U.S., Lead or Get out of the Way by Conrad Black
From the September 30th issue of The National Review
The U.S. shows no signs of being prepared to pay down its mountain of debt, and is every year forfeiting the natural respect it acquired in the 1940s and maintained to the end of the 20th century as the world’s undisputed leader. An American failure to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power will signal the end of American world leadership, whether Israel steps up to the task or not. The U.S. cannot afford to masquerade as a decisive influence where it does not have the will or judgment to assert such an influence. Unless new leadership arises in the next election to end the current-account deficit and unsustainable oil imports, reorient the country to physical production and less unproductive “services,” and redesign alliances to contemporary needs and real possibilities, it should continue the orderly withdrawal already in progress. It won the Cold War, disposed of Saddam, and can retire in good order, undefeated, to a defensible perimeter. It was the indispensable country to the West, in 1917–18, and 1939–90, but it is largely dispensable now, and is providing no discernibly useful leadership at all. If it rediscovers its aptitude for successful and innovative internationalism, it can raise its level of involvement. The trend to decentralization of national influences relieves the U.S. of the burdens of a superpower and provides regional balances that can be influenced from Washington with relatively little exertion. On the present course, it is risking a severe humiliation, and an undignified retreat into its doghouse like a chastened puppy. The current level of official amateurism, if allowed to continue indefinitely, is going to lead to needless disaster.