The beginning of the end of the American Empire?

Donald Trump Editorial credit: Evan El-Amin

Donald Trump exits as president with America more divided than at any time since the Civil War and with the U.S. regime closer to collapse than most Muslim nations, argues Abdel Bari Atwan.

Donald Trump’s ignominious departure from the White House, as he left for his private resort in Florida unaccompanied by any of his previous loyal aides, marked his humiliating defeat for the time being. That said, it may not be long before he resumes his quest to demolish his party and country and deepen their divisions.

The depth of the crisis Trump bequeathed was reflected in the inauguration speech given by his successor Joe Biden. In his otherwise bland address, he issued a desperate appeal for national unity in a country that is increasingly divided and faces the prospect of something resembling civil war.

Trump’s demise supposedly brings an end to an era of lies, incitement and loud-mouthed sabre rattling at home and abroad, and ushers in a time of reconciliation and rehabilitation for a broken America that faces an uncertain future. The U.S.’s reputation and sense of identity are shredded, its power is more diminished than ever, and its self-confidence is shattered both at home and abroad.

Trump failed to deliver on most of the promises he made to restore America’s “greatness” – whether by curbing the rising power of China, changing the regime in Iran or disarming North Korea. The main thing he succeeded in doing was to humiliate Arab rulers, browbeat them into normalisation with Israel, and plunder billions of dollars from their treasuries.

This does not mean Biden will fare any better in delivering on his pledges to bridge the U.S.’s internal schisms and revive its global leadership. The Trump administration’s four years in power were fateful for the American Empire, and may have accelerated its demise more than many could have imagined. The collapse of great empires throughout history always began with internal defeats that set the stage for external defeats, and Biden is unlikely to be capable of halting this demise, let alone reversing it.

Trump’s legacy

Many commentators are mistakenly trying to play down the longer-term impact of Trump’s legacy. He vowed on the steps of the helicopter that flew him out of the White House to “be back in some form.” Regardless whether he succeeds or fails in staging a personal comeback, he charted a course that could be ruinous for the U.S. in both social and economic terms.

Trump reportedly plans to establish a new “patriotic” party based on White supremacy and xenophobia that revives the legacy of the racist forefathers who invaded North America and cleansed its indigenous population. This putative party has a potential base of 74 million people who voted for Trump and constitutes 70% of the Republican electorate.

He has set himself up as spokesman for this marginalised mostly White and non-metropolitan constituency. European fascists did much the same in former times, as do Trump’s right-wing admirers in Europe at present, including many of Britain’s Brexiteers.

The grievances of these constituencies are genuine. To point them out is not to predict that these attempts to exploit them will succeed. It is only to suggest what could happen in the months and years ahead to the power that dominated the world for decades after inheriting, and badly misusing, the mantle of European colonialism.

Trump will now assume the status of martyr for tens of millions of his followers who constitute a time-bomb in the American body politic, awaiting a spark that could ignite at any moment.

His boast that he never started any war during his four years in office is true. The reason for this is that he simply didn’t dare go too far against China, North Korea or Iran. He realised that he could not win any war against them, and even if he did, the cost of victory would be greater than the cost of defeat. So the only people he could force to do his bidding were feeble Arab rulers.

Today, the regime in the U.S. is more threatened with collapse than any of the regimes in the Middle or the Far East which Trump and his Israeli allies threatened to bring down. What a turnaround it has been.

This article first appeared in Raialyoum.

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