Decline and Awakening
James Kitfield at the National Journal argues that the global decline of America has begun. "Less than a decade ago, the United States was held out as the rarest of historical anomalies, a lone superpower leading the world. Today, such talk of boundless promise already seems part of a receding past."
Mr. Kitfield has not yet grasped that a decade ago America was leading a parade over the edge of a cliff. It was not alone. Ten years ago the trend towards multilateralism and multiculturalism and the inevitability of a European Union were all givens. The smart money was that history, according to Francis Fukuyama who he quotes extensively, was over. If the world faced a threat it was from Global Warming. And to that end the militaries of the world would continue to shrink because they faced no threats -- not from Russia nor from anywhere -- and they would be replaced by treaties and diplomatic action. These were the assumptions of an era which the United States "led" and for which Kitfield wistfully longs. Yet nearly all of these assumptions were wrong.
What was missing from that halcyon world? Any perception of danger from radical Islam. Any inkling that the West faced a demographic challenge. Any idea that multiculturalism was a threat to Europe's social program. Any suspicion that Russia would once again challenge Europe. Any understanding of networked terrorist warfare. A Google search done on these subjects filtered for the years 1990 to 2000 would return very little. It was not an age of safety so much as an era of blinkered ignorance.
What Mr. Kitfield takes for proof of an American decline is simply a set of past due bills which have only now been presented. Nicolas Sarkozy was recently elected precisely because he promised to pay those bills; to address the very issues which even France has begun to belatedly recognize. The challenge of radical Islam -- much of it fueled from "Londonistan" -- declining European demography and out-of-control immigration were nothing to do with American "mistakes" in Iraq. They were everything to do with the mistakes of an old generation of diplomats who now wax nostalgic for the era when they slept upon the watch and declared all was well. How well it was we all know.
In that respect Kitfield's argument is inverted. The alarm clock rang just in time for America to notice the sinister figures poised dagger in hand in the shadows just above the bed. And now we are shaking ourselves awake, fending off the danger and trying to get our britches on all at the same time. If that be a decline it is a decline from fantasy. There is no use bemoaning it, nor listening to the sweet songs that lulled us to sleep.