Apparent incompetence can be very useful.
Trump is a “buffoon with no real mass organisation behind him”, true. But he is a figurehead, a symbol. Look at the puppet-masters: the Bannons, the Thiels; not so much the billionaire boys’ club that has been so gaudily assembled but the behind-the-scenes men (and they’re mostly men) telling them what to pretend to think. That’s who now holds the real power.
Hitler turned a defeated, economically and psychologically broken, former Great Power from a basket case to an apparent wonder in a year — because he had men behind him like Speer, Himmler, Goebbels, and others, who knew how to play the “boss” like a violin to do what was needed. The country crashed when the “boss” decided he wanted to really be the boss and make all the important decisions over the objection of his advisers, generals, and so on. Does Trump have the kind of ego that could lead him down a similar path? Does the sun rise in the east?
If Germany had been destroyed by the effects of losing World War I, it was physically and economically obliterated as a unified country by the loss of World War II. It took years for West Germany to recover, and it only could because the West poured resources into it (e.g., the Marshall Plan). East Germany lagged because the Soviets couldn’t afford to match that investment even if they wanted to, which they clearly and (initially) understandably didn’t.
If what was once America loses the next World War, or merely sinks into economic and cultural irrelevance as it implodes from its numerous self-inflicted wounds, the damage to its inhabitants and to the world economic and political systems that have been built around it will be catastrophic, even existential. As I believe Umair wrote in an earlier piece, we are truly entering an interregnum from which no Restoration is visibly plausible.
We as a species have been here before, but we’ve never been here before. Humility would be a useful first step.