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June 2008

      AN EMPIRE OF OUR OWN NO MORE?

                  By Sy Schechtman

 

  When I was a mere broth of a lad,  back in the early   nineteen eighties,-- I was only sixty years old--   I was somewhat ashamed of our  international  position.   We  had just recently had a fiasco in Iran in an abortive attempt to rescue  52 hostages held for many months in the Iranian embassy in Teheran---  November 1979 to January 1981—and thus qualified  for the laughable designation  as the “paper tiger”,  the blundering inept former superpower.   This was indeed another “accolade” encouraged by  the Soviet Union, our former wartime ally,  whose post World War II  propaganda was superbly orchestrated to belittle  the capitalist beast  and its enslavement of the working class.  The inevitable triumph of the dictatorship of the proletariat.    The Marx and Leninist certainty inevitably ordained for the rest of the western world  and already  occurring in that workers paradise  of the Union of the Soviet Socialist  States.   

        The prime capitalist beast was the United States,  who  not only  had furnished an overwhelming  amount of money and war materiel  but had also   suffered over 400,000 troop casualties  fighting the very powerful   Nazi German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe and  subsidiary tag-along Italian Fascist  forces all over North Africa, Sicily and Europe.   To be sure, many of our allies, including the Russians and British,    lost many more civilian and military  people but not only did the United States  do its crucial share in active, concerted troop combat , it mustered nearly eleven million civilian and military personnel to wage an  all out effort  on the production as well as the military front.   Indeed,  the day that Hitler, making the biggest blunder of his meteoric  and satanic career, declared war on the United States,  Winston Churchill, the British leader,  exulted.    He knew that once the United States,  even then the greatest  industrial power in the world,  got its wartime producing act together the war would inevitably favor  the western allies.   And about 15 months after United States entry and the titanic last ditch surprise Wehrmacht counter attack in the Battle of the Bulge, resulting in thousands of American and enemy dead, the German enemy surrendered unconditionally.   

         But not only was the capitalist beast supposedly   nefariously, underhandedly, co-opting the western worker by false slogans  and hope such  as actually dangling  substantial foreign aid in the form of the Marshall Plan,  a joint allied effort initiated by the United States----which funded it----- mainly with its  fifteen    billion  aid package in the late in the nineteen forties,  a vey large sum of money at that time.    Thus the sinister, sly capitalist provided all the seed  money needed to make     western Europe   an almost  utopian paradise  compared with the avowed and still mythical workers paradise of eastern Europe,  which had been walled off to prevent   any obviously deluded eastern German workers  from foolishly trying to leave their still struggling inferior status of communist equality---and mostly totalitarian dictatorship.

        By the decade of the 1960’s  western Europe was a strongly recovering society after the vast destruction of the war.   But there was even then   an underlying attitude of some ingratitude, of “biting the hand that feeds you”.  My young family and I spent two years  in the United States army of occupation in that era  and were aware of many “Kilroy go home” signs posted surreptiously  but    with increasing persistence.    Kilroy, of course, being the European generic for American, probably  a prototypical mid western boor.   We were stationed in a mixed but relatively rural area in the Saarbrucken  area near the Rhine river and the German French border.   In Germany, our host country, and the former hated enemy,  we lived in relative harmony   and mutual respect and cooperation.   When we crossed over into neighboring French territory  into Pirmasens, and especially on holiday jaunts in to Paris   we encountered the Kilroy syndrome  fairly often.   Except in obvious tourist venues where some aspect of cordiality was a must, we would get an aloof response to our question, which was usually a simple request for the right direction,   and in French only.    Not so  in Germany or other neighboring countries we toured at that time.   We would get a helpful reponse, even in broken English,  to the needy foreigner who  required help.

        This anti American attitude, while not exactly pervasive, was  still far from rare.     And it certainly  was aided and abetted  by the Soviets,  who nurtured every  anti western  pro Marxist  prejudice then around; sentiments which indeed were quite fashionable among many elite radicals.  And this trend  climaxed in l984  along the Rhine River   in areas probably not far from where I was stationed 25 years before.   The Soviets  were evidently  in a last gasp aggressive military  phase world wide,  invading Afghanistan in  the East 1979 and ultimately being repelled by the Mujadeen Afghan stalwarts with considerable United States help, and most critically in the western Europe on their side of the Rhine, where they were threatening to install their new S-10 and S-20 missiles, which had a capability of reaching  London.  On   the American side,  Reagan, our “war mongering president”,  countered with the threat of   installing our brand new Pershing missiles,  which were only six minutes from Moscow.  Much anti American  support world wide and especially in Germany and France was aroused,  not against the Soviets for initially planning their installation of missiles, but for the American plan to counter with the Pershing missiles, which would hopefully neutralize the threatened Soviet aggressive stance!! There were no suggestions that the Russians remove their missiles!  Reagan and the Americans  were just “saber rattling” again.  When Reagan did install the Pershing  missiles the Soviet threat world wide began to recede  and in 5 years later the Berlin wall came down  and the heretofore seemingly mighty, impregnable superpower of the Soviets began imploding literally before the astonished eyes of the rest of the civilized world.   Without a shot being fired in what many have described as World War III and which all agree on as the “Cold War” and went on for nearly 40 years,  the Russian communist superpower of the Soviet  Union lay in disarray.   Literally outspent militarily to death by the continuing rearmament projects of the Reagan led western capitalist coalition.   The culminating   nail in the Soviet military coffin was Reagan’s avowed “star wars” projects which promised to shoot down enemy missiles moments  after their launch,  a very costly research effort which has still not been brought to fruition but was far beyond the economic  limits of the communists.   And all this in the face  of increasing unease, or disdain for the American achievement, a   sort of latent Kilroy go home feeling,  or as most baseball fans well appreciate,  sort of “hate the Yankees affectation”, the team that had the most successful and expensive baseball team for many  years and many now take delight in their  current ignominy.

        With the fall of the Soviet superpower  the United States has become literally a hyperpower,  dominating commercial and financial and entertainment markets worldwide.   Universally people are enjoying or at least utilizing a wide range of our products and services,  from  hamburgers(McDonalds)  to entertainment(Disney) to computers(Microsoft). And, of course, that universal thirst quencher---Coca Cola. Not a territorial megalopoly but truly an involved  empire of power on many levels crucial to world functioning.   For the last twenty five years  or so this has been  the almost “and they lived happily ever after scenario”.   Indeed Francis Fukayama wrote  “The End of History”  a book proclaiming the triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism in future world affairs,  a book he has since said has been  misinterpreted  and that these claims were, in retrospect,  overrated.  

          And this may be the sad case for ultimate American pride.  Indeed,  our dominance may need some significant refurbishing  in  several areas.   Not with our military, but with our commerce and financial structure.  The current weakness in the dollar is a short term   positive in purchasing  abroad and may be  a long term indication of our indebtedness worldwide.   In the last 50 years we have become a debtor nation; previously we were the world’s lender and financial giant.    The British Empire, on which “the sun never set”  for over 600 years,  also became a debtor nation toward  the end of its long hegemony,   but still retained its ruling sway  almost until its dissolution in the last century.   Hopefully the dollar’s weakness is not a long term infallible indicator.   True, we are  continuing to fall  further behind in hard core manufacturing too.    The leading auto manufacturer is now Toyota,  not General Motors,  and once almost legendary Ford,  and Chrysler,  have very dubious prospects.   But   certainly these events need not be  an accurate   predictor of  a dire economic future, but merely  our shift into more profitable areas.   In 2007  the Gross Domestic Product of the United States  was 13.22 trillion dollars, about equal to the combined GDPs of  Japan, Germany, China, and the United Kingdom.  (India, while still in a very rapid growth phase, still has less than a trillion GDP a year.)  But these national entities are not enemies,  but rival states accepting our free market, capitalistic, relatively democratic  approach to life.   And  they are mostly doing  and perhaps improving on this globalization  free market trend we initiated.  What we as the still acknowledged  superpower must contend with is the drastic  shift in assets beginning  to occur due to the rapidly  escalating price of oil.   With oil approaching $150  now,  and $200 seemingly a possibility soon,  and we as still the leading consumer of oil,   face another Pearl Harbor and 9/11/01  in one dire package.   That  is, besides the energy and oil problem  we also have  the jihad Moslem fanaticism  to deal with----- the United States  as the satanic evil that Allah hates.    Only we can marshall the world wide resources needed to once again  lead the free world to success in these areas.  And we can solve these two critical problems concomitantly.   Exorbitant oil prices  and the increasing transfer of wealth because of these prices  to  many in that area who are actively involved  in the jihad of western destruction, especially that wicked great Satan that we represent.  As we diminish our reliance on Arab oil we will automatically  keep many of our dollars out of some  fanatic Islamic jihadist  hands   and thus also diminish their ability   to fund further terrorist activity against us.   

