How the USA Botched 1990s Globalisation
In the early 1990s, the USA was handed the world on a plate. And they knocked the plate over.
Vain and greedy and aggressive, their two dominant political parties were united in doing most of the wrong things. And in Britain, Tony Blair encouraging all the errors. Almost the entire political class were agreed on a false vision of human history. This ruined their chances of making a stable global order dominated by US values, by having a false vision of how it could be done.
Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ is now seen as a joke. But it mattered at the time. And uncorrected errors included a bizarre idea that sovereignty was invented in the 17th century with the Peace of Westphalia, so maybe it could be lightly ignored. But historians are almost unanimous in agreeing that this merely confirmed that Germany could not be united under the theoretical sovereignty of the Holy Roman Emperor. Even the rest of Latin-Christian Europe never saw the Emperor as more than a German king with a fancy title.
Us politicians are brilliant at sounding good – that’s how politicians rise in the USA. But running something was another matter, and Obama was poor at that. Clinton and Biden far too willing to go with the flow. It didn’t help that their military were remarkably efficient at doing whatever they were asked to do. All of them understood little of the wider world, and too prone to get more extreme rather than shift their understanding.
Why so many bad ideas? No one had to listen to Fukuyama or similar advisors. Advisors who turned out to be Mad Flatterers whose ‘wisdom’ was worse than useless.
It was very silly to speak of the End of History.
A period of peace and prosperity under US hegemony was possible. But it would not have been at all natural. It would have needed great efforts to create it, in the same way as a successful Western and Anglo hegemony was created in much of the world after World War Two. But Britain and the USA were in the grip of New Right dogmas. The methods that had actually worked after 1945 were reclassified as grave errors. ‘Dangerous folly’ that just coincidentally gave the West its best-ever period of economic growth and social harmony.
To reshape the world in the 1990s was possible for the USA. But an understanding that it would need patience and tolerance and generosity would have made it much more likely. And these are precisely the qualities that have become rarer. Discounted among the Anglo elite since Thatcher and Reagan managed to change the culture.
Which is not just a left-wing view: many of the Old Right say it. One nice example is Martin Vander Weyer’s The Good, the Bad and the Greedy: Why We’ve Lost Faith in Capitalism. A man with a confused notion that Popular Capitalism ought to have been possible. Probably no one told him that Marx in 1848 predicted that capitalism would always destroy smaller-scale production.
The winners of the Cold War thought it was their own genius that had won, rather than Soviet mistakes made in the 1950s and 1960s. Had Russia done what China did in the 1970s, moving on from their past but not denying it, the Soviet Union would still stand strong. The whole lurch to the New Right would have been avoided. But Khrushchev did the opposite – bad-mouthed Stalin, yet visibly remained within the system made by Stalin and Lenin.
Pretended that Stalin had been something different from Lenin, when it was Lenin who had decided that if Bolshevik rule was confined to the old Tsarist Empire, it could only survive as a modernising dictatorship.
Stalin had never invaded another socialist state. Lenin had done that with Menshevik Georgia. Stalin didn’t try it with Yugoslavia. Khrushchev did it in Hungary, setting a fatal pattern that helped kill the system. But for most of the left, the idea that Stalin was superior to Khrushchev remains anathema. They are as bad as the Anglo elite in refusing to let failure teach them the right lessons.
It gets entirely overlooked that Khrushchev was briefly sympathetic to Trotskyism. He adjusted, and Stalin chose to trust him because of his solid working-class origins. But it was a fatal legacy. Trotskyism as defined by the exiled Trotsky in the 1920s was a movement with the wrong answers for absolutely everything. Most notably the ways in which Stalin made a success of a popular authoritarian system that was still mired in poverty in the 1920s. That became an economic giant only because Stalin made a crude and workable system that proved strong
The European Union recently endorsed the Polish view that World War Two was somehow the fault of the Soviets. No one dared say that this might make Hitler less guilty, of course. But even though the general view remains that Hitler was going to have a war eventually, Stalin is blamed for having made a deal that shaped the war in a way that gave the Soviets the best chance of survival.
