The American Century Is Over

A state that can't keep its citizens secure at Camden Yards is not going to make Ukraine safe for neoliberalism.

Someday American politicians will recognize that the world isn’t asking for their leadership. The image of America as benevolent superpower may endure in parts of Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Republics, where some imagine American jets are going to abolish geography and clear out the Russians. But nowhere else.

At the time of this writing, an Orioles-White Sox game in Baltimore has been cancelled because of rioting in the city, while on Saturday 37,000 fans were confined inside the stadium for hours after a game ended because of mayhem outside. The state, which cannot protect crowds of dating couples and parents with children outside of Camden Yards, is not going to make eastern Ukraine safe for neoliberalism.

In the run-up to the Baltimore riots, Congress debated ways to tell Europeans what their Mideast policies should be. Working with an AIPAC-drafted playbook, Maryland senator Ben Cardin and Illinois representative Peter Roskam attached language to a large trade bill intended to squelch the growing movement in Europe to label as such Israeli products that originate in the occupied territories. The AIPAC amendments defined as primary American goals in trade talks the discouragement of European economic sanctions against Israel. Mike Coogan’s account of the behind-the-scenes maneuvers highlighted some glimpses of House legislators stunned at the brazenness of AIPAC in action. First hearings on the bill were moved to a smaller room to keep out the public. Then, at the last moment, pro-Israel anti-boycott amendments were tacked on, with language treating Israel and “Israeli-controlled territories” as identical. One congressman asked Chairman Paul Ryan why members of the Ways and Means Committee were unable to consider public health, or labor standards, or food safety in debating the trade legislation, but were able on short notice to rubberstamp an AIPAC-sponsored amendment. He didn’t receive an answer.

The larger point made by the U.S. Congress is that it is wrong for Palestinians to fight for their freedom by terrorism or any form of armed struggle, but it is also wrong to seek their rights by peaceful political means such as boycott. If you are a Palestinian, you have no legitimate way to seek political and civil rights, no avenue is open to you—and Congress is going to intervene in American trade policy to try to enforce that. Congress will make it a priority to instruct U.S. trade policymakers to protect Israeli settlements, considered illegal by virtually every country in the world. About measures (labor practices, health and safety standards) which might protect U.S. workers and U.S. consumers, Congress doesn’t have time for. By the way, Cardin, who introduced the senate version, represents Baltimore.

One connection between U.S. trade policy and the Baltimore riots was made explicit by John Angelos, the Oriole’s chief operating officer and son of the Oriole’s owner. Wrote Angelos:

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

You need not hold the rioters as blameless as Angelos does to recognize there is truth in his argument. For two generations, while politicians have been celebrating “free trade,” America has been hemorrhaging good working class jobs. The economic devastation has has probably hit the white working class harder than blacks, but as William Julius Wilson and others have argued, de-industrialization which followed on the heels of the civil rights revolution ensured that the black community would remain largely impoverished, despite its political gains. In any case, we live in a far less equal and economically secure country than we did in the 1950s and 1960s.

As images of hoodlums rampaging in Baltimore traverse the globe, the Solons of Capitol Hill still imagine the world is eager to follow American leadership. The tacking on of “pro-Israel” provisions to a trade bill without debate is but a prequel: the big enchilada for Republicans in Congress is the derailment of the Iran negotiations. In the Capitol Hill bubble, it is assumed that the countries of Western Europe and Russia and China would follow the American lead and intensify sanctions against Iran on America’s say-so, a belief with no basis in reality. Obama and John Kerry have recognized correctly that the sanctions regime has gained as much from Iran as it is going to get; Europe or China (and of course Russia) will not sign up for more.

Already, Washington has found to its consternation that its Western partners can’t be dissuaded from joining a China-sponsored international banking arrangement. If the Republicans in Congress succeed in collapsing the Iran negotiations—altogether possible—they will discover that Washington is in a coalition with Israel and Saudi Arabia and no one else. Any future president, Republican or Democrat, will find his ability to negotiate terminally compromised, as world leaders will conclude that an American chief executive cannot keep his or her word.

