Is America in decline? 2

Is the world entering a post-American era? Will the 21st century be dominated by some other power, or several others?

In the splendid speech that John Bolton delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010, he said of Obama, “He is the first post-American president.”

In Obama’s eyes, American superpower status is already over. The decline is happening. There’s no reason to regret it, and it would be pointless and unnecessary to try to halt or reverse it. Obama is content to let America be a nation among the nations, no different in any important respect, and certainly no better. “He sees American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon,” Bolton said.

In Bolton’s own view, however, America is still exceptional and still the one and only superpower. If its status as such is under threat, that threat proceeds from Obama himself, who, almost casually – not caring very much, as John Bolton remarked, about foreign and national security policy – is himself weakening it.

What Obama does care about is domestic policy. To achieve his redistributionist goals he has put America into crushing debt; and being determined, it seems, to turn America into a European-style socialist state, he can only make the debt vaster and heavier. That alone weakens America.

China is America’s chief creditor, but that does not mean China is now a second superpower. A China growing in wealth and confidence, and becoming an increasingly significant world actor, may pose an economic threat to America but is not, or not yet, a rival world power. Militarily it is far from a match. Militarily, America is still far and away the most powerful nation.

But there again, if Obama has his way, it won’t be for much longer. He has, in Bolton’s words, an “incredibly naïve idea” that if the US would get rid of its own nuclear weapons, other countries would give up theirs; those that do not have them but want them – such as Iran and North Korea – would abandon their intense efforts to obtain them; and the world would live at peace forever after. This belief or ambition represents, as John Bolton put it, “a pretty deep-seated strain in the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Obama will soon negotiate an arms control agreement with Russia by which he will undertake substantially to reduce America’s nuclear capability. America will not develop new nuclear weapons, or arms in outer space, or even keep its existing arsenal battle-ready by testing for safety and reliability. It is as if America had no enemies; as if America were not under attack; as if 9/11 had never happened; and as if Iran and North Korea would not drop nuclear bombs on America and its allies if they could do it and get away with it.

Furthermore, with the rest of the dreaming Left both at home and internationally, he aspires to another vision of a new earth: one that is not only sweetly irenic but held forcibly in union by a supreme governing authority. Those proposals for world taxes that we hear of; the intricate business of trading in carbon indulgences in the name of saving the earth from being consumed by fire or ice; international treaty regulations that would result in banning the private ownership of guns – all these are measures to realize the tremendous objective of “world governance”. It would mean the end of American independence, the end of national sovereignty. It would mean that the Revolution was lost, as Bolton said.

In a sense it would be the end of America, because America is an idea of liberty. And it is an idea that the world needs. Its loss would be a colossal disaster, a tragedy for the whole human race.

Can America be saved?

In his book titled The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria asserts that “America is closing down”, but allows that it “won’t be demoted from its superpower position in the foreseeable future” because “it’s not that the United States has been doing badly over the last two decades. It’s that, all of a sudden, everyone else is playing the game.”

America can “remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology and industry, as long as it can embrace and adjust to the challenges confronting it”.

“The challenges” come from other nations, now rising, which he groups together as “the rest”.

China is the first of them because it is becoming an economic giant. The 21st century, he considers, may be the Chinese century.

What if [China ] quietly positions itself as the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America? How will America cope with such a scenario – a kind of Cold War, but this time with a vibrant market economy, a nation that is not showing a hopeless model of state socialism, or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared.

Next in line is India. Poorer but democratic, India is “the ally”. Then come Brazil and Chile (plausibly); South Africa (less plausibly); and (implausibly) Russia. (Russia is a demographic basket case.)

Ironically, Zakaria says, these nations are rising because they learnt from America:

For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. … We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism.

America, then, has not been a malign power, or not always. In Roosevelt’s day other countries believed that “America’s mammoth power was not to be feared”. It was after it had won the Cold War, when it became the only superpower, that it began to go to the bad. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has walked the world like a colossus, unrivaled and unchecked”, and this “has made Washington arrogant, careless, and lazy.” Furthermore, he tell us, “people round the world worry about living in a world in which one country has so much power.”

To relieve that worry, America “must reduce its weaponry and work towards a non-nuclear world.” It is hypocritical for the US to insist that other countries should not have nuclear weapons while it is hoarding a nuclear arsenal of its own. By giving them up it would “gain credibility”, an end he apparently considers so desirable that it would be worth risking the nation’s very survival to achieve it.

