I don’t always agree with Robert Kagan, who seems to me to pay insufficient attention to domestic American issues in his analysis of US foreign policy, but I think he is longish piece in ‘The New Republic’ (via 3 Quarks Daily) is generative, interesting, and unusually open minded:
If you haven’t time to read the whole piece, I think his conclusion, while a little American-centric, is nevertheless worth emphasis. I think the key to the question he is asking, is finding some way to end the internal American civil war. The Kultur Kamp as the Germans might call it: the delusional struggle over ideology and how the world ‘really oughta be’ rather than how it is. I am always reminded of the Jewish Torah, which says that we don’t see the world as it is, but as we are. The ideological crazies of the Republican Party should bear that in mind. I have plenty of problems with the Democrats, but they have if anything drifted rightwards but moderately. It is the Republicans who have fulfilled the old Greek curse: ‘Those who the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.’ Anyway, here is the conclusion of Robert Kagan’s article:
BUT THERE IS a danger. It is that in the meantime, while the nation continues to struggle, Americans may convince themselves that decline is indeed inevitable, or that the United States can take a time-out from its global responsibilities while it gets its own house in order. To many Americans, accepting decline may provide a welcome escape from the moral and material burdens that have weighed on them since World War II. Many may unconsciously yearn to return to the way things were in 1900, when the United States was rich, powerful, and not responsible for world order.
The underlying assumption of such a course is that the present world order will more or less persist without American power, or at least with much less of it; or that others can pick up the slack; or simply that the benefits of the world order are permanent and require no special exertion by anyone. Unfortunately, the present world order—with its widespread freedoms, its general prosperity, and its absence of great power conflict—is as fragile as it is unique. Preserving it has been a struggle in every decade, and will remain a struggle in the decades to come. Preserving the present world order requires constant American leadership and constant American commitment.
In the end, the decision is in the hands of Americans. Decline, as Charles Krauthammer has observed, is a choice. It is not an inevitable fate—at least not yet. Empires and great powers rise and fall, and the only question is when. But the when does matter. Whether the United States begins to decline over the next two decades or not for another two centuries will matter a great deal, both to Americans and to the nature of the world they live in.
This is Robert who always makes me think: