Victor Davis Hanson
Is America's preeminent world role over?
That's what a recent New Yorker essay, based on interviews with presidential advisers, claimed. It characterized the new Obama foreign-relations style as "leading from behind" -- given the supposed inevitable American decline and growing unpopularity. The president is said to agree with pundits such as
But if American abrogates its preeminent leadership position of the last 65 years, wouldn't the world look a lot like it did in the pre-American days of the 1930s? Then, a Depression-era
Eighty years ago, a newly Westernized and anti-democratic Japanese powerhouse, in the fashion of today's rising
Most Americans then were tired anyway of overseas commitments. Our ancestors felt that their considerable sacrifices in World War I either had gone unappreciated or had solved little -- not unlike the way we are becoming exhausted by
A newly confident, united and ascendant
Much-vaunted international institutions, like the bankrupt
The so-called international community cared as much in the 1930s about rising, aggressive totalitarian states in
In other words, the post-American world could look a lot like the rather terrifying pre-American version of seven decades past. Why in the world would we wish to return to it?
The declinists insist we have no choice. Globalization has spread power. America has depleted its resources, both natural and financial. And our prior leadership abroad is something worthy of apology rather than pride anyway. Think of receding postcolonial
But decline is always a choice, not an inevitable fate. America's known fossil-fuel reserves -- natural gas, oil, coal, shale, tar-sands -- are larger than ever. The problem is not finding more energy but marshaling the will to use the vast new sources of energy we have recently discovered.
Our military is not just larger than the alternatives, but vastly larger and ever more lethal. Given the enormous size and productivity of the U.S. economy, we have the means -- but not yet the will -- to rapidly pay down our huge debt. In a world short on food, America is the world's greatest agricultural producer.
Other industrialized populations age and decline; ours is still growing. America is widely criticized abroad even as it remains by far the favored destination of global immigrants. Diverse religious practice is still vibrant in
While riots, strikes or revolutions sweep southern
There have been plenty of thugs who threatened their neighbors over the last 30 years.
In short, the old pre-American world was as unstable and dangerous as would be a new post-American update. But both retrenchments were choices that an unsure and depressed
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