The decline and fall of American power?

Richard Cohen says that America just doesn’t have much effect on world events anymore.  He starts with the President’s visit to the oil spill. . .

Everyone knew that Obama was merely showing that he was not George W. Bush. He was not going to ignore a calamity, especially one affecting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On the other hand, we all knew that he could not reverse the winds or cork the spill. In fact, he could do precious little except show that he cared.

This was a symbolic moment — the tide, menacing the coast with oil, moving its own way, just as events across the globe seem to be. We are accustomed to American presidents being supremely important if for no other reason than that they command the world’s mightiest military. But we ought to appreciate also that presidential importance, in terms of being able to influence events, is slipping.

In the Middle East, nothing Obama has done has made much of a difference. In Europe, the euro teeters. As critical as this currency is, it is far less important than the concept of European integration upon which it is based. We tend to forget that Europe is the home office of awful wars — twice in the last century we got involved — and if you include Russia as part of Europe, as some Russians insist, then we have to count the Cold War, too. As for Russia, it shrugs off American complaints and moves progressively backward — not a European democracy, just something else.

On the periphery of Europe is Turkey, seeking to reestablish some of the influence the Ottoman Empire once had in the region. It may also be reverting to a more Islamic state, possibly concluding that nearly a century of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's secularism is enough. Whatever the case, there isn't much we can do about Turkey, either. It no longer needs the United States as a Cold War ally, and it even blocked military access to Iraq at the start of the war. The waning pull of the American present can no longer match the pull of the Ottoman past. Israel,

China, too, is beyond our reach. In some ways, we need it more than it needs us. We owe Beijing money. We buy China’s goods. We respect its growing might. We rue our diminishing power. We muffle our concern over human rights. We are a superpower. But against what?

American conservatives look at the defeats and disappointments, and they fulminate about Obama. They call him weak and inept — and surely in some areas he has been both. But they are wrong in thinking that another person would make much of a difference. Times have changed. America’s power is diminished — relatively, for sure, but absolutely as well.

via Richard Cohen – A superpower — and a president — with declining clout.

Is this just liberal glee at America’s decline?  Or evidence of an ineffective government?  Or is this a good thing, a recognition that some things are beyond our control that is necessary for a realistic approach to the world?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    It’s not about Obama. The fact is that you can’t be the world’s superpopwer when you are the world’s biggest debtor. You can’t strut around and save the world when you have to go to China and say “Dad, can I have my allowance?” Any president would face the same problem.

    Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that our imperial hubris and arrogance (yes, there is some of it) are being curtailed. Christians should trust in the Lord, and not in their government.

  • Winston Smith

    It’s not about Obama. The fact is that you can’t be the world’s superpopwer when you are the world’s biggest debtor. You can’t strut around and save the world when you have to go to China and say “Dad, can I have my allowance?” Any president would face the same problem.

    Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that our imperial hubris and arrogance (yes, there is some of it) are being curtailed. Christians should trust in the Lord, and not in their government.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston Smith,
    This isn’t about Christians trusting in their government, but Americans being disappointed in the man they elected to be there president. I trust in the Lord very much. I also appreciate the huge role America has played in the last two centuries of its existence in the history of the world.
    Much of this does actually have to do with Obama. Perhaps there are problems that are hard for us to imagine any man overcoming. But Obama has become more laughable than George W. I tend to be on the conservative side and found a lot to laugh at concerning Bush. Thing is I could laugh at Bush. With Obama it isn’t grammatical mistakes in a speech, it is overall policy that seems to be intent on pushing the whole western world over the brink.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston Smith,
    This isn’t about Christians trusting in their government, but Americans being disappointed in the man they elected to be there president. I trust in the Lord very much. I also appreciate the huge role America has played in the last two centuries of its existence in the history of the world.
    Much of this does actually have to do with Obama. Perhaps there are problems that are hard for us to imagine any man overcoming. But Obama has become more laughable than George W. I tend to be on the conservative side and found a lot to laugh at concerning Bush. Thing is I could laugh at Bush. With Obama it isn’t grammatical mistakes in a speech, it is overall policy that seems to be intent on pushing the whole western world over the brink.

  • Cohen’s key grafs

    American conservatives look at the defeats and disappointments, and they fulminate about Obama. They call him weak and inept — and surely in some areas he has been both. But they are wrong in thinking that another person would make much of a difference. Times have changed. America’s power is diminished — relatively, for sure, but absolutely as well. As a superpower, America invaded Iraq. Saddam is dust. But that brief war is now in its eighth year.

    In 1987, Paul Kennedy published “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” It created great buzz because, among other things, it predicted the relative and absolute decline of the United States. Kennedy attributed this to military “overstretch” and deficit spending — problems that have since gone from the theoretical to the acute. In a sense, we have more wars than we have cash.

    The need to mention Kennedy rankles. It suggests inevitability, as if America was the empire of Rome or Britain and also that the past is fated to be the future. That, though, does not have to be the case. We can spend less, tax more, abjure wars of choice, reform Congress and stop confusing the celebrity of the presidency with actual power.

