Photos circulating worldwide of U.S. troops’ helter-skelter withdrawal from Kabul in mid-August have laid bare the “crippled hegemony” of the United States.
Such a prophecy was made as early as 2002, nearly 20 years ago, by late Yale University professor Immanuel Wallerstein, who wrote in an article in Foreign Policy magazine that the expansion of the “war on terror,” which began as America launched Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks, would “rapidly diminish the already declining power of the United States in the world.” “By any measure, the ‘war on terror’ was the biggest project of the period of American hegemony that began when the Cold War ended — a period that has now reached its dusk,” Foreign Affairs magazine argued in an article published recently.
After two world wars, the United States emerged as the top power, and then dominated the construction of international political and economic order to better serve its interests. It often enjoys de-facto control over various international organizations established under its leadership. The United States, motivated by its geostrategic interests, has long been a meddler in other countries’ internal affairs and a subverter of their governance, inflicting wars and turmoil in various parts of the world. Following the end of the Cold War, the United States became the sole superpower in the world, seeking to justify its wanton military operations in the name of “humanitarian intervention.” Where there are U.S. troops, there is a mess, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria.
However, the “unipolar moment” that once existed in the wake of the Cold War has already gone. It is now a more multilateral world, where all countries are inextricably interconnected and entitled to develop in their own ways. The United States, once relying upon its technological strength and the dollar hegemony to reap the wealth of the rest of the world, has been caught in strategic anxiety and become increasingly overbearing. Such egoistic and perverse hegemonism, nevertheless, is doomed to failure, with a debacle in Afghanistan being the best notation. “From the COVID-19 pandemic to global trade rules, from climate change to economic development, the United States is actively frustrating the priorities of most of the world’s democracies. In the process, U.S. foreign policy is — in the name of democracy — compounding the global crisis of democracy and delegitimizing U.S. power,” said an article published by Foreign Affairs in July.
The sole superpower has now turned into a “failed state,” as U.S. magazine The Atlantic commented. Its decades-long hegemony pales amid rising social unrest, decaying political governance, and clumsy epidemic response, which has been dragged down by spats over such science-based anti-virus protocols as mask mandates, self-isolation and social distancing. Like a magnifying glass, the pandemic exposes deep-seated woes in the United States, including an insurmountable wealth gap (the richest one percent of Americans now holding much more wealth than the bottom 50 percent), rampant money politics (lobbying, campaign contributions, the revolving door, and manipulating mainstream media) and systemic racism (police violence against African Americans, hate crimes against Asians, etc.). In such a politically polarized and highly fragmented society as it is today, American politicians obsessed with votes and partisanship and mired in veto politics of “no for no’s sake” have neither the will nor the ability to solve the conundrums fundamentally sapping the American power.
Francis Fukuyama, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, pointed out in an article published in The Economist in August that the long-term sources of American weakness and decline are more domestic than international. In a report released in May, the Pew Research Center compared public trust data from 1958 to 2021, saying that only about one quarter of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington, and distrust of government is particularly acute among younger generations.
A self-proclaimed “shining city upon a hill,” the United States has long positioned itself as “greater” and “superior” than other countries. However, the so-called American values it touted are nothing more than an ideological tool to safeguard its global hegemony. The “shining city” has been seeing its halo fading away amid social disparity, political polarization, uncontrollable epidemic and its futile foreign intervention. A Pew Research Center poll released in June showed that only about a third of respondents in France, Spain and Greece viewed the United States as a trustworthy partner, and four in ten in France and Spain thought American democracy worked poorly. Even among Americans themselves, about 62 percent no longer view their country as a “shining city upon a hill,” a Yahoo News/YouGov poll in July last year showed.
Foreign Affairs magazine argued that in the 21st century, the U.S. government must realize that its “unipolar moment” has long gone. At present, the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. It has entered a period of turbulence, with rising instability and uncertainty. An increasing number of people in the world have come to realize that hegemonic countries pursuing hegemonic policies and engaging in bloc confrontation and zero-sum game will only bring about conflicts, wars and disasters to humanity. To address common challenges facing mankind, all countries must respect each other, live together as equals, pursue peaceful development, and achieve common prosperity. The solution is not to hope for “more enlightened U.S. leadership,” but instead to build a multipolar world together, Chandran Nair, founder and CEO of the Global Institute for Tomorrow, wrote in an opinion published on Oct. 3 by the South China Morning Post.
Feature: Former Bagram prisoner lambastes maltreatment by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) — “The authorities shifted me from Pul-e-Charkhi jail to Bagram prison which was in Afghan army control but virtually the Americans were the rulers of the prison and they beat me badly,” former detainee Abdul Qadir Hijran recalled.
A resident of Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, 29-year-old Hijran was captured in 2011 in Takht-a-Pul area for fighting the then U.S.-backed administration and the U.S.-led forces. He had been kept in a Kandahar prison for 22 months and was later transferred to the Pul-e-Charkhi central jail in Kabul. After two years in the Pul-e-Charkhi jail, Hijran was moved to the Bagram prison within the premises of the U.S. military base, 50 km north of Kabul. “My painful life began from here when the American soldiers began torturing me while the prison was at the hands of Afghan forces,” Hijran said.
Recalling the ordeal, the former prisoner said the jail authorities kept 34 inmates in a cage-like room where the inmates used to live without blankets and mattresses, while the room was kept cold by air conditioner round the clock. “The detainees didn’t have enough food and medicines. If any inmate got headache, or stomachache the jail clinic provided him just a pill and nothing more,” he said. “Languishing in other jails from Kandahar to Kabul the situation was tolerable, but in Bagram prison, in one word, I can say that no human rights had been respected. The detainees were tortured and insulted. It was extremely miserable that some detainees had eaten razor to end their lives given the inhuman treatment of the American soldiers,” Hajran said. “I can’t explain the torture and ill-treatment they applied to me, but the atrocities they committed would haunt me for years,” said the former inmate, adding that the U.S. military did not even allow the detainees to recite Quran, the Muslims holy book, in their cell.
Hijran was freed from the Bagram prison with the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in mid-August. Expressing hatred to the war, the former detainee said, “Now is the time for peace and I expect the countries to treat Afghanistan with the sense of neighborhood, justice and co-existence to facilitate Afghans living in peace.”