Badge - 'Don't Register for World War III, The War Without Winners', circa 1960s-1980s
(Image by Photographer: Benjamin Healley from museumsvictoria) Details DMCA
In the post-9/11 era, where the United States has undergone a rise in reactionary nationalism and political violence while engaging in unprecedented militarization, the question has often been asked of whether we'll see a second American Civil War or a Third World War. Given the factors which are shaping the country's history, it's likely that we'll see a combination of the two.
These factors run parallel to the ones which caused Germany to descend into fascism, and to subsequently experience a collapse by waging war against both other nations and against its own people. Nazi Germany's wars were born out of a reaction to the decline and humiliation of the German Empire, which produced Hitler's ideology claiming that the "Aryan nation" needed to seize land from the supposedly inferior nations in order to properly develop. Hitler called this demand for territory Lebensraum.
This Eurasian version of American-settler-colonialism (Hitler took explicit inspiration for Lebensraum from U.S. genocidal expansion efforts) called for the Germans to conquer and colonize all of Russia while exterminating all ethnic groups which were judged to stand in the way of the project, produced such rapidly destructive warfare efforts because it wasn't based around a rational strategic military plan. It was a wildly overconfident endeavor by a dictator who showed his incompetence with numerous foolish military decisions, most of all the one where he invaded Russia. It was a self-delusion that a conquest attempt this rapid and this big could result in anything other than Germany's defeat. The only benefit it might have brought the Nazis was a nihilistic satisfaction in having killed tens of millions and destroyed Europe as a punishment to the world for not letting them realize their impossible goal.
This kind of drive towards wars for conquest at all cost, of reckless disregard for the strategies realities that will work towards one's detriment if they're not careful, is becoming increasingly present in Nazi Germany's ideological origin point the U.S. empire. Since Washington's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which were done with an arrogant brushing aside of the severe costs that these wars would have, Washington's global influence has consequently declined. And now that this imperial decline is combining with an incurable neoliberal economic deficiency and the climate crisis, the U.S. is bound for the same type of national desperation that led to the rise of the Nazis and World War II.
With the election of Trump"--"-which itself was part of the country's reaction to the economic decline and war paradigm that the U.S. has experienced amid its imperial decline"--"-we've seen the early signs of such a future total war. Namely the intensification of America's divisions to a point where coupists are storming the National Capitol, and where far-righters are frequently committing anti-Asian hate crimes. In a 2018 article about why America is headed for a civil war, commentator Phaylen Fairchild observed that:
The New Yorker was the first to suggest that the United States, in the wake of President Trump's unusual victory and subsequent reign of terror over minorities would effectively split the nation in two. Thus far, every one of the predictions made has come to fruition with frightening accuracy"Trump will see himself emerge as the catalyst of a second civil war in America. Should he lose or be impeached, he will convince his followers that he is a victim- as he has already done by declaring any investigation into his corruption a "Witch Hunt." He will say that voting was rigged in favor of his opponent, or that internal bias led to his impeachment. He has postured himself as a modern day Jesus Christ, being crucified by naysayers and purveyors of fake news as he tries to lead his people to the promised land- where only wealthy, white, straight people thrive. Those who oppose him are all evildoers. They will defend him at any cost, even their own sacrifice of conscience.
This reactionary cultural pathology is going to carry through into what the U.S. does in the coming decades, especially when it comes to military decisions. Global warming is going to greatly shrink the amount of land in the world. Not just with the numerous cities which will be erased because of sea level rise by 2050 alone, but with the 19% of currently habitable global land which will berendered unlivable by 2070 because of extreme temperatures. And that's to say nothing of the diminished safe zones that the food and water shortages from global warming will create; it's likely that by the end of the century, global crop yields will fall by around a third due to growing water scarcity and increased salinity. This will ravage the resource capacity of the Third World countries that the imperialists depend on for neo-colonial extractivism, as well as render the current homes of 1 in 12 Americans in the southern half the country unlivable by the 2060s. A lot of land is going to slip from the fingers of the imperialists.
And while severe droughts and diminished landmass will also afflict U.S. rivals"--"-especially socialist China"--"-the abysmal social safety net, deteriorating infrastructure, and appalling environmental stewardship that the U.S. has relative to the socialist countries will make the impacts of the climate crisis all the more destructive for the U.S. population. If these deficiencies in neoliberal capitalism have made the U.S. the country with by far the most Covid-19 deaths, the climate crisis will wreak a proportionally worsened amount of havoc on our society.
When the U.S. has a political culture that's so innately obsessed with the idea of possessing land to accomodate an imperial nationhood, and that will no doubt eventually become fully captured by the ultra-nationalism of the MAGA movement, we can expect the U.S. to react to these crises the same way the Germans did to their crises. The paranoid sense of threatened white supremacy which led Trump's supporters to storm the Capitol is going to take on a far scarier form during America's face with the brunt of the climate crisis. The fascist paramilitaries that facilitated the Capitol Hill attack will be unleashed upon the broader population as death squads in the vein of the SS, and the far-right demagogues who are in power by then will rush the country to war under the equivalent rationale to Lebensraum.
The only reason America's internal post-World War II politics haven't perfectly mirrored Nazi Germany's extreme fascist paradigm, instead carrying out the country's colonial genocide and wars under the friendly mask of "liberal democracy," is because the empire has had enough land and global economic power to feel comfortable with allowing relative privileges for its own citizens. While this relative mildness in the violence of the U.S. police state doesn't discount the dozens of severe police abuses that are carried out during protests like last year's George Floyd demonstrations, in the neo-colonies the violence is much more brazen; in Colombia, 19 citizens were just massacred by police for exercising their supposed constitutional right to protest.
It's these kinds of totally rule-less acts of brutality, perpetrated both by official U.S. armed forces and by militias, that will become ever more normalized in the imperial center as our crises worsen. With enough pressure applied to U.S. capitalism, the centers of capital will resort to importing their very most brutal tactics. The U.S. military has even explicitly stated that when climatic disasters destabilize large parts of the country, the army will be sent in to try to maintain order by any means necessary, with extreme censorship measures then being needed to cover up the army's inevitable atrocities against civilians.
This will be the logical conclusion of our recently emerged paradigm of ICE concentration camps, where federal agents carry out militarized raids to terrorize the country's brown people. It's no surprise that activists and journalists have also become regular targets of ICE's detention campaign in the last several years; with the war on immigrants, our government has created an ever-growing network of secret prisons, where torture and unconstitutional arrests are the norm.
When the state of the world gets bad enough, the camps will be waiting for everyone who our far-right government from a generation in the future judges to be a threat to America's Lebensraum. The endgame of the fascists now, just like back then, is both mass extermination and a war that can bring the oppressor nation the territory it thinks it deserves. Whether this war starts with an invasion of a disobedient Latin American country like Mexico or Venezuela, or a provocation against China or Russia that blows up into all-out war, or an attempt to overthrow Iran through military force, or even a conflict with another imperialist country, we can't predict. The fundamental irrationality of fascism's drive towards war introduces too many insane possibilities. But when the war is over, hopefully we in the world's forces for anti-imperialism, anti-racism, and class struggle will have done all we can to minimize the damage.