering from a serious personality disorder characterized by mood swings of gargantuan proportions. From the compromised multilateralism of the Bill Clinton years, the United States pivoted to the aggressive armed unilateralism of George W. Bush. Then, after boomeranging back to the centrist (if still over-armed) internationalism of Barack Obama, it took the wildest of detours into MAGA-land with Donald Trump. In the latest case of foreign-policy whiplash, Joe Biden is now preparing to return the country to a "new and improved" version of Obama's global liberalism (with a dash of anti-Chinese fervor thrown in).

Americans are by now remarkably familiar with such side effects of twenty-first-century democracy. We've skimmed the fine print on the label more than once and become reasonably inured to the adverse consequences of our civic religion.

Much of the world, however, is not accustomed to such volatility. The Kim family has ruled North Korea from day one, while Paul Biya has run Cameroon since 1982. Over the last 30 years, China has settled into its predictable version of market Leninism. Putatively democratic countries like Russia and Turkey have had the same leadership for two decades, while a genuinely democratic country like Germany has had the same chancellor for 15 years. The rest of Western Europe has seen numerous changes in those who hold the reins of power, but oscillations in governance have generally stayed within a relatively narrow political spectrum. European Union policies have similarly remained on a remarkably even keel, despite disruptions like Brexit.

These days, however, democrats and dictators alike are unsure, from one day to the next, whether the United States will be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

On the surface, the international community has generally provided a warm welcome to the incoming administration, if only out of profound relief at seeing the backside of Donald Trump. True, it took Vladimir Putin a while to get around to acknowledging Joe Biden's victory, while Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil grumbled about the departure of his American BFF, as did Hungary's Viktor Orba'n and a number of other right-wing populists.

But Biden was a clear international favorite in the recent presidential election. According to an Ipsos poll of people in 24 countries, Biden had an edge of 48% to 17% over Trump, with only the Russians as outliers. And postelection, the favorability of the United States has only risen (except perhaps in Russia and China).

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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