Question: How and to what extent have the social divisions between the different strata of US society (blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans, capitalists and the middle classes, etc.) caused America’s decline?
R. A. Saeidi: In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From the very beginning, the American society was a society that was built on the basis of immigrants. Well, as you know, when America was (as infamously said) “discovered” it had a native population of Indians. But the white population that entered the country were immigrants from Europe. Many of them were financiers from European countries, especially England. Many Jews also went there thinking that the US was the promised land. America was a very suitable place for establishing a human society due to its rich geographical area. And then others migrated there from different countries and communities with different colors. Because of the issue of slavery, black people entered the US in large numbers from different countries over the course of several centuries.
But the important point was that America was said to be a “melting pot.” A “melting pot” is a boiling pot that can melt these different people who have come from various racial backgrounds, with different nationalities, and from different social classes. It can bring them together based on American values and naturally turn these divergences into convergences. Well, obviously, one of the most important features of a successful society is social cohesion. But in the case of America and the situation that exists today, [the problem] is that the melting pot has not worked very well. This is because those who migrated to the US have maintained their own characteristics and their own colonies. For example, the Arabs who go to the US maintain the same lifestyle that they have always had. They have settled in areas where it is possible for them to have their same lifestyle because of the shops, stores, and mosques that are situated there. Or [another example] are the Chinese who have built “Chinatown” there. And the same goes for Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, and Mexicans. This matter has created a situation in America today where these social divisions may be seen. In other words, there are racial differences, differences in skin color, and social differences. Those American values have not necessarily been able to eliminate these differences. So, you might already be aware of this, but Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Hispanics are a very large population there. And today there is a serious fight going on between them and the first Americans.Or, there is the feud between the blacks and the whites, which is a chronic wound and dispute that exists in the US. The black people believe that their social dignity has not been respected by the white people and they have been tortured by American police for many years and decades. The “Ku Klux Klan” movement killed black people, and severe racial discrimination existed and still exists against the black population. These things have caused American society to turn into a fragmented society from the point of view of a society, and this became extremely apparent during the period when Donald Trump rose to power. Trump came and intensified these disputes to some extent.
So, there was emphasis on a purely white race, a pure America, opposition to accepting immigrants, antagonism toward the Chinese, and antagonism toward the Mexicans, saying, “They’re taking our jobs from us, they’re creating unemployment for us.” Today, there are discussions such as Calexit, which means the secession of the state of California from the United States of America. And there are also some other states in a similar situation. Of course, this does not mean the immediate collapse of the United States. Therefore, we should not necessarily consider the decline of the US to be synonymous with its collapse. Anyway, one of the characteristics of a successful society is social cohesion, homogeneity, and social unity. But today’s American society lacks these factors. It does not seem that these matters will be able to be fixed in the near future, nor is it likely that America’s melting pot will be able to bring them together. This [problem] has led to a brittle social situation in America. Although, like I said before, this does not mean an imminent collapse. There are issues like Calexit, but they are not very likely to actually take place.
Question: Regarding events related to the US’s presence in the world in recent decades, such as the situation of Afghanistan, Iraq, the crisis in Ukraine, etc., will these matters have an impact on the isolation and decline of America’s image among allied and non-allied countries?
R. A. Saeidi: Yes, the answer is definitely yes. You see, the US, as a country that has considered itself the hegemon and regulator of the international system, was planning to enter different places. It wanted to, according to its own statements, “resolve the issues, bring democracy, make humanitarian interventions, eradicate the dictatorial regimes, (like what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq,) and bring security and democracy to the people.” Of course, all of these are their policies as they have announced them.
But in practice, what other countries and the world public opinion have observed is that the United States has failed in most of these projects, and the things that were discussed in the policies that it had announced have never been realized. The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext of fighting terrorism, suppressing the Taliban, and saving the people of Afghanistan from those terrorists. However, you saw how during the Biden administration the US withdrew from Afghanistan after all those years without having made any achievements. You saw how the US withdrew. It was a sudden, hasty departure. Who was Afghanistan handed over to afterwards? It fell into the hands of the Taliban, the group the US was aiming to overthrow when it entered Afghanistan in 2001. All the [years of] war, all the destruction that took place, the killing of all those women and children, and the attacks on schools and the wedding ceremonies of normal civilians, but what happened after all that? After around 20 years of occupation, the US left Afghanistan in that situation.
