The Europeans — and the American intellectuals who yearn to be European — have long believed that America was doomed. It goes way back. There was already a significant literature on the inferiority of Americans during the colonial period, replete with scientific proof: those who lived in North America were held to be shorter, weaker, and stupider than those who stayed put under the old regimes. In the view of the transatlantic intellectual elite, we never really had a chance.
Even though the American Revolution is the only durable success among the Big 3 — ours, the French, and the Russian — the intellectual elites on both sides of the Atlantic rarely admit that America is the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and they routinely reserve the term for Russians, Cubans, Iranians, and even Chinese. No matter that they are all failures, and that the only good news from those unfortunate countries is the result of the occasional leader — the great bridge player Deng Xiaoping, for example — who emulates American revolutionary principles.
So the belief that America is a failure has been with us for centuries, and it’s snugly wrapped in the currently fashionable quiltie of multiculturalism/political correctness, according to whose poisonous doctrine all cultures are morally equivalent. Except some — ours and the Israelis’ — are less equal than the others’. And some other cultures — nowadays notably the jihadis’ — are more equal than the rest.
These doctrines are dominant among our intellectual elites, and have been for at least a generation. It should not surprise us to see their consequences applied by men and women who were taught them throughout their schooling. The president’s world view can be found in most any dormitory bull session at our top “educational” institutions. And it is no small source of alarm to me that our best and brightest military officers are routinely sent for reeducation to such places.
SIDEBAR: True confession. I told our children that I wouldn’t pay for tuition at an Ivy League college. The boys went to school in Texas, served as Marine officers, and, along with an impressive number of friends, are combating these doctrines and their political/cultural consequences. Just to show that it can be done, our daughter went to school in Massachusetts, got a graduate degree in Italy, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and keeps me intellectually alert.
BACK TO TEXT: Inevitably, the “America is doomed” sermon is preached in many places, both by prophets who welcome it, and by those who dread it. Lots of true believers in the American Revolution are currently whining that all is lost, that the counterrevolutionaries have won an irreversible victory, and that we should either trim our sails and adopt the multiculti doctrines, or emulate the heroes of Red Dawn and take to the hills, fully armed, and fight back a la Davy Crockett.
Maybe it comes from the failure to study history (we historians love to blame current error on the lack of historical knowledge). Somebody should tell the garment-renderers and sackcloth-and-ashes crowd that we’ve been through a lot worse than this, and recovered well enough to save the world. We fought, amongst ourselves, the bloodiest war of the 19th century. We’ve been through recessions and depressions. You think we now have it worse than our parents and grandparents, who survived the Great Depression and World War II?
And for all those who see the doom of America sealed by moral degradation, have a look at the Roaring 1920s, the great national hypocrisy of Prohibition, etc. If you’re worried about self-indulgence, that’s a great place to start.
In my world, nobody is smart enough to accurately forecast the next three months, let alone diagnose an irreversible decline. All that stuff about the fall of Rome leaves me cold, frankly. After all, Gibbon, who wrote the magnum opus on the decline and fall of Rome, basically blamed it on the Christians. Others blame it on the lead goblets used to serve the wine.
So here’s my little message to the deep thinkers: in this life, there is no final victory. Enemies abound. We defeated the two monster totalitarian forces of the twentieth century, and we’re now under attack from the great jihadi totalitarians of the new century. We can certainly win. In the course of that fight we will make lots of mistakes, and we will have some very bad leaders. If we’re up to it, and if we’re lucky, we’ll also get some great leaders. (Don’t tell anyone, but the last two presidential elections haven’t given us very good options, but that could change. Change is the one dynamic constant in human history, remember.)
As for the moaning and keening Republicans, you’ve got an amazing number of governors, and some of them are doing spectacularly well. The Dems are stuck with New York, Massachusetts, and California, who incarnate true blue doctrines, and are in a mess. Events are likely to demonstrate the failure of blueness in this country, as they have abroad. So stick to your principles and don’t try to be “more like them.” Nobody needs pseudo-blues, if people want to vote left, they’ll vote for the real thing, not you-pretending-to-be-them-except-cuter.
There’s plenty of revolutionary zeal in America, and we are probably well into a period of great unpleasantness, domestically and internationally. Americans love a good challenge. That’s our history.
One more thing. Romney seems to be a sort of economic determinist. He thinks people who receive stuff from the state are automatically statist. But that’s false (for starters, I am on that list of “takers” — I get Social Security — and I’m no statist). Some number of those on government payments are unhappy; they’d like to get out from under. It’s wrong, politically and morally, to write them off as lost souls.
So we have to keep fighting, hoping things will get better. If we fight well, and fortune favors us, we’ll win. And then go on to the next fight.