    Obama presiding over the unpresidable, the president overseeing the incomprehensible, the full panoply of meaningless power — Air Force One, Marine One, the limo, the motorcade, the briefcase with the nuclear launch codes — all amounting in this case to man railing against the sea, a somber lesson for us all. The spill goes on. The war goes on. The debt grows — and so, for too many of us, does denial.

  • Cohen’s key grafs

    American conservatives look at the defeats and disappointments, and they fulminate about Obama. They call him weak and inept — and surely in some areas he has been both. But they are wrong in thinking that another person would make much of a difference. Times have changed. America’s power is diminished — relatively, for sure, but absolutely as well. As a superpower, America invaded Iraq. Saddam is dust. But that brief war is now in its eighth year.

    In 1987, Paul Kennedy published “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” It created great buzz because, among other things, it predicted the relative and absolute decline of the United States. Kennedy attributed this to military “overstretch” and deficit spending — problems that have since gone from the theoretical to the acute. In a sense, we have more wars than we have cash.

    The need to mention Kennedy rankles. It suggests inevitability, as if America was the empire of Rome or Britain and also that the past is fated to be the future. That, though, does not have to be the case. We can spend less, tax more, abjure wars of choice, reform Congress and stop confusing the celebrity of the presidency with actual power.

    Obama presiding over the unpresidable, the president overseeing the incomprehensible, the full panoply of meaningless power — Air Force One, Marine One, the limo, the motorcade, the briefcase with the nuclear launch codes — all amounting in this case to man railing against the sea, a somber lesson for us all. The spill goes on. The war goes on. The debt grows — and so, for too many of us, does denial.

  • DonS

    In the last national elections, in 2008, well over 1/2 of American voters voted for politicians who do not believe that America is a good nation. Accordingly, they do not believe that America deserves to be the lone superpower, or to direct or influence the actions of other nations. In fact, in part because of this belief that America is not a good nation, its public debt has been increased some 20% since January 2009, in an effort to make it a better one.

    I don’t believe that President Obama is weak. I believe he was woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the task of governing this nation, particularly in its present crisis, but he is not weak. And his foreign policy, that of an apologist for what he sees as the past misdeeds of America, is exactly what he wants it to be. Unfortunately for him, his inexperience led him to believe that his apologies would heal rifts between America and other nations. He has been stunned to find that international diplomacy does not mirror individual interpersonal relations.

  • DonS

    In the last national elections, in 2008, well over 1/2 of American voters voted for politicians who do not believe that America is a good nation. Accordingly, they do not believe that America deserves to be the lone superpower, or to direct or influence the actions of other nations. In fact, in part because of this belief that America is not a good nation, its public debt has been increased some 20% since January 2009, in an effort to make it a better one.

    I don’t believe that President Obama is weak. I believe he was woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the task of governing this nation, particularly in its present crisis, but he is not weak. And his foreign policy, that of an apologist for what he sees as the past misdeeds of America, is exactly what he wants it to be. Unfortunately for him, his inexperience led him to believe that his apologies would heal rifts between America and other nations. He has been stunned to find that international diplomacy does not mirror individual interpersonal relations.

  • Dane

    So how long until DonS’s history and foreign policy is taught in Texas public schools?

  • Dane

    So how long until DonS’s history and foreign policy is taught in Texas public schools?

  • Winston Smith

    Although I don’t disagree with Bror Erickson’s and DonS’s assessments of President Obama, it’s really not about him (or any president).

    I suspect that Paul Kennedy was correct back in 1987. It is now the United States’ turn to go the way of Nineveh and Tyre (and Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc.). All civilizations follow an arc, rising to greatness and then falling back into decline and obsolescence. It is inevitable, and we are there now. We can assign blame, and ask what happened (abandonment of Christian virtues, military over-reaching and irresponsible deficit spending come to mind), but the world is approaching a post-American era.

    It’s not a question of Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. Presidents of both parties have done their part to bring us to where we are today.

  • Winston Smith

    Although I don’t disagree with Bror Erickson’s and DonS’s assessments of President Obama, it’s really not about him (or any president).

    I suspect that Paul Kennedy was correct back in 1987. It is now the United States’ turn to go the way of Nineveh and Tyre (and Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc.). All civilizations follow an arc, rising to greatness and then falling back into decline and obsolescence. It is inevitable, and we are there now. We can assign blame, and ask what happened (abandonment of Christian virtues, military over-reaching and irresponsible deficit spending come to mind), but the world is approaching a post-American era.

    It’s not a question of Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. Presidents of both parties have done their part to bring us to where we are today.

  • Peter Leavitt

    American power, while diminished by Obama, will in the long run remain considerable. Already the American people have risen up against Obama’s leftist overreach, as the 2010 and 2012 elections will make clear. China and India will gain power, though it’s unlikely that they will come anywhere close to American power. The Joker, however, in the long run has to do with whether secular or Christian forces will win the very real cultural war in America. If the leftist, secular side wins, America’s goose is cooked.

    Unfortunately in this struggle Europe will be of little help, given its Christian, demographic, and economic decline.