The same thing happened in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein with the aim of bringing democracy to Iraq eventually led to years of war in that country, the scandals in the Abu Ghraib prison, the killing of civilians, and the vast amount of damage that it caused. Ultimately, the Americans were forced to leave Iraq without having resolved the issue of insecurity in the country. You saw what DAESH did to Iraq. If the Islamic Republic of Iran hadn’t helped, DAESH would definitely have gained dominance in Iraq. Or the least that would have happened is that we would have seen a divided Iraq, and the Americans were prepared to accept such a situation.
It is the same in other places too. Today, we hear similar issues being discussed by a number of scholars who have criticized the US’s presence and intervention in Ukraine’s affairs. John Mearsheimer, a distinguished professor in structural realism, says that the US’s intervention in the case of Ukraine has led to their allies, for example in East Asia, no longer viewing them in a positive manner. They are worried. Because even though the US had said they would give Ukraine military support against Russia, in practice they left Ukraine to fight on its own because Ukraine had no strategic value for them. Some arms support or media support was provided. But despite all the things that had been said, military support was not given to Ukraine. And today Ukraine remains defenseless against Russia. People like John Mearsheimer have stated that America’s allies in other parts of the world such as East Asia, where the US is supposed to support them against China, are now asking themselves whether the US can really support them. Well, we have all seen examples of what the United States has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine. Not only has it not improved the situation in those places, but it has also caused the crises to escalate wherever it has been present. This has immensely damaged the role and image of the US at an international level, especially in the minds of its allies. America was supposed to place a security umbrella over them, but it can never actually do that because it has failed to do so in similar cases. So, will it really be able to support them? And this is a serious cause for concern for them. So, in recent years, the US’s international projects have one by one led to the decline of its image internationally, especially in the minds and eyes of its allies.
Question: Over the past few decades, the United States has spent large sums of money in the West Asian region. However, according to what a significant number of experts have stated, the US has not been able to reap benefits proportionate to its heavy expenditures. How can this statement be explained and interpreted in the context of America’s (military, strategic, and cognitive) decline?
R. A. Saeidi: Naturally, whenever we plan to evaluate a country’s foreign policy to see whether it has been successful, we look at what that country’s goals were and whether it was able to achieve these goals and secure its national interests. This is because goals are designed according to national interests. So this is our criterion for evaluating the success rate of a country’s foreign policy. Its success is the attainment of its goals. This can be our criterion for examining US foreign policy.
For example, the US has taken certain measures in the West Asian region. It has attacked Afghanistan, established military bases, and stationed a large number of troops in the region. All of these measures have entailed heavy expenditures. So what was the goal the US had in mind based on the policy that it had declared? It announced its goal, which was the overthrow of the Taliban. How many years did it remain in Afghanistan? 20 years. The question is, “Were the Taliban overthrown?” No, the Taliban have complete control in Afghanistan today. They have taken over Afghanistan, toppled Ashraf Ghani’s government, and taken his place. The Americans just stood and watched, and they eventually left Afghanistan. Was it able to bring security to Afghanistan? No. Did it help for the development of Afghanistan? No. During the period when the Americans were in Afghanistan, the country deteriorated immensely in terms of political corruption, an increase in drug trafficking, more insecurity, and now the Taliban is completely in control. Therefore, you can assess and compare the US’s presence in Afghanistan with the expenditures it made during those 20 years while keeping in mind the goals that the United States had set for its presence there.
What happened in Iraq? Trump said himself that they spent about 7 trillion dollars in Iraq. That is a baffling figure! What goals did they achieve there? Was security established in Iraq? Was the US able to govern the country? Trump himself said, “We spent 7 trillion dollars in Iraq. But now, whenever I want to go to Iraq, I’ll have to go there in secret with the lights off.” But you have seen how strong our regional presence in Iraq has become. We attained much leverage there during the time of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in terms of both hardware and software. We were the ones who actually led the fight against the DAESH. We were the ones who preserved Iraq’s territorial integrity. We were the ones who drove the DAESH out of Iraq, although it had completely taken control of significant parts of Iraq including the provinces of Mosul and Anbar. It had already formed a government, minted coins, and printed banknotes. The Americans were saying that it might take 30 years to fight the DAESH, but our General Soleimani said it would take less than two months to see the end of the DAESH, and this is what happened. After that, the US was forced to withdraw from Iraq as the Iraqi parliament passed a law calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. So, a national government was established in Iraq, the US was put aside for all practical purposes, and it played no role in the process of forming a new Iraqi government.
