Letters to the Editor

The End of the American Century

March 25, 2012

On "The American Century Is Over— by Andrew J. Bacevich (The Chronicle Review, February 24) From chronicle.com:

I am amazed at the extent to which the opinions of serious scholars of international relations swing wildly on the basis of short-term events. When Bush launched the war in Iraq, everyone was blathering on about an American Empire, and how we hadn't seen anything like this since Rome. Now, one expensive intervention and an economic downturn later we are ready to consign American leadership to the dustbin of history? A little perspective please, and from a historian no less.

Yes. American power is likely to decline relative to other players, but to think we are going to return to a situation of early-20th-century multipolarity anytime soon is even more fantastical than the delusions of neocons who thought the U.S. could simply act without regard to anyone else. There are points in between, people. Get a grip.


♦ ♦ ♦

Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and pretty soon Iran—fairly expensive. And this has been the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and it's just getting started. The Eurozone's about to collapse. But hey, at least we don't have POW camps, Big Brother-type internal spying, assassination of our own citizens, or the largest incarceration rate in the entire world.

Oh, wait.

Thomas Wayne Allen

♦ ♦ ♦

While I do agree that American hubris has led us astray, it is also sad to see fellow historians who are paid in American dollars just so they can take great delight in their country's perceived decline. Certainly, this is a case where the "deconstruction" gang is no better than the wrecking crew.

I believe that Western Civilization still has much to offer the world, despite its acknowledged flaws. I think people are too hasty to dismiss the United States because they are angry at what presidents and corporations have done to our country. But this is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Having been both scholar and researcher in the humanities and history, I know the American republic is a work in progress. It remains to be seen whether the people still want to make it work.


♦ ♦ ♦

Good riddance is right. I have spent much of my adult life living in second-rate nations under the U.S. security umbrella. I can tell you that the services and amenities they are able to provide their citizens are first class, and far better than those we get in the U.S. When I want to work out I can go to the city gym and pay $2.00 and exercise as long as I want on first-class equipment. For $5 for each adult, $3 for my child, I can enjoy a wonderful pool complex with wave pool and water slide, sauna and spa bath to follow. Such facilities are everywhere, run by small farming towns. Give me a second-rate country any day.

I am being somewhat tongue in cheek, because what angers many Americans about the taxes they pay is that they think they don't get anything for them in return, except the ability to shout "huzzah, huzzah" when we beat up some fourth-world country. But then that seems to be the one thing for which those people are willing to pay their taxes. Meanwhile, ex-pats like me get to have the best of both worlds. Lesson: You don't want to pay taxes, move abroad. America: Love it or leave it.


♦ ♦ ♦

I would expect a serious student of history and politics such as Professor Ba­cevich to offer a more thoughtful analysis than a false choice between Henry Luce and "blame America first." Nothing's lost if we repudiate America's leadership of the free world from the 1940s to the present? Really? At the very least, I doubt "Bonalibro" will continue to enjoy subsidized exercise equipment "under the U.S. security umbrella." But perhaps that's not a world-historical loss.


♦ ♦ ♦

As a teacher/career coach at a large Midwestern public university, I see things from a different perspective. What of our American college grads? They are now being told that way too many jobs have been outsourced overseas, and they were not trained to do the type of work companies really need. We have hung out our American shingle as the land of opportunity for centuries, but still we have no remedy for the millions of "real" Americans living on the streets and in their cars, although we send billions of dollars in aid to those "second-rate nations." And for international students who have had their graduation parade rained on because very few U.S. companies are willing to sponsor them to work in America, is this a case of the American "dream deferred" or demolished?