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Where is America headed? It's no longer an academic question

By Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist
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Where is America headed? It's no longer an academic question
That Democrats in the House may vote to indict Republican members for defying subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 committee would be reciprocated by the GOP if it held the majority. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Where is America headed? This is no longer an idle or academic question. It could be existential. While that alone is a highly startling admission, consider how the United States was created.

The most trenchant statement in the Declaration of Independence, arguably, is not equality of men and by extension women. Rather, "When government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and establish a new one!"

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That precipitated a successful revolution in 1776. What happens in 2026 or indeed sooner? The trajectory of the nation is not good.

As argued in my latest book, The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and the World at Large, of the seven major disruptors, failed and failing, i.e., destructive, government is the most dangerous. Democrats and Republicans have demonstrated a singular inability to govern. Yes, the U.S. Congress has overwhelmingly agreed to sending $40 billion in aid to Ukraine. And both parties concur that China is the largest clear and present danger to the United States.

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But ... Congress is unable and possibly incapable of dealing with the border and immigration; political time bombs in the form of the "4Gs" -- guns, gays, God and gestation periods; debt; and imposing even a patina of civility and compromise in deliberations. That Democrats in the House may vote to indict Republican members for defying subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 committee would be reciprocated by the GOP if it held the majority. Public resentment over failure to govern is one reason Congress is held in such contempt.

Internationally, U.S. national security strategy, to be updated shortly, has been to "contain, deter and if war comes defeat" a number of adversaries headed by China and Russia. That strategy, however, has failed to contain and deter Russia from invading Ukraine and China from its aggressive policies. Worse, that strategy is unaffordable, even spending $800 billion a year on national defense, because uncontrolled real annual cost growth exceeds annual defense increases by about $100 billion.

Domestically, violence is becoming widespread. Drug overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 this year and may be increasing -- another sign of social ill health. Depending on how the final Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade in Dobbs vs. Jackson is written, protests in front of the court building could explode as happened on Jan. 6.

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A country divided 50/50 on virtually every issue, in which opposition is based more on political affiliation than objective differences, vitriol and emotion make resolution almost impossible. As Abraham Lincoln noted, a nation so divided cannot long endure. And as one wing of one political party rejects the results of the 2020 presidential election as "stolen," despite every court decision and legitimate piece of evidence to the contrary, this is highly unhealthy.

Three crucial questions must be addressed. First, is this assessment of America's political health accurate? Second, if it is, what can be done to reverse this condition? Third, can and how can corrective action be implemented?

President Joe Biden ran on uniting the country. So far, that has not worked. The divides have been exacerbated. Republicans have no answer except to win control of Congress in November.

RELATED Drug overdose deaths in U.S. hit record high in 2021, CDC reports

The Fifth Horseman offers several corrective ideas and recommendations. First must be broader public recognition and understanding of the dangerous state of the union and the vital need to relieve and reverse this condition. That requires closer public involvement. Mandatory voting might precipitate that engagement as voting should require greater scrutiny and selection of candidates.

Second, creating a public-private partnership for a National Investment Infrastructure Fund patterned after the greatest economic boom in American history following the end of the 1918-20 Spanish flu pandemic is essential. As Americans bought war bonds in World War II, inflation-adjusted bond guaranteed by the government paying several percent over prime, could raise $3 trillion to $4 trillion above the $1.2 trillion appropriated by Congress.

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Oversight would be by both government and private sector personnel. The bonds would be repaid not only through tolls and fees. In those investments in infrastructure technology companies, government would take equity positions, as it did in the Troubled Assets Recovery Program responding to the 2008 financial crisis and made money. That would be repeated.

Last, the president and leaders of Congress must meet and agree to areas of common interest for as long as it takes. If not, beware the Declaration of Independence and destructive government.

Harlan Ullman is senior adviser at Washington's Atlantic Council, the prime author of "shock and awe" and author of "The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and the World at Large." Follow him @harlankullman.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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