Polish objections are usually cited as the main reason that there was no defensive pact between Britain, France and the Soviet Union when Britain’s rulers in 1938 suddenly decided that Hitler was too dangerous. But it is quite possible that the British ruling class was glad of the excuse. Hoped that it might take a year or more for Hitler’s Germany to totally crush Poland, since Serbia had lasted nearly 16 months in World War One. And hoped that in the meantime the Royal Navy could starve Germany into submission, as had happened in World War One.
The historic reality is that Poland collapsed in less than one month, and then a demoralised France followed. Only the resistance of the Soviets turned the tide. Which was recognised by most of those who lived through it, and knew that Stalingrad counted for vastly more than El-Alamein. Nowadays the New Right try to imply it was otherwise, though I’ve not come across a serious military history that tries to argue it. It would be very hard, since the Germans kept full and accurate records. More than half of the German army was destroyed in their anti-Soviet war. The Western allies had to fight hard to defeat the lesser half of the German army that they faced. And later wars have shown that the USA when fighting overseas will quit when wars get costly, no matter how much they say otherwise.
The West also hides from itself how much it changed to meet the Soviet challenge after 1945. Views on sex, race and religion that were once confined to the Far Left have been normalised. Going further than the Soviets in trying in Britain to legalise the discrete out-of-sight homosexuality the ruling class had long tried to permit, but general propaganda about ‘freedom’ made it hard to explain why gays and lesbians should not be included. Yet the shift happened only in the West, and then partly in People’s China in the 1990s. It remains technically illegal in the Republic of India.
Western greed and ignorance has also caused a backlash from the 1980s. Tolerance of homosexuality has reversed in many countries, as it gets to be seen as part of the West’s cultural bullying. Unfair, but also something that should have been anticipated.
It is better to be wise after the event, than never to be wise at all. But mainstream Western opinion still resists it.
Western leaders, with swarms of ex-Trotskyists to guide them, believed that they were Superior Winners rather than accidental survivors thanks to their rival’s blunders. They had an ignorant and bullying belief that the oddities of US, Anglo and Latin-Christian culture were natural. Which helped ensure that cultures outside the Latin-Christian heritage would mostly reject them over the next two or three decades.
Decades when the USA was foolish enough to go back to a long tradition of waging war.
Mr Fukuyama was of no great significance before the sudden Soviet collapse. He then delivered a message that flattered an elite whose knowledge of history was shallow. Whose pride and belligerence were deep and profound. He encouraged an elite who wanted more conflict, even though very few of the post-Vietnam generation wished to put their own bodies at risk in the wars they started.
A wiser elite would have recognised that Fukuyama’s unusual background gave him a tremendous bias towards flattering them:
“His paternal grandfather fled the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and started a shop on the west coast before being incarcerated in the Second World War. His father, Yoshio Fukuyama, a second-generation Japanese American, was trained as a minister in the Congregational Church, received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, and taught religious studies. His mother.. was born in Kyoto, Japan, and was the daughter of Shiro Kawata … founder of the Economics Department of Kyoto University and first president of Osaka City University. Francis grew up in Manhattan as an only child, had little contact with Japanese culture, and did not learn Japanese.”
People from a minority background commonly go one of four different ways – or occasionally more than one.
- They may try to hide their alien origin, which Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum achieved when she legally became Alice O’Connor. And wrote as Ayn Rand, for the benefit of right-wingers who often had an unnatural fear of Jews.
- They may strongly emphasise their origin and try to recover links, often to the distress of their part-assimilated parents.
- They may take a universalist viewpoint – Isaac Asimov was a splendid example, refusing to write under an Anglo-sounding name and emphasising his Russian-Jewish origins.
