I’ve been meaning to post something about the deeply insightful article by Paul Kennedy, the historian best known for his wonderful book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. In it, he describes the arcs of Great Power countries from 1500 to 1980, and tries to look ahead, always a tricky adventure for a historian.
He compares the Great Powers at the close of the twentieth century and predicts the decline of the Soviet Union (the book was originally published on the cusp of the Soviet collapse, the suddenness of which Kennedy did not predict), the rise of China and Japan, the struggles and potential for the EEC, and the relative decline of the United States. He highlights the precedence of the “four modernizations” in Deng Xiaoping’s plans for China — agriculture, industry, science and military — deemphasizing military while the United States and the Soviet Union are emphasizing it. He predicts that continued deficit spending, especially on military build-up, will be the single most important reason for decline of any Great Power.
So you can see why the comments on his article at the Journal might be skeptical.
If the above is even half-true, the conclusions are not pleasant: that the economic and political travails of the next several years will badly crimp many of the visions offered in Mr. Obama’s election campaign; that this nation will have to swallow, domestically, some very hard choices; and that we should not expect, even despite a surge in international goodwill towards America, any increase in our relative capacity to act abroad decisively or in any sustained way. A rather wonderful, charismatic and highly intelligent person will occupy the White House, but, alas, in the toughest circumstances the U.S. has faced since 1933 or 1945.
Shoulda never said that last bit. Now all his years at Yale, and the truth of what he says, will fail to permeate the titanium skulls of the nitwits who comment at WSJ.
You can’t make this stuff up, so I won’t. (Spacing, punctuation, et cetera, copied and pasted.)
The excuses for Mr Obama are already being made, in great detail, variety, abundance, and from every journal and forum. We on the right are aware that Mr Obama comes to work with :
the dog ate my homework/
the train got stuck on a piece of bubble gum/
my mother’s car broke down and all I got was this lousy t-shirt/
and oh yeah, President bush destroyed our country, so give me eight or twelve more years.
President Bush of course corrupted these two cabinet nominees, Treasury and the other guy whom we have already forgotten, now being considered the benchmark for Obama’s clean vetting machine. Thing is, these men knew their circumstances, how did they manage to not tell, maybe they were from the Clinton Don’t Ask/ Don’t Tell.
So the declinists are soon in power, advocating decline, while the American exceptionalists are no longer in power, so we shall see how power can be frittered away, by the most inexperienced executive in history.
Though among the worst written of the first couple of comments, this is by no means out of the wacko-mainstream that constitutes the Journal’s commenters. It’s a fun ride if you can hack it.