Sunday, May 04, 2008

Newsweek Thought Piece

Fareed Zakaria, writing for Newsweek, has created a thought-provoking essay that is sure to have a polarizing effect on its readers. It's called "The Post-American World," and it tries to analyze the socio-political influences of the United States in comparison with the rest of the world.

I say "thought-provoking" because he makes some valid points along the way. It isn't so much that the United States is necessarily declining in influence, but rather that other countries are rising. This is perhaps the central theme of Zakaria's essay and it's meant to demonstrate that the U. S. must "globalize" if it wishes to remain a key player in world affairs.

It also, unfortunately, smacks of the sort of "new world order" thinking that ultimately diminishes our sovereignty as a nation and subjects us to the whims of the rest of the world.

Read it for yourself, though. I suspect reactions will run pretty much along party and ideological lines. As a somewhat moderate conservative, I can see those valid points and agree with much of his analysis. I also believe, however, that some of his base assumptions are incorrect. He points, for example, to U. S. carmakers having more employees in Canada than in the United States, at least partly because Canadian health-care costs are lower. The implication would be that the United States should be adopting a health-care system similar to Canada's if we wish to remain a viable competitor. What he fails to mention, however, is that Canada's socialized health-care system is also fundamentally flawed; the waiting lists to see key specialists alone would sound a death-knell to many who need critical care in a timely manner. It's not that they have bad doctors. It's that they don't have enough doctors who are willing to accept the salaries to which they are mandated by the state. Our doctors are expensive, but there's a market that supports them and enables us to have immediate access to the right care. These are over-simplified arguments, but useful for the discussion at hand.

Zakaria does a pretty good job of pointing out that, dangerous as today's world is, it's somewhat less violent overall than it was a few decades ago. He points out the massive losses of life during conflicts in Vietnam, Iran and Iraq, and Cambodia. With this data he attempts to quell a rising feeling of uneasiness that many Americans (Woody included) have had regarding the continuing states of war and terrorism that permeate today's political landscape. His suggestion is that we need to get along more with our worldly neighbors (NWO thinking) and accept their places at our side as allies. He fears that our political leadership (he specifically mentions McCain in this train of thought) are too willing to buy into the next Cold War. He downplays such things as nuclear proliferation as if to lead us to believe that such things are of no more concern in our world.

Here I disagree vehemently with Zakaria. It is precisely such things as nuclear proliferation and the rise of global terrorism that should make us wary of such powers as North Korea, Russia, and especially China. It's one thing to encourage trade with "neighbors" like these. It is another to simply trust them not to take their aggressions out on us just because we no longer hold the position of "world leader" that Zakaria feels we've lost. From a standpoint of safety and security, we can never take our eyes off of these nations. We do so at our own peril. I have felt this way ever since someone once declared that we had "won" the original Cold War. We "won" nothing. Other nations gained a measure of independence, and many communist regimes fell. But there can be no declared "winner" when the ability to wipe out an enemy is still in the hands of politicians who clearly do not like the United States.

As I say, read the whole thing. Some of it I agree with, some of it I obviously don't. We may not have the largest Ferris wheel in the world, or even the largest mall. We don't need to have these things to be leaders of freedom and democratic thinking in the world today. We just need to have unshakeable standards, and live them.

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