Beyond the foreign policy lies: Our compliant media and the truth about American exceptionalism
A new year begins, and America must resolve to do different & better. Here's a roadmap. It starts with clear eyes
Patrick L. Smith
We have put away our argyle cardigans, drawn close to the fire, listened to the Crosby records, and roasted a few chestnuts for that God-sent aroma they give. Now, as we begin a new year, let’s think about what we all like to think about at holidays: Why is America in decline and just how far and fast is this going to go?
Cheerful New Year tidings to all, of course.
Anyone who thinks of America and its place in the world clearly and honestly understands, with no shred of doubt after the destructive year gone by, that this nation is now well into its late-imperial phase. As history instructs us, two signs of an imperial power’s decline at this point in its story are blindness and deafness: It gives up all capacity to see the world as it is and takes no interest in what those dwelling in it have to say. Clear sight and open ears are unbearable, for both bring news that history’s wheel is turning and an era of primacy is passing into the past.
This is where we are as 2014 ends. It is not, I add instantly, where we have to be, only where we happen to be, where we have been led and find ourselves as we look to the year ahead.
A few years ago the words “decline” and “declinist” were much in debate. A declinist was not something a good American was supposed to be. The obfuscating chatterers on the opinion pages and in the magazines could hold these terms up for criticism because there was—apparently, not evidently—enough ground to stand on and dismiss the declinist’s point. Recall all this?
Now no one talks about decline, if you have not noticed—not because the triumphalists have won the argument but precisely because they have lost it. In the best American tradition, the topic falls away: It grows ever more obvious now that our leaders have put themselves and us on the road to decline.
If I can impose on your time a few extra seconds, please read that last sentence carefully once again. Two things in it we need to talk about now: “Our leaders,” as opposed to us, we the led. “Chosen,” said leaders having made choices and not simply accommodated the inevitable. To have a choice, by definition, means to have an alternative.
Many readers have questioned use of the term “we” in these columns over the past year. “Who is this ‘we’ doing this or that in Ukraine, Syria, across the Pacific or wherever?” they ask. They are right to do so, but only half right in refusing responsibility for America’s conduct abroad...
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