Just at the end of the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, the Cold War suddenly ended, and the United States displayed a level of military dominance such that the world had never seen. When the East Germans opened the Berlin Wall and thousands of East Germans walked into the West without the normal corresponding Soviet crackdown, it was clear that the communist eastern bloc was weak. By 1991, the weakness had spread to Moscow and millions of Soviet citizens pleaded with their own military not to impose a harsh crackdown on people who took Gorbachev’s ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ pledges series.
And then, in 1990, a brutal and militarily foolish dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded the territory of an American ally, triggering the first Gulf War. The military that was on display in the Middle East in 1991 demonstrated precision weapons of stunning accuracy. The weapons were matched with military strategy that limited civilian casualties and allowed for victory with extremely low levels of military sacrifice.
This period marked the end of the Cold War and shortly afterwards, an American political scientists named Francis Fukuyama published a book titled The End of History and the Last Man. In it, he claimed that history had ended because the big questions had been settled.
That is, the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.from The End of History and the Last man
Even in the triumphant years of 1992 when the book was released, many thought this to be preposterous nonsense, and they have been proven right. Today, the Russians invaded the Ukraine and under Vladimir Putin, will seek revive some portion of Soviet glory.
The West, such that the disunited states that once made up the West are still in existence, is now tasked with a response. It will likely be tepid, and the Russians will stay and wait. They, like so many enemies Western liberal democracy, are patient. Passions will fade, and accommodations will be made.
Rolling the clock back to 1989 again, the Chinese showed that year that they would not follow the Soviets into the night. Democratic protesters set up a large demonstration in Tiananmen Square, and they were crushed in the same way protests in Czechoslovakia and Hungary had been crushed during the height of the Cold War by the Soviets. The Chinese state was not in decline and there was no Gorbachev figure close to the center of power. The ascendant Chinese, at that point, were largely aligned with the United States economically.
President Richard Nixon opened the United States up to China in 1972 at the height of the Cold War and a Chinese rapprochement had been the American plan to thwart the Soviets at the time. In 1989 the Chinese left no doubt that economic freedom did not mean political freedom and they rolled forward quietly and surely to merge as a dominant and strategic rival to the United States. The brief tenure of President Trump and the Covid pandemic has largely ended the long period of economic cooperation with the Chinese.
In 2001, Osama bin Laden initiated the attacked on New York and Washington, and this induced the United States to enter into two costly occupations of two big counties far away. It is difficult to determine if these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were wins or loses, since the scope and goals were so muddy and unstable. But, they certainly can’t be called victories and they deeply undermined the American resolve to fight wars over virtually anything. The confidence lost in Vietnam and gained back in the Gulf War is now lost again. The world knows that Americans are no longer interested in fighting or even spending the money to resist large, organized communist or dictatorial counties.
Other nations have also surely noticed the distinct cultural decline that has occurred in the United States. The period that began with the counter-cultural revolutions of the sixties is in full flower. Counter-culture is the dominate culture in the US and so the culture of the United States that won World War 2 and powered to victory in the Cold War with Soviets is gone. What has taken its place is the culture that believes the country to be infected with ‘systemic racism’ and that climate change, and not tyranny, is the existential disaster of the age. We’ve made group identities the unit of measure and abandoned the once-powerful idea of the individual actor, the national Cowboy, which defined us. The ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ cult has replaced the individual and in this new world, tribes are what matters. There is no ‘united’ in the United States that emerges from the counter-culture.
And so, history is back, and the US is on the wrong side of it. We will find that the arc of the universe doesn’t bend towards justice, as Martin Luther King famously said, or that it bends towards anything. The powerful will dominate the weak, and we’d better get clear on that, because the rest of the world never forgot it.