It has been said that the greatest threat to world peace is the problems in the US economy. The United States cannot continue to be the world’s biggest military power when its economic strength is weakening in the face of global competition and the country is so steeped in debt.
While some claim that the economy is improving, others say otherwise. One of those is Mortimer Zuckerman, the owner of US News and World Report. Zuckerman is one of the wealthiest men in the country. As it happens, he also voted for President Obama in 2008 but is now greatly disappointed in his policies and critical that the economy shows no real signs of recovery.
In an editorial titled “We need a recovery to recover from the recovery” (US News and World Report, 24th May), Mr. Zuckerman shows that claims of a recovery have been grossly exaggerated and that, in fact, the country is still headed downhill.
‘Millions of Americans think the economy is in decline. They are right. The US economy is visibly losing momentum . . . The millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed are pessimistic and even frightened about their future. Those who have jobs worry about losing them. Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, even though the population has grown by nearly 30 million people since then. Millions of homes have been foreclosed.”
“’America the Beautiful’ is a country where 23 million households (or some 48 million people) now need food stamps, representing almost 15 percent of the population and 30 percent of adults. Add to that some 11 million Americans who live on disability benefits.”
Clearly, Mr. Zuckerman does not think things are improving in any significant way.
But, reading this over Memorial Day weekend, I also read an article that said the exact opposite. Titled: “Improving economy changes political landscape,” Associated Press reporter Tom Raum wrote that, now the economy is clearly recovering, Republicans have to look elsewhere to find fault in President Obama. ‘Amid a series of recent positive economic reports, Republicans are revving up their portrayal of the Obama administration as scandal-ridden and inept, while largely abandoning the where-is-the-recovery criticism.” (26th May, Lansing State Journal)
Where you live can determine your outlook on the economy. If you live in an area where things are going well, you will naturally have a rosier view than if you live in, say, Michigan, where I live. Party loyalty may also be a factor. Those who voted for the Democrats will more likely believe the administration’s claims than those who didn’t (though Mr. Zuckerman voted for the Democrats five years ago). A third factor that could influence your thinking is if you work for government. Government workers have been shielded from the worst of the downturn, receiving annual pay increases and benefits as if nothing has changed.
Back to world peace, where this article started . . .
Before the United States, the British Empire was the world’s dominant power. After World War II, during which the British spent 25% of their national wealth, it was clear the British economy was in serious trouble. In February 1947, London had to ask Washington to take over in Greece and Turkey, whose governments had been propped up by Great Britain. This was the beginning of the massive transference of global leadership that was about to take place, from the United Kingdom to the United States.
In other words, Britain’s military decline paralleled its economic decline.
The day after Memorial Day, columnist Bret Stephens had an excellent article in the “Wall St Journal.” Stephens is one of the most perceptive conservative writers in the US, especially on matters concerning the Middle East.
In Tuesday’s column, Mr. Stephens commented on President Obama’s speech five days earlier to the National Defense University, calling the president’s new policy the “Retreat Doctrine.” Just as Great Britain was in retreat following World War II, so the US is now in retreat following over ten years and three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror).
And, just as the British put a positive slant on their global retreat, so the Obama Administration is doing with the US. Mr. Obama declared an end to “continual warfare,” even though we are clearly facing an increased domestic threat from terrorism and, arguably, a growing international threat. But the War on Terror is now over, says the Administration, and we’ve won.
Mr. Obama also noted that the war had cost the U.S. “well over a trillion dollars . . . exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation-build at home.” That sounds like a lot of money, until you consider that federal government outlays since 2002 come to $31.3 trillion and counting. The depressing truth about the war on terror isn’t that it has bankrupted us. It’s that we fought it on the cheap while gorging on entitlements, ethanol subsidies, bridges to nowhere and ObamaCare.” (“The Retreat Doctrine,” Bret Stephens, May 27th, Wall Street Journal)
Concluding, Mr. Stephens writes: “These realities don’t sit well with the Retreat Doctrine—but then, the ultimate purpose of the Doctrine isn’t to revitalize America. It’s to reduce America, as Britain was reduced after 1947, from world-spanning empire to wan social democracy. At least the British had the excuse of the Somme and the Blitz.
“To retreat isn’t to decline. But retreat can lead to decline when a nation develops a taste for it, and when adversaries take advantage of it, and when disasters result from it. Britain had the U.S. at its back when it ceased being a power to be reckoned with. Should that day come for us, who will have ours?”
It’s a good question. Who will replace the US as the #1 global power? Inevitably, the day will come, as any student of history knows. But it seems that it will be sooner than expected, with continuing economic decline and, additionally, the willful military decline that is set to take place.