- They may accept that they are outsiders, but become extreme in their belief in the values of the host society. Irrational in their belief in its superiority.
In the case of Mr Fukuyama, he was hampered by the fact that hiding your background includes looking just like the people you are trying to lose yourself among. Don’t forget that East Asians of any origin remain outsiders in the USA, much more so than they would be in Britain or other Anglo offshoots of English culture.
Racism does not take a blanket view of all the people they reject. In the USA, African-Americans are viewed as having the same values as the so-called White Race, but prone to be violent and criminal. The most admired are either entertainers, sports people or in the military – violent for a good cause, in the mainstream’s view.
Latinos are also seen as likely to be criminal, but further distrusted as probably having alien values. Distinguished by having their own separate language and culture. Catholic Irish used to be viewed so, but were co-opted when WASP numbers and toughness declined. Italians have partly followed the same route, and with many Irish-Americans sadly becoming agents of racism against them.
East Asians were different again – not often suspected of being violently criminal, but strongly suspected of being incurably alien.
These categories need not have any truth in them, in order to make them a reliable guide as to how a child from such a background is likely to be treated.
Racism is nonsense, but as a man born in 1950 I remember when mild racism was openly expressed. When it was still respectable in Britain. When serious scholarly books in public libraries would assert that Europeans, Africans, East Asians and Australian Aboriginals had probably evolved separately from pre-human ancestors. Books that insisted that ‘race mixing’ had happened only much more recently. And this was a respectable scientific opinion, until DNA studies confirmed that it was false.
As a keen reader, I also read many of the adventure stories of Dennis Wheatley, and all of the Saunders of the River stories. Racist and right-wing, but also entertaining. And in those pre-Thatcher times, the progress of socialism and universalism seemed certain to me. I could view their racism as the harmless ignorance of a vanished age.
There is, incidentally, a good opening for a book or TV documentary recording how far such racists used to be part of British mainstream culture. Not something I myself will write – I already have too many projects that only I am likely to do. Too many that I can hope to complete within the number of years of healthy life I can expect as a man aged 71. But it might be a nice success for someone, as well as a virtuous task.
And the struggle is still on. I’ve written elsewhere about how Star Trek and Star Wars both shifted their visions of the future, to stay in line with culturally dominant views in the USA over the decades.
The same thing has happened with the prequels to Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. The original programs or films were not racist, but also did nothing to upset or challenge racists. And thankfully, both mixed-race prequels are very popular with a considerable majority of viewers who like fantasy adventure stories. Some fans really don’t like the changes to stories they know and love; but much more often you get racists trying to put people off by pretending that no one much likes these new dramatisations.
The same may apply to Doctor Who, where there was unreasonable dislike of a female Doctor. And where there will be a brief return of the most popular white male doctor who’s still young enough to be athletic, before the promised succession of a black man.
That’s fantasy, which can be a very good guide to what people actually believe. Which gives you a clue to unexpressed prejudices and delusions that cause the USA to be involved in a surprisingly large number of wars, considering the great security of its borders.
The USA has become committed to an endless series of wars. And a cause of wars fought by foreigners.
Leaders of more than half the world are ready to see Russia profit by its invasion of Ukraine. They condemn the act, but are ready to let it have an ending that would be a triumph for Putin. It helps that a majority in the Russian-held regions rejected the bitterly anti-Russian views that Kiev has held since 2014, voting for parties that Kiev has now banned. But selfish power-politics is the main reason. Russian concerns have been limited to states that were once part of the Soviet Union. China’s claims do not stretch beyond what Imperial China claimed as its own when it was forced into the West’s global system. Tibet was part of it. So were areas disputed with India, and the islands that China claims with its nine-dashed line. Most of the world does not see this as a big problem.
Selfish power-politics is what the USA opted for in the 1990s. But they were foolish enough to think that they would always be winners. And deluded by a false history that flattered them.
Copyright ©Gwydion M. Williams