Thursday, October 30, 2008

Still No. 1, for what it's worth.

Robert Kagan has a piece in today's Washington Post op-ed page criticizing those who talk about American decline. As someone who's caught more than 1 episode of "Jerry Springer" I've ranted often about our cultural decline, but Kagan doesn't talk about that. Mostly he focuses on our GDP and our military prowess, which are still unrivaled in the world.

Do I sense some oversimplification? While our share of the world economy has remained relatively stable, within our country that money has shifted disproportionately to the wealthy, meaning more and more people are living in conditions which do not match what one would expect of the world's wealthiest nation. And as for military power, we may be unrivaled but we are also stretched so thin that there is significant concern that we couldn't fight another land war right now, and certainly couldn't handle a two-front war, which means we are paying the most in the world for our military but don't have the power to use it (or threaten to use it) as we once did when it had a smaller price tag.

I still don't see another country knocking us off our spot quite yet, but President Obama will have his work cut out for him if he wants to make sure we stay #1. And besides, #1 doesn't mean much to the infant who can't get the care they need in a country that ranks so poorly in infant mortality, or a child who goes to schools that are not the best in the world. At some point the unequal distribution of our blessings leaves many of us saying, essentially, "I dropped out of a more prestigious college than the one you graduated from."

We may be No. 1, but we have a responsibility to make sure that isn't a hollow claim.

1 comment:

@bdul muHib said...

And, I'm thinking, nothing wrong with no longer being the world's first country in the ability to wage war and kill people. Or being the world's wealthiest country, on the backs of the poor of the rest of the world. I wouldn't mind being a lot poorer, if the rest of the world can be better off.