Victor Davis Hanson
Almost daily we read of America's "waning power" and "inevitable decline," as observers argue over the consequences of defense cuts and budget crises.
Yet much of the new American "leading from behind" strategy is a matter of choice, not necessity. Apparently, both left-wing critics of U.S. foreign policy and right-wing Jacksonians are tiring of spending blood and treasure on seemingly ungrateful Middle Easterners -- after two Gulf wars, the decade in
We certainly have plenty of planes and bombs with which to pound
But chaos in
So much of our sagging profile abroad is simply a growing realization that the
Can decline be better measured by our vast debt of
Do high gas prices and huge imported-oil fees reflect an energy-short America? Not really. There are 25 billion barrels of oil sitting right off
In other words, the manifest symptoms of decline -- frustration with the
If our students are burdened with oppressive loans, why do so many university rec centers look like five-star spas? Student cell phones and cars are indistinguishable from those of the faculty.
The underclass suffers more from obesity than malnutrition; our national epidemic is not unaffordable protein, but rather a surfeit of even cheaper sweets.
Flash mobbers target electronics stores for more junk, not bulk food warehouses in order to eat. America's children do not suffer from lack of access to the Internet, but from wasting hours on video games and less-than-instructional websites. We have too many, not too few, television channels.
The problem is not that government workers are underpaid or scarce, but that so many of them seem to think mind readers, clowns and prostitutes come with the job.
An average American with an average cell phone has more information at his fingertips than did a
American poverty is not measured by absolute global standards of available food, shelter and medical care, or by comparisons to prior generations, but by one American now having less stuff than another.
As America re-examines its military, entitlements, energy sources and popular culture, it will learn that our "decline" is not due to material shortages, but rather arises from moral confusion over how to master, rather than being mastered by, the vast riches we have created. If decline is fighting just two wars at a time rather than three, just budgeting what we did in 2008, tapping a bit more oil offshore, or having our colleges offer more grammar courses and fewer rock-climbing walls, then by all means bring it on.
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