Monday, May 02, 2011

One of the Benefits of Being Exceptional

Victor Hanson wonders if our administration has chosen the path of decline for America, believing our best days are behind us, so why resist? Let's just try to adjust to the new reality.

What President Obama and his team believe isn't that important to me, in the long run. I keep in mind that in the 1970s, many of our elites believed the American Century was going to have an abbreviated run and that the Soviets would take the lead. Then, statecraft was viewed as managing our decline and getting the best deal we could locked in while we retained an advantage.

America is exceptional. In our natural resources, we have tremendous advantages. Most important, our people don't really believe we are doomed to second place. Americans will revive our fortunes despite the convictions of our so-called leaders that we should accept second place and "leading" from behind.

Americans don't give up. Not even when our "betters" in the government and society believe we should give up and tell us to get used to it. That's the biggest part of American exceptionalism, after all.

UPDATE: Europeans (and those who think like Europeans) have derided our war against Islamist terrorism and their enablers as simplisme and lacking in nuance. In their thinking, we should simply endure the occasional terror attacks with a sophisticated shrug of the shoulders and get on with our lives, relying on intelligence agencies and police methods (and unsaid but the natural consequence of passive defenses, the narrowing of our civil liberties) to keep the frequency of attacks down to tolerable levels.

Funny enough, as the Arab Spring rings with calls for freedom and democracy rather than Sharia (whether or not those calling for the former can achieve those lofty goals), and the world sees our persistence in pursuing Osama bin Laden finally pay off, Europeans are having second thoughts about whether by our "over-reaction" to a petty terror threat we are really hastening our decline:

The news about the US attack on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Mr. bin Laden comes after a season of Arab uprisings that are largely democratic in sentiment, received support from US and European leaders, and appeared to take place without Islamist or Al Qaeda backing. To some analysts, it holds out hope for the end of a chapter of global violent jihad started by bin Laden in the 1990s – and may enhance a larger swing toward sympathy with democratic values and a larger antipathy toward extremism.

“Seen from Europe, this is part of the return of America. The story a few years ago was America’s relative decline, but this shows a return,” argues Dominique Moisi, a leading intellectual at the French Institute of International Relations. “We see that democracy prevails as an aspiration and democracy prevails as a force. The way bin Laden was disposed of, not by a drone or a missile … that makes a difference.”

Whatever else you want to say about the Iraq War, fighting the war clearly did not raise the legitimacy and appeal of Osama bin Laden's jihad or taint the idea of democracy in the Arab world.

One day, perhaps our elites will ponder the question of whether the war in Iraq, which defeated al Qaeda in battle and planted fragile shoots of democracy as an alternative to despotism or Islamism is positively related to this Arab Spring. What was once "unilateral" may be seen as "exceptional" in helping to end the chapter of jihad that Osama bin Laden represents.

This Arab Spring may falter in whole or just in part, but even in failure it won't be the last round in the struggle for the heart and soul of the Arab Moslem world. But it was named the Long War for a reason, even if some fools want to declare premature "mission accomplished" and come home.