Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Reluctant Unipole

NRO's Johan Goldberg provides a few very sobering reminders for those of us who may be hyperventilating over the symbolism of China President Hu Jintao's visit to the US this week.  If  you're inclined to worry, the symbolism of the visit suggests that, like it did on the British before us, the sun is indeed setting on the American Empire.

Relax.  Jonah's right, even more than he knows   

First, there is much truth in an old saw that goes something like this:  If you borrow a hundred bucks from the bank, the bank owns you.  But if you borrow a million bucks, you own the bank.  While I certainly wish our trade and budget deficits were in better order than they are currently, I'm still inclined to think the Chinese need us more, much more, than we need them.

Second, whatever the landscape of the international milieu in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, or even now, I'm no longer sure "unipolar" is an apt description.

Clearly we were then, and remain now, the most powerful country on the planet, the only one with serious global reach.  But what does that matter if the power is not attended by some serious design regarding its use, for good or ill?

In the first place, because of our Constitution and the nature of our politics, our use of power has almost always been either ad hoc, haphazard, or both.  Secondly, while I can certainly imagine our use of power being foolish, poorly planned and executed, and with disastrous results, I simply cannot imagine it being used for ill by design.  It's just not who we are.  Moreover, other than radical Muslims and perhaps a few liberal crazies who write for The Nation, nobody else thinks it's who we are either.

So, as I say, relax.  The sun's not setting on the American Empire. We never were an empire.

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