What the U.S. national security establishment has achieved, impotent imperialism, recalls Montesquieu’s judgment on late imperial Rome’s policy: “In the end, there was no people so small that it could not do them harm.”

The U.S. national security establishment’s failures, followed by its members’ profitable retirements on corporate boards, has earned them rejection as corrupt incompetents. Their haughty wrapping of themselves in transparent pretenses of patriotic commitment and expertise has made them contemptible.

Inevitably, rulers’ incompetence tends to discredit the regime as well. The American people have been reticent to rebel against it wholesale because America’s national security establishment has so successfully wrapped itself in the American flag, because the connection between rejection of rulers and rejection of the regime is so natural, and because our patriotism is so deep.

Americans are protesting in the voting booth. No one, however, denies that the American Republic now has fewer friends than enemies among the American people, and that the vast rest are doing what people everywhere do when they realize that their rulers are inept and corrupt: first, they go limp. Enthusiasm turns to acceptance, acceptance to passivity, and passivity to one or another measure of estrangement.