  • Peter Leavitt

    American power, while diminished by Obama, will in the long run remain considerable. Already the American people have risen up against Obama’s leftist overreach, as the 2010 and 2012 elections will make clear. China and India will gain power, though it’s unlikely that they will come anywhere close to American power. The Joker, however, in the long run has to do with whether secular or Christian forces will win the very real cultural war in America. If the leftist, secular side wins, America’s goose is cooked.

    Unfortunately in this struggle Europe will be of little help, given its Christian, demographic, and economic decline.

  • Andy

    As you posit it, Leavitt, let us hope, for the sake of our humanity and that of the rest of the world, that America’s goose gets cooked.

  • Andy

    As you posit it, Leavitt, let us hope, for the sake of our humanity and that of the rest of the world, that America’s goose gets cooked.

  • DonS

    Peter @ 7: Welcome back! It’s good to see your comment on here, and a salient point, as usual. A refreshing contrast to Andy’s subsequent celebration of leftist secularism and the downfall of America.

  • DonS

    Peter @ 7: Welcome back! It’s good to see your comment on here, and a salient point, as usual. A refreshing contrast to Andy’s subsequent celebration of leftist secularism and the downfall of America.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Thanks, Don. I missed being involved with this excellent blog and am glad to be back.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Thanks, Don. I missed being involved with this excellent blog and am glad to be back.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Andy, you need to reflect on the blood and treasure that America spent defending democratic, Judeo-Christian civilization against totalitarian forces in WW I and II, the Cold War, along with the Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq wars. Judging from the tenor of your remark, I take it that you are one of those folk that suffers from the illusion that American power is somehow an evil, inhumane force in the world.

    A few years ago I visited the American military cemetery near Luxembourg in which General Patton and about 8,000 America soldiers who fought the Battle of the Bulge are buried. I should suggest that if you made a similar visit you might not be so gleeful at the prospect of America’s goose getting cooked.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Andy, you need to reflect on the blood and treasure that America spent defending democratic, Judeo-Christian civilization against totalitarian forces in WW I and II, the Cold War, along with the Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq wars. Judging from the tenor of your remark, I take it that you are one of those folk that suffers from the illusion that American power is somehow an evil, inhumane force in the world.

    A few years ago I visited the American military cemetery near Luxembourg in which General Patton and about 8,000 America soldiers who fought the Battle of the Bulge are buried. I should suggest that if you made a similar visit you might not be so gleeful at the prospect of America’s goose getting cooked.

  • sg

    Andy is hilarious. What is he smoking? Anyway, the decline of America is Social Security, Medicare etc. Any socializing of risk without accurately pricing the risk is a losing proposition. That is what brought on the financial crisis, rating stuff AAA that is really junk. The amount someone pays in FICA doesn’t accurately price the risk. Also, it discourages saving and personal responsibility. Then we have the media that demonizes the diligent and pities the irresponsible and incorrigible. Finally we have the ridiculous premise that education can make folks equal. Education is necessary but not sufficient condition for learning. Only those with natural ability can benefit from education.

  • sg

    Andy is hilarious. What is he smoking? Anyway, the decline of America is Social Security, Medicare etc. Any socializing of risk without accurately pricing the risk is a losing proposition. That is what brought on the financial crisis, rating stuff AAA that is really junk. The amount someone pays in FICA doesn’t accurately price the risk. Also, it discourages saving and personal responsibility. Then we have the media that demonizes the diligent and pities the irresponsible and incorrigible. Finally we have the ridiculous premise that education can make folks equal. Education is necessary but not sufficient condition for learning. Only those with natural ability can benefit from education.

  • Sarah

    The Tea Party’s core mission is to stop the federal government from limiting the power of corporations.

  • Sarah

    The Tea Party’s core mission is to stop the federal government from limiting the power of corporations.

  • saddler

    Winston #1

    Your reference to American imperialism reminds me of a response that Colin Powell had for a foreign dignitary who made the same accusation. He said that the only land that America has asked for has been enough land to bury the fallen who had given their life fighting for freedom. His remarks were driven home for me as I stood among the crosses at Omaha Beach last year.

  • saddler

    Winston #1

    Your reference to American imperialism reminds me of a response that Colin Powell had for a foreign dignitary who made the same accusation. He said that the only land that America has asked for has been enough land to bury the fallen who had given their life fighting for freedom. His remarks were driven home for me as I stood among the crosses at Omaha Beach last year.

  • John C

    Not all secularism is of the left, Peter.
    I presume you support a conservative version of secularism.
    Or would you prefer a theocracy?
    I don’t have any natural ability, sg. I just plod along. But I did benefit from education. I am pretty much who I am because of it.

  • John C

    Not all secularism is of the left, Peter.
    I presume you support a conservative version of secularism.
    Or would you prefer a theocracy?
    I don’t have any natural ability, sg. I just plod along. But I did benefit from education. I am pretty much who I am because of it.

  • sg

    “I don’t have any natural ability, sg. I just plod along. But I did benefit from education. I am pretty much who I am because of it.”

    Not.

    Your self deprecation does not win any points.

