Decline Is a Choice
Political commentator Charles Krauthammer delivers this great column in the Weekly Standard last week.
Mr. Krauthammer recognizes that American decline is not a new theory and that foreign affairs is a zero sum, and deadly, game. The Soviets saw weakness in President Kennedy and acted which spawned the Cuban Missile Crisis. They saw it again in President Carter and invaded Afghanistan, stirred up trouble in Nicaragua, Angola, and Ethiopia.
US decline seems to arise whenever the Democrats control Washington, unsurprisingly. US decline is not inevitable, and the rise of India and China does not necessarily mean that the power of the USA has been diminished.
The corollary to unchosen European collapse was unchosen American ascendancy. We–whom Lincoln once called God’s „almost chosen people“–did not save Europe twice in order to emerge from the ashes as the world’s co-hegemon. We went in to defend ourselves and save civilization. Our dominance after World War II was not sought. Nor was the even more remarkable dominance after the Soviet collapse. We are the rarest of geopolitical phenomena: the accidental hegemon and, given our history of isolationism and lack of instinctive imperial ambition, the reluctant hegemon–and now, after a near-decade of strenuous post-9/11 exertion, more reluctant than ever.
Which leads to my second proposition: Facing the choice of whether to maintain our dominance or to gradually, deliberately, willingly, and indeed relievedly give it up, we are currently on a course towards the latter. The current liberal ascendancy in the United States–controlling the executive and both houses of Congress, dominating the media and elite culture–has set us on a course for decline. And this is true for both foreign and domestic policies. Indeed, they work synergistically to ensure that outcome.
The Democrats seem to prize multilateralism above victory in war, security at home, or stability around the world. This is why the UN is given such preeminence by the left. Mr. Krauthammer ridicules such naive idealism in international institutions riddled with corruption:
The president then denounced the idea of elevating any group of nations above others–which takes care,
I suppose, of the Security Council, the G-20, and the Western alliance. And just to make the point unmistakable, he denounced „alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War“ as making „no sense in an interconnected world.“ What does that say about NATO? Of our alliances with Japan and South Korea? Or even of the European Union?
This is nonsense. But it is not harmless nonsense. It’s nonsense with a point. It reflects a fundamental view that the only legitimate authority in the international system is that which emanates from „the community of nations“ as a whole. Which means, I suppose, acting through its most universal organs such as, again I suppose, the U.N. and its various agencies. Which is why when Obama said that those who doubt „the character and cause“ of his own country should see what this new America–the America of the liberal ascendancy–had done in the last nine months, he listed among these restorative and relegitimizing initiatives paying up U.N. dues, renewing actions on various wholly vacuous universalist declarations and agreements, and joining such Orwellian U.N. bodies as the Human Rights Council.
Further Information is delivered in this Video Lecture for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York on October 5. (48:05 Min)