Prof. Niall Ferguson of Harvard says America is in decline. More about that in a minute.
Texas is where they say they take football most seriously. In North Carolina we took football so seriously we didn’t even call timeout to smile at Texas’ claim. The year before I entered the University of North Carolina, Texas beat UNC 35-0. That hurt!
The next year UNC beat Texas 35-7. Afterwards, as we walked in the setting sun through the pine woods surrounding Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, the carillon in the Bell Tower playing our alma mater, I asked myself, “Can things possibly get any better? We beat Germany. We beat Japan. And we beat Texas.”
The next day I was walking down the corridor of one of the campus buildings and glanced into an empty classroom. On the front blackboard was what looked like a piece of modern art; different colored streaks like jagged lightning descending from upper left to lower right. I walked in and discovered it was a chart detailing the decline of every major civilization, the Roman, the Greek, the Persian, the Carthaginian, the Ottoman; even the Mayan and Aztec. Decline! “Could this ever happen to America?” I thought about that for about eight seconds before deciding, “No!” The world loved us too much. And they had a lot of reason to love us even more than they did. No. We’re here for keeps.
So, here comes professor Niall Ferguson with a convincing argument that America is waving a feeble goodbye while China is storming onto center stage. He may be right, particularly considering present management, but it may stall or even reverse America’s decline if enough Americans put aside the Niagara of anti-Americanism – imported and domestic – and consider how far up America is declining from.
Who, from professor to peasant, is able to name another country that ever amassed more power and abused it less than America? Or, amassed more wealth and distributed it more fairly? What other country was ever attacked, then rallied and destroyed the aggressors and, instead of the traditional rape and plunder, rewarded its attackers with rehabilitation and democracy? And what country ever won a war and wound up with less territory than when the war began? After spending much blood and treasure ejecting the Japanese from the Philippines, America gave the Philippines independence.
The victorious Soviet forces subjugated Eastern Europe. Victorious American and British forces liberated Western Europe. All we asked from the nations we liberated was enough land to bury our dead. Continents don’t forget things like that quickly. Every German mother in that war prayed that her son would be captured by the Americans or the British, not the Soviets. That kind of compliment is not achieved by propaganda.
Far from least and far from last, America had the nuclear bomb exclusively for four solid years. After the war it was never used, not even to brandish, blackmail or bluff. Instead, America took the lead and founded the United Nations, fully allowing for America to be outvoted as that great “Parliament of Man” became a VIP lounge for dictators, aggressors, oppressors, thugs, thieves, sexual predators and other varieties of truly awful people.
Once America even sent troops into a Communist country with no invitation and no declaration of war. In 1963 there was a terrible earthquake in Skopje, in the old Yugoslavia. Things were so chaotic and the Yugoslav authorities were so overwhelmed, America simply loaded up C-47 cargo planes with doctors, medications, portable operating rooms and blankets and went. America chased a lot of fire engines around the world; lots of people helped; lots of lives saved.
The United States used its dominance to serve as the heart-lung machine of the planet earth. Without America, no democracy would have been possible anywhere. Surely that claim will make some want to gag, but, please, when you get your breath back, give us your scenario as to how democracy might have survived without America; bearing in mind the behavior of another empire that recently declined – namely, the Communist.
The world looks down on America with the utmost envy.
The following warning is offered respectfully to the world: You will miss us. Who will forge and give backbone to your NATOs to restrain aggressors? Who will lead the fight against the 12th–century passions of jihad? Mark my words – you will even miss our Britney Spears and our Paris Hilton. You don’t have a history, you don’t have a tradition, you don’t have a hope, you don’t have a clue of how to make acceptable conditions prevail over so much of the earth’s surface without America.
America has made mistakes. Those were four trite, wasted words. Who hasn’t? Again, can you name another country whose misdeeds amounted to such a minuscule fraction of its unselfish generosity and sacrifice for others?
Folk wisdom tells us, “Be nice to those you meet on your way up. You may meet them again on your way down.” America was nice on our way up. A rip-roaring patriot published a list of almost a hundred countries that owed their existence, their freedom or their prosperity to America. I could only challenge the inclusion of two or three.
Maybe that folk wisdom needs a flip side; namely, “Be nice to certain countries on their way down, because, unlike that dreary roll call from Romans to Aztecs, you may meet an occasional America on its way back up.”