The American century ended some time ago; perhaps the curtain was finally drawn when Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out the case for war before the UN and said things about Iraq which turned out simply not to be true. Those in Congress don’t yet realize it, but they will.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

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40 Responses to The American Century Is Over

  1. Mr. Libertarian says:

    A strong point in favor of my argument that we are going to end up going to war with Iran.

  2. jk says:

    I think neocons wrote off US citizens after 2003.

  3. Neal says:

    “Someday American politicians will recognize that the world isn’t asking for their leadership.”

    That sentence perfectly encapsulates my view of American politicians. I would add that I don’t particularly want to ask for their leadership either… at least not leadership of the sort they seem intent on providing. As I watched close up video of police scuffling with demonstrators in NYC just a few minutes ago, I was angry. My anger was directed at the police. And then it made me very sad. Somewhere along the line these past 15 years or so, I stopped viewing the local police and the US military as the good guys. That can’t be good for any of us.

  4. JonF says:

    The fans were not kept in Camden Yards for “hours”. It was more like thirty minutes after the game ended. (I live about a mile from the stadium).

  5. Johan says:

    Our National Security agencies and armed forces ought to be going against the terrorists in our own cities and schools, in addition to (or instead of) those in the middle eastern desert. Are we really helpless to stop this kind of seeming anarchy-at-will?

  6. Christopher Manion says:

    Congress has opened up the door to free trade, but it has also heavily subsidized free love.

    The illegitimacy rate in Baltimore runs close to 80%, I’m told by residents, and children raised in fatherless homes are several times more likely (nationally it’s five times) to fail in school and at work, and to wind up in trouble with the law.

    That’s been going on for several generations. And yet, I’ve never heard the Rev’s (Jackson, Sharpton, et al) tell young male rioters to go home, get married, stay married, and raise their kids with tough love.

  7. 3 Tours says:

    “I think neocons wrote off US citizens after 2003.”

    They aren’t exactly noted for their Americanness, are they?

    The kind of Americans that neocons feel most comfortable with are unintelligent or extortable politicians in a position to determine how US power is used.

    That’s one of the reasons so many of us came back wearing Ron Paul buttons.

  8. Johann says:

    We have squandered the soft power we had after WWII. All we have left is hard power, which costs a lot of money, and creates more enemies. Our soft power is gone more than it appears to the politicians because we are using our hard power, threat of sanctions, and the NATO alliance coercion, against our allies as well as our enemies. So our allied politicians, not wanting to hurt their economies or be at odds with NATO, still tow the Washington line. But the populations of many if not all of our allies are becoming more anti-American.

  9. JohnG says:

    Excellent article! It is so obviously ironic that the “great thinkers” who gave us that “New American Century” nonsense ended up only accelerating the decline of the empire.

    While I agree on the hollowing out of the American industrial base and the disappearance of good jobs, I don’t believe that poverty alone explains the anger and the riots. There is a widespread feeling that we don’t have just income inequality but also different rules for those on top and the rest of us.

    A poor person’s path between a missed payment for a traffic violation and jail is really short. On the other hand, the Clintons get to redo their taxes if they get busted for “misstating” millions of dollars in donations. A soldier who lost his legs in Iraq gets to rely on donations and charity whereas Halliburtons of the world, having made billions, get to lobby for the next war.

    It is dangerous when it becomes ingrained in a society that whatever one can get away with is OK, so why should looting en masse be an exception? So the second and ultimate irony of these riots is that the people I call the Clintonstas have contributed as much as the neocon class. They are the ones who made that feel-good self-serving I-can-skirt-the-rules principle mainstream.

  10. Francis says:

    Every time I see all of America’s ills blamed upon “Neoliberalism” my response is to ask for answers. What is the Conservative answer?

    How many Conservatives are Pro-Palestinian?

    How many Conservatives favor negotiations with Iran?

    How many Conservatives oppose “free-trade” agreements?

    How many Conservatives favor taking meaning steps to reduce income equality?

    If Neoliberalism is a failure and Conservative policies are fundamentally incapable of addressing the above issues, by implication the solutions must come from outside either camp.

