What is the United States of America?

As the illusion fades, it's time to start asking a frightening question: beyond the pomp, circumstance, metaphors, and posturing, exactly who are we?

It was an odd moment of candor: the Air Force admitting the F-35 fighter jet program has been a colossal waste of time, energy, and especially money. Over 1 trillion dollars has been spent creating a weapon that served little purpose and, in the pursuit of that purpose, somehow managed to be absolutely ineffectual.

I don’t have to tell you that a trillion dollars is a lot of money. With those resources, the United States of America could have forgiven student debt, invested in our crumbling infrastructure, our desperate educational and healthcare systems. It could have fundamentally changed the culture as we know it, lifted people out of poverty, led to innovation and possibly solutions to the legion of crises facing our culture. It’s enough to cause depression.

When you add in the 6.4 trillion dollars spent fighting the Forever Wars?

Well. That’s a special kind of demoralizing.

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This Friday President Joseph Biden released a report detailing the October 2018 murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and resident of the United States, confirming what literally everyone in the world already knew.

Khashoggi, under the direction of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, was lured to his death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a blatant crime that was, and this is charitable, “absolved” by the Trump Administration. In addressing the incident, Donald Trump infamously said “Saudis pay cash”. It’s not that Trump was wrong about way America had turned the other way from this horrendous act, it was that he said it outright.

The United States of America has continually looked the other way from Saudi crimes and oppression. Our relationship with them, as energy suppliers and our allies in the region, has superseded any professed principles America might have about “liberty,” “freedom,” “equality,” or any combination thereof. Like so many dictators and dictator-like oppressors we have partnered with, funded, and tolerated, the Saudis have carte blanche to do almost anything.

Nothing Biden is releasing really surprises anyone. The narrative has been pieced together by international investigators disgusting detail after disgusting detail. The release of the report is more or less theater, a way of at least admitting the crime took place, these were the facts, and here’s who was responsible. Almost immediately, however, another bit of information released. In a leak to the New York Times the Biden Administration made sure to squash any concern people inside the military-industrial complex or the foreign policy blob in Washington, D.C. might have that the release of this report would do anything or result in any sanctions or actions against Saudi Arabia. “The price is too high” to directly address the Crown Prince’s role in the murder or really much of anything.

We are living currently in the consequences of the project of American Hegemony, a post-World War II order that was sought by the leaders of this country to shape the world to its convenience and favor, using our economic superiority, military might, and diplomatic efforts to push the other peoples of the globe toward a future of our determination. If this worked, the theorists and planners promised, it would mean “the End of History” and a world that looked and functioned almost exactly like the United States of America.

This is impossible and was always impossible. The American economic boom following the war was an aberration, a fluke that could never be replicated, and any attempt to control the progress of others almost always results in blowback and destruction. America attempted to help itself by overthrowing democratically elected leaders, throwing its lot behind dictators who would side with them against Russia while oppressing Leftist movements in their country, constructed markets that flowed through the US, and continually invested all of its resources in a military that could crush anyone who disagreed.

The coups and misinformation campaigns carried out by the CIA eroded trust and goodwill. The markets gave birth to corporations and individuals who came to eclipse the nation states of old while buying and selling our democracy. And our military has become shoddy, bloated, and largely antiquated.

Despite our best efforts, we have become the crumbling hub by which the world functions, a dilapidated axle of arms and commodity trading. A star-spangled front for nefarious, venal predators. We managed to build a structure but destroyed ourselves in doing it and gave way to the people, movements, and forces that will ultimately replace us and not even worry pretending to care about people or human rights.

The illusion is flickering. There’s nothing to do when a country murders our people in cold blood besides look the other way because they “pay cash” or “the price is too high.” Our democracy and principles are meaningless when the people violating and threatening them are the same ones who buy our weapons and sell us oil.

We can’t protect our people.

Hell. We can’t even build our planes anymore.