From Lucas Leiroz: He is a researcher in social sciences at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, geopolitical advisor.
The fragility of American democracy already seems to be visible even to pro-Western analysts. Recent studies and reports suggest that the American state is among the most politically vulnerable countries in the world to internal threats. That diagnosis is currently shared by even some of Washington’s greatest proponents. The internal reality of the US is proving to be a major source of concern for the US administration, which in turn should shelve some of its international interests in order to improve its domestic policy scenario.
In November, the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance named American democracy one of the most backward in the world. The Institute highlighted the emergence of various authoritarian tendencies in the US, which is understandable when you look back on some recent events, such as last year’s election violence, Trump’s attempt to maintain his power, the constant allegations of electoral fraud and other. However, this negative and “pessimistic” opinion about the future of the USA now seems to be shared even by CIA advisors.
Barbara F. Walter, a CIA advisor and expert on scenario analysis of political instability, pointed out in a recent paper that the US is on the verge of civil war. Barbara wrote a book on the subject that was reviewed by the Washington Post. According to her, the process of polarization in American society has already passed the “pre-insurgency” and “incipient conflict” stages and is literally on the verge of internal armed conflict.
These are some of Barbara’s words: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe (…) some want to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline or is heading for war. […] If you were an overseas analyst looking at events in America – the way you look at events in Ukraine, Ivory Coast or Venezuela – you would go through a checklist and evaluate each of the conditions that make civil war likely (…) We are no longer the oldest uninterrupted democracy in the world (…) This honor is now held by Switzerland, followed by New Zealand and then Canada. We can no longer keep up with nations like Canada, Costa Rica and Japan, all of which are rated +10 on the Polity Index ”.
The author believes that her country has entered a very dangerous phase of political security, especially after the events earlier this year when protesters entered the Capitol at the height of popular demonstrations. To them, this event seems to have paved the way for Washington to enter the “open insurgency” phase, a dangerous step towards civil war. In their opinion, this whole scenario is a consequence of the anti-democratic process that is progressing during the Trump administration, which makes the American state a kind of mediator between an autocracy and a real democracy.
In light of all these factors, and with reference to several indices from previous surveys, the CIA adviser concludes that her country’s current political status can be defined as “high risk of civil war”, which in fact reflects the internal scenario of polarization in the 19th century A combination of poor governance, undemocratic politics and institutional weakening makes Washington vulnerable to all internal threats.
Walter names Trump and the Republicans, who for them drove the US into the “abyss”, as guilty. She believes Joe Biden’s administration and Democratic hegemony would be a hope for Americans, but at the same time points out that the Trump administration has left such a negative legacy that it is virtually impossible to attribute the Democrats’ goals to achieve – materialized in Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which is becoming more and more unreachable.
Indeed, much of the data cited by Barbara Walter is accurate, but ultimately the aim of her work appears to be just an attempt to legitimize the actions of the Democrats and condemn all aspects of the Trump administration. While it is undeniable that Trump caused several setbacks for American democracy, to identify him as the culprit for the entire process seems very exaggerated.
The first mistake is to idealize American democracy as the perfect example of a political regime to be followed. Structural problems such as racism, social inequality, and the public safety crisis are nothing new in American history, but a reality that has been with the country for decades. The main problem Trump posed for American democracy was precisely damaging its image, since the Republican president made explicit his authoritarian and right-wing tendencies, while the practice of Democrats is to defeat such tendencies by promoting an agenda Disguise the defense of ethnic, sexual and social minorities. Trump was explicit and Biden was more moderate, but both represent the same advanced stage of democratic decadence in the US.
The arguments set out in Barbara’s book seem like a real apology for Biden and his model of government, as well as an attempt, from a strategic point of view – given Barbara’s position at the CIA – to highlight the importance of implementing the Build Back Better agenda that is currently in the American political society meets with strong rejection. However, despite her exaggerated pro-biden stance, Barbara deserves special attention because she properly diagnoses the danger that most threatens American society right now.
Civil war is no longer a distant scenario for the greatest power in the world. The social polarization in the country has reached a very high level. Racial tension, political conflict, separatist groups and various other factors have contributed to exacerbating the country’s internal crisis. The uncontrolled immigration that began with the Biden administration only makes the situation worse by exacerbating social problems as well as racist and xenophobic responses. In the midst of a weak democracy scenario, polarization and totalitarian tendencies gain space, and future scenarios such as civil war, Balkanization or even the beginning of a dictatorship can be expected.
The best the American government can do is interpret Barbara Walter’s book as a real warning, a report from a CIA adviser on the problems affecting America, rather than a simple apology for the Biden administration. Washington’s problems are serious and it’s no longer a question of “Republicans versus Democrats” but rather “Democracy versus Civil War”.