Or let’s consider the situation in Lebanon. In 2006, Condoleezza Rice described Israel’s attack on Lebanon as “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.” The Great Middle East plan was supposed to be executed. What ended up happening to this plan? Where did the money go that the Americans and Israelis spent to advance the Great Middle East plan? During the very first stage, the war on Lebanon ended with the shameful defeat of Israel. Hezbollah won this war and no one spoke of the Great Middle East plan anymore. It was the end of the plan.
Or in the case of Syria, how much money and credit did the US spend in order to overthrow Assad’s government? They trained the armed men using their regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia, etc. They armed them and were forced to abandon many of their own standards in order to justify the presence of the terrorists in Syria. Thus, they created good terrorism and bad terrorism. When Hillary Clinton was the US Secretary of State many years ago, she used to say that “Assad must go.” But what happened? Despite all that expense, Iran’s determination and the axis of resistance prevailed. Today, Hillary Clinton is gone, but Bashar Assad has remained where he was.
So, the US’s numerous failures in their foreign policy plans and their failure to achieve their foreign policy goals with these ludicrous expenses are a sign of America’s decline. Because when you want to implement a project in the international arena and you fail, this shows that your wishes cannot be realized in the system. Even though you may consider yourself to be a superpower, you do not have a strong enough determination and you fail. And this failure did not happen just one time. It happened in many fields. For an international relations analyst, this is a clear indication that the agent is no longer an effective, powerful, hegemonic leader in the international system, and obviously their power has declined.
Question: The world today is facing many crises and challenges in areas such as: women and the family, children’s rights, black people, the elderly, widespread and sometimes deliberately induced hunger and poverty in large parts of the world (Africa, etc.), injustice, and international apathy (on the issues of Yemen, Palestine, etc.). Some consider the aforementioned crises to be the result of the domination of American thought and civilization over the world. If this idea is true, to what extent has this issue has contributed to the decline of the US? Furthermore, will the decline of the US cause the elimination of the dominance of the American worldview and civilization?
R. A. Saeidi: Yes, this is also completely true. Not just us, but many critical Western scholars also consider the crises to be the result of the dominance of American thought and civilization. So, it’s not that we’re the ones saying this. As an example, the intelligentsia of the Frankfurt School, such as Theodore Adorno, Marx Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and other critical theorists, witnessed the ugliness and dark layers of modernity, which led to two world wars, extensive challenges, environmental destruction, poverty, insecurity, hunger, and injustice. When these issues were uncovered after examining these crises, they directed their criticisms at finding the roots and causes of these crises. And in the field of philosophy, they directed their criticisms toward modernity and its bases and foundations. They believed that modernity and its philosophical foundations, such as positivism, rationalism, and scientism have caused humanity to suffer from these crises. They are trying to reveal the cruel, unjust hidden layer in their discourses, because the dominant discourses want this to remain hidden from the eyes of others. Critics want to say that these are caused by the dominance of liberalism and capitalism, but the theories of dominance, such as liberalism and realism, try to justify the dominance of the US.
Therefore, not only has American thought and civilization been questioned in the Islamic world and the non-Western world, but it has also been questioned in today’s Western world. The validity of their scientific and philosophical propositions has been severely questioned. Another matter is that liberalism had become the superior, worldwide ideology following the collapse of Russian communism – as Fukuyama stated in his article, “The End of History and the Last Man,” where he promised that history would end with liberalism. But this has been questioned now and they are revealing the unjust, cruel layers. The crises and challenges are rampant today in various areas and on different issues including women and families, children, black people, the elderly, poverty, hunger, insecurity, and injustice. This is happening all over the world and even in the territories of developed countries. It is completely true to say that these are the byproduct of the domination of American thought and civilization. In response to the question of how much this issue can contribute to the decline of the US, we can say that since the validity of this thought and civilization is questioned in the West itself, this indicates that it can no longer be used as the world’s best software. There are significant alternatives to it today. For example, Asian values are being brought up today in response to American values. We are witnessing the return of power and wealth to the East in place of the West. The Westerners themselves have claimed in numerous books and articles that the center of power and wealth is returning to the East. And there is also the Islamic world and political Islam which has revived itself after the victory of the Islamic Revolution. It is currently a significant alternative for governance. These issues have arisen challenging the dominance of American culture and civilization. Naturally this means that the Western worldview and American anthropology is losing dominance. Therefore, we have a situation today where the sovereignty of American thought and civilization has long been exposed to serious challenges.