  11. balconesfault says:

    Very silly. It would be quite possible to adequately protect the fans sufficient for the O’s to have hosted their fans for the games this week.

    That said, the level of militarization that it might have taken to make fans feel safe coming to the park would have been HORRIBLE optics for MLB. As much money as was left on the table, long term not having the pictures of armies of riot troops protecting white middle-class and wealthy fans from poverty-stricken black rioters would have potentially been much more costly.

    Not a matter of capability, but of weighing the least bad of multiple bad options.

  12. philadelphialawyer says:

    I appreciate the sentiments, but I don’t really get the connection. Riots in Baltimore or not, the world is not desperate for American “leadership.” The world is pretty much never desperate for anyone’s “leadership,” and the existence of riots in the country that purports to be providing it is not the issue. When there were riots in the USA in the Sixties, folks in Vietnam did not want our “leadership.” But, then again, when there were no or fewer riots in the Fifties and Eighties, folks in Central America did not want our “leadership” either.

  13. Sombrero says:

    @philadelphealawyer : “The world is pretty much never desperate for anyone’s “leadership,”

    I agree. When people say “the world is crying out for US leadership”, they often mean “I want to boss the rest of the world around”.

    The neoconservative notion of “American leadership” is a special case, comprehending the aggressive use of American power to further Israeli goals.

  14. Jake says:

    Quote: “You need not hold the rioters as blameless as Angelos does to recognize there is truth in his argument.”

    Very true. America has deeply harmed itself with economically. Pat Buchanon has been correct in that area too, and the NeoCons wrong.

  15. ADL says:

    “A state that can’t keep its citizens secure at Camden Yards is not going to make Ukraine safe for neoliberalism.”

    > Comparing apples and oranges. Policing a city is the primary responsibility of that municipality and, to a lesser extent, the state government. Making Ukraine safe for their neo-Nazis is the responsibility of the US government.

    This isn’t France where the national government is responsible for national defense and also runs the national police forces. A French state that can’t secure the fans at the Paris St. Germain soccer field is not going to make Ukraine safe for neoliberalism.

    But here the federal gov handles Ukraine while the city of Baltimore (and maybe State of Maryland) is suppose to handle crowd control at Camden Yards. We’re conservatives– we’re not suppose to be making federal cases out of restless urban natives.

  16. jk says:

    ADL, I think the point that McConnell is making is for the US to “clean up its own backyard” first.

    I doubt he is implying to have federal government do the cleaning.

    But if the US cannot have operating infrastructure or public safety, it certainly is not the model for other countries to follow.

    Why is it bothering to save the world when it is so screwed up internally?

    I do think the trashing of “neoliberalism” is misplaced as many of these thugs in Baltimore are more of a product of broken households, high rates of gang violence, crappy school districts, and lack of self-discipline or knowledge, and self-victimization to get out of this loser cycle. It’s society AND the individual’s fault. It’s not that globalization pushed them to riot though I’m sure the “occupy crowd” like to blame something along those line.

  17. Andy says:

    “they will discover that Washington is in a coalition with Israel and Saudi Arabia and no one else.”

    The three kings of human rights. Oh, the shared values! No daylight whatsoever!

    As to the “thugs and riots” points people keep making, I don’t understand the relevance. Those people aren’t exhibiting spontaneous behavior intrinsic to “thugs”. They are protesting a specific circumstance, and it isn’t “Baltimore sucks” or “we don’t have as much money as you”.

    The thing they are protesting is the well-documented, inarguable brutality of the police in their neighborhoods. There is no way that “broken households” or “lack of self-discipline” is the direct cause of the police brutalizing a man to death. The police can do their jobs without roughing up everyone they meet, and if they are so unavoidably hateful of the people they are supposed to protect and serve, they can find a different job.

    I also fail to see how “crappy school districts” or “self-victimization” cause police departments across the country to consistently and reliably fail to discipline officers who behave like brown shirts than the boys in blue.

