A Canadian on the end of the American era

Ford’s WIllow Run plant during World War Two

When people are faced with external threats, they need to pull together.   A Canadian anthropologist named Wade Davis pointed out that this once was true of the United States.

In 1940, with Europe already ablaze, the United States had a smaller army than either Portugal or Bulgaria.

Within four years, 18 million men and women would serve in uniform, with millions more working double shifts in mines and factories that made America, as President Roosevelt promised, the arsenal of democracy.

When the Japanese within six weeks of Pearl Harbor took control of 90 percent of the world’s rubber supply, the U.S. dropped the speed limit to 35 mph to protect tires, and then, in three years, invented from scratch a synthetic-rubber industry that allowed Allied armies to roll over the Nazis.

At its peak, Henry Ford’s Willow Run Plant produced a B-24 Liberator every two hours, around the clock.

Shipyards in Long Beach and Sausalito spat out Liberty ships at a rate of two a day for four years; the record was a ship built in four days, 15 hours and 29 minutes.

A single American factory, Chrysler’s Detroit Arsenal, built more tanks than the whole of the Third Reich.

That was then.  This is now.

COVID-19 didn’t lay America low; it simply revealed what had long been forsaken.

As the crisis unfolded, with another American dying every minute of every day, a country that once turned out fighter planes by the hour could not manage to produce the paper masks or cotton swabs essential for tracking the disease.

The nation that defeated smallpox and polio, and led the world for generations in medical innovation and discovery, was reduced to a laughing stock as a buffoon of a president advocated the use of household disinfectants as a treatment for a disease that intellectually he could not begin to understand.

As a number of countries moved expeditiously to contain the virus, the United States stumbled along in denial, as if willfully blind.

With less than four percent of the global population, the U.S. soon accounted for more than a fifth of COVID deaths.

The percentage of American victims of the disease who died was six times the global average. Achieving the world’s highest rate of morbidity and mortality provoked not shame, but only further lies, scapegoating, and boasts of miracle cures as dubious as the claims of a carnival barker, a grifter on the make.

Some of these statements need asterisks.  Latin America has overtaken North America as the center of the coronavirus infection, and several advanced countries have higher coronavirus-related deaths per million people than the USA does, at least so far.

Davis, like many Canadian critics of the USA, is somewhat blind to the problems of his own country.  An American who has lived in Davis’s Vancouver pointed out that it is far from being the semi-utopia he claims it is.

But none of this disproves Davis’s general point.  U.S. industrial and governmental capacity has been unraveling for a long time.  This process won’t reverse by itself.  The first steps in change are for us Americans to understand our situation, pull together and stop accepting excuses for failure from our supposed leaders.


How Covid-19 Signals the End of the American Era by Wade Davis for Rolling Stone.

The Unraveling of “The Unraveling of America” by Deanna Kreisel for Medium.

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3 Responses to “A Canadian on the end of the American era”

  1. williambearcat Says:

    The description does make a lot of sense


  2. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    I wouldn’t count the US down and out by any means. President Trump is an aberration. Biden will have no problem building alliances as we move into a multipolar world. Strong alliances are where it’s at. As a neoliberal, he understands that.

    China has its own problems and has antagonized all of south and east Asia with aggressive expansionist policies. It will be several decades before it can claim any kind of parity with the US in the western Pacific, let alone the US plus our natural allies in the area. If they become too aggressive there could be war and China would soon have to withdraw to the mainland to lick wounds and plot revenge.

    Modern naval war ain’t what it used to be – mostly standoff weapons targeting other systems. All about disrupting kill chains. Still, a lot of dead people who needn’t have died.


  3. philebersole Says:

    G.K. Chesterton wrote somewhere that he didn’t believe there was such a thing as a doom that would overtake you no matter what you did, but that he did believe there was such a thing as a doom that would overtake you if you did nothing.

    We Americans as a nation have the human and physical resources to get ourselves out of the hole we’ve been digging for the past few decades.

    But that doesn’t mean we will. We’re still digging ourselves deeper.

    We couldn’t have to cripple our economy and impoverish ourselves through lockdowns if we had the capability to make coronavirus tests, test everyone as needed and quarantine the infected.

    If we were as we were in 1941, we would be creating a testing industry that would supply not only our own needs, but enable us to help the rest of the world as well.

    Our extensive military commitments are not a source of strength. They are a drain.

    When Britain went to war with Germany in 1939, it ruled one of the most extensive empires the world had ever seen. But Germany was the mightier nation industrially. Britain would have been defeated except for supplies from the USA.

    Now we have allowed our industry to be hollowed out and our economy financialized, just as the British did.

    History does not always repeat, but it holds lessons.

    When the Russian Empire went to war with Japan in 1904, its leaders reportedly were confident that they could win, and that their victory would help unify a nation torn by social unrest.

    Russia sent its Baltic fleet halfway around the world to do battle with Japan. But the Japanese, fighting in their home waters, won a decisive victory in the Battle of Tushima Strait in 1905.

    The Russian government was discredited in the eyes of its allies, foes and the Russian people.

    I’m not at all confident that the USA could win a naval battle with China in China’s home waters. The Chinese have been working for years to develop weapons for fighting just such a battle.

    Suppose the Chinese win. What then? Does the U.S. government then use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons? Are we sure the Chinese have no power to retaliate? These are questions I would very much not like to find the answers to.


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