    You can’t benefit from education without natural ability.

  • sg

    “I don’t have any natural ability, sg. I just plod along. But I did benefit from education. I am pretty much who I am because of it.”

    Not.

    Your self deprecation does not win any points.

    You can’t benefit from education without natural ability.

  • sg

    “The Tea Party’s core mission is to stop the federal government from limiting the power of corporations.”

    Like General Motors? Or perhaps the banks? Or maybe those “corporations” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

    Are those the corporations you think the Tea Party wants to stop the gov’t from limiting? Or is it some other corporations?

    Personally I knew the aristocracy is Washington was stabbing us all in the back when I saw everyone from George Bush to Nancy Pelosi pronouncing salvation via their free for all big banks TARP giveaway of our money.

  • sg

    “The Tea Party’s core mission is to stop the federal government from limiting the power of corporations.”

    Like General Motors? Or perhaps the banks? Or maybe those “corporations” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

    Are those the corporations you think the Tea Party wants to stop the gov’t from limiting? Or is it some other corporations?

    Personally I knew the aristocracy is Washington was stabbing us all in the back when I saw everyone from George Bush to Nancy Pelosi pronouncing salvation via their free for all big banks TARP giveaway of our money.

  • sg

    “So how long until DonS’s history and foreign policy is taught in Texas public schools?”

    Really, education is not supposed to revolve around political indoctrination. Education is supposed to help students develop specific measurable skills and the ability to reason.

    Some hate Texas for being conservative, but it does a pretty good job with what it has.

    National Assessment of Academic Progress
    2009 8th grade Math averaged scale scores

    top white scores

    MA 305
    MD 303
    NJ 302
    TX 301

    top hispanic scores

    DoD 281
    DE 278
    MT 278
    TX 277

    Texas spends half as much on education per student per year as Massachusetts and New Jersey.

    Can you say diminishing returns?

    Looks like at least 40+ states could learn something about cost/benefit from Texas.

    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/

  • sg

    “So how long until DonS’s history and foreign policy is taught in Texas public schools?”

    Really, education is not supposed to revolve around political indoctrination. Education is supposed to help students develop specific measurable skills and the ability to reason.

    Some hate Texas for being conservative, but it does a pretty good job with what it has.

    National Assessment of Academic Progress
    2009 8th grade Math averaged scale scores

    top white scores

    MA 305
    MD 303
    NJ 302
    TX 301

    top hispanic scores

    DoD 281
    DE 278
    MT 278
    TX 277

    Texas spends half as much on education per student per year as Massachusetts and New Jersey.

    Can you say diminishing returns?

    Looks like at least 40+ states could learn something about cost/benefit from Texas.

    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/

  • John C

    Well then sg, you should define “natural ability” and what proportion of the population you think has it. And what is to be done about those who don’t have natural ability.
    It is difficult to believe that when you see a starving girl in a refugee camp, she would not benefit from 6-12 years of education, whether she had natural ability or not.

  • John C

    Well then sg, you should define “natural ability” and what proportion of the population you think has it. And what is to be done about those who don’t have natural ability.
    It is difficult to believe that when you see a starving girl in a refugee camp, she would not benefit from 6-12 years of education, whether she had natural ability or not.

  • Winston Smith

    “Your reference to American imperialism reminds me of a response that Colin Powell had for a foreign dignitary who made the same accusation. He said that the only land that America has asked for has been enough land to bury the fallen who had given their life fighting for freedom. His remarks were driven home for me as I stood among the crosses at Omaha Beach last year.”

    Tell that to the Vietnamese who were shot in their rice paddies from helicopters so that the generals could increase the body count. Tell it to the collateral damage, er, civilians, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Heck, tell it to the Branch Davidians and their little children.

    Before you label me a reflexive America-hater, I am actually not. Yes, we have done some great things for the world. I am, however, willing to call a spade a spade. As a nation, our hands are not entirely clean of innocent blood. To say that everything our military does is selflessly fighting for freedom is to swallow the propaganda whole. The truth is messier and less convenient.

  • Winston Smith

    “Your reference to American imperialism reminds me of a response that Colin Powell had for a foreign dignitary who made the same accusation. He said that the only land that America has asked for has been enough land to bury the fallen who had given their life fighting for freedom. His remarks were driven home for me as I stood among the crosses at Omaha Beach last year.”

    Tell that to the Vietnamese who were shot in their rice paddies from helicopters so that the generals could increase the body count. Tell it to the collateral damage, er, civilians, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Heck, tell it to the Branch Davidians and their little children.

    Before you label me a reflexive America-hater, I am actually not. Yes, we have done some great things for the world. I am, however, willing to call a spade a spade. As a nation, our hands are not entirely clean of innocent blood. To say that everything our military does is selflessly fighting for freedom is to swallow the propaganda whole. The truth is messier and less convenient.

  • sg

    “It is difficult to believe that when you see a starving girl in a refugee camp, she would not benefit from 6-12 years of education, whether she had natural ability or not.”

