New world orderless

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At a meeting with Western powers in November 1956, Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech in which he warned his Cold War adversaries, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!” Some modern translators suggest that a more accurate version of this assertion is, “We will be present at your funeral.” Regardless of whether Khrushchev believed that the then-U.S.S.R. would be the West’s undertaker or merely a non-mournful observer at our interment, the message was clear: America would be impotent to halt what he believed to be eventual Soviet hegemony across the globe.

To extend the metaphor, never in his most optimistic dreams would Khruschev have imagined that, in 2024, millions of Americans would be figuratively sitting next to his successor, Vladimir Putin, in the pews. Specifically, a faction of Republicans, both elected officials and the rank-and-file, don’t understand — or don’t care — that Russia poses an existential threat to America. This is not merely because of the legion of nuclear warheads that are aimed at us. It is also because of the armies of Russian propagandists who ceaselessly spread disinformation in the U.S. The latter effort is designed to sow discord that they hope will ultimately lead to our nation’s dissolution. (I’ll get to a third Russian threat later.)

Add to this the creeping proto-fascism that is haunting Europe, as we witnessed in last Sunday’s European parliamentary elections. For example, French President Emmanuel Macron dissolved his parliament’s lower house and called for early elections after his party lost substantial ground to Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally (RN) party. More disturbingly, the Alternative for Germany (AfG) party gained the most new votes among that country’s electorate. Three German states have officially certified the AfG as a right-wing extremist party. This same trend has taken hold in Austria, Hungary, and Italy — among other European nations.

There are at least two common themes among the far right in Europe. One is a visceral anti-immigrant sentiment. Americans are familiar with the “they (i.e., immigrants) are taking our jobs” trope. It is an all-too-common proxy for the fear of whites in multi-ethnic nations who believe that they are “losing” their country. The other major theme — which is intimately related to the first — is that a “strongman” is the answer to the problem. As with the first theme, this isn’t a new phenomenon. I’m old enough to remember when Donald Trump declared “I alone can fix” America’s challenges during the 2016 Republican National Convention. That line is straight out of the authoritarian playbook.

Sadly, Mark Twain’s famous aphorism still applies: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” At present, hundreds of millions of people around the world are embracing proto-fascism as embodied by a solitary “leader” who will eradicate his nation’s problems by ridding it of “undesirables.” Unfortunately for their sycophants, strongmen have a very poor track record of success. This is true even of those who did not place anti-immigrant racism at the core of their message.

It is imperative for us to understand that the winds of war are blowing. If current trends in America and Europe continue, those winds will soon reach gale force. The U.S.-led world order that took root after World War II — though very far from perfect — is the single greatest factor that has prevented World War III. While that system has done virtually nothing to “ensure domestic tranquility” in the U.S., especially for Americans of color, it has prevented us from having to lose tens of millions of our loved ones in a global conflict.

I believe that, if the authoritarians have their way, there will be a new paradigm. I called it “New World Orderless.” It will be one in which Russia will mimic Nazi Germany. (Anyone who believes that Putin will stop at Ukraine is naïve beyond belief.) Russia’s “wanderlust” would be aided and abetted by Donald Trump, who will have pulled the U.S. out of NATO. Further, China will invade Taiwan while Europe is engulfed in conflict — and as America sits on the sidelines. Eventually, of course, we will be dragged into war with the Russians and its nouveau, less-formal “Warsaw Pact” — even as we will have to defend Taiwan because it is in our national interest to do so.

Is this a dark picture? Yes. Is it an unrealistic one? Absolutely not. In the face of nascent authoritarianism around the globe, a famous quote from Winston Churchill might be helpful: “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…” Authoritarians try to “Febreze” their intentions by using the word democracy. They bastardize the concept, stretching it far beyond recognition.

On the bright side, the world is now safe from Hunter Biden.