“Slip sliding away, slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away.” — Simon and Garfunkel
The song keeps running through my mind as I watch America lose its former influence in world affairs as well as its economic power. Both are slip sliding away. In the wonderful world of punditry, a lot of us are trying to figure out where the nation is going and for now how events in the Middle East will play out.
As always, history provides a template by which to judge present times. A similar period occurred when the British Empire began its decline. At its peak it was so vast it was said “the sun never set” on it. By the 1920s, a quarter of the Earth’s land mass and its population composed the empire.
And then it all began slip sliding away.
Britain was among the winners of World War One. Its empire expanded into the Middle East to incorporate parts of the former Ottoman Empire. Britain, however, had lost the cream of an entire generation of its young men.
By the end of World War Two, England’s wealth and yet another generation had been severely diminished. Former colonies clamored for independence. The Empire shrank as independence was granted to India, Burma, and former African colonies.
.Other forces were at work to undermine the influence of both the United Kingdom and the United States. In the 1950s, a military coup in Egypt stirred ideas of an Arab confederation of states. It ultimately failed, but it set in motion ideas of nationalism.
In 1945, Winston Churchill was unceremoniously replaced by Clement Atlee, a socialist and a leader of the Labor Party. For the next six years Labor nationalized the nation’s coal mines, civil aviation, cable and wireless services, gas, electricity, railways, road transport and steel. The National Health Service, comparable to Obamacare, was introduced. In short, the British destroyed what was left of their economy by embracing the worst system for creating wealth known to man.
While Great Britain and America recognized the Soviet Union as the great threat to freedom after World War Two, both nations continued to incorporate socialism into their governmental structures and systems. In the U.S. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would swallow up and redistribute vast portions of wealth until they represented half of all the spending at the federal level. As government grew, the growth of civil service unions drained the coffers of State treasuries.
The people of the Middle East, under the sway of various monarchies and despots, developed a deep resentment of the West in general, but initially for the British. Entire nations, new colonies, had been created in the Middle East to ensure access to its huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
America did not become an empire in the British sense of the word, but it did become the world’s policeman, its navy keeping sea lanes protected and open, engaging in a series of conflicts during and after the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Our Navy that in 1998 fielded sixty ships now has only twenty actively at sea.
In the 1950s, the conflict in Korea ended in a stalemate. In the 1970s, Vietnam became the first major defeat the U.S. had experienced. Too many casualties, no end in sight, Congress finally pulled the plug. It altered the way other nations perceived the world’s only superpower. Military successes in Iraq have done little to improve our standing in the world as the war in Afghanistan drags on in a fashion reminiscent of Vietnam.
Responding to environmental claims, America began to restrict access and use of its vast national reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas. Prosperous nations are those that use the most energy in many ways, but the U.S. not only stopped the building of new refineries, the development of new coal mines, and exploration of new oil fields, but also thwarted the growth of the nuclear power industry. By February 2011, parts of Texas were experiencing rolling blackouts.
In a thousand different ways, an ever growing matrix of obstacles and regulation encumbers American industry, agriculture, and the development of new business enterprises with high technology was an exception. Its hardware, however, is made in Asia, not America.
The American economy was being hollowed out from within and beyond its shores with a combination of illegal immigration and “out sourcing” of jobs in an effort to remain competitive.
Largely unnoticed until the 1979 Iranian revolution, an Islamic fervor was growing in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere among its 1.3 billion adherents.
It exploded in America on September 11, 2001 though the U.S. had sustained many earlier attacks on its embassies and on the USS Cole.
It is exploding in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain. If history is any guide, these rebellions will be put down with a brutality that is also endemic to the region. The notion that these nations should be ruled by Sharia law is appalling, opening the door to a barbaric, ancient system of law more suited to the 7th century than the 21st century.
America’s influence is slip sliding away because it is presently led by a weak and hostile President, increasingly believed to be either a Muslim or sympathetic to Islam; a Marxist, ruefully acknowledged to be a complete enigma with no available documentation regarding his past or legitimacy to hold the office.
It is also under an entirely new kind of warfare. Its financial structure has been attacked and the crisis of late 2008 gives evidence of that.
Weakness or the perception of weakness invites attack. America is a great, but wounded nation being led by a president who shrinks from its superpower responsibilities and wants to spend its way out of debt; an impossibility. He must be endured for two more years while the Republicans in Congress neuter his ability to do more damage.
When it repairs itself, renewing its fundamental values, restoring its Constitutional limits, America will still have to stand guard against the forces of darkness within and beyond its gates.
The Moral Liberal Featured Writer, Alan Caruba, writes a daily post at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. An author, business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center. Copyright 2011 © Alan Caruba