It’s really instructive that the drama of the current campaign is deemed to be so crushingly relevant. The near lynching of ABC for its temerity in asking the Crown Prince about things any other candidate would surely endure? It seems to reflect more on his irrational adoration than anything else. We’ve even fallen for the attention in posts below.
Yet in truth, we should all perhaps take a step back. And ask ourselves — isn’t this a mosquito bite in the larger span of time? Won’t the details of this campaign itself disappear faster than John Kerry’s desperately wooden attempts to mimic spontaneity? Isn’t Gary Will’s breezy comparison of the Crown Prince to the greatest president in U.S. history a bit much? . Even Petraeus’ lack of candor regarding the Iraqi Army’s abysmal performance in Sadr City doesn’t merit a footnote in, as Ross Johnson (so memorably portrayed by James Garner) said, “the sands of time.”
We know, for example, that Vietnamization failed as an overall policy. Particular engagements in its failure are ignored by history’s cold and remorseless prism. (We will note, however, the lives lost and sacrificed here). So with U.S. strategic failure in Iraq. History may invoke Vietnam’s failure in a short kaleidescope: the Tet execution, innocents fleeing napalm and the helicopter. A couple of paragraphs in the not too far distant future given the Cold War’s outcome. And even then, more likely than not, in sociological books looking at hippies, Woodstock, the Haight and a summer of love.
We can all submit our favorites for the Excellent Adventure in the Sands.
Yes, it’s true that Iraq itself is a more profound historical matter than Vietnam. And that personalities such as the Warlord, Cheney, Rumsfeld and General Jello exerted decisive impact. But let’s be candid. The war’s presence (or looming presence) in the campaign is also a sideshow. All of the devastating effects of its launch can not be changed. Regardless whether the U.S withdraws in a year, 5 years or 10 years. The impact now is on the volunteers who sacrifice while the nation shops. “Judgment” who said what (true for all candidates, a fact suppressed by many in the besotted media) — a blip. All the damage already is on the balance sheets: the war’s genesis, deceptive inducement, catastrophic diplomatic ineptitude (continued with a blank smile by Cher Condi), and a supine armed forces knowingly led to its exhaustion, failure and near destruction. That train is long gone.
Cheney and Rumsfeld’s international coercive politics will not be tolerated or even possible again. Their “ram and cram” (here is what you are going to eat, today, Dearest Darling Virginia)) to Old Europe is already in the distant past (beyond chronological years). We are not fans of Joe Nye’s deification over “soft power” (such an obvious concept for him to be given a de facto “trademark”). Yet it is without doubt that the U.S. destroyed forever the century old mythos of America as benign hegemon. A new president reaching out will not change the global perceptual damage. That dream is gone out of the corner of the eye. The Warlord succeeded in one thing: he took us down to becoming just another declining Great Power.
All of that is fine and good. But U.S. real power is eroding even faster than the Warlord’s wanton destruction of our soft influence. More pressing is the economic and financial collapse of the foundation of American power. The implications here and abroad are staggering if not understood. When exactly America lost its understanding of its own power is another post. The simple fact remans: we, as a people, do not understand these things.
The American standard of living and consumptive behavior (private individuals and government) is eroding before our distracted eyes. The dollar’s free fall and the flight to the Euro are only the first of seismic tremors to come (much like animals sensing coming events with greater sensitivities). All of us know the cant about Western eclipse by “the Asian Century” (China and India merely the most obvious). Yet the financial collapse also diminishes the decisive impact by individuals committing U.S. power abroad — such as Iraq, supra.
There no longer is a need for a Suez Crisis to remind the U.S. its hegemonic days are in the past. We simply can no longer afford it without substantial approval from creditors. The individual meets systemic economic realities. Moreover, attempts to “moderate” the unfolding of Chinese power are futile. It is happening whether we like it or not. These days are only slowly dawning on the Imperial City — for example, talk about Iran still assumes that money, finance and resources don’t matter; all that determines events are some amorphous but crushing “U.S. power” and assessments of Iran and the ground, etc.
Let’s agree among ourselves that events may force the U.S. to return politics to economics. One could argue either way one supposes that this in fact validates the pressing need for this or that candidate to prevail. Notwithstanding McCain’s laudable and candid admission he doesn’t understand economics (which we noted most Americans don’t anyway). Perhaps this view from 50,000 feet serves us best. All here surely must concede that most of tectonic geopolitical pieces noted above are already in place. Perhaps Fineman and Joe Klein et al.s’ adoration of the Crown Prince is harmless. After all, if this post’s assessment is true then paraphrasing Keyne’s in the long run history won’t care much about Wright or Bosnia.
Still, in our view, the Crown Prince’s hollowness would accelerate matters. Motivational speeches belong on late night cable. The American reduction in standard of living already is taking place. We don’t see the Crown Prince managing this reality (and visceral future). How that decline unfolds with its inevitable outcome can still be ameliorated. At the margins. Even so, no one, not even Ron Paul, put forth an economic program even remotely relevant to compete with, or reduce reliance upon, Asian economic ascendancy. Perhaps that is asking too much. Can one truly expect a more dramatic and government-led effort to lower it to counter U.S competitors and induce savings? Not only are there too many U.S.-based self interests primed to subvert even mention. Wealth from both the Middle East, China, Japan and India and even the ASEAN states will buy power through porous U.S political structures. It’s a political non-starter. Bill Clinton learned this after 1992 after criticizing (correctly in our view) GHWB’s kowtow after 1989. Clinton struggled with a relationship locked into empty “dialog”. And this was during the Internet boom years.
Perhaps the Crown Prince’s coronation won’t matter much at all.