Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Boil is Ripe

America’s relationship with the rest of the world is problematic for structural reasons that will have to be addressed regardless of who is in charge in Washington next year. Moral considerations aside, we are trying to play a role that is several sizes too big for our actual capabilities. We may be militarily terrible—at least we’re impressed—but the economic primacy that maintains that strength is largely a thing of the past. Having become a global welfare mother, we can’t pay our bills without the continuous charity of other countries. Our hegemony has also lost its rationale. While in the past, we played a positive, indeed indispensable role in first defeating the Axis and then fending off the Soviets, it is no longer obvious who we are protecting from what in a world in which all the large nations (except us) are anything but bellicose. One of these days Germany and Japan are going to get tired of being occupied. One of these days, international capital is going to get tired of pouring money into New York. We would be well advised to prepare for these eventualities, none of which, by the way, have to be catastrophic for us or anybody else.

Nobody can do more to further a constructive accommodation of America to new realities than President Bush whose total and ignominious downfall might serve to drain off some of the hostility towards our country now building to dangerous levels all over the world. Universally hated outside the U.S., Bush can finally do something useful in his life by serving as a scapegoat or Guy Fawkes dummy. As conservatives, of all people, are aware, villains have their uses. Taking a clue from their practice, let us therefore ritually abuse this man, even though he is more contemptible and incompetent than grandly evil and more the symptom than the cause of American decline. And then let us get to work on the real business of the world before everybody else notices that Bush wasn’t the only problem.

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