The profound crisis inside the US

The profound crisis inside the US

“What is the greatest threat to the USA today?” a veteran American diplomat was recently asked at an international forum. Everyone expected him to say China, possibly Iran and the destabilization of the Middle East, perhaps even Russia. His answer caught everyone by surprise: “What’s happening in Washington.”

There is no doubt that America is changing rapidly and showing serious signs of decline. The complete absence of political consensus and understanding, in combination with the fact that the political dialogue is being dominated by zealots on both sides of the aisle, is catastrophic.

What happened in the House of Representatives is astonishing. The United States was left without a speaker of the House, who is number three in the official hierarchy of the American government, because an extreme faction of the Republicans decided to play games. This would have been inconceivable 10 or 20 years ago.

The failure of political communication comes at a hefty price, at every level. Even though the US is becoming increasingly embroiled in the crisis in the Middle East, it couldn’t send an envoy to Israel and Egypt until very recently. Key positions in the State Department lie empty. And this is because certain senators refuse to approve the candidates nominated by the White House.

The domestic crisis in the US runs deep and the country’s debt is rising fast. The signs are not limited to Washington. Cities like San Francisco are on the brink of collapse because they have become victim to extreme politics from the other side.

And there is, of course, the elephant in the room. It is very likely that in a year’s time, Americans will elect Donald Trump as their president again. Constitutional law experts, historians and political scientists are at pains to predict what will happen. The issue is pressing not just because he will be a paranoid president with his hands untied and few institutional counterweights to check his course, but also because he may have to go to prison while holding the position of president. It’s uncharted territory and the experts need to go all the way back to the American Civil War to look for anything resembling a precedent.

In the midst of all this chaos, and as the gates of hell open in the Middle East, an experienced but aged Joe Biden is trying to do the best he can with what he’s got.

The rise and fall of great powers is not only determined on the battlefield. More often than not, their fate has been written well beforehand, in the domestic political scene.

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