End of Empire, Age of Refounding

Across America there is a palpable sense of disbelief in the current state of our nation. A once mighty global power founded on the precepts of liberty, impartial justice, and unassailable individual rights has become anything but. The people, once relatively united under a national identity, have splintered into the many—confused, distrustful of one another, and weary of the continuous stream of lies and abuse from America’s increasingly corrupt institutions.

Beyond America, our formerly democratic allies have succumbed to full-fledged authoritarianism—a path on which we, too, are traveling. Videos of the horrendous abuse of Australian citizens by their police and military circulate across social media creating a frightening preview of what our ruling elites have in store for us. What is now a nearly full-blown citizen uprising is marching through Australia, a key member of our intelligence and security partnership known as the Five Eyes. And things are not much better in western Europe.  How much longer will the one-sided abuse of citizens continue by these Western “democracies?” Perhaps not long.

Empires and nations fall when they no longer offer intrinsic value to their populations. They fall when they can no longer maintain the illusion of a path to prosperity for their people. They fall when their people no longer believe the nation’s institutions and leaders. And when they fall, it isn’t always a sudden disastrous apocalypse, it’s often a slow-motion decay marked by the disillusionment of the masses, incompetence of the ruling class, and the inanity of the intelligentsia. Did the Romans recognize their empire falling as it happened? Did the British comprehend their diminishment before their Suez moment? Did Americans see their end before the “debacle in Kabul?” In our case, while some try to decipher the significance of our current dysfunction, most still cannot imagine a world without America. 

The Death of Trust

Americans are a uniquely suspicious lot. They have stubborn ideas of independence and liberty based on strongly held beliefs in individual natural rights. These are not casual beliefs. They are boldly and precisely written into the founding documents of the nation via the Declaration and Constitution. 

Most Americans understand that government is made up of people, and with them, all the flaws of human nature. They have accepted our nation’s failings and have striven to correct our mistakes, whether those mistakes were allowing slavery, the genocide of native Americans, internment of Japanese-American citizens in World War II, or institutionalized discrimination against various ethnic and religious groups. And perhaps because we understand these past failings, we are distrustful of those in government who now have the power to repeat these mistakes. When our political leaders and institutions squander the trust of Americans, the resulting mistrust can last for generations. It is not easily regained. It most certainly cannot be regained by the same politicians simply waving their hands and calling for unity.

Since 9/11, Americans have watched as their institutions continually, unfailingly squandered their trust. The Patriot Act, the failed Bush wars, taxpayer bailouts of the 1 percent, Trump-Russia collusion lies, and COVID-19 hysteria damaged our faith in our institutions. We have slowly but steadily been taught, by our own government’s actions, that our government officials and bureaucratic apparatchiks are pathological liars. 

Historians will look back on what happened in America and try to determine the point when the American empire died. Which point or series of events they decide to attach to that death is anybody’s guess. But most certainly they will see the debacle of our war in Afghanistan and our poorly executed withdrawal as a seminal moment. 

The decades of lies about the viability of our Afghan partners, the failed planning for our withdrawal, the abandonment of our citizens in enemy territory, the incompetent drone-strike on an innocent family of ten, the 13 American service members killed by a suicide bomber we knew was coming—the list goes on and on. And at the core, it was the constant, reflexive lying about it all that became intolerable. It was at this point that many Americans came to understand just how incompetent and dishonest our leaders are and started to wonder how we could possibly continue like this.

End of Oligarchy

Nero may have fiddled while Rome burned, but too many Americans tweeted and played social justice warrior while America crumbled. As we hide our eyes from the rubble we made of our republic, we, like the Romans and British before us, imagine the never-ending span of our empire. We pretend everything we touch doesn’t turn to shit, and that our superpower is still making the world safe for democracy and womyn’s rights. But the rest of the world sees our decline. They know that the United States of America is the sick man of the Western Hemisphere. Our enemies will watch our self-destructive fall from power, and when we have neutered ourselves enough, they will come and take what they want—it is best we act to save ourselves while we still can.

The late Angelo Codevilla spent the last few years warning that we have unwittingly abdicated our republic to a ruling class of oligarchs. He spoke a hard truth—but all hope is not lost. First and foremost, we must acknowledge the state of our nation. We are no longer a constitutional republic but an oligarchy, by and for the wealthy and powerful. If we decide this is not acceptable, then the second thing we must do is immediately set about re-founding our republic. Machiavelli warned that re-founding a nation is considerably more difficult than what was required of its people at its original founding.

That said, Codevilla plainly laid out the tasks without sugar-coating their requirements. Namely, “rescuing disrespected constitutions has always required and will always require undoing any number of enemies.” In other words, if we are to re-found our republic we must cut out the cancer that destroyed the original version.

Secondly, “The process of rescue necessarily consists of America’s would-be leaders convincing their followers to ignore, disdain, and resist the directions from society’s commanding heights in favor of what they believe is more consistent with what America had been and should be again.” Here we must deploy a new construct which defines the relationship between citizen and state and reinforces the deference to the consent of the governed. 

We have the mechanisms within the federalist structure of our Constitution to achieve this re-founding—they are encompassed within the 10th Amendment, the sovereign powers of the states, and the consent of the governed. To do this requires strong state governors to assert their sovereignty and authority. It means removing from the body politic the instruments and the representatives of the present oligarchy. And it means re-establishing the trust between citizen and state that was corrupted under our present ruling class. What we need now is the courage, the will, and the leadership to begin the process.

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About Max Morton

Max Morton is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, former CIA paramilitary operations officer, and a veteran of multiple armed conflicts, revolutions, and contingency operations.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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