The summer of 2002, Zakaria says, was “the high water-mark of unipolarity”. The world felt sympathy for America after 9/11. America went to war in Afghanistan, which was not good but not too bad. But then it invaded Iraq, which was very bad, and the world’s sympathy dried up. America was being too “unilateral”, too “imperial and imperious”.

George W Bush and “the nefarious neoconservative conspiracy” antagonized the world. He and his conspirators “disdained treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion, and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics.”

So the world’s dislike, contempt, and fear of America were justified, or at least understandable, in the light of the foreign policies of the “arrogant” Bush administration. Zakaria even claims that the animosity filled the Republicans – already full of “chest-thumping machismo” – with pride.

He asks:

Can Washington adjust and adapt to a world in which others have moved up? Can it respond to shift in economic and political power? … Can Washington truly embrace a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Can it thrive in a world it cannot dominate?

The advice he gives to “Washington” for success in adjusting, adapting, responding, embracing, and thriving is to be conciliatory, apologetic. It must listen more; proclaim universal values”, but “phrase its positions carefully”; be like the chair of a board gently guiding a group of independent directors. America must “learn from the rest”. The president must meet more non-government people, have smaller entourages, rely more on diplomacy. Consultation, cooperation, compromise are the key words. He objects to such accomodations being called appeasement. Consult and cooperate, he urges, with Russia, and with “multilateral institutions” such as the UN, NATO, AFRICOM, OAS, and the International Criminal Court. (Even internally, the US legal system “should take note of transnational standards”.)

The federal government has been “too narrow-minded” about terrorism. When bin Laden got America to “come racing out to fight” him (in response to 9/11) this was “over-reaction.”  Zakaria’s advice: “take it on the chin” and “bounce back”. The government must stop thinking of terrorism as a national security issue, and think of it as criminal activity carried out by “small groups of misfits”. Although Democrats were on the whole “more sensible” about terrorism, both parties, he says, spoke “in language entirely designed for a domestic audience with no concern for the poisonous effect it has everywhere else.” His solution is better airport control round the world. The more urgent problem in his view is that American Muslims have become victims of over-reaction to terrorist attacks. Instead of being “questioned, harassed, and detained” they should, he urges, “be enlisted in the effort to understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Zakaria does not consider himself anti-American. He does not even see himself as a man of the left. He reiterates that he is a free marketeer. It is because America became “suspicious of free markets”, he says, that partly explains its “closing down”.

He wrote his book before the economic crisis. He saw a globalized economy bringing about an increasingly prosperous world in which the poorest nations were rising strongly enough for him to declare that “the world is swimming in capital”, and “there really isn’t a Third World any more “. But even then the dollar was sliding, and America was showing signs of being “enfeebled”.

At a military-political level America still dominates the world, but the larger structure of unipolarity – economic, financial, cultural – is weakening… every year it becomes weaker and other nations and actors grow in strength.

For all its military might, its chest-thumping phase is over and now it is “cowering in fear”. It must, he says, “recover its confidence.” ‘It must stop being “a nation consumed by anxiety”, with a tendency to “hunker down”, unreasonably “worried about unreal threats” such as terrorism, and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. (Iran, he explains, has good reason to fear the United States, with its armies on two of its borders. It’s only to be expected that Iran would try to arm itself with nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems. He does not explain why America should not fear this as a real threat.)

He is certain about what America needs to do to propitiate and serve the world it has alienated. It should ‘‘build broad rules by which the world will be bound’’, rather than pursue “narrow interests”.

What the world really wants from America is … that it affirm its own ideals. That role, as the country that will define universal ideals, remains one that only America can play.

We know Obama has read Zakaria’s book, or at least looked into it, because there is a photograph of him holding it, one finger marking his place. Obama is doing much that Zakaria advises in foreign affairs. But that’s less likely to be because the writer has impressed the president with his arguments than because they have both drunk from the same ideological well.

Obama’s foreign policy lets us see if Zakaria’s theory works. So far it has not.

So is America’s decline beyond all remedy?

It’s a relief to turn from Zakaria’s dull and weakly reasoned book with its uncongenial credo to an article titled The Seductions of Decline (February 2, 2010) by brilliantly witty and insightful Mark Steyn. If America believes it is in decline, he says, it will be. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The view that America has been too arrogant a power; that it is not and should not be exceptional; that humility and apology are required of it; that only endlessly patient negotiation in a spirit of compromise will improve foreign relations and dissuade states like North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms; that Islamic terrorism should be treated as crime and not as the jihad its perpetrators declare it to be; that Russia should be consulted on, say, the deployment of American missile defense; and that the US should reduce its nuclear arsenal and work towards a non-nuclear world – will bring about the decline.

National decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline.

His answer to the question “is America set for decline?” is yes, because of the policies of Obama and the Democrats, which arise from their acceptance of decline.

Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet.

American decline, he says, “will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.” It will not be like France’s, or Austria’s.

Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride.

And after “Washington’s retreat from la gloire” as hegemon of the world, when America “becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America?”

Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Not China then. Russia?

The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

Not Russia. How about the Caliphate that the terrorist war is being fought to establish?

Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So what might the post-American world look like? Mark Steyn’s answer is deeply depressing:

The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

But nothing is inevitable, and Mark Steyn offers a last hope. Though “decline is the way to bet”, the only thing that will ensure it is “if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.”

When in 2008 a majority of the American electorate voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, it seemed that the deal had been made. But now Obama is failing, the Democratic majority is under threat, and the Tea Party movement is reclaiming the Revolution.

This could be another American century after all.

Jillian Becker   March 1, 2010

Enter the general of soft jihad 0

Tariq Ramadan is the General of Soft Jihad. For years he persisted in trying to get into the United States, and was sensibly refused entry.

Now, just when the weakness and incompetence of the Obama administration’s dealings with jihadists have been direfully exposed, and are being most angrily criticized, this Supremo of the Islamic campaign to conquer the world is suddenly allowed in, by order of Hillary Clinton.

Tariq Ramadan’s particular role is to direct Islamic conquest not by violence but by means of mass immigration and propaganda. He has defended wife-beating and all the cruelties of sharia, including stoning to death. Now he may freely spread his poisonous message in the United States to advance his menacing mission of subjugation.

From the Weekly Standard:

In a controversial move, the Obama administration has decided to lift Tariq Ramadan’s ban from the United States. Who is Tariq Ramadan? By birth, he is the grandson of Hassan al Banna – the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). By word and deed, he is today a leading member of the European branch of the MB.

The MB is the mother organization for some of the terrorist groups that became part of al Qaeda’s core, including Ayman al Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Osama bin Laden himself was first wooed to the dark side by Muslim Brothers teaching in Saudi Arabia. The MB has also spawned other hardcore jihadist organizations, including Hamas. While the MB’s descendents have publicly disagreed over tactics at times (for example, Zawahiri has taken issue with Hamas’s participation in Palestinian elections), they still share the same long-term strategic vision: the re-establishment of an Islamic Caliphate capable of ruling the Muslim world and challenging the West. And that is what Tariq Ramadan believes in too.

Douglas Farah provides more information:

The lifting of the ban, ordered by Secretary of State Clinton, is a significant victory for the Brotherhood, who has sought to frame the issue of Ramadan’s exclusion as one of academic freedom rather one of national security.

Ramadan was ecstatic, saying on his blog:

Today’s decision reflects the Obama administration’s willingness to reopen the United States to the rest of the world, and to permit critical debate. Coming after nearly six years of inquiry and investigation, Secretary Clinton’s order confirms what I have affirmed and reaffirmed from day one: the first accusations of terrorist connections (subsequently dropped), then donations to Palestinian solidarity groups, were nothing more than a pretense to prohibit me from speaking critically about American government policy on American soil. The decision brings to an end a dark period in American politics that saw security considerations invoked to block critical debate through a policy of exclusion and baseless allegation. Today I am delighted at the decision. …

A rock star in the European Muslim scene, Ramadan, despite weak academic credentials, has been offered a teaching position at Notre Dame University….

This is typical of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is eager to use the freedoms that would never exist under the caliphate it so desires to create, in order to promote its totalitarian vision. It demands the right to be heard while being unequivocal in its unwillingness to view as equal anyone who does not embrace its view radical Islamism. While it is willing to use the democratic process to achieve its goals, often putting it at odds with militantly violent groups such as al Qaeda, in the end the Brotherhood and Osama bin Laden share an identical vision of what the world should look like under Allah’s rule.

World government – the ultimate nightmare 5

Barack Obama declared himself, in Berlin, to be a ‘citizen of the world’. It was not a mere rhetorical flourish. He has a globalist agenda under which the US will enter into a series of treaties that would subject America to foreign rule over its wealth (redistributing it world-wide), its trade, its laws, its use of energy, and even its defense.