Question: How and to what extent have the historical experiences of nations that have interacted with the US (such as Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.) had a negative effect on the hegemonic and dreamlike image of America among other nations? And to what extent does this issue show the decline and isolation of the US?
R. A. Saeidi: The experience of nations in history has shown that for non-Western countries, whether they are called Third World, undeveloped, developing nations, or whatever else they may be called, trusting and getting close to the US has not brought them much of anything. Rather, it has resulted in great damages and setbacks. Let’s consider countries such as Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Cuba, and Venezuela, for example. They are all part of the non-Western world. There aren’t any successful historical experiences with regard to the interaction of these countries with the US. There is a belief that exists among many intellectuals, even in our own country, that the root of all problems is due to our not having relations with the US. They say that if we have relations with the US, all our problems will be solved, we will make progress, we will be able to develop, we will achieve excellence, we will have no security issues, etc. However, the experience of nations in the aforementioned countries has shown that this is definitely not the case. None of the other nations that have tested this have reached a correct, desired result.
We can see what happened to our own neighbor, Iraq, and our eastern neighbor, Afghanistan. The Palestinians trusted the US in several peace conferences that were held with the US acting as a mediator between the Palestinians and the Zionist regime. However, they saw that the US mediations all ended in favor of Israel and did not bear any fruit for the Palestinians. Similarly, the nations of Cuba and Venezuela also saw that having relations with the US did not solve their problems.
Therefore, as was mentioned in answering the previous questions, at present, America’s allies aren’t even sure that they can trust and rely on the US. They don’t know whether their security issues will be solved if they come under America’s umbrella. Historical experience has shown that this will not happen and that the US will not deal with its allies in a good manner.
Now, our country’s own experience during the Pahlavi era is much more bitter. We saw how Mohammad Mosaddeq’s trust in the Americans led to the disgraceful coup d’état that took place on August 19, 1953. More important than that was the Pahlavi government’s reliance on the Americans. You’ve seen what an ominous, bitter outcome that had for the Shah of Iran. There was nothing the Shah of Iran hadn’t done for the Americans, and the Americans said that this is the island of stability in the unstable region of West Asia. But you saw how quickly they turned their backs on him after the first signs of the Revolution. They did not even allow the Shah of Iran to enter America despite all the properties and land that he owned there. Thus, he was forced to disgracefully move to various other places. In the end, he had to die in an inferior hospital in Egypt. At that time, he was highly critical of the Americans and upset that they had left him alone.
Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Ghaddafi suffered fates similar to that of Mohammad Reza Shah. These dictators were supported by the US for many years, but they were left alone in the most critical moment of their lives. Their fates show that the US is definitely not an ally that can be trusted. The United States has demonstrated that it has never acted as a leading country, and it has always considered its own interests. It has left its allies alone in times of trouble, even those who had served it for many years. The Ukrainian people are seeing the same thing today. Ukraine, a country that is in Europe and is considered to be a part of the Western world’s family, has seen today that the US has left them alone because it feels that Ukraine has no added value and no strategic value for the Americans. So, for all practical purposes they have left Ukraine to face Russia on its own.
These historical experiences show that the US is in decline and is unable to demonstrate its leadership and hegemonic image. It cannot act as a hegemon. To conclude, I would like to once again touch on the recent speech that Professor John Mearsheimer gave regarding Ukraine. He gave the same warning, saying that because of their incorrect foreign policy, their allies, for example the ones in East Asia, may become distrustful toward them when facing China … These things will naturally lead to America’s isolation in the coming years and decades that follow.
Dr. Ruholamin Saeidi is an Assistant Professor at Imam Sadiq (pbuh) Univ., Faculty of Political Science and International Relations. His areas of expertise include theories of International Relations and International Political Theology.