| US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vice Adm Brad Cooper arriving in Bahrain for a virtual Red Sea security meeting with representatives of dozens of countries and the EU and NATO on Dec 19 DoD photo by Chad J McNeeley | MR Online U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vice Adm. Brad Cooper arriving in Bahrain for a virtual Red Sea security meeting with representatives of dozens of countries and the E.U. and NATO on Dec 19. (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

The mess they made of 2023

Originally published: Consortium News on December 27, 2023 (more by Consortium News)  |

Let us consider together the year gone past and arrive at some conclusions as to where it leaves us as we enter upon another. We can begin with two recent events that, to the naked eye, have nothing to do with one another.

The first of these concerns what the Biden regime calls Operation Prosperity Guardian. The Pentagon described this last week as a coalition of 20—odd countries that have agreed to assist the U.S. to protect commercial traffic in the Red Sea from drone attacks mounted by Houthi rebels in Yemen, which–look at the map–chokes off the southern end of this key maritime passage.

O.K., now let us turn our ever-nimble minds to another of last week’s news events.

Last Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump is disqualified from running for president in the state’s Republican primary when this vote is held next year. It was a 4—to—3 decision in a court whose seven members were all appointed by Democratic governors. Citing the 14th Amendment, the judges found that Trump was guilty of participating in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, when demonstrators protested the official election result the previous November and made their way, to their own apparent surprise, into the legislative chambers of the U.S. Congress.

Distant as these developments may seem from one another, I read them as two halves of a whole. If we consider them this way, they tell us just where we are as 2023 gives way to 2024. As we examine the details, the story told is one of imperial decline abroad and institutional decay at home.

It may not be immediately evident that the two are connected, but the one reflects the other, in my view. The imperium is collapsing, the imperium rots from within: This is our circumstance, in nothing less than black and white, as what is truly an annus horribilis draws to a close.

Lumbering Giant

| Topographic map of Red Sea Eric Gaba Sting Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 40 | MR Online

Topographic map of Red Sea. (Eric Gaba, Sting, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

You have to count Operation Prosperity Guardian a misbegotten creature from the start. If Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wanted to advertise the selfish narcissism of late-imperial America and its utter disregard for “the rest,” the Global South, the non—West, or whatever one wishes to call the global majority, he could not have chosen a better name.

Coalitions have been the going thing in Washington for decades, of course. America must have coalitions to veil its hegemonic conduct. Even if these are typically not “coalitions of the willing” so much as coalitions of the coerced, Washington has usually succeeded in pulling together some kind of motley crew.

Not this time, it seems. At least eight of the nations Austin cited in his head count last week decline to be named, leaving open the question whether these enlistees actually exist. The foot-shuffling among those named is impossible to miss.

We favor freedom of navigation, the French say with brave originality, and we already operate in the Red Sea. So is France listed among Austin’s committed recruits.

The Italians responded to Austin’s invitation by saying they will send a frigate to the region to protect Italian shipowners who ask for assistance. The Spanish said they will participate only in NATO—led or European Union-led operations: In other words, no thank you, Secretary Austin.


Predictably, client states such as Bahrain and nations part of the Anglosphere —Britain and Canada–are the only ones un-ambivalently onboard. Norway and the Netherlands said they would send a few naval officers to Manama–a ringing endorsement if ever there was one.

There is the related question of what Operation Prosperity Guardian can actually get done. The U.S. has not so far retaliated against the Houthis, apparently out of fear of widening the Israel—Gaza crisis into a regional war.

The Houthis have to date mounted 100—plus attacks on ships sailing the Red Sea, news reports tell us. They are firing drones they make for $2,000 each. In response the U.S. Navy is trying to shoot them down with missiles that cost $1 million to more than $4 million a copy.

None of this is to suggest that the Red Sea situation is some grand turn in history’s wheel. No, it is more in the way of an illustrative tableau in which the U.S. features as the lumbering giant–weighted down with expensive technology it cannot afford to use and surrounded by court mandarins who tire of the imperial court.

