I read what seemed a snide comment in the news the other day. Lec Walesa, former president of Poland, observed that the United States was declining as a world power. Instead of being incensed, I cheered. Since World War II, the United States has been defending liberal order in the world and I think it would be lovely if some other nation stepped up to the plate. Maybe Poland would like to try.
Listen up frenemies. The average American looks at politics differently from our elected leaders. We didn’t get embroiled in the Middle East because of oil or power. We sent men and women into harm’s way because we thought a threat existed for us and for the rest of the free world. Because we believed it, a lot of decent folks have died. Nobody’s happy about that.
We especially don’t like burying young people in military graves. We are sick of paying taxes for wars instead of building schools for our children or providing universal health care, or fixing the potholes in our streets. We are sick, too, of paying for military hardware, money better spent on saving the environment. If Obama looks weak for refusing to charge into Syria and for pulling our troops out of Afghanistan, you’ve read him and us wrong. America isn’t weak. America is tired. For 70 years we’ve defended democracy on a global scale, and we don’t have much to show for it. Some people prefer the tyrannies they know than an open society they don’t. Egypt overthrew one military dictator only to elect a religious one. Now it’s replaced him with another military tyrant. Go figure.
As Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institute noted in a recent essay, “liberal civilization itself runs deeply against the human grain and is achieved and sustained only by the most unremitting struggle against nature.” (“The Allure of Normalcy,” by Robert Kagan, The New Republic, June 9, 2014, pg 30) I agree. Democracy isn’t normal. A pecking order is normal. Tyrannies, and oligarchies, and dictatorships are normal if history is a guide.
To its credit, America continues to struggle against the grain. Democracy works for us and we’d like to see others lead free lives. But Americans have paid their dues. Let people sneer at us and predict our demise until their lips drop off. When they reimagine a world with Russia, China, North Korea, or Saudi Arabia is in charge, I’m guessing a number of them will fall to their knees and pray the United States gets a second wind.
(Courtesy of mrzine.monthlyreview.org)