Is the US in Terminal Decline?

You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment. BBC News‘ North America editor Mark Mardell has some interesting thoughts, however:

It is eerie to walk so close to a weapon of mass destruction.

The B-52 bomber is one of the ultimate expressions of American power. If the president decides to drop a nuclear bomb, this is the sort of aircraft that would do it.

I am careful not to step over the red line around the plane. A sign painted on the ground warns lethal force can be used against those who cross it without authorisation.

I’ve come to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, filming for the new BBC One programme The Editors.

The programme aims to get the BBC’s on-air editors to explore – and hopefully answer – a big question. My chosen subject is the decline of American power.

There’s little evidence of it at the base, where the sign above the gate reads: “Only the best come North”.

An old Minute Man missile stands to one side of the entrance.

The road names here are a testimony to the base’s purpose – Ballistic Avenue and Cruise Missile Lane. It is home to two arms of America’s nuclear strike force, the Fifth Bomb Wing – known as the Warbirds – and the 91st missile wing, the Rough Riders.

As I talk to a group of very normal, bright and cheerful men and women from both units, I am awed by the potential nature of their job.

I joke that when things are really stressful and going very wrong, some people in my business say: “It’s only television.” They can hardly say: “It’s only nuclear war.”…

[continues at BBC News]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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51 Comments on "Is the US in Terminal Decline?"

  1. Gordon Chumway | May 5, 2013 at 8:16 pm |

    Not if we legalize marijuana

  2. alizardx | May 5, 2013 at 9:05 pm |

    Empires go into terminal decline when the elites that run their governments choose to use them as tools for extracting wealth from their subjects instead of creating it.

    When this happens, either the elites get replaced via revolution or invasion, or everything comes apart.

  3. Anarchy Pony | May 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm |

    God I hope so. Until the Chinese decide to take up the empiring business…

    • BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm |

      in it’s 5000 years of political history
      all of China’s empire building has taken place inside China
      when the Mongol Yuan Dynasty ruled China around 1300 CE
      it expanded China’s boarders to include Tibet and the western Gobi
      China’s boarders have not changed since
      except when Mao returned Mongolia to the Mongols
      all the neighboring countries have extremely large Chinese expats communities
      mostly focused on trade & bizmess

      no guarantee of course
      but they tend to think traditionally when it comes to expansion
      they simply don’t want to deal with lots of backwards thinking lowai

      • Hadrian999 | May 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm |

        We may see another incarnation of Zheng He’s fleet

        • BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm |

          interesting you should mention him
          the Muslim Chinese explorer
          his ancestors were Arab merchants that settled in China
          about 1000 years prior to his birth
          but if you remember the history
          he was on a diplomatic trading mission
          which was squashed by the new Ming Hongxi Emperor
          who had the fleets destroyed and
          forced everyone living on the coast to move 50 miles inland
          this act started the destruction of China’s powerful technologies
          which began a period of decline
          the recovery from which
          will continue on for at least another 50 years

        • BuzzCoastin | May 6, 2013 at 1:47 am |

          I just recalled that Zheng He’s fleet is no longer necessary
          at any moment in time
          about 100 million Chinese nationals are scattered across the globe
          there are 500,000 people from Fujian Provence
          living in lower Manhattan right now
          as opposed to less than 10,000 Americans in China
          and about 5 million Americans abroad

          • Grey Knight | May 6, 2013 at 3:03 am |

            They will strike and be overwhelmed almost immediately.

            The walls of Fortress America are Oceans, no such trivialities as citizenship.

          • Spruce Cycle | Nov 24, 2014 at 8:36 pm |

            Uh huh thats why hispanics have invaded and taken over. #moron

          • Hadrian999 | May 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

            I didn’t mean a literal fleet, only a projection of Chinese power, prestige and wealth into other regions.

      • Anarchy Pony | May 5, 2013 at 11:17 pm |

        Hopefully the trend continues.

        • BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 11:27 pm |

          after 5000 years, the trend could change
          but I’ve seen no evidence of this
          most Asia countries have
          a disproportionately large number of people with Chinese ancestry
          30% of Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia & Cambodia
          and over 50% of Singapore
          but nonetheless
          the Chinese government has no direct control over them
          and has to negotiate with them harder than Uncle Homeland does
          e.g. Thailand has tons of secret CIA prisons
          not to mention their drug operation at the Golden Triangle

          • Anarchy Pony | May 5, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

            Incidentally, what’s the difference between lowai and gwailo?

          • BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 11:52 pm |

            鬼佬 gwailo Cantonese
            老外 lowai Mandarin

            In Mandarin, guizi (鬼子) is a similar term to gweilo. Guizi, however,
            can be used to refer to either the Japanese or Europeans

          • Anarchy Pony | May 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |

            So they both essentially mean outsider. That’s what I thought.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm |

            in fact, many singaporeans of chinese descent (and i’d say they are over 70% of the population) HATE mainlanders with a serious passion. singaporeans have always been xenophobic, but this is ethnocentrism to a heightened level. they have no ties to the motherland, only the ephemeral thing called ‘chinese culture.’

          • Calypso_1 | May 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

            Which is interesting in light of the superimposition of ‘culture’ over the concept of ‘nation’. The population is the reservoir capable of maintaining identity not the geopolitical entity which attempts to enfold the population.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm |

            the identity imposed by the state (nationalism) leads to some rather unpleasant things and is far less about culture than about subservience- rather culture and identity removed from a nationalist context, probably will evolve more quickly, and be a considerably more hybrid/plural in nature.

          • BuzzCoastin | May 6, 2013 at 8:25 pm |

            Overseas Chinese, go figga

            I found it interesting that for $3000
            I can renounce my US citizenship at a US embassy
            however I also found out
            you can never renounce being Chinese
            you merely become an Overseas Chinese

  4. Wishing this fucking empire a quick death.

  5. BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 10:42 pm |

    the fall of the American government is inevitable
    when will it fall? is the only real question
    tomorrow? unlikely
    a 100 years from now? certainly by then
    but the fall of a corrupt government doesn’t mean the end of the American people
    America has more open space and more abundant resources
    than anywhere else I’ve been or know of
    so American will ultimately do just fine without Uncle Homeland and his drones

    • Anarchy Pony | May 5, 2013 at 11:50 pm |

      The Republic of Cascadia and the Northwestern Autonomous Zones agree.

      • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm |

        which could be part of the

        voluntary federation of pacific free peoples
        hawaii, oregon,bc.washington,southern alaska and possibly california.

        at least in my mind, it seemed like a cool cartographic idea.

        • Anarchy Pony | May 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

          None of California beyond Humboldt County. We can give the rest back to Mexico

          • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm |

            i’d agree to everything south of marin. but yes it probably should be returned. i’d miss the googie and mid-century architecture of socal though.

          • Anarchy Pony | May 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm |

            Hopefully travel will remain open.

            And what is with the single downvote on every friggin’ post I make? It can be totally frakkin’ innocuous, and still get downvoted. Looks like it’s happenin’ to you too.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |

            lol, who knows, i was just wondering that myself.
            well hopefully the zapatistas can figure out a way to make every region in mexico autonymous, democratic, and post-property. that way… no borders no states.

          • emperorreagan | May 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

            There was a good talk/photo essay at the local anarchist book store a couple of years ago. Very inspiring to see how excited people are still about that movement.

          • Calypso_1 | May 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

            Talk to Pur Singh about it.

        • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm |

          i lol at the downvotes.

          some hypothetical post-empire of autonymous free states is THAT offensive? think about it, every place i included is where the hippy-granola faction live. we wouldn’t join your freeman militias anyway.

          • Calypso_1 | May 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm |

            it has nothing to do with the content. It has to do with a disgruntled sad sack w/ a boner for the regulars.

          • Anarchy Pony | May 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm |

            DO NOT WANT!

          • Hadrian999 | May 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm |

            can never happen, people are ruled by fear, fear of the other, fear of themselves, fear of failure, but most of all,fear of responsibility you could cast off the chains of every man, woman, and child in the world but by next week they would be looking for a new master to tell them what to do, before long you would be back to a hierarchical society.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 7, 2013 at 2:21 am |

            non-hierarchical societies have existed in the far past of humanity, recent history, and also exist in the contemporary world- that’s proof enough for me that a voluntary society could and would work in the right context.

          • Hadrian999 | May 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

            The problem I see is that it wouldn’t stand up to attack from the outside, and it would be attacked if it attained any level of success.

  6. The only man the BBC can find to interview in all of North Dakota has a Scottish accent?

    • BuzzCoastin | May 6, 2013 at 12:06 am |

      everything about that “American” pilot was very strange
      from his outfit, WTF’s with that hat dude
      his strange accent and his religious belief in government
      the only thing weirder was the 300 lb BBC drone

      • Calypso_1 | May 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm |

        You will find a very high preponderance of such religiosity among the buff crews. It is intentional. It helps when the people who would be delivering the apocalypse already have been well indoctrinated with end-time xtianity.

        • BuzzCoastin | May 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm |

          yeah, I have heard the USAF has lots of Fundy Christians
          the AF Academy is supposed to a revival meeting camp ground
          but lets face it
          blind obedience usually has to have a religious backing
          if you can think, you’re not qualified to be an AF officer

      • Hadrian999 | May 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

        no such thing as too strange to be american

  7. Grey Knight | May 6, 2013 at 2:58 am |

    Capitalism is now devouring itself.

    As the good book says, once Capitalism destroys itself…

  8. Liam_McGonagle | May 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |

    Well, consider the problem from a wider evolutionary perspective. The very concept of the nation state itself may very well be obsolete.

    Yes, the USA is washed up, afflicted by a plague of worthless buffoons at the helm too stupid to even know how to whipe their own *sses. But there are visible fissures even in the supposedly mighty up-and-comers like China. Their pathetic dependancy on an unsustainable export economy and looming demographic nightmares are all too apparent already. Dissent is growing and it seems it is only a question of when and how rather than if the whole thing comes crashing down.

    This is not the bronze age, when agriculture effectively defined the constituency as a tribe living within a 100 mile radius. This is not the industrial age, when economies of scale limited the projection of force to state actors with massive infrastructures.

    Eventually there will have to be some sort of admission that the current structures themselves make no sense, and the reason why idiots are behind the wheel is because only an idiot would buy into the paradigm in the first place.

    • Spruce Cycle | Nov 24, 2014 at 8:35 pm |

      U fucking moron nation state is far from obsolete stop regurgitating trash u read on blogs. The very technologies that have shaped and reshaped the world are products of and maintained by the nation state.

      The internet, Google, Silicon Valley could not survive with the protections, regulations, and innovations by the nation state.

      You are stoopid.

  9. I see this as classical and not modern cutting edge Journalism – an attempt by a safe and cliche throwing Journalist to make a valuable programme. But I think it fails miserably. I would be in the same position if I had stayed with the title: “Is the US in Terminal decline ?” Whether it really is or isn’t, the Optimistic character of the broad North American people is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think even if there was decline, that through so much drive and optimism, they would see it until it really hit them in the face.

  10. emperorreagan | May 6, 2013 at 10:56 am |

    I think it’s more than Americans fretting about their place in the world. There’s a strong element of apocalyptic fantasy in American culture. Whether it’s zombies or raptures, there’s a strong affinity for it. It’s not just that China or the USSR or whomever will be dominant – it’s that it bodes disaster for the world if the US isn’t.

    Both major parties in the US prey on that thinking – a fatalism where the US is destined to be the world’s power and if that power falters then it’s the end of the world. There’s no in-between.

  11. Things rise, things fall. *shrug* Don’t see why everyone’s all shocked and OMG! Stuff falls and ages and dies. No exceptions. This isn’t news any more than “gravity still pulls towards center mass” is news.

Comments are closed.