Daniel Henninger has an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which can be found online, about the fatalism gripping America today. He discusses how this fatalism in America is on almost everything, justified or not.
I think the second to last sentence is the key one there, we will not be able to mosey back into our current position in the world if we give up in Iraq and elsewhere. I’ve written about this several times since I think it is the most troubling part of the media and Democrat’s endless pessimism (here is a general one and here is one when I was more optimistic about the voters' ability to see the left for what it is). The days when we could choose to be isolationist and then instantly restore our place in the world are over. The old Euro-centric great power system that we couldn't help but lead no longer exists. Although the Democrat’s either don’t know or don’t care, there are real penalties for losing our top spot in world affairs. We would live in a world where like Europe we have to suffer Russia and the Arab’s energy politics, like Japan the price of our imports would vary wildly on the basis of someone else’s currency, and like China foreign trade is conducted according to another culture’s standards.
“Yes, on any given day on some discrete issue (Prime Minister Maliki's bona fides, for example), the criticism of the American role is not without justification. But the cumulative effect of this unremitting ill wind is corrosive. We are not only on the way to talking ourselves into defeat in Iraq but into a diminished international status that may be harder to recover than the doom mob imagines. Self-criticism has its role, but profligate self-doubt can exact a price.”
Our lack of resolve over Iraq is also sending a terrible signal to our allies. If a nation of 300 million can’t endure 3,000 dead in Iraq then what are the odds that it will suffer more to protect Japan from China, Ethiopia from the Arabs, or the Ukraine from Russia? Not very likely some countries will decide leading them to take the best deal they can from these countries. Even the most powerful nation requires a handful of allies to operate effectively. We don't need many but we don't need to scare off potential real allies either. Henninger quotes the Australian Foreign Minister who is for obvious reasons worried,
The Aussie FM mentions another point, the world’s problems will still be our problems. The only difference will be our ability to do anything about them. As with other issues we’ll be left to hoping others keep them from becoming problems for us (fat chance) or simply living with them.
“What concerns me about this," he said, "is that it's sort of an isolationist sentiment, subconsciously, not consciously, and that would be an enormous problem for the world. I hope the American people understand the importance of not retreating and thinking the world's problems aren't theirs.”
Power will always exist and be exercised. If the nation who holds it doesn’t then someone else will in their place. If we decide that we aren’t up to the responsibility our power entails then others will do it for us. The Europeans are desperate for the Euro to replace the Dollar which would place our import prices at the whims of the European Central Bank and Europe’s creaking economy. Russia and China are maneuvering to corner the global production of various raw materials so they can be used to their and not the world’s advantage. China is especially making moves to relocate the various global trading boards from New York and London to Shanghai so China can have a greater role in determining the value of raw materials to benefit herself. Problems like international terrorism, Lebanon, and Taiwan would be left to the witless UN and EU and would be handled by them much as they dealt with international communism, Bosnia, and Rwanda. There is no denying that many benefits accrue to us as the world’s superpower, but along with them comes responsibility and duty, we cannot have one without the other. The American people should be aware that the decision to ignore our responsibilities comes with a great and possibly irreversible price.
My last worry about this focuses on the US military. The American military is about the only part of the US government and probably the only global institution that still functions properly. Our soldiers are very proud of their country and their duty to her (I certainly was and am), much more so than the civilian population. I believe this is one of the key aspects that make America a great country and the main problem for most other countries. An Iraqi soldier was quoted in a news story (it’s several years old so I can’t find it) saying that after serving with American soldiers he can see that Iraq’s main problem is that not enough Iraqis love their country enough to die for it. However, this is one of the increasingly large gaps between the military and the public at large. The military is of course very worried that its 5 years of hard work and sacrifice will soon be thrown down the drain by an American public and establishment apparently not up to the task of supporting their armed forces. Former Army Vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane is quotes as saying in exasperation,
“My God, this is the United States. We are the world's No. 1 superpower. This isn't about arrogance. This is about capability and applying ourselves to a problem that is at its essence a human problem."It’s not likely or something near term, but I just wonder if longer-term we are heading to a point where our military could no longer tolerate a public not worthy of its sacrifices.