    And to those who say, “fine, worthy of protest, but you have no right to riot”, I would say that peaceful protests have been tried over and over for the past year, and they have led nowhere. People have protested peacefully in Baltimore for weeks and almost nobody noticed. Those who did notice thought “that’s messed up” and promptly forgot about it.

    To paraphrase a president, if you make peaceful protest irrelevant, you don’t get to act outraged by violent protest.

  18. philadelphialawyer says:

    jk:

    But if it is not the Federal government that should be doing the “cleaning up” in Baltimore, than what does it have to do with the FP of the US, which is made at the Federal level? Maybe MD and Baltimore do need to clean up their act, but that, in and of itself, really tells us very little about what US FP should be.

    And, of course, one still wonders why, even if the cleaning up is successful, the US should be the leader of or “model” for the rest of the world. Plenty of countries have few to no riots, but that doesn’t mean that other countries crave their leadership, or even see them as models.

    How about, instead, we should be working in the USA, at whatever level of government and societally, and individually, to prevent rioting and the causes of rioting, whatever they might be. While, at the same time, but as a wholly separate matter, the US Federal Government should also refrain from forcing its leadership or model on the rest of the world?

  19. Will says:

    “I agree. When people say “the world is crying out for US leadership”, they often mean “I want to boss the rest of the world around”.”

    I thought it means “We want the US to assume the majority of the costs of our national defense.”

  20. EliteCommInc. says:

    I am not sure I agree that the US has ended some era of leadership as though, if in fact lost, it can not recover.

    There is far to much made about the end of the US as a player of major leadership.

    I strongly disagree.

  21. Fran Macadam says:

    Whether or not the U.S. is a “leader,” it appears corporatism and donorism have made that leadership completely unaccountable to the “real Americans” – those 300 million or so of us outside the oligarchy.

  22. Rossbach says:

    As an American, I applaud the end the “American Century”. Is it about time that we stopped trying to govern the world and pay some attention to the way our own nation is governed? For example, if America is hemorrhaging jobs, why are we importing over 1,000,000 immigrants every year and why is the US government granting amnesty (illegally) to 5 million illegal immigrants?

    This invade-the-world/invite-the-world strategy is not working for the average American. It needs to stop.

  23. Mr. Libertarian says:

    @ will

    Yea, the world doesn’t want out leadership, but it sure will take our money. As much as we can fork over.

  24. Mr. Libertarian says:

    @ Andy

    You have a right to speak, but not a right to be heard. Just because the audience isn’t listening doesn’t mean you get to commit a felony on the house. And yes, the public is entitled to either be outraged, indifferent or critical.

    And I think the general thrust of what Obama was to communicate was that the violent protesters were tarnishing the legacy of the peaceful ones.

  25. Niels Hoogeveen says:

    @philadelphealawyer : “The world is pretty much never desperate for anyone’s “leadership,”

    I mostly agree with you on that point.

    Having grown up and lived most of my life in Europe, I can think of only one situation during my lifetime, where American leadership was wanted and perceived to be needed, and that is the conflict in former Yugoslavia.

    From a Western-European perspective, in all other situations, the United States has been nothing more than a remote and friendly nation, not unlike Canada or Australia.

    There is nothing wrong with American leadership per se, but it has to be upon broadly held request and it has to be reluctantly accepted.

    Such leadership should also only be accepted with a sense of humility, to not alienate large parts of world.

    I distinctly remember an American politician (don’t remember his name or face), who on CNN in the mid-1990s proclaimed: “we are not the police men of the world, but we are the moral leaders of the world”.

    It’s exactly that haughty attitude that creates enemies, and puts otherwise friendly nations at a distance.

    This especially true when looking at the many domestic problems that exist in the US.

    When comparing a diverse range of social indicators of countries in the Western-World, the US doesn’t score all that well, and asks for some humility before claiming moral superiority.

    America’s military power and ability is unique in the world and sometimes that can be welcome in conflicts around the globe, but those situations are rare and shouldn’t be eagerly sought out.

