America’s Choice

One of my favorite editorialists is Peggy Noonan. She is on the conservative side, but she is compassionate and practical. She reminds me a little of me, a little on the conservative side, but practical while recognizing that many of the answers to our social ills can be found in the middle of the social continuum.

Today’s column discusses a book written by Ian Bremmer. He is a political scientist and writer for Time magazine. I use one of his articles for a Finance class I teach which is what drew me to this column. The title of the column is “Choosing a Path in the World Ahead.” It discussed three possible futures for America. I found this fascinating and I will buy Bremmer’s book.

Bremmer makes some very interesting points. “America will remain the world’s only super power for the foreseeable future.” Ok, I find that interesting, but what about China? I agree that Russia is not as strong as it once was, but China has definitely emerged from the shadows. “The world is in flux, its tectonic plates are shifting: old settlements and dispensations are falling away, new ones are having rough births.” I agree, and I think some would see America as an aging dispensation.

Bremmer believes that America is standing at a fork in the road where it needs to choose one path from three possible alternatives. “The worst choice now, is to refuse to choose.” I think I would agree with him on this one. It seems that we are currently meandering due to a broken political system, resulting in some sort of improvisation. And I don’t think is a positive action, such as what my colleague Dr. Dennis Plies discusses is his book; but a dangerous activity “confusing to our allies, our rivals and ourselves.”

What, according to Bremmer, are our choices? The first option is “Independent America.” This involves a process of divorcing ourselves from the world’s problems, and focus internally on our issues. We focus our efforts on the huge social issues of education, poverty, “finally realizing our huge potential.”

This particular option is nothing more than isolationism, which seems to be almost impossible with our integrated world economy. However, having grown up in the sixties where we protested against the huge military-industrial complex, we have to ask the question has our National Security Industry become so large that it is devouring scarce resources that could be used in solving our social issues? Also, is this huge industry destroying our fragile reputation throughout the world? “Our actions in the Middle East and South Asia make us more vulnerable at home, by persuading a new generation of Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others that it’s better to attack Americans who aren’t wearing state-of-the-art body amour.” What is that one thing that makes America stand out? I agree with Bremmer when he states, “It is not power that makes America exceptional, it is freedom.”

The second option, is “Moneyball America.” Noonan describes this option as, “The job of U.S. foreign policy is to make the U.S. safer and more prosperous, full stop. Some things must be done in the world, and it’s in America’s interest for Americans to do them.” I do think this option makes huge assumptions that I do not think are realistic, but there are interesting elements. “We are not Hercules, and our resources are finite.” The drain on the American economy has been glaring. However, I am intrigued by the comments “We should lead international efforts against terrorism, join coalitions of the willing, build partnerships – never walk alone – do more with less, keep our eye on the bottom-line.” This option seems practical, especially in an integrated world that is dangerous.

The third option, is what Bremmer calls an “Indispensible America.” This option may be what many of our politicians already see as our current role. “This involves a burly, all-in commitment to international leadership.” I think this option really is based on unrealistic views of our ability, but interesting. Does the world need an America that is promoting American values world-wide? Are we really, “the world’s only indispensible nation?” If this is true then we do need to “think bigger and in more ambitious terms.” I don’t think the world wants another Roman Empire.

As I look at these options, I am torn between two of them. The Nordic countries may have an idea of what an advancing democracy can accomplish. However, we have many more resources available to us to stand out as we deal with social issues. However, I am not naïve when it comes to the world around me. It is a dangerous place. Which option should we take?

I don’t think the third option is viable. We just can’t afford to be another Roman Empire. So to me that one is out. Isolationism just may not be practical. However, I lean toward option one, because there are so many problems around us that if we dealt with them could make us stand out even more as a bridge over troubled waters. In the end, though, I think option two is probably the most realistic. This may be what we are doing now, but we don’t seem to be committed.

Global terrorism is a reality, and a world economy is a reality. I don’t think we can isolate ourselves in this new world. My question to you is, what do you think?

And that is my thought for the day!

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