Lawrence Wilkerson was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the U.S. Department of State (2002-2005).
For national security experts, the history of the United States can be usefully divided into two periods: the years after the break from Britain to 1947 and the years from that seminal year to the present. It is a helpful distinction because it divides republic from empire. Today, there is another year of note—2001. After 2001, the empire began to totter and crumble. Ironically, Osama bin Laden, the ascetic terrorist leader to whom the attacks of September of that year are attributed, cited this toppling of empire as his ultimate purpose. In short, not by the march of strong armies would America be brought down but by its own devices, a formulation familiar to Americans as distinctly different as John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. Evaluating several important signs of the diminishing power of the imperial state, we can conclude this process is well underway. The man currently occupying the White House, like Nero in Rome, is presiding most dramatically over this diminution of power, like melting water beneath Greenland affecting the cover ice, even accelerating it. Whether the imperial decline will consume a hundred years as the empire unravels, or be over tomorrow, is an important question today. A precipitous decline might dismember the state and shock much of the world; a slow retreat from power might allow for the orchestration of a gentle glide into a lesser statehood but a more peaceful and a more equitably prosperous world. Which it is to be—almost instant, perhaps cataclysmic death or a mellow maturation—along with how the human race will confront ultimately climate change, are the truly vital issues of this century. It is well worth the time to explore them.
Lawrence Wilkerson is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. His last positions in the US Government were chief of staff to Colin Powell at the U.S. Department of State (2002-2005) and Associate Director and member of that department's Policy Planning staff under Ambassador Richard Haass (2001-2002). Wilkerson served 31 years in the US Army as both enlisted man and officer from 1966 to 1997. His final assignments were as Special Assistant to then-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell (1989-1993) and, later, as Deputy Director and Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College (1993-1997).
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