Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Decline of the American "Empire" (Again)

Victor Hanson has rebutted yet another "hackneyed" attempt by someone to proclaim the end of "American Empire." After encapsulating the history of past proclamations of the failing of America, Hanson turns to the current offender, Matthew Parris.
. . . Matthew Parris now warns us that our military is overstretched and our economy weak–despite the fact that our gross domestic product is larger than ever and the percentage of it devoted to military spending at historic lows, far below what was committed during WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. . . While Parris decries our slow decline, the United States alone will soon have the world’s only anti-ballistic missile system and the forward basing presence to preempt would-be nuclear rogue states before they imperil Americans. Europeans may brag of soft power, but in the scary world to come let us hope that they can bribe, beg, lecture, or appease Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, and others to appreciate the realities of their postmodern world that has supposedly transcended violence and war.

It is true that Americans are worried about high budget deficits, trade imbalances, a weak dollar, and national debt; but we are already at work to rectify these problems, convinced that the correctives are not depression and chaos, but rather a little sobriety and sacrifice in what has been a breakneck rise in the standard of living the last 20 years, prosperity unmarked in the history of civilization. Better indicators of our health are low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, along with high worker productivity and innovation. . .

Parris cites the rise of other economies; but they, not us, have the real problems ahead. The EU does not assimilate very well its immigrants–in contrast, more come to the US every year than from all other countries combined. Enormous apartheid communities of Muslims, full of simmering resentment, reside outside Parris and in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Germany, not in Detroit and New York. European socialism is facing a demographic nightmare; and soon budget shortfalls to pay for its utopian agenda will be made worse once the United States begins to withdraw its 50-year subsidy of the continent’s defense. History suggests that atheism and secularism are not indicators of strength but of apathy and aimlessness. The United States–not Europe, Russia, or China— is a religious community, and, pace Michael Moore, without the fundamentalist extremism of the Middle East and reactionary Islam.

China and India are the new tigers, but their rapid industrialization and urbanization have created enormous social and civic problems long ago dealt with by the United States. Each must soon confront environmentalism, unionism, minority rights, free expression, community activism, and social entitlements that are the wages of any citizenry that begins to taste leisure and affluence. . . The infrastructure of generations–bridges, roads, airports, universities, power grids–are well established and being constantly improved in the United States, and so there is a reason why a European would prefer to drink the water, get his appendix out, or drive in San Francisco rather than in Bombay, Beijing, Istanbul–or Paris or Rome.

Nowhere in the world is the rule of law as stable in the United States, which is the most transparent society on the globe and thus the most trusted for investors and entrepreneurs–no surprise given its hallowed Constitution and Bill of Rights. Parris notes the presence abroad of thousands of American troops, but does not ask whether any other country has, or will have, the air or sea lift capacity to project such power, force that allowed American ships and helicopters to save thousands after the tsunami when Europe’s lone Charles de Gaulle was nowhere to be seen. China and India, for all their robust economies, have neither the ability to help victims of mass disasters nor citizenries wealthy or generous enough to give hundreds of millions to strangers abroad.

All civilizations erode, but few citizenries are as sensitive to the signs of decay as Americans, who constantly innovate, experiment, and self-critique in a fashion unknown anywhere else. When we develop a class system based on British aristocratic breeding, accent, and social paralysis, or sink into a multicultural cauldron like the endemic violence of an India or Africa, or cease believing in either God or children like an Amsterdam or Brussels, or require the state coercion of a China to maintain harmony, or become a racialist state such as Japan, then it is time to worry.

But we are not there yet by a long shot.

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