    Sounds swell. We all pity a starving child. However, we have whole schools filled with certified teachers with sky high dropout rates turning out functional illiterates. Opportunity only benefits the able. I don’t want it to be that way, but that is the reality. I understand not wanting to believe it. I don’t like it either.

  • sg

    “It is difficult to believe that when you see a starving girl in a refugee camp, she would not benefit from 6-12 years of education, whether she had natural ability or not.”

    Sounds swell. We all pity a starving child. However, we have whole schools filled with certified teachers with sky high dropout rates turning out functional illiterates. Opportunity only benefits the able. I don’t want it to be that way, but that is the reality. I understand not wanting to believe it. I don’t like it either.

  • saddler

    Winston,

    When you used the word “imperial” within this context, it seemed to allude to the classic use of “imperialism”, that is, the efforts of a country to acquire land for it’s own use/agenda. I think Powell’s remarks were addressing the specific use of this word. Nowhere do I recall the United States marching into war to acquire land for itself.

    You are right that our history is marked with the untidy truth of war. Every war ever fought has a common denominator: sinners doing battle with sinners.

  • saddler

    Winston,

    When you used the word “imperial” within this context, it seemed to allude to the classic use of “imperialism”, that is, the efforts of a country to acquire land for it’s own use/agenda. I think Powell’s remarks were addressing the specific use of this word. Nowhere do I recall the United States marching into war to acquire land for itself.

    You are right that our history is marked with the untidy truth of war. Every war ever fought has a common denominator: sinners doing battle with sinners.

  • Jonnie

    sg, I’m not sure you pity a starving child. Your posts identify you as a pure social Darwinist.

  • Jonnie

    sg, I’m not sure you pity a starving child. Your posts identify you as a pure social Darwinist.

  • kerner

    Winston:

    Like some others here, I question your use of the words “imperial’ or “empire” to refer to America. I think I see what you mean, but the words don’t seem to fit.

    America has for over a century developed a policy of fighting its ememies on ground other than our own. I have arguesd on this blog that all our wars since the War of 1812 havew been preemptive in the sense that we have always taken the fight to our enemies in far away places. This policy has the benefit of protecting the American homeland from the misery and destruction of warfare on our own soil. The “collateral damage”, as you call it, is always inflicted on somebody else. You can be critical of that policy from the safety of your home here, but I wonder how critical you would be if your home town or mine had to endure the distruction and suffering that takes place on a modern battlefield.

    Anyway, whenever Americans perceive a threat, the first thing we do is set up a perimiter far outside our own borders. When anyone does manage to inflict some damage on American soil, the first thing we do is attack that enemy where he lives and move the fight to that enemy’s territory.

    One down side to this is that we sometimes have to guess, in advance, at who the enemy is. And we can be wrong. To this day I don’t understand why we thought we had to fight Germany in WWI. As near as I can tell, WWI was a conflict between European powers and their colonial empires that had almost nothing to do with us. Our participation turned the tide of that conflict, and in the outcome of it were the seeds of an even worse conflict.

    A more modern example is our support for the State of Israel, which, as far as I can tell, was originally extended for sentimental reasons and did nothing to advance our interests. Today we find ourselves opposing Israel’s many and numerous enemies, who need not have been ours.

    So, I don’t always agree with the decisions we make, and I have to admit that sometimes our decisions can make things much worse, for other people as well as ourselves.

    But I have a hard time finding fault with the policy itself. I know some here will disagree, but there is often a lot of overlap between what is good for the United States and what is good for the world in general. We are a nation based on a set of ideals, not on an ethnic culture. Military force is only one way we try to protect ourselves from foreign threats. We also try to help develop other countries so they can be prosperous and politically free. This not only benefits the people who live in those places, it keeps them from developing hostilities towards us.

    I know that the reason many on the American left like to compare this to empire building, because they reject the principles on which this country was built. The left fears political and econimic freedom because it fears corporate exploitation more than it fears government power.

    I, personally, believe that the world would be more peaceful and prosperous if it were more like the United States. I don’t know whether all that peace and prosperity would translate into happiness. It certainly hasn’t here.

  • kerner

    Winston:

    Like some others here, I question your use of the words “imperial’ or “empire” to refer to America. I think I see what you mean, but the words don’t seem to fit.

    America has for over a century developed a policy of fighting its ememies on ground other than our own. I have arguesd on this blog that all our wars since the War of 1812 havew been preemptive in the sense that we have always taken the fight to our enemies in far away places. This policy has the benefit of protecting the American homeland from the misery and destruction of warfare on our own soil. The “collateral damage”, as you call it, is always inflicted on somebody else. You can be critical of that policy from the safety of your home here, but I wonder how critical you would be if your home town or mine had to endure the distruction and suffering that takes place on a modern battlefield.

    Anyway, whenever Americans perceive a threat, the first thing we do is set up a perimiter far outside our own borders. When anyone does manage to inflict some damage on American soil, the first thing we do is attack that enemy where he lives and move the fight to that enemy’s territory.

