Tomorrow does not belong to me

Trump is sabotaging his own fantasy of continued American hegemony.

Donald Trump, in the peroration of a prepared speech to CPAC:

We are Americans, and the future belongs to us.

Trump may have been careless, but for Bannon, a trollish dog-whistle fits better. This song from Cabaret is pretty famous:

From the starting-point of 1932 the future did not work out too well for 12-year-old Hitlerjugend enthusiasts like the blond boy soloist. Membership became compulsory from 1936, and you can’t infer from membership that Josef Ratzinger or Günter Grass were true believers. Grass has admitted he was, and applied for the U-Boat service at 17. Luckily for him, Grass was turned down, and had (like the boy in the photo below) to make do with a slightly less risky SS Panzer division, where he was lucky again to be merely wounded.

The next 10 years went pretty well for the Nazi cause – but they were followed by three years of unmitigated disaster and slaughter for Germans. One under-recognized reason for the complete reversal in German political culture after 1945 was the very high and selective death toll among convinced Nazis. They tended to volunteer for high-risk services like the Luftwaffe, the U-Boats, and front-line Waffen SS units. Of the 41,900 serving German submariners in WWII, 28,000 died: almost exactly two-thirds. The 12th SS “Hitlerjugend” Panzer Division arrived in Normandy in June 1944 with 20,540 men, soon commanded by the fanatical and ruthless Kurt Meyer. On August 22, at the end of the Normandy battle, his division was down to 300 men.  SS units didn’t generate many POWs, especially on the Eastern front.
Photo credit

The Nazi gamble on world domination was of course crazy from the outset. At least Donald Trump can look back at several historical moments of true American hegemony: 1919, 1945, and 1991. These partly reflected American economic and technical strength, but also and to a considerable extent the collapse of its adversaries and the exhaustion of its allies. Murphy’s Law struck everybody else, a stroke of geopolitical luck.  2017 is peacetime. There is nothing in sight to prevent the inevitable relative decline of the USA. China and India are much more populous, much poorer, and therefore growing faster.

Since 1945, and indeed before (as at Bretton Woods), American statesmen have sought to embed American values and interests in the world institutional order. It has been the only rational strategy for an outnumbered imperialist. Trump and Bannon despise this order and are are doing their worst to sabotage it by macho posturing, waving the bloody flag, and beating the tin drum of nationalism. The result is certain to accelerate, rather than delay, the inevitable readjustment.

The future won’t be American. It can still be a world in which Americans can be safe, respected and prosperous. The chances of this happy ending are shrinking ever day Trump stays in power.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

6 thoughts on “Tomorrow does not belong to me”

  1. I wish them well, but I'll be very surprised in India and China can maintain their advance. I'm fairly confident the US will, or at least that Trump will not turn out to be a serious impediment.

    1. A chart by Jan Zilinsky of relative shares of world GDP in PPP terms:

      Using nominal GDP, it will take another 15 years for China to catch up at current growth rates. It’s not clear which metric is more relevant for the procurement of exotic power-projecting weaponry like carrier battle groups and stealth fighters, but the Chinese are steadily getting there. China’s plan to dominate the world car market with electric vehicles is going pretty well too.

  2. "… certain to accelerate, rather than delay, the inevitable readjustment."

    Precisely! This crew want to hurry up and #MAGA: Make America Generic ASAP!

  3. "SS units didn’t generate many POWs, especially on the Eastern front."

    Well, there was a dynamic regarding what the opponents did with surrendering SS troops that fed into this.

    Still, the argument that deNazification succeeded because the worst ones were already dead is one I haven't encountered before.

  4. My father was in the MASH equivalent of WWII in the African and Italian campaigns. He told me that the German medical corps routinely amputated arms and legs and then invalided the amputee back to Germany. It took longer and required a higher level of skill and infrastructural support, but the Americans made every effort to save the extremities…and then returned the G.I to the battle lines. The Germans ran out of men. Then too, it may have been that the German medical care suffered from the elimination of the Jewish doctors, who were amongst the best pre-war Germany had to offer.
    Dare I point out how much of our medical staff at all levels is foreign born?

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