  26. philadelphialawyer says:

    NH:

    US military might was wanted by one side in Yugoslavia. The Serbs sure didn’t want it. Naturally, as other posters have indicated, folks who want wars fought would rather the USA fought them than they did. But I don’t think that shows any love for US “leadership!” Those folks wanted to fight a war without our “leading” them to it. If anything, they want to “lead” the US to the war zone, and then have us do their dirty work. And America’s military power is not so much unique as it is ubiquitous, and is run by politicos uniquely willing to use it at the drop of a hat!

  27. collin says:

    Can we not go overboard on The American Century Is Over because some baseball games (for fans) were cancelled? I lived in SoCal in 1992 during the Rodney King riots and remember some Dodger games cancelled back then and our country was not doomed the next ten years. (And the games had no bearing on pennant races as the Dodgers had a terrible year.) On the other hand I would like to end the whole American Century nonsense.

    I wish a conservative politician would state a very simple “Cut back military by $300B next year and use that money to pay states to lower sales tax by 1%.” (So everybody feels and benefits from the tax cut.)

  28. jdmcn says:

    Although I found this article to be in my opinion quite brilliant it seems to me to be totally at odds with what would be considered the Conservative mainstream in the USA today. As a lifelong liberal I am surprised at how often I agree with the articles I read in the American Conservative but have to reiterate that the common sense and intellectual rigor often found therein seem almost always in opposition to the so called Conservatism we see practiced in America today.

  29. JohnG says:

    @NH

    I often get amazed at how people living in a market economy and thoroughly aware of the fact that there is no such thing as free lunch can have such idealistic visions of foreign affairs. Yeah right, someone is going to make the mighty US military available to someone else for free.

    There has to be something in it for VP’s Halliburton or Albright Investment Partners (it’s indicative that Congress never shows any interest in investigating business deals of former congressmen, senators, and administration officials), or the neoconservative (i.e. pretty much the entire foreign policy) establishment with its neo-lunatic goal of ruling the world.

    Far from a “benevolent leader,” the US, and especially the Clintonistas, played the same role in former Yugoslavia that they are now playing in Ukraine, something which is openly discussed over there, no wonder the support for sanctions on Russia is lukewarm. In Kosovo, the US sidelined the democratic Albanian opposition around Dr. Rugove (surprise, he was for a peaceful solution) only to side with terrorist thugs (and suspected human organ traffickers) which somehow became “freedom fighters.” In Bosnia, the US ambassador explicitly encouraged the former Bosnian president Izetbegic NOT to sign a peace deal which was negotiated with the help of the EU early on. In Croatia, the US military ended up supporting from the air the largest operation of ethnic cleansing in those wars. Many believe that all these actions ultimately gave us Putin in Kremlin and that his actions in Ukraine are driven by real concerns that Russian populations over there would otherwise face the same scenario as the Serbs of Croatia and Kosovo.

    I bet that with the exception of Poland, UK, and 3 Baltic countries, most of Europe is thoroughly sick and tired of our “leadership.” And seeing Baltimore and Ferguson will for sure make many of the rest question whether the emperor may be naked. When Czechs (one of the most peaceful, non-violent, and peace & justice-loving nations on earth) start to feel like throwing tomatoes on NATO tanks, that should tell us something.

  30. Chris in Appalachia says:

    Perhaps a reason some people won’t let the American Century end is because if and when we do they will have to admit they have been wrong on too many things for the past 50 years, and they are not willing to do that. Case in point: I have a relative who was in Vietnam, then came back to Washington DC and worked in the military-intelligence complex during the golden age of American meddling in the 1980s and 1990s. Now a senior citizen, it seems he is constantly trying to reassure himself and those around him that his career and life was always right and righteous. He is the guy who told me that “Whether we like it or not America is the world’s police.” So he sends out the political emails, and the endless posts on social media, pontificating and giving 20th Century solutions to 21st Century problems. For him to admit that Vietnam was mostly a waste, that all the meddling in South America and the Middle East was ill-conceived and ill-executed, etc. would be not only disappointing to him, but also a personal defeat. So I am theorizing that is why these dinosaurs like my uncle and McCain and Kerry and all those old farts will “never say die” to the American Century. And same for their Generation X protégés like Ryan and Rubio. If it were possible to put these anachronistic people out to pasture where they belong then maybe we could move on to a better future.