    One down side to this is that we sometimes have to guess, in advance, at who the enemy is. And we can be wrong. To this day I don’t understand why we thought we had to fight Germany in WWI. As near as I can tell, WWI was a conflict between European powers and their colonial empires that had almost nothing to do with us. Our participation turned the tide of that conflict, and in the outcome of it were the seeds of an even worse conflict.

    A more modern example is our support for the State of Israel, which, as far as I can tell, was originally extended for sentimental reasons and did nothing to advance our interests. Today we find ourselves opposing Israel’s many and numerous enemies, who need not have been ours.

    So, I don’t always agree with the decisions we make, and I have to admit that sometimes our decisions can make things much worse, for other people as well as ourselves.

    But I have a hard time finding fault with the policy itself. I know some here will disagree, but there is often a lot of overlap between what is good for the United States and what is good for the world in general. We are a nation based on a set of ideals, not on an ethnic culture. Military force is only one way we try to protect ourselves from foreign threats. We also try to help develop other countries so they can be prosperous and politically free. This not only benefits the people who live in those places, it keeps them from developing hostilities towards us.

    I know that the reason many on the American left like to compare this to empire building, because they reject the principles on which this country was built. The left fears political and econimic freedom because it fears corporate exploitation more than it fears government power.

    I, personally, believe that the world would be more peaceful and prosperous if it were more like the United States. I don’t know whether all that peace and prosperity would translate into happiness. It certainly hasn’t here.

  • sg

    “We are a nation based on a set of ideals, not on an ethnic culture.”

    Great point. Actually we are a nation based on a set of ideals buoyed by an ethnic culture. Similarly China is a nation buoyed by an ethnic culture. Its system stinks and they would be a disaster were it not for their ethnic culture. If their Christian community continues to grow, there will be a bright future for China.

  • sg

    “We are a nation based on a set of ideals, not on an ethnic culture.”

    Great point. Actually we are a nation based on a set of ideals buoyed by an ethnic culture. Similarly China is a nation buoyed by an ethnic culture. Its system stinks and they would be a disaster were it not for their ethnic culture. If their Christian community continues to grow, there will be a bright future for China.

  • Jonnie

    C’mon, children; we’re a nation based squarely on white male privilege.

  • Jonnie

    C’mon, children; we’re a nation based squarely on white male privilege.

  • fws

    its a good thing.

  • fws

    its a good thing.

  • sg

    “C’mon, children; we’re a nation based squarely on white male privilege.”

    Exactly. That’s how dirt poor Jewish immigrants to the US were able to rise and win dozens of Nobel prizes. That New York sweat shop privilege.

  • sg

    “C’mon, children; we’re a nation based squarely on white male privilege.”

    Exactly. That’s how dirt poor Jewish immigrants to the US were able to rise and win dozens of Nobel prizes. That New York sweat shop privilege.

  • sg

    “C’mon, children; we’re a nation based squarely on white male privilege.”

    It’s also how Asians have a higher median income than whites.

  • sg

    “C’mon, children; we’re a nation based squarely on white male privilege.”

    It’s also how Asians have a higher median income than whites.

  • sg

    “sg, I’m not sure you pity a starving child. Your posts identify you as a pure social Darwinist.”

    Jonnie resigns from argument by resorting to personal attack.

    When you resign, it doesn’t count as a draw.

  • sg

    “sg, I’m not sure you pity a starving child. Your posts identify you as a pure social Darwinist.”

    Jonnie resigns from argument by resorting to personal attack.

    When you resign, it doesn’t count as a draw.

  • Jonnie

    Sg, all US Jewish winners of the Nobel prizes were once dirt poor and came from NY city? That’s a white privilege stereotype, isn’t it?
    Nonetheless, American Jews were winning those prizes at the same they weren’t welcome in parts of this country. But your example is a little like saying blacks in 1947 had it real good: just look at Jackie Robinson, playing pro ball, when lots of white men couldn’t make the Dodgers.

  • Jonnie

    Sg, all US Jewish winners of the Nobel prizes were once dirt poor and came from NY city? That’s a white privilege stereotype, isn’t it?
    Nonetheless, American Jews were winning those prizes at the same they weren’t welcome in parts of this country. But your example is a little like saying blacks in 1947 had it real good: just look at Jackie Robinson, playing pro ball, when lots of white men couldn’t make the Dodgers.

  • kerner

    jonnie:

    “we’re a society based squarely on white male privilege”.

    How do you figure that?

  • kerner

    jonnie:

    “we’re a society based squarely on white male privilege”.

    How do you figure that?

  • DonS

    Kerner: Because Jonnie still lives in the South in the 1850′s.

  • DonS

    Kerner: Because Jonnie still lives in the South in the 1850′s.

  • sg

    Jonnie, the point is there is plenty of opportunity for everyone in the US if they have ability and work hard even if they are dirt poor immigrants who are actively discriminated against. They were smart enough to figure that out which is why they chose to come here. While discrimination was significant against various groups, it wasn’t enough to keep the able from achieving. Plenty of poor whites are far from privileged. The real privilege is God given ability. Also, how do you think stereotypes get started? Why do people think Asians are smart? Is it entirely baseless? If so, why don’t people think Asians are dumb?

  • sg

    Jonnie, the point is there is plenty of opportunity for everyone in the US if they have ability and work hard even if they are dirt poor immigrants who are actively discriminated against. They were smart enough to figure that out which is why they chose to come here. While discrimination was significant against various groups, it wasn’t enough to keep the able from achieving. Plenty of poor whites are far from privileged. The real privilege is God given ability. Also, how do you think stereotypes get started? Why do people think Asians are smart? Is it entirely baseless? If so, why don’t people think Asians are dumb?

  • Jonnie

    Kerner, in essence, it means that to be white and male in this country confers advantages (institutionally) that others don’t receive. It doesn’t mean all white men have had it easy or are more successful than every other person who isn’t white or male. But it means that white men, as a whole, have a huge, built-in head start in our American culture and always have had.

  • Jonnie

    Kerner, in essence, it means that to be white and male in this country confers advantages (institutionally) that others don’t receive. It doesn’t mean all white men have had it easy or are more successful than every other person who isn’t white or male. But it means that white men, as a whole, have a huge, built-in head start in our American culture and always have had.

  • Jonnie

    DonS and sg,
    May I assume that you’re both white?

  • Jonnie

    DonS and sg,
    May I assume that you’re both white?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Reducing the country to the privilege of white men is basically a simplistic argument, sort of a meaningless whine. What can one say to such a canard?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Reducing the country to the privilege of white men is basically a simplistic argument, sort of a meaningless whine. What can one say to such a canard?

  • DonS

    Jonnie: May I assume that you’re not white?

    Seriously, what Peter said is absolutely right. The obsession with race seems to be all on the political left now. White men haven’t had a privileged status in this country in generations, and are presently actively discriminated against, particularly with regard to gaining employment in public sector jobs and gaining admission to institutions for higher learning. Moreover, there was nothing unique about the U.S. with regard to so-called “white privilege” historically. Societies throughout history have been patriarchal, and whites dominated the culture in all of the western world, not just here. So, why the U.S. is singled out for derision by leftists because of its racist past, while other European nations are excused and even upheld as exemplary is truly perplexing to me.

  • DonS

    Jonnie: May I assume that you’re not white?

    Seriously, what Peter said is absolutely right. The obsession with race seems to be all on the political left now. White men haven’t had a privileged status in this country in generations, and are presently actively discriminated against, particularly with regard to gaining employment in public sector jobs and gaining admission to institutions for higher learning. Moreover, there was nothing unique about the U.S. with regard to so-called “white privilege” historically. Societies throughout history have been patriarchal, and whites dominated the culture in all of the western world, not just here. So, why the U.S. is singled out for derision by leftists because of its racist past, while other European nations are excused and even upheld as exemplary is truly perplexing to me.

  • sg

    “May I assume that you’re both white?”

    No. It isn’t relevant. What is relevant is the truth, not who says it.

    I am very open minded to arguments, reason, data, etc. The tired meme of white privilege is a joke when Asians can come here with funny accents and foreign customs and do just fine. The fact is minorities aren’t harassed and thwarted. Every ethnic or racial group you can name makes more money on average in the US than they do in their home country, even the Swedes. They also have longer life expectancies here than in their home countries, even the Japanese. And the gap is the greatest for the poorest. The bottom of US society is far better than the bottom of society in any third world country. It is a given that the US doesn’t meet the standard of 100% metaphysical perfection at present or in its history. No other group of flawed humans does either. Please feel free to bash those others for their failings.

  • sg

    “May I assume that you’re both white?”

    No. It isn’t relevant. What is relevant is the truth, not who says it.

    I am very open minded to arguments, reason, data, etc. The tired meme of white privilege is a joke when Asians can come here with funny accents and foreign customs and do just fine. The fact is minorities aren’t harassed and thwarted. Every ethnic or racial group you can name makes more money on average in the US than they do in their home country, even the Swedes. They also have longer life expectancies here than in their home countries, even the Japanese. And the gap is the greatest for the poorest. The bottom of US society is far better than the bottom of society in any third world country. It is a given that the US doesn’t meet the standard of 100% metaphysical perfection at present or in its history. No other group of flawed humans does either. Please feel free to bash those others for their failings.

  • sg

    “But it means that white men, as a whole, have a huge, built-in head start in our American culture and always have had.”

    Um, when do foreigners or minorities ever get to compete fairly in any society anywhere? Like I can go to Asia with no money and just jump right in with my foreign look and ways and no connections? And the natives will just accept me and give me all the same treatment as they would give their own sons, relatives and friends’ kids? Are you serious? The US is the only place that even comes close to that type of openness. Get real. People are naturally tribal and xenophobic. It is normal.

  • sg

    “But it means that white men, as a whole, have a huge, built-in head start in our American culture and always have had.”

    Um, when do foreigners or minorities ever get to compete fairly in any society anywhere? Like I can go to Asia with no money and just jump right in with my foreign look and ways and no connections? And the natives will just accept me and give me all the same treatment as they would give their own sons, relatives and friends’ kids? Are you serious? The US is the only place that even comes close to that type of openness. Get real. People are naturally tribal and xenophobic. It is normal.

