America’s Farcical Decline

John Hancock on the tawdry soap opera enveloping America’s top military men.

By: /
14 November, 2012
By: John Hancock
Senior Counsellor at the World Trade Organization

Here’s what I would like to know.

How did General John Allen, the highest-ranking U.S. commander in Afghanistan, find time to battle a resurgent Taliban and write 20,000 to 30,000 pages of “flirtatious” emails to a 30-something married mother of three in Florida?

And how did General David Petraeus, the head of the CIA and the most respected general of his generation, manage to juggle “liaising” with the same Florida socialite, conducting an “under the desk” affair with his biographer, and spearheading the global war on terror?

For that matter, how did General Stanley McChrystal, the last discredited supreme U.S. commander in Afghanistan, clear enough time in his schedule to party in Paris with a Rolling Stone reporter while averring that he was “pretty disappointed” with President Barack Obama and even less enamoured with “bite me” Vice-President Joe Biden?


If there’s one conclusion we can draw from these serial scandals – besides the dangers of bedding “embedded” journalists – it’s that the U.S.’s top military men have way too much time on their hands. Their relaxed, laid back approach is particularly surprising given that the United States is now bogged down in its 11th year of war in Afghanistan – the longest war in U.S. history – with almost zero prospect of victory.

It is not difficult to determine the winners from this increasingly bizarre and tawdry soap opera. As China carefully charts its ascent to global supremacy, as the Kremlin moves to reassemble its lost empire, and as al-Qaeda plots its next strike against the decadent West, one can only imagine their disdain for what was once – and still claims to be – “the greatest power on earth.” 

Nor is it difficult to identify the loser. The United States, four year after its financial meltdown, is still mired in debt, stagnant growth, and unemployment. Its greatest metropolis has just been devastated by a storm, which, Katrina-like, its decaying infrastructure and dysfunctional government were powerless to withstand. Its bitterly fought $6-billion, seemingly endless presidential election has produced a political landscape just as divided, deadlocked, and directionless as it was before. As if that were not humiliating enough, now its vaunted military heroes look like guest stars in an episode of Desperate Housewives.

This is not America’s finest hour.

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