What Happened in Denver

| Courtroom of the Colorado Supreme Court in the Ralph L Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver Jeffrey Beall Wikimedia Commons CC BY 30 | MR Online

Courtroom of the Colorado Supreme Court in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver. (Jeffrey Beall, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)

I rarely read and never thought I would quote the Republican—American, the Waterbury, Connecticut, daily that rivals the New Hampshire Union Leader for its crackpot conservatism. But I came across a copy of the Republican—American in a diner the day after the Colorado Supreme Court decision, and I actually bought the paper after reading “A real assault on democracy,” its lead editorial.

Here is some of what it said:

Americans should be thanking the Colorado Supreme Court for spelling out as clearly as possible the modern left-wing [sic] conception of democracy. To this cohort of Americans–animated by the idea that their opposition to Donald Trump grants them unchecked moral authority–preserving democratic rule means ensuring, by any means necessary, the people vote the right way. In other words, democracy is so sacred that it must be protected from the voters. Authoritarianism is so dangerous that it must be proactively employed to stop potential authoritarians….

In its 4—3 opinion, the majority ruled that the court somehow possesses the authority to determine, absent a criminal conviction, that former Mr. Trump [sic] committed insurrection and therefore is barred from running for president under the U.S. Constitution….

I cannot improve on the Republican—American’s account of what happened in Denver last week. Trump is convicted of nothing, but judges in solemn black robes rule him guilty of a major crime anyway. It is indeed as they have it in Waterbury: Liberals, self-licensed to break the law while invoking the law, are destroying the American judiciary.

And this seems to be far from over. Maine’s secretary of state, one Shenna Bellows, is to rule this week as to whether her state, following Colorado’s lead, should bar Trump from running next year. You have to love it that the corporate press has already edited out the fact that Trump has not been found guilty of any crime.

I was cheered to find the editorial writers at the Republican—American using the term “liberal authoritarianism,” as they do elsewhere in the piece. I had thought this phrase was limited to commentators such as your columnist and publications such as Consortium News.

| Night market in Taipei Wikimedia Commons Public domain | MR Online

Night market in Taipei. (Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

This is important, it seems to me. When a provincial daily owned by the same family for 113 years exhibits so clear a grasp of the American dynamic as it is in 2023, it follows that more people than you may think have a perfectly clear idea of what is driving the dissolution and decay they see all around them.

Meddling in Taiwan

I cannot imagine what President Joe Biden’s national security people tell themselves as they review the state of U.S. foreign policy, so god-awful a mess they have made of it. Relations with China as 2023 opened were the worst in decades, but we could at least speak of relations.

By midyear, as the Biden regime escalated its meddling in the Taiwan Strait, announced technology embargoes intended to sabotage China’s economic development and insisted that a stray weather balloon was an espionage craft, there were no relations to speak of.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, now consider it an accomplishment when they can get the Chinese simply to talk to them. Heck of a job, Tony. Heck of a job, Jakie.

Proxy War in Ukraine

Having sunk more than $100 billion into the proxy war in Ukraine, the policy cliques now inch toward admitting all of it has been wasted in the cause of a failed misadventure. Relations with Moscow are truly nonexistent now, apart from what back-channeling may occur out of public view. After a year of foolish errors and misjudgments across both oceans, then, America has no productive relations with the two leading non—Western powers.