The United Nations, that ghastly powerhouse of corruption, hypocrisy, and injustice, is envisaged as the nascent institution of world government.

Liberal left opinion tends to be against the nation state. It is the opinion of approximately half the voters in the Western world. Half the people of the free West apparently want to destroy their nations, and are literally doing so. They may explain their hatred of the nation state by reference to ‘colonialism’, as if in many cases colonies were not more prosperous, just, and free than the independent tyrannies they have become. Or they may say that the wars and massacres in the last century resulted from ‘nationalism’ so the nation must go; but their thinking would not be right, because the wars and massacres were the work of dictators, not democratic states of which the strongest opposed and defeated the aggressors.

Whatever their explanations, they have launched a movement for the suicide of Western nations.

All over the Western world men and women in national and international assemblies, ministries, academies, councils and committees devote themselves to the business of putting an end to their national identities. Patriotism to them is utterly absurd. Any manifestation of pride in their nation’s history, culture, traditions, institutions, even law, embarrasses if it doesn’t outrage them. In all the countries of Europe, and now under Obama’s leadership in the United States, they work towards their goal.

The very idea of the nation state they consider to be an anachronism; a nasty thing of the past much to be regretted. The more powerful and glorious the past, the more regretful they are. Filled with remorse for what their forefathers achieved, they will apologize to any foreigner who’ll listen to them. However hard their independence as a nation was won, their system of government developed, their individual freedom wrested from the fist of tyranny, they count it all worth nothing. Obama, whose ignorance of history should but doesn’t embarrass him, routinely apologizes for America to appalling little despotisms, and to countries that have survived as comparatively free nations only because America saved them from conquest by tyrannical powers.

National borders between European countries are already as good as gone. The EU plans to have ‘regions’ which will cross the borders of those outdated old nation states and replace them for the convenience of the central administration. American liberals – how many nobody knows – apparently look to this development across the Atlantic as a model to be emulated.

What will be lost if the nation state is lost?

For the most part, our countries have been identical with our nationalities. Our nationalities give us the inestimable gifts of an historical significance and a hopeful destiny beyond our individual lives; a meaning, a kind of immortality, a role in a drama, which, whether we are leading or bit-part players, involves us all. Just by existing as people of this or that country we may feel ourselves to be part of an endless story. Our nation is our greater self, the ‘we’ that is a greatness for every ‘I’, whether the ‘I’ be small or grand in personal achievement.  For many it is worth fighting and dying for. But now the story may end after all. For though it is possible for a nation to live on after its state is destroyed (the Jews did), the likelihood is that it will not. How many nations have disappeared from history with the loss of their settled, coherent, self-protected territory?  Top of the head guess – too many to count.

What else can endow us by birthright or adoption with that powerful plural identity which we seem to need and glory in? How will we fare as individuals without the nation state?  It places us in the scheme of things. It gives us a ‘local habitation and a name’. It defines us for ourselves and for others, clothing us in connotations derived from a certain history to intimate a special character. We inherit its language, which shapes our thoughts. It sets many of our goals, provides the chances for achieving them, holds a place for us, notes and records our existence. It protects us from foreign enemies and domestic assailants. It makes demands of us that we can fulfill with pride and delight, or chafe against. It provides the causes we may strive for or oppose. It is our home, our stage, our shelter, our fortress, our field, our base. Personified, it is our guardian, our teacher, our judge, and our avenger.

The nation state makes and enforces the rules that, at their best, allow us to live in freedom. It was one of the great steps forward of mankind when the city-states of ancient Greece embraced as citizens all those who would live in them not because they sprang from that particular soil but because they would accept a common law. The tribe was superseded by the state. (The great Spanish conservative Ortega y Gasset called it citizenship by virtue of  ius rather than rus – a commonality of law rather than of native soil.)  The citizens could have been born elsewhere, and could remain individual in their tastes and choices, but owed a common duty and allegiance to the state.  The United States of America is the greatest development of that splendid idea.

The European Union may have been intended by some of its enthusiastic founders to be a bigger nation-state itself in which people could live their individual lives as they chose provided only that they obeyed the laws that they themselves would have a hand in making through the democratic process. But it hasn’t worked out like that, and there is cause to doubt that it was ever really meant to. There were other purposes in the minds of its creators: Germany needed to dissolve its guilt for the Holocaust in the ocean of Europe; France hoped to be the hegemonic power in a union populous and rich enough to rival the United States.

