Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Future of American Power

As a sort of follow-on to my note expressing unhappiness with Fukuyama and Gaddis for withdrawing, or seeming to withdraw from the process they once applauded: the expansion of American power to enhance our security and promote Liberal Democracy in the world.

Fared Zakaria wrote a book entitled The Post-American World in 2008. In it he contrasts the British Empire with the America World Power. He argues that the British Empire didn’t fall because of political failures but because of economic ones. The U.S. on the other hand has had the World’s best and most dynamic economy since the 1890s – and it still does. So why will the American World Power fail, as his title implies? “Zakaria argues that America's world-beating economic vibrancy co-exists with a dysfunctional political system. "A 'can-do' country is now saddled with a 'do-nothing' political process, designed for partisan battle rather than problem solving," he writes. That makes it hard to devise a grand strategy, and Zakaria offers just a few "simple guidelines" on the need to set priorities, build global rules and be flexible. But in this non-American world, it may be too late to restore U.S. leadership. "The rest" is moving on.” [quoted on Amazon from the Washington Post. One can buy this book at http://www.amazon.com/Post-American-World-Fareed-Zakaria/dp/039306235X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219159649&sr=1-1 ]

A long essay is adapted from this book and appears in Foreign Affairs, May/June 2008: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080501facomment87303/fareed-zakaria/the-future-of-american-power.html .

I quite agree that our dysfunctional political system is our main problem, but I wouldn’t describe it as partisan battling. Yes, one can say that about it. But if one describes the partisanship in some detail we see that one of the partisans wants to preserve and promote our government and way of life, while the other calls itself “progressive” and wants to destroy it. The Progressives wouldn’t like the word “destroy.” They prefer “change,” but they favor American’s enemies. They think America “has it coming.” And they like European ways better than American.

I am appalled at these Progressives. Consider Iraq. The Progressives have opposed our efforts every step of the way. We shouldn’t do it. We can’t “win.” We can’t succeed. Iraq can’t create a workable government. The insurgents our too powerful. Al Qaeda is too powerful. We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re losing, losing, losing – no, we’ve lost. We need to get out of there. We need to run home. Run, run, run! But look at Iraq now. Bush’s policies have prevailed. Yes of course there was the “fog of war” in regard to the process, but Iraq is near where he hoped it would be; so all those Progressives were wrong, wrong, wrong.

I haven’t heard any confessions of guilt. I haven’t read of any Progressive suicides. No Progressive has fallen on his sword. And why is that? It is because they were never concerned about doing what was best for American security or the spread of Liberal Democracy. They opposed it and they think they succeeded about as well as they could have. Yes, the Bush policy succeeded, but it took a long time, and in the process the Progressives made even those who wanted it to succeed like Fukuyama and Gaddis think it was a Pyrrhic victory – hardly worth it – probably not a victory at all. Bush did what he set out to do, but the Progressives made him look so bad in the process that most people think he failed.

Yes, this is a perfect example of a dysfunctional, do-nothing, political process, but the battle isn’t between two partisans that both want the U.S. to succeed. One of these partisan’s wants the U.S. to fail.

Lawrence Helm

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