Back to the bipolar world

It’s a bit ironic that David Goldman, who was once at the forefront of the planned Leap to China, has now turned in alarm to talking up a nonexistent “American” unity between Americans, Paper Americans, Fake Americans, and Not Americans, now that the US empire has squandered its brief period of global dominance on the invasion and occupation of a few of Israel’s enemies.

There is a line of American commentary on China, argued most clearly and persistently by David Goldman at Asia Times (now apparently with Gordon Chang also on board) telling us that we Americans should consider ourselves to be in a Sputnik Moment: a moment in history where, if we don’t stop the fruitless squabbling and begin engaging in some serious, co-ordinated national effort, the ChiComs will eat our lunch, breezing past us in key technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, microchip fabrication, and quantum computing.

The problem with that prescription is that the original Sputnik Moment, to which America reacted with such spectacular success, occurred in 1957, a whole decade B.S.—”Before Sontag.”

White ethnomasochism was not entirely unknown in 1957, but it was restricted to tiny cliques of urban intellectuals.

We could make a united national response to Sputnik sixty years ago because we were a sufficiently united nation. You need that qualifying word “sufficiently” there because there was what people of the time called “the Negro Problem.”

White Americans didn’t think about black Americans any more than they absolutely had to, though, and the race issue didn’t split whites down the middle as clearly and angrily as in what I call today’s Cold Civil War.

Sputnik-wise, we were a sufficiently united nation—sufficiently to co-operate in a colossal national effort with a minimum of bickering.

The US empire is now about as well-equipped to withstand the Chinese challenge as the Austro-Hungarian military was ready to face the Russian army in 1914. No amount of talking up the value of words and ideology and paper identity is going to substitute for genuine nationalism.