Robert Gates says don’t underestimate America.
The talk in global political circles is that the U.S. is washed up. America’s defense secretary, traveling to China this week, addressed the gossip.
“I’ve watched this sort of cyclical view of American decline come around two or three times, perhaps most dramatically in the latter half of the 1970s,” he said. “And my general line for those both at home and around the world who think the U.S. is in decline is that history’s dustbins are filled with countries that underestimated the resilience of the United States.”
Maybe so. But it seems like it’s hard to underestimate America these days. When was the last time anyone faced any consequences for doing so?
The secretary’s words ring especially hollow when you look at where he was heading. China has plenty cause for a low estimation of the United States. America owes it probably a trillion dollars. And China looks poised to single-handedly neutralize America’s robust, decades-long influence in the Asia Pacific thanks to a military spending binge that will yield aircraft-carrier-killing missiles, not to mention aircraft carriers and stealth planes.
Meanwhile, Secretary Gates, just days earlier, announced that America will slash military spending by $78 billion. The contrast between a country rising and a country sliding is stark.
It’s painful to watch someone you love dying of a terminal sickness. The same must be said of seeing a country you love die.
America suffers with several ills from which it will not recover. This reality is becoming inescapably plain. There is hope—a bright, shining, sure hope for this country. But it is most certainly not to be found in any of the sources that naive optimists look to. We must face facts.
The virtues America once embodied have largely faded. The blessings America once enjoyed have been squandered.
America’s military dominance is proving inadequate. America’s wars are proving impossible. Our allies are leaving us. Our enemies are provoking us.
“America is funding its military supremacy through deficit spending, meaning the war in Afghanistan is effectively being paid for with a Chinese credit card,” Foreign Policy wrote. The epic indebtedness to China and the shrinking military are both symptoms of an irreparably broken economy. Not only has America’s fiscal irresponsibility gone on too long to correct, the country shows no sign of having the will to even try.
Despite growing unemployment, despite ruinous private and public debt, despite whole states risking bankruptcy, despite the federal government now paying its bills with nothing but printed paper, Americans keep spending like good times will roll forever. In the past decade, people’s incomes declined for the first time in America’s history—yet spending kept rising. Frugality, thrift, moderation, self-control, self-sufficiency—it seems such perennially American virtues are permanently lost, buried by rank materialism and excess.
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