Why the Decline of America Can Be a Good Thing for America
Continued from previous page
After 30 years, it might almost seem logical. Why not 10 more? The answer is that you have to be the Washington equivalent of blind, deaf, and dumb not to know why not, and Americans aren’t any of those. They know what Washington is in denial about, because they’re living American decline in the flesh, even if Washington isn’t. Not yet anyway. And they know they’re living it not in some distant future, but right now.
Here’s a simple reality: the U.S. is an imperial power in decline -- and not just the sort of decline which is going to affect your children or grandchildren someday. We’re talking about massive unemployment that’s going nowhere and an economy which shows no sign of ever returning good jobs to this country on a significant scale, even if “good times” do come back sooner or later. We’re talking about an aging, fraying infrastructure -- with its collapsing bridges and exploding gas pipelines -- that a little cosmetic surgery isn’t going to help.
And whatever the underlying historical trends, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and company accelerated this process immeasurably. You can thank their two mad wars, their all-planet-all-the-time Global War on Terror, their dumping of almost unlimited taxpayer dollars into the Pentagon and war planning for the distant future, and their scheme to privatize the military and mind-meld it with a small group of crony capitalist privateers, not to speak of ramping up an already impressively over-muscled national security state into a national state of fear, while leaving the financial community to turn the country into a giant, mortgaged Ponzi scheme. It was the equivalent of driving a car in need of a major tune-up directly off the nearest cliff -- and the rest, including the economic meltdown of 2008, is, as they say, history, which we’re all now experiencing in real time. Then, thank the Obama administration for not having the nerve to reverse course while it might still have mattered.
Public Opinion and Elite Opinion
The problem in all this isn’t the American people. They already know the score. The problem is Afghan war commander Petraeus. It’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. It’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It’s National Security Adviser James Jones. It’s all those sober official types, military and civilian, who pass for “realists,” and are now managing “America’s global military presence,” its vast garrisons, its wars and alarums. All of them are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Ordinary Americans aren’t. They know what's going down, and to judge by polls, they have a perfectly realistic assessment of what needs to be done. Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service recently reported on the release of a major biennial survey, "Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities," by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA). Here’s the heart of it, as Lobe describes it:
“The survey’s main message, however, was that the U.S. public is looking increasingly toward reducing Washington’s role in world affairs, especially in conflicts that do not directly concern it. While two-thirds of citizens believe Washington should take an ‘active part in world affairs,’ 49% -- by far the highest percentage since the CCGA first started asking the question in the mid-1970s -- agreed with the proposition that the U.S. should ‘mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.’
“Moreover, 91% of respondents agreed that it was ‘more important at this time for the [U.S.] to fix problems at home’ than to address challenges to the (U.S.) abroad -- up from 82% who responded to that question in CCGA’s last survey in 2008.”