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How Rigged "Free Markets" Shackle and Plunder Most Americans

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A two part review of The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era, by Gary Gerstle

Part One

When Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, gave his annual state of the nation address in April 2005, he made a statement that many critics in the West continue to excoriate. Putin claimed, "[I]t is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century."

Now, if you were a newly liberated citizen in those Eastern European states that had escaped Moscow's oppressive Soviet rule, you probably believed that Putin was speaking rubbish. But you also feared that, at some future date, he might attempt to "gather" lost territory. Such fears were seized upon by Cold War "triumphalists" in the United States, who sought to expand America's neoliberal empire, and by NATO bureaucrats seeking to justify mission creep at the very moment when the collapse of the Warsaw Pact obviated the need for their so-called "defensive alliance." It was NATO's relentless expansion -- after initial assurances of no expansion and notwithstanding repeated complaints by Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, and Vladimir Putin -- that finally provoked Putin's preemptive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022

If you were one of those Americans reveling in the Cold War "triumph" of the West over the "evil empire," you might have agreed with Francis Fukuyama that the West's victory marked the "end of history" -- signifying that liberal democracy was the final form of government for all nations. You even might have supported the obnoxious Wolfowitz Doctrine that urged America to use the power of its "triumphalist" unipolar moment to assure that no nation would even aspire to contest America's world supremacy. If so, you would have been proven to be a fool deluded by nationalistic hubris.

Today, at least six things are clear: America's world supremacy: (1) did not prevent the country from being laid low by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorists, (2) did not prevent the Great Recession of 2008-2009, (3) did not prevent the emergence of a powerful Russian-Chinese alliance, (4) did not prevent the worsening of the global environmental crisis, (5) did not prevent the COVID-19 pandemic, and (6) did not prevent liberal democracy from being eclipsed around the world by authoritarian regimes like the one Donald Trump attempted, and still attempts, to impose by force in the United States.

Moreover, it was criminal abuse of that supremacy by two American officials, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, that earned the United States the hatred of much of the world. They and their minions fabricated lies to justify their illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq -- certainly the most heinous war crime and the worst strategic blunder in American history.

No American who supported the invasion of Iraq has any moral standing to criticize Putin's lamentable invasion of Ukraine. But, more to the point, America certainly would not have invaded Iraq, had the Soviet Union's imposing military deterrence continued to exist. On that point, Putin was correct. The collapse of the Soviet Union certainly was a tragedy -- for millions of Iraqis.

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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