In fact the EU is not a democracy. Representatives are elected to a European parliament, but that body is not a legislature and has little power to affect its laws. Tasked with homogenizing peoples who have different histories, languages, traditions, tastes and temperaments, an unelected bureaucracy rules. It is an authoritarian Kafkaesque Castle. Already a police-state-lite, the EU is on the road to totalitarianism.

True, it may not survive long enough to become as bad as the late Soviet Union because a Muslim majority will in all probability turn it in another direction. But there’s little comfort in that thought for those who have always preferred the old national independence to the new Europe with its Babel of tongues, its shameless corruption, its politically correct restrictions on freedom. If a Caliphate should be established by the emerging Muslim majority, freedom will not be merely restricted, it will be destroyed, erased from the book.

Politically correct opinion may like the prospect of the Caliphate because Islam aims to dominate the whole world and will wage jihad until it does, and then the dream of World Government will be realized.

But where, without the protection of the nation state, will the rest of us find shelter?

Jillian Becker   August 2, 2009

One piece of extremely good news 2

The US victory in Iraq is bigger than even President Bush and his outgoing administration seem to realize. 

First, it can now be proclaimed as victory: 

 If Barack Obama had gotten his way, Iraq would now be in the hands of Islamists, and America’s image would have suffered a crushing blow. He voted to cut off funding for the troops, just when they needed it most, and still refuses to admit he was wrong.

Well, he was wrong, and George W. Bush deserves credit for refusing to back down when all around him were losing heart: “The war is over and we won.” [Quotations from Little Green Footballs]

And, secondly, how big and important the victory is can be best be understood from a study published by the Hudson Institute’s Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World. It tells how the jihadists in Iraq, Zarqawi and his successors, prepared to re-establish the caliphate. They even had the caliph chosen and ready. They saw this as a step to Islamic world domination. After Zarqawi himself was killed in June 2006, his followers ‘determined to turn Iraq into a battleground [and] the incubator for their grand vision of a unified Islamic empire under the aegis of a ruling caliph.’ This vision enthralled a new generation of jihadists. As  a winning ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’ (assuming, as it were, the al-Qaeda franchise) they could have drawn thousands more fighters. They declared an ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ which was to be the center of victorious Islam, with Baghdad as its capital. Had the surge not take place, had it not turned the local tribal leaders against the jihadis, the triumph of militant Islam over the United States would have been seen throughout the Islamic world as a victory of historic proportions, ‘a victorious Islamic regeneration’; a caliphate might well have been established, and the non-Muslim world subjected to an onslaught of terrorism – possibly nuclear terrorism – without precedent.

The study is long, but very interesting and well worth reading. Here are two riveting passages from it:

The American public was uncurious as to the identity, nature, and goals of its enemy in Iraq. And, unfortunately, U.S. leaders and commanders were mostly complicit in such willful unawareness. The lack of interest on the part of the public was partly due to bitter partisan recriminations over the Bush administration’s policy in waging the Iraq war, and over who in Washington was to blame for the insurgency that ensued. Consequently, the doctrines of the Bush administration regarding preemptive strikes and democracy in the Middle East came under incessant scrutiny from the administration’s domestic political foes. Meanwhile, the doctrines of the jihadists were overlooked or, in the few cases where they were considered, dismissed as esoteric. Fantastical as they may be, these doctrines do indeed motivate and inform the enemy’s actions and strategy, and their significance was not recognized…

The corollary to the military defeat now being experienced by the jihadists is the even more agonizing prospect of doctrinal collapse: the heralded caliphate is stillborn, and the glorious vision of a reinvigorated Islamic state has been smashed. The anguish and demoralization brought about by this byproduct of battlefield victory cannot be overstated. To smash the dreams of a man who lives for a cause, who endures cruel deserts and damp caves while awaiting martyrdom, is a fate far worse than death. In a battle of wills, young men are able to summon the necessary willpower to press a button and to detonate themselves among innocent bystanders. They do so for the cause of jihad, and for the deferred utopia of a resurrected and avenging Islamic world power. Nothing breaks the will of the individual jihadist more than to see his ideology begin to bear fruit, only to watch that fruit rot away right before his eyes. Such has been the impact of the Zarqawist Islamic State of Iraq—the caliphate-to-be, under the Commander of the Faithful Abu Umar al-Baghdadi the Qurayshite—and such the bitter aftertaste of its ruinous downfall.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Sunday, November 16, 2008

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