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America’s New Great Depression And Threat Of War – OpEd

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Without doubt, the profound economic, health, and geopolitical ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States will be felt for a long time and President Trump’s promise of quick recovery may make a good election soundbite yet hardly a reflection of things to come. 

With unemployment rates surpassing the Great Depression, looming bankruptcy of millions of small, medium, and even big businesses, an uncertain health crisis likely to stretch beyond 2020, rapidly rising poverty levels, dwindling local resources and botched crisis-management at the federal level, the stage is now set for a new ‘third worldization’ of the US wrought with unprecedented mass suffering and deprivations, potentiating a new social movement targeting American capitalism rife with wealth inequities, nepotism, and corruption.  

Lest we forget the 1930s Great Depression, although somewhat ameliorated by FDR’s ‘new deal,’ sustained itself for a whole decade until the onset of WWII acting as a capitalist rescuer by virtue of the war mobilization of America’s industrial capacity, which might explain why FDR egged on the Japanese into a war scenario deliberately, although the historical record on that matter remain to be fully resolved due to national secrecy. 

But, with all the current mainstream comparison of the present crisis to the Great Depression, historical analogies have a limited heuristic purpose worth scrutinizing. 

This is so particularly in light of the recent news that President Trump successfully vetoed an Iran war powers act resolution, which was sustained in the Senate in a close vote; backed by a number of Republican lawmakers, the ill-fated resolution sought Trump’s prior consent of Congress for any military action against Iran, derided by Trump as an “insult,” even though it is perfectly in accordance with the US Constitution.  

Henceforth, the stage is set for the re-enactment of Great Depression’s bitter pill of war to exit an enduring economic crisis, notwithstanding Trump’s increasingly hostile posture vis-a-vis Iran, including his recent tweet that he had ordered the US navy to blow up the harassing Iranian patrol boats in Persian Gulf. 

Of course, that tweet is itself indicative of Trump’s ignorance of international maritime law and the fact that US ships traversing Iran’s territorial waters in Persian Gulf ought to behave like civilian ships, avoid any flight of their helicopters and jets, and any other warring signs. 

The Iranians have long been complaining of US warships behaving aggressively and disobeying the maritime laws. 

As a result, the coming months may witness a rapid escalation of tensions in Persian Gulf to the point of full-scale war between US and Iran, probably engulfing other nations.In order to understand the growing dynamic for such a bleak development, again history and the Great Depression and WWII analogy is instructive, with the caveat that the present Covid-19 crisis in US has weakened the American hegemonic power and introduced new anxieties about the future of US global domination. 

A limited yet victorious war maybe perceived in some American think tanks as a healthy risk worth taking, particularly as it could also offset the oil slump threatening the American oil companies. 

The US would need to implement the full force of its overwhelming military superiority to achieve the hoped-for results, in order to minimize the costs and avoid a lengthy quagmire.  

Needless to say, the risk would be prohibitively high and only through cultivated self-misperception, e.g., of Iran’s strike-back capability demonstrated by its successful launch of a military satellite, is it possible to predict an easy, low-cost victory over Iran. 

Nonetheless, what is important here is to take into account the incumbent US president’s own calculations, such as the pandemic’s risks to his re-election bid, which might tilt him in the direction of a war with Iran, irrespective of the risks. 

With his star fading as a result of historic incompetence in health-crisis prevention, Trump is apt to drag the US into another war of choice, inferred from the necessity of his own failures.  


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Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D. is an Iranian-American political scientist and author specializing in Iran’s foreign and nuclear affairs, and author of several books.

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