         The search  for alternate sources of energy  must include a comprehensive  overview of the nuclear option, especially for immediate application to power plants to generate electrical energy, as is now successfully done in France and other countries.  All  other conventional  sources, ---wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric---must also be considered.    Above all  conservation of energy resources must be in the forefront  of our efforts.    Engineering autos to achieve better miles per gallon usage—in the 40 mpg range--- is attainable,  and perhaps a tax on gas   at the pump to inhibit excessive driving.  And/or gas rationing?   More  bus and  train transit and car pooling?  All or some of these were very successfully used during World War II.   And despite our still luxurious living  we are getting deeper into a financial morass  because of the oil situation,  which is  undoubtedly a delight to the  large jihadist faction of Islam fighting us.  Because we cannot keep the increasing share of our petrodollars  going to that part of the Near East when  we should be doing enough Federal and corporate research on new sources of energy and augmenting our present supplies of available energy  in off shore oil drilling.  There must be mutual cooperation  politically at the highest level ---Congress and the White House,--- as during World War

 II, and still the protection for the legitimate rights guaranteed  in our basic first ten constitutional amendments. 

        The big untapped resource, however,  is our vast reservoir of 300,000,000 people,  immigrants  all of one generation or another,  who in John F. Kennedy’s immortal  words said “Ask not what the country can do for you,  but what you can do for the country”.   A very large reserve of loyal Americans still “one people out of many” suffused with our democratic and economic aspirations of a better life for themselves and their children and grandchildren. (And even great grandchildren!)  And a relatively equal playing field now to achieve those future  goals.  The prime reason we have super power  status is our use of the wise mix of this continuing pool of motivated immigrants.   Affirmative action for the ones handicapped or lacking in certain disqualifying skills,  but  still a   meritocracy  of  the best and brightest arising to guide and  lead  and be substantially rewarded by our nations’ continued future growth and prosperity.     

        Our leaders, now and in the immediate future,  should mobilize us now around the two emergency clarion calls  of exorbitant and possibly ruinous  oil prices and the avowed cries for our destruction  by powerful radical  leaders in the Moslem world---and the  tacit silence of any opposition in that religious world of over  a billion people to the jihad anti American opposition.

        But are we not still deaf, on our side, to the clarion call?   Like the business as usual attitude in congress to the disgraceful annual pork barrel festival in Congress  known as the Annual Agricultural  Appropriation?   The largest earmark “festival’  ever, assuredly with soon to be discovered—too  late-- celebrated bridges to nowhere and also to  many gentleman farmer recipients who are grateful millionaire landowners and campaign contributors, never furrowing the land with seed, but their brows with further dodges to avoid income taxes.  This will not nourish our weak dollar  or strengthen the ability to finance the rebate promised us to avert a seeming recession.    We will always have to balance the guns versus butter concept with due deliberation;  but these are definitely very uncertain times and too much political pork will be emotionally indigestible, definitely not kosher,  and very injurious to our national financial health.