  31. Agent76 says:

    Apr 1, 2015 The Only Truly Compliant, Submissive Citizen in a Police State Is a Dead One

    All throughout America the same scenario is being played out over and over again. Government agents, hyped up on their own authority and the power of their uniform, are trampling over the rights of the citizenry. In turn, argues John W. Whitehead in this week’s vodcast, Americans are being brainwashed into believing that anyone who wears a government uniform—soldier, police officer, prison guard—must be obeyed without question.

    https://youtu.be/Up82gW5OT8s

  32. Michael Kenny says:

    It’s amusing to note that Ukraine is now served up as a side dish with just about everything! Many years ago, Abba Eban once commented that if a conference was held on grasshoppers, the delegates would adopt a resoultion condemning Israel and would then go home leaving the grasshoppers severely alone! Ukraine now seems to have achieved grasshopper status. The article is an attempt to hijack the tragedy in Baltimore and use it to beat the “let Putin win” drum and its underlying premise is just plain silly. If the pro-Putin faction are clutching at straws in this way, then they can’t have any serious belief in Putin’s chances of winning.

  33. philadelphialawyer says:

    MK:

    I wouldn’t equate Ukraine and Israel, if I were you. Nor invoke liar and special pleader for Israel posing as statesman Abba Eban.

  34. Clint says:

    The state, which cannot protect crowds of dating couples and parents with children outside of Camden Yards, is not going to make eastern Ukraine safe for neoliberalism..

    Neoliberalism is as guilty of playing Global Cop as Neoconservatism.Also,The vast majority Of AIPAC members are Democrats.

  35. Kolya Krassotkin says:

    Forget the rest of the world. No one has suffered a greater loss of faith in their country’s leadership than Americans themselves. They know better than anyone else that their empire can’t be sustained and that their elected officials are about as representative of popular interest as a senator in imperial Rome was.

  36. JP says:

    I don’t know if the American people, by and large, are completely stupid or are just so self-absorbed they are unaware of the greater world around them. In either case it pretty much amounts to the same thing. We might well end up with nuclear war in short order, maybe during the next presidency, before the American people (the survivors, I suppse) wake up. The unavoidable truth may be: no pain, no gain. I really hope that that trusim isn’t true in this case. I hope against hope that America as a nation wakes up before it’s too late. Really.

  37. @MK

    Operational aspect of what is happening in Ukraine is quite amazing and contains pretty much all answers to your, however implicit, questions. If not for Russian neocons who are on several orders of magnitude more educated and, actually, moral than their US counterparts, the direction of the discussion you are trying to “Putinize” would be very different.

  38. Plain Dealer says:

    @K. Krassotkin No one has suffered a greater loss of faith in their country’s leadership than Americans themselves.

    Too true. From Iraq to the financial disaster and ripoff of 2008/9, from the failure to stop the illegal alien invasion to a “War on Terror” that just created more enemies.

    Soon we’ll be asked to choose between corrupt, incompetent Hillary Clinton and ignorant, wrong-headed Jeb Bush. Indeed, these days it’s increasingly a misnomer to refer to “our leaders”. Many behave more like foreign agents, or fixers for global corporations.

  39. KJL says:

    @Christopher Manion

    “That’s been going on for several generations. And yet, I’ve never heard the Rev’s (Jackson, Sharpton, et al) tell young male rioters to go home, get married, stay married, and raise their kids with tough love.”

    Staying married and raising their own kids is not a man’s choice to make anymore.

  40. Andrew Nichols says:

    If the Republicans in Congress succeed in collapsing the Iran negotiations—altogether possible—they will discover that Washington is in a coalition with Israel and Saudi Arabia and no one else.

    I predict that the sanctions regime on Iran will be trampled underfoot by the Euro business stampede no matter what the deranged morons in the US Congress and Senate do. The poor saps will be totally bewliderted and look to blame anyone except themselves and their Exceptionalist Wet Dreams. A plague on them.

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