Saturday, August 22, 2009

Decline I Can Live With

Checking out FireDogLake's Book Chat, it turns out it's this book. Which, in its turn, is similar to this book, which I bought soon after 9/11, and dealt with that event obliquely (the event occurred after the book was finished).

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of "USA No. 1!" nonsense. There have been great nations in the past - from Sumer and Babylon and Egypt and the Mongols up to the British, the French, and the Germans - and all have fallen. It's just the way these things happen. Like our relatively short history thus far, our sojourn as the dominant global power was brief and fiery. I think, however, we can look at the post-WWII British example and learn much from it, most of which can be summarized thus: It's good no longer to be a world power.

I can live with my grandchildren being part of just another country in a world with another world power calling the shots, or perhaps no single leader, or perhaps some kind of mixed supranationalism. I can live with it because being a world power has been detrimental to our national psyche, our republican institutions, our democratic processes, and our sense of ourselves. Only those unsure of their own status and stature yearn to be better than others. I, for one, have no problem simultaneously praising the US as the best hope for the world and believing that our decline from world-power status is a good thing, perhaps the best thing, for keeping that hope alive.

While the question of "Who will be number one?" seems to occupy some publicists interminably, I couldn't care less about that question. The British and French have managed just fine, as have the Russians and others.

It will be nice to be just another country again, with unique opportunities to be sure, but no longer "bearing any burden" because those burdens have become far too cumbersome for our broken polity to carry.

Virtual Tin Cup

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