Hey tech folks: The West is not failing
A Russian rebellion should highlight the weakness of certain anti-American narratives.
If you want an accurate, up-to-date summary of what just happened in Russia, you’ve come to the wrong place; please follow my Ukraine War list on Twitter. I was thinking of writing something about the abortive rebellion of Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, but then it was…well, aborted. After seizing two major Russian cities without much opposition and marching north to the outskirts of Moscow, Prigozhin apparently gave up and went to Belarus and ordered his men to stand down.
Very strange. I’m not sure we’ll ever know quite what happened, but it seems like this whole bizarre episode can’t be a bad thing for Ukraine. Despite the palpable relief of the pro-Putin folks at the fact that the Russian state wasn’t toppled, the fact that the rebellion could get almost to the gates of the capital with so little opposition seems like a very worrying sign for the Russian dictator. And the disappearance of some of the Wagner fighters from the front will of course relieve some pressure on Ukraine.
To me, the real takeaway from this episode is the comparison to the U.S. Whatever else he did, Prigozhin showed Americans what a weak, declining empire actually looks like.
Over the past year, I’ve seen some people in the tech world — not a majority, obviously, but a vocal and substantial minority — embrace a variety of stories about American weakness. These include:
The idea that the U.S. dollar is falling and will be replaced by either crypto or a BRICS currency
Various pro-Russian narratives (the U.S. military is “woke” and therefore inferior to the masculine Russian military, Russia is winning the Ukraine war, and so on)
So instead I thought I’d write a post about how all of these narratives are wrong, and how the subset of tech people who either wail in despair or crow in triumph about American decline need to update their beliefs. And at the end, I’ll talk about the one declinist narrative that I do think holds up, and is worth worrying about — the decline of our defense-industrial base.
There is no “global American empire”
Among leftists, it has long been fashionable to label America an “empire”. Recently, some on the right have taken to saying this as well, and the meme has filtered through to some of the people I know in the tech world. Some people have even started using the extremely annoying term “GAE”, or “global American empire”.
Now, I realize it can be fashionable to call any powerful country an “empire”, because we’ve all watched Star Wars, or played Age of Empires, etc. It sounds a lot more dramatic than “big powerful country”, and if you say “hegemon” people might just not know what you’re talking about. Also, if you’re pushing a narrative that America is going to decline and fall, it helps to call it an “empire”, because we all like to see empires fall (right?), and because the Roman Empire fell, etc. etc.
But it just doesn’t make any sense. There’s no meaningful way in which the U.S. is an “empire” at this point in time.
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