04 October 2006

Alas, Babylon

The big news on everyone's radar screen now, it seems, is Mark Foley. The Dems are jumping with joy, the Repubs are scurrying for cover. Now it seems, more than ever, the Democrats are poised to regain control of at least the House; Hello Speaker Pelosi!

Dire consequences are threatened by the Republicans, who claim that such an event would lead to the impeachment of President Bush, the repeal of any and all tax breaks, the end to the War on Terror (on conditions favorable to the terrorists), fire, famine, flood, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, disaster of Biblical proportions! And it would be really really bad, too.

First off, understand that even should the Democrats gain control of both House and Senate, impeach the President, end the tax cuts, and surrender to the terrorists the United States of America will survive. We may never again be the same, we may find ourselves in the position of Great Britain two hundred some years ago, faced with the decline of our power and prestige in the world, but through it all the US will survive.

Decline of power and prestige you say? Just like Great Britain you say? Yes, I do say. We, after all, were Great Britain's VietNam. Is there any doubt that they could have crushed us utterly, not only in the years following 1776, but also in the years following 1812 as well? They were, after all, the world's most powerful nation, they had the world's most powerful Navy and the world's most powerful Army...much like we do today. They were faced with an insignificant foe that they could have destroyed completely, given the national will to do so. Much like we are today. Instead the rebellion in the colonies, which could have been put down decisively by hanging a scant handful of traitors, was viewed as a political opportunity by the party currently out of power. Quagmire! Wrong war, wrong time! No blood for raw goods! And the party out of power took control, ended the war on terms favorable to the Americans, and turned their attentions to France and Napoleon - bigger fish to fry and all that, you see.

During the War of 1812 the British burned the American capitol city on the Potomac, feasting on President Madison's dinner before setting fire to the White House, and with very few and notable exceptions handed the Americans crushing defeats whenever battle was joined. Once again the pesky French threw the flies in the ointment, keeping the British otherwise occupied in the Napoleanic wars.

Once the Napoleanic wars were decided in Britain's favor they simply didn't need the bother of the American campaign, and signed the Treaty of Ghent. They had stopped the impressment of American sailors (actually before the war began), protected their interests in Canada, and didn't need the foodstuffs for their wars on the Continent, so the reasons for the war were no longer valid. The Treaty of Ghent restored the ante bellum conditions, returning the state of Maine to the United States, and the US in turn agreed to abandon it's aspirations towards British Canada.

And so the decline began. A mere century and a half later, Winston Churchill effectively ceded the leadership of the free world to Franklin Delano Roosevelt; less than a quarter century after that the vast holdings of the Empire that the sun never set on were divested, and today Britain holds only it's own island and a few others scattered about the globe.

Such is the way of the world, the sun sets on one empire and rises on another, the great civilizations of the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Romans, just to name a few, have all come and gone, leaving only statuary and records for the historians to pore over. One day America, too, will take it's place as once-were's; it will be a while yet but it will happen, and then someone else will rise to take their place as world's greatest; in time they, too, will fail and yet another will rise, until at last man's place on this mudball is through. I have greatly simplified Great Britain's time in the sun, of course, but the end result is the same.

But America is not an imperial power, you say? We have no "Empire" spanning the known world, as did the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the British? Not in land, no; we do have holdings overseas but the bulk of our "empire" is one of ideas. The idea of freedom has germinated in our soil, we did not invent it but we did nurture it, and we have exported it along with our trade goods. All the free world looks to America, and most of the free world owes their very freedom to America to one degree or another (whether they care to admit it or not).

And now we, as were Empires past, Empires to come, are poised on the cusp, on the edge of the abyss, and our choices are these: do we choose to confront the evil before us, united as in ages past, and quell it? Or do we choose to turn aside, fragmented and concerned only with personal or political gain, thereby beginning our long journey into obscurity?

A bit melodramatic, you might say. After all, Iraq is in no position to harm us at home, nor is Iran, nor is North Korea; we are the 800 pound gorilla and no one is strong enough to take us on. True enough, if the 800 pound gorilla has the will to make it so. But when the gorilla cowers in it's cage, refusing to strike a blow for it's own defense, or only striking out half-heartedly, or only when directly threatened, it becomes easy to dismiss and soon can be ignored completely; a gorilla that is apologetic about being a gorilla will find itself overrun by ants in a very short order.

I believe this to be our future, sitting in the corner saying "sorry, sorry" whenever someone pokes us with a stick, until the pokes get harder and the sticks get sharper, and finally the gorilla expires due to massive loss of blood caused, not by one mighty blow, but by a thousand cuts.

Alas, Babylon.

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