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Is the mighty American empire on its last leg?

By Babere Chacha and John Wahome | January 14th 2021 at 10:00:00 GMT +0300

Pro-Donald Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, U.S. on January 6, 2021. [Reuters]

From an interesting YouTube video named 10 Astronomical Events That Will Happen In Your Lifetime, we learn that the lucky ones among us may expect to observe Halley’s Comet – last seen in 1986 – twice in their lifetimes as it makes its spectacular rendezvous with Earth after every 75 years.

Not even in our wildest imaginations, however, did any of us foresee the blindingly bright supernova of the mighty USA franchise beginning to unravel before our very eyes! The world is still reeling from the shocking images from Washington Wednesday last week. The USA has finally joined Trump’s despicable club of ****hole nations in remarkable style!

The successful and unbelievable invasion of the DC Capitol, the holy of holies of America’s national institutions by Trump’s insurrectionist supporters was a new low, even by the standards of the most despicable despotic regimes. They went beyond Trump’s earlier admonition to ‘stand back and stand by’ and sought to manually help their president achieve the sinister goal of forcefully thwarting the congressional certification of election winner Joe Biden. In the aftermath, five people lay dead.

Equally gasp-inducing was the failure by law enforcement to stop the breaching of this most sacred monument and reverential symbol of the American democratic government, liberty and power; a building whose cornerstone was laid by no less a person than George Washington himself. The deadly Wednesday riot was so crude that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop was stolen, and a threatening MAGA message inscribed on her desk.

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The helplessness of the elite Capitol guards to deter the insurrectionists’ incursion was eerily reminiscent of the 539 BC biblical moment when Darius the Mede and the Persians quietly slipped through waterways and canals to lay hands on a drunken king Belshazzar and forever overthrow the Babylonian Kingdom. Without wishing the US ill, it becomes natural to wonder whether the Mene Mene Tekel moment – as the book of Daniel calls it - has finally come upon this most successful of all canonical civilisations.

Philosopher Oswald Spengler claims that a civilisation’s coherence is tied to a single primary cultural symbol. This makes the desecration of the iconic Capitol a serious harbinger of America’s rapid geopolitical, commercial and social-economic diminution. When Donald Trump’s cumulative political iniquities, which are solely responsible for the present chaos will be tallied, he will emerge in history as an unmistakable tin-pot dictator who masqueraded as a statesman of the most powerful nation in the world.

Talk is gaining momentum among Democrats and moderate Republicans about impeaching Trump once again. By the time this article is published, the president may have attained the ignominy of being the only American president ever impeached twice.

America’s standing and influence in the world since the last World War has been exemplary and well-earned. Anne Applebaum in a recent dolefully article accurately captures the reason why the rest of the world is charmed by America’s enduring mystique.

Stating that the allure of democracy has been the nation’s best asset abroad, she writes that “the nations of what had been Nazi-occupied Western Europe [and] Communist-occupied Eastern Europe, and a huge variety of countries all across Asia, Africa and South America have chosen democracy over the past decades because [they] wanted to join the great, prosperous, freedom-loving American-led democratic alliance.” Now democracy itself is on trial.

The ubiquitousness of the mighty dollar in world commerce has been perhaps the most enduring statement of America’s dominance over the rest of the world.

In an article audaciously named Is This How Greatness Ends? Tom Mactague wrote in The Atlantic after the day of the riots that we are in the middle of “a kind of Wizard of Oz revelation for the world, a discovery that the great and powerful [American] Oz does not exist. The US president can still wipe out life on Earth with the push of a button. But the sheen has come off. America no longer feels as special.

The institutions don’t look as secure, nor does the stability of the system. The problem is that something is too obviously wrong. Many diplomats and politicians [in Europe] now believe the US is simply too divided to stand alone in the world for much longer. It is too riven and aggrieved, shorn of a unifying cause.” What an ominous dirge for the mighty USA!

Because of this universal admiration, many people seem to have some kind of emotional investment in the successes of America as well as its failures, even adopting America’s global enemies as our own. We cannot possibly imagine Russia occupying the void which America’s possible eventual implosion, would create. 

One of reasons the Roman Empire fell was the ‘rise of the Eastern Empire’ during the time of the Emperor Diocletian, after which the largely Greek-speaking Eastern Empire grew in wealth while the Latin-speaking West descended into economic crisis.

In our case, China snugly fits the mold of the Eastern Empire which is assiduously, and with spectacular success, challenging the USA for global dominance. America has been the devil we know. China, given its renowned ravenous greed for Africa’s minerals and raw materials, alongside its communistic hangover of disdain for human rights, is more likely a devil, rather than the angel, that we don’t know.

Our gut wish, therefore, is not the demise of the USA. Unfortunately, an apocalyptic feeling is in the air that, not many days hence, our protective American canopy will crumble, exposing us to very unforgiving rays from the ‘Eastern Empire’.

-Dr Chacha and Dr Wahome both teach at Laikipia University


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