The narrative now emerging in Washington–I read this in The New York Times the other day–is that, yes, Washington’s open support for the genocide in Gaza has left it drastically isolated but that the world is with America in the Ukraine case. What nonsense. The great majority of humanity, as measured by population or a count of nations, stands as opposed to the U.S. for provoking and backing the proxy war in Ukraine as it does for its support of Israel’s barbarity.

| Saint Michael Church in Avdiivka in the Donetsk region on April 1 2023 during the battle for the city National Police of Ukraine Wikimedia Commons CC BY 40 | MR Online

Saint Michael Church in Avdiivka in the Donetsk region on April 1, 2023, during the battle for the city. (National Police of Ukraine, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

The much-advertised frame defining Biden’s foreign policies–I will not call it a principle because it merely poses as one–is that the world is divided between democracies and autocracies and it is America’s duty to lead the former against the latter. We do not hear much anymore about this binary because it, too, proved a flop in 2023. Tony and Jake seem to find the theme too embarrassing to mention at this point–especially given that America is increasingly autocratic.

Precluding Thought

But we should consider the implications of this way of divvying up humanity in so simplistic a fashion. What does it tell us?

To me it sheds bright light on the extent to which ideology–liberal ideology, I mean–is the sole source of thinking among the Washington policy cliques. And I have just written incorrectly: The core purpose of ideology is to preclude all need of thinking of any kind.

Ideology determines all. This is the reality with which the year now passing leaves us: Ours is an era ruled by unthinking ideologues. We have seen these past 12 months that there is no reference to law or–as the Israel—Gaza abomination reveals all too starkly–any notion of humanity or common decency.

And it is the same at home as it is abroad. We can consider it this way: When the U.S. and its allies send the Kyiv regime cluster bombs and depleted uranium in defense of “freedom” and “democracy,” it is the foreign policy analogue of the Colorado Supreme Court breaking the law in the name of the law, just as the Waterbury Republican—American had it last week.

With this ruling, can it any longer be denied that the Biden regime and the rest of the Democratic elite have made profligate use of the judiciary this past year to keep Donald Trump out of the 2024 election? Is there any longer any discussion that the cases against Trump are sheer politics and have nothing to do with law?

In keeping with this, one of the worst features of the year on the domestic side has been the corruption of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect Biden from being impeached for his very apparent if not yet proven participation in his son’s influence-peddling schemes with foreign clients.

As I have argued severally in this space and elsewhere, when the judiciary lapses into corruption a nation lists toward failed-state status.

Creeping censorship morphed into a censorship regime in the course of 2023. In the autumn the Twitter Files revealed the extent to which the liberal machine has collaborated with Silicon Valley, systematically and for many years, to suppress dissent in the name of “moral clarity.”

| The Waterbury Union Station clock tower is in Waterbury Connecticut 2022 TRexEditorNJ Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 40 | MR Online

The Waterbury Union Station clock tower is in Waterbury, Connecticut, 2022. (TRexEditorNJ, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

On July 4, of all days, a district court in Louisiana barred the White House and a long list of other federal agencies from all contacts with social media companies if the intent is to intimidate or otherwise coerce Twitter, Google, Facebook and other such platforms into deleting, suppressing, or in any way obscuring content protected as free speech, to paraphrase a key passage in the ruling.

Ideology & Hubris

Believe it or not, the Biden regime is fighting the Louisiana ruling with no shred of shame or embarrassment. This is ideology in action. And in my read, the years of attacks on free speech now prove the mulch from which sprouts the rampant suppression of the rights of those who stand in favor of the Palestinian cause.

Ideology and hubris, not very distant cousins to one another, have been evident features of U.S. foreign policy for may years. This year put us on notice that they now rule without challenge. A frightened elite lacking in all vision can neither find its way out of the messes it has made nor retreat to allow voices to those with dynamic perspectives nor restore the moral superiority it has squandered—such as this last may have been.

And as it is abroad, so it is at home. As I have heard over various dinner tables lately, the 2024 elections are very likely to prove a pandemonium. Can they be otherwise, given the rule of law may have so little to do with how they are conducted?

“What I keep coming back to is the thought that none of us was raised or prepared to live in an Insane World,” a reader wrote recently in a comment thread. How very true this seems at the end of 2023. But we alive now are not the first to live in a condition of insanity. And others–sometimes, once in a while–have found their way beyond it.

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