America is Doomed! (Ver. 5.0)

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Ricter, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. Ricter


    "Declinism's Fifth Wave"

    "That Used to Be Us is a co-production by a pundit and a professor, an unusual combination. Journalists write the first draft of history, say, on the Arab Spring. Taking a snapshot, they bet that the picture will reveal the pattern, and the particular the larger truth. Academics write the second and third drafts. They have the advantage of hindsight and a much wider dataset. So a reporter enthusing about Bastille Day in 1789 could not have known that the democratic revolution would throw up a Napoleon ten years later; a historian does. How, then, shall the twain ever meet? In Friedman and Mandelbaum’s venture, they do.

    "Journalist Thomas Friedman presumably took on the reportage and the rewrite in this book. It has the same fast-paced tempo and bubbly tone as did his Hot, Flat and Crowded. Michael Mandelbaum, a political scientist with a wide historical range, must have been in charge of the broader analytical perspective. This division of labor works quite nicely. On the one hand, there is the journalist’s instant insight, feeding on anecdote and atmosphere. So: “At the worst point of the subprime crisis, Tom asked his friend...” On the other, we get the academic’s “yes, but” that is steeped in “we’ve been there before.” (Truth in reviewing: I have known the authors for ages, ever since I met Mandelbaum at Harvard.)

    "The United States now faces its fifth wave of Declinism, that sinking feeling that the country’s best days are over. The first wave rolled across America with the “Sputnik Shock” of 1957, when Little Johnny was said to have fallen behind Little Ivan in the Three Rs. That wave crested in John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign against Richard Nixon. JFK rode all the way to the White House on a non-existent “missile gap” that supposedly presaged America’s demise at the hands of the Soviet Union. "

    Article continues...
  2. Ricter


    Powerful essay, from a pro.

    "Not Fade Away
    The myth of American decline.

    Robert Kagan
    January 11, 2012


    Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power? A great deal depends on the answer to these questions. The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it. It will be replaced by some other kind of order, reflecting the desires and the qualities of other world powers. Or perhaps it will simply collapse, as the European world order collapsed in the first half of the twentieth century. The belief, held by many, that even with diminished American power “the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive,” as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has argued, is a pleasant illusion. American decline, if it is real, will mean a different world for everyone.

    "But how real is it? Much of the commentary on American decline these days rests on rather loose analysis, on impressions that the United States has lost its way, that it has abandoned the virtues that made it successful in the past, that it lacks the will to address the problems it faces. Americans look at other nations whose economies are now in better shape than their own, and seem to have the dynamism that America once had, and they lament, as in the title of Thomas Friedman’s latest book, that “that used to be us.”

    "The perception of decline today is certainly understandable, given the dismal economic situation since 2008 and the nation’s large fiscal deficits, which, combined with the continuing growth of the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Turkish, and other economies, seem to portend a significant and irreversible shift in global economic power. Some of the pessimism is also due to the belief that the United States has lost favor, and therefore influence, in much of the world, because of its various responses to the attacks of September 11. The detainment facilities at Guantánamo, the use of torture against suspected terrorists, and the widely condemned invasion of Iraq in 2003 have all tarnished the American “brand” and put a dent in America’s “soft power”—its ability to attract others to its point of view. There have been the difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many argue proved the limits of military power, stretched the United States beyond its capacities, and weakened the nation at its core. Some compare the United States to the British Empire at the end of the nineteenth century, with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars serving as the equivalent of Britain’s difficult and demoralizing Boer War."

    Essay continues...
  3. You meant the above, right? Yes, I read them.

  4. Ricter


    Yeah, that one. History is such a noble art.
  5. Ricter


    Frank Rich: Stop whining, America

    Mayberry R.I.P.
    "Declinist panic. Hysterical nostalgia. America may not be over, but it is certainly in thrall to the idea."

    From the essay:

    "The outpouring traverses the political spectrum, from the apocalyptic hard right (Patrick Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower, Mark Levin’s Ameritopia) to the conservative Establishment (Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010) to the centrist Washington _Establishment (Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks) to centrist liberalism (Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s That Used to Be Us) to the classically progressive (Timothy Noah’s The Great Divergence). Depending on the political coloring of the authors, the books have different villains: the tea party, coddled Wall Street plutocrats, coddled welfare-state entitlement junkies, the yapping and trivializing news media, broken schools, a polarized and broken Congress, a politicized Supreme Court, a socialist president. And China Über Alles (with an occasional cameo by India). The books’ pet issues also vary, from the collapse of the family to the debasement of cultural values, the demise of political compromise, the extinction of the “vital center,” the president’s feckless “leading from behind” in foreign affairs, the rise of income inequality, the ballooning of the national debt, and unchecked federal spending. But the bottom line is nothing if not consistent, and is most concisely summed up in a tirade delivered to a hall of college students by Aaron Sorkin’s alter ego, a television anchor played by Jeff Daniels, in the HBO series The Newsroom: “When you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite?”
  6. We have been going the way of Rome for a long time. We are her last granddaughter, and we will meet her fate. We jumped off the cliff long ago. We are just beginning to feel the effect of gravity as our decent accelerates.
  7. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    Interesting article, from a philosophical point of view. But it spends way, way too much time tying racism (that ol' gag again) as the reason why many on the right feel like America is dying, and not enough time paying attention to things like record number of food stamps recipients. Getting food stamps? Quit whining. Or how about structural unemployment? Stop whining. Record debt to GDP. Whiners! Inflation? Friggen whiners! Instability in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, etc....whining good-for-nothin's!

    MY personal feel stems from the quote Jimmy Carter said to America when HE was experiencing much of the blame - "For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years." I think we're there again. And I feel it, while I worry what country I am leaving to my son and how I can continue to assure he is provided for.

    The author of the NY Ragazine article misses all of that and instead continues to try to make colorful parallels to Mayberry. The path we're on has nothing to do with Mayberry. WTF.
  8. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    Could not agree more. The author in Ricter's article points out the complaining and yelling as "see, they said the same thing then and we turned out just fine". The difference between all those times and now is one singular fact that we cannot escape: