Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

The American elite’s failure

COMMENT

US President Donald J. Trump's limousine is seen outside the US Capitol Building as Trump meets inside with the Senate Republican caucus, in Washington, DC, USA, on Tuesday.

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

Conjuring up an alibi to explain your failures can be a convenient solution, but it’s rarely a responsible one. It’s a trap that America’s traditional elite risks falling into. Russia’s involvement in the country’s domestic affairs is a serious issue that is currently under investigation. Authorities will certainly provide answers in the coming months. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be the sole culprit when examining the mistakes of the US establishment at home and abroad.

The American elite has essentially lost touch with a big chunk of the population. It no longer understands the latter’s concerns. It got caught up in the tyranny of an over-the-top political correctness which resulted into a divorce from the “other” America. To be sure, the controversy surrounding the Democrats’ emails and widespread disinformation over social media played a predominant role in shaping the course of major events. However, the biggest problem about a democracy so vulnerable to interventions of this sort is the democratic system itself. The fact that Americans elected as their president a man who tramples on decades-old institutions and ideals reflects deeper structural shortcomings. Even if Trump were not there, there would have been someone else to express the rage and the anti-systemic current.

However, there have been some failures on the international level as well. Moscow has managed to maintain a leading role in the Middle East. It did so in a crude manner, but this is how the game is played in the region. Russia sent a signal that it will stand by its allies, like in the case of Syria, and has seriously expanded its strategic footprint. All this happened because Washington was absent or made the wrong choices. Nature abhors a vacuum. Putin grasped the opportunity when it arose.

It’s time for reflection and self-criticism. Washington must decide what sort of role it wants to play on the global stage; it has to review the strength of its strategic postwar obligations and rank its top priorities.

China is rising fast, Russia is creating fresh opportunities – albeit not always in an orthodox manner – and Europe is unsure of itself. Trump represents an inward-looking retreat, his advisers the opposite. The situation is nebulous and the outcome of the ongoing tug-of-war is uncertain.

The progressive American elite must take a more humble and, at the same time, pragmatic look at the problems facing the country. Many excuses have been heard but at the end of the day it was the weaknesses and the mistakes of the elite that had Trump elected and put Putin on a global pedestal.

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