  • kerner

    Jonnie:

    Obligatory disclaimer: I’m a white male.

    I disagree. Let’s start with one of the ideals:

    “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

    An ideal is, by definition, something that no one perfectly practices. This ideal was no exception, having been written and signed by men who either owned slaves, or were willing to tolerate slavery. The signers of this document inhabited, as you say, a culture that conferred advantages to white males that others didn’t receive. That being the case, the really remarkable thing is that they thought up the ideal at all. But they did. Even so, many of them spent the rest of their lives believing that no one other than English males could live according to it.

    And yet I would argue that the history of the United States is one long concession to the universal application of this ideal. Whatever special place of authority English males held, or thought they held, in 1776, men of English descent have gradually conceded their position to others and expanded the practice of this ideal to include everybody. Remarkably, the actual meaning of the words has become more and more reality than whatever meaning the signers of the document might have understood it to have.

    The ideal was first expanded to non-English white people. Then gradually to non-white people. Simultaneously, the ideal has been expanded to cover women. Again, this country’s history has been one long process of white males (as a whole) gradually, voluntarily, and often affirmatively relinquishing whatever privileged position they may once have held. White males have waged bitter political battles and even wars for the obvious purpose of reducing their own power and influence. Do you see how remarkable that is?

    Not that there hasn’t been plenty of resistence to this within white maledom. But on the whole, my characterization is accurate. Time and again, Americans have proved that we believe our freedoms are rights, not privileges, with which our Creator has endowed all people. This country is becoming less white by the day.

    Every generation of Americans has feared this to some extent. Some simply despise people who are different than themselves. But for many, the fear is that people from other demographics won’t understand the ideals. If the culture changes so quickly that future generations think of our founding ideals as the double-talk of a bunch of dead white guys who only wanted to smugly cling to their privileges, this country will fundamentally change. Not because it got less white, but because those generations, white or otherwise, lost sight of the ideals that the dead white guys discovered.

  • kerner

    Jonnie:

    Obligatory disclaimer: I’m a white male.

    I disagree. Let’s start with one of the ideals:

    “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

    An ideal is, by definition, something that no one perfectly practices. This ideal was no exception, having been written and signed by men who either owned slaves, or were willing to tolerate slavery. The signers of this document inhabited, as you say, a culture that conferred advantages to white males that others didn’t receive. That being the case, the really remarkable thing is that they thought up the ideal at all. But they did. Even so, many of them spent the rest of their lives believing that no one other than English males could live according to it.

    And yet I would argue that the history of the United States is one long concession to the universal application of this ideal. Whatever special place of authority English males held, or thought they held, in 1776, men of English descent have gradually conceded their position to others and expanded the practice of this ideal to include everybody. Remarkably, the actual meaning of the words has become more and more reality than whatever meaning the signers of the document might have understood it to have.

    The ideal was first expanded to non-English white people. Then gradually to non-white people. Simultaneously, the ideal has been expanded to cover women. Again, this country’s history has been one long process of white males (as a whole) gradually, voluntarily, and often affirmatively relinquishing whatever privileged position they may once have held. White males have waged bitter political battles and even wars for the obvious purpose of reducing their own power and influence. Do you see how remarkable that is?

    Not that there hasn’t been plenty of resistence to this within white maledom. But on the whole, my characterization is accurate. Time and again, Americans have proved that we believe our freedoms are rights, not privileges, with which our Creator has endowed all people. This country is becoming less white by the day.

    Every generation of Americans has feared this to some extent. Some simply despise people who are different than themselves. But for many, the fear is that people from other demographics won’t understand the ideals. If the culture changes so quickly that future generations think of our founding ideals as the double-talk of a bunch of dead white guys who only wanted to smugly cling to their privileges, this country will fundamentally change. Not because it got less white, but because those generations, white or otherwise, lost sight of the ideals that the dead white guys discovered.

  • sg

    Phyllis Wheatly

    “On Being Brought from Africa to America”

    ‘Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
    Taught my benighted soul to understand
    That there’s a God—that there’s a Saviour too;
    Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
    Some view our sable race with scornful eye—
    “Their color is a diabolic dye.”
    Remember Christians, Negroes black as Cain
    May be refined, and join the angelic train.”

    Gee, where did this woman get all these ideas? Hmm. She seems to have got them from those Christians who shared their faith with her. So, at least some of those white folks treated her with some dignity and respect. Life back then was hard for everyone, really.

  • sg

    Phyllis Wheatly

    “On Being Brought from Africa to America”

    ‘Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
    Taught my benighted soul to understand
    That there’s a God—that there’s a Saviour too;
    Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
    Some view our sable race with scornful eye—
    “Their color is a diabolic dye.”
    Remember Christians, Negroes black as Cain
    May be refined, and join the angelic train.”

    Gee, where did this woman get all these ideas? Hmm. She seems to have got them from those Christians who shared their faith with her. So, at least some of those white folks treated her with some dignity and respect. Life back then was hard for everyone, really.


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