If there is one thing that we have learned in the course of the last two decades it is that maintaining a de facto empire abroad, one that is capable of, say, winning minor land wars in Central Asia, is impossible when at home we are being torn apart by moral paroxysms that the rest of the world finds baffling. In the United States we argue about flags and heaps of granite and the exact proportion of unwokeness in decades-old television programs and whether mothers should be referred to instead as “birthing persons.” This is not because we are an especially reflective people. It is because the the first principle of the American republic is capital accumulation, which can only be sustained by the ongoing systematic destruction of all received forms of common life. The absence of shared values at home renders us incapable of projecting strength, confidence, and humanity to the rest of the world.
So much for identifying the disease. What about the prognosis? I do not see a cure. We will argue about the meta-ethics of statue removal as unemployment surges, wages fall, and infrastructure collapses in front of our eyes. This will be the case regardless of whether the president is re-elected in November.
Meanwhile, it is worth asking what, if anything, will come of our no longer being the “indispensable nation” in the eyes of the global community, which Merkel and her counterpart President Emmanuel Macron in France both expect to happen eventually.