Sunday, October 9, 2011

The U.S. is first in war, and that's about it

When Obama gave his jobs speech a month ago, I thought he proposed a sensible approach, with initiatives that reflected FDR's during the Great Depression. I gave him high marks for content. He sounded one note, however, that was positively insincere to my ears, and I don't think it was intentional. Toward the end of his address, he said that America could be Number One again. He delivered this line with the required emotion and animation, but I didn't believe him. I don't think he believed it himself either. He sounded like the coach who still thought his team could win when they were down by two touchdowns with 2:45 to go in the game. Possible, but highly, highly unlikely.

Purely and simply, America has seen its best days. We're falling behind in education, health care, and all the other benchmarks in comparison with the countries in the free world. And it's irreversible, even if we chart a new course. Why am I so down on our prospects? It's merely a matter of the macro numbers. China and India will soon overtake us as the big dogs on the planet because they each have more than 1.3 billion people. We have only 300 million. Together, these nation have a third of the earth's population. Another football metaphor: If one high school has 2,000 students and another has only 500, which school do you think will have the better team? The talent pool is what matters. Yes, outsourcing is a bitch, folks, but the jobs that have disappeared from our shores and gone to Asia is simply because they have enough people to do manufacturing jobs at much lower wages. Not saying it's right, just that it's real.

India and China's middle class are approaching, if they haven't already exceeded, our entire population. Sure, they have many of the same intractable problems that our democracy has. But that won't matter either, because neither of these countries will fritter away the kind of money our government does when it comes to wars.

The breakup of the Soviet Union was the best thing that happened to that part of the world. Why? The Russian ego decided to ratchet itself back. The Cold War between the Soviets and the U.S. does seem pretty quaint right now, doesn't it? All those little spin-off countries, now independent, seem to be doing okay. I half expect Chechnya or Uzbekistan to field a basketball team that kicks our dream team butts in the next few years. And what of it?

Yes, we continue to think our defense budget -- not to mention our propensity to intrude on foreign soil when it looks like it's in our best interests -- is the most important item on our agenda. We all know why we do it. First, to try and keep contractors busy and employ a volunteer army, and second, because we have this very noble notion that we are the world's peacekeepers. Golly, let's foist democracy everywhere we can, and just put it on plastic. We can offer practical humanitarianism in so many other ways, and at a far cheaper cost. Uh, almost forgot. There's the "war on terror" which we can never win, as our brilliant international experts constantly remind us.

America seems to have lost its way. I have more faith in our president than anyone else on the horizon for the next four years, but he's cheerleading for a team that no longer cares about winning. They just want to get up in the morning, go to work, and feed their families.

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