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كلير بوليتيكس - 24/5/2007
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Is Sky Falling on America?
Victor Davis Hanson
suicide-murders and roadside bombs in Iraq and
Afghanistan sicken Americans. Soon-to-be nuclear Iran
seems loonier than nuclear North Korea. American debt
keeps piling up in China and Japan. And we think of
angry Venezuela, the Middle East and Russia every time
we fill up -- if we can afford to fill up.
listen to Al Gore on global warming. Or hear Jimmy
Carter on the current president. The common denominator
is American "decline."
by liberals assure us that our "empire" is
kaput. Brace for the inevitable fate of Rome.
Conservatives are just as glum. For them, we are also
Romans -- but the more decadent variety, eaten away from
response, many bored Americans turn instead to the la-la
land of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
American Cassandras are old stuff. Grim Charles Lindberg
in the late 1930s lectured a Depression-era America that
Hitler's new order in Germany could only be appeased,
World War II, it wasn't long before the Soviet Union
ended our short-lived status as sole nuclear superpower.
And when Eastern Europe and China were lost to
communism, it was proof, for many, that democratic
capitalism was passé. "We will bury you,"
Nikita Khrushchev promised us.
the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991, America
proclaimed itself at the "end of history" --
meaning that the spread of our style of democratic
capitalism was now inevitable. Now a mere 16 years
later, some are just as sure
approach our own end.
our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than
oil. With oil prices at nearly $70 a barrel, Vladimir
Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez seem
invincible as they rally anti-American feeling.
if we find alternate energy sources, or reduce slightly
our oil hunger, we can defang all three rather quickly.
None of their countries have a middle class or a culture
of entrepreneurship to discover and disseminate new
and Europe are shrinking. China is an aging nation of
only children. The only thing the hard-working Chinese
fear more than their bankrupt communist dictatorship is
getting rid of it.
the economies of China and India have made amazing
progress. But both have rocky rendezvous ahead with all
the social and cultural problems that we long ago
addressed in the 20th century.
European elites can't blame their problems -- a bullying
Russia, Islamic terrorists, unassimilated minorities and
high unemployment -- all on George Bush's swagger and
accent. The recent elections of Angela Merkel in Germany
and Nicolas Sarkozy in France suggest that Europe's
cheap anti-Americanism may be ending, and that our
practices of more open markets, lower taxes and less
state control are preferrable to the European status quo.
truth, a never-stronger America is being tested as never
before. The world is watching whether we win or lose in
Iraq and Afghanistan. The Middle East is either going to
reform or remain an oil-rich tribal mess that endangers
the entire world.
better way to assess our chances at maintaining our
preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are
the historical barometers of our nation's success or
failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable
to ours? Does merit -- or religion, tribe or class --
mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation
is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?
becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if
you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for
national office in India from the lower caste. Try
writing a critical op-ed in Russia or hiring a brilliant
female to run a mosque, university or hospital in most
of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart,
iPods, the Internet or F-18s came from.
the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession
that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet
workers' paradise, Japan Inc. and now 24/7 China all
were about to displace the United States. None did. All
have had relative moments of amazing success -- but in
the end none proved as resilient, flexible and adaptable
brings us to the United States' greatest strength:
radical self-critique. We Americans are worrywarts,
always believing we're on the verge of extinction. And
so, to "renew," "reinvent" or
"save" America, we whip ourselves up about
"wars" on poverty, drugs and cancer; space
"races;" missile "gaps;" literacy
"crusades;" and "campaigns" against
litter, waste and smoking.
other words, we nail-biters have always been paranoid
that we must change and improve in order to survive. And
thus we usually do -- just in time.
Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover
Institution, Stanford University, and author, most
recently, of "A War Like No Other: How the
Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian
War." You can reach him by e-mailing email@example.com
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