Our politicians are still trying to play the empire game long after the age of empires has ended. Blinded by arrogance, they cannot see that with every passing day, the world needs us less and less and hates us more and more. We are passing through that phase when the grandeur of the empire exists only in the minds of politicians who have insulated themselves from reality.
A friend of mine, a classical scholar, sometimes tells his students, "No one woke up one morning in 476 A.D. and said, 'Gee, I'm in the Dark Ages.'" The transition from the heyday of Roman power to a stage of barbarism was a gradual process. We are in a process of change. No one is going to announce on TV that the U.S. is no longer a superpower.
Nevertheless, the signs are there if you look for them. A nation that was able to help crush the Axis powers in three and a half years hasn't won a war since then. We have had four years of struggling with an insurgency in a small, poor and broken country. Our economy is shaky under mountains of debt. Half of our people make less than 42,000 inflated dollars a year.
Where we were once the arsenal of democracy, today there is hardly a major weapons system that doesn't rely on imports of one kind or another. Much of the industry that is left is foreign-owned. Japan, which once lay prostrate, dominates the American car market. It is extremely difficult to find anything today that is not made in China or some other cheap-labor country.
In the meantime, the cowardly Congress doesn't have the guts to tackle any of the major problems confronting the American people. Our president continues to embarrass us practically every time he opens his mouth in public. The foreign-policy establishment is riddled with aging draft dodgers agitating for more wars – against small countries, of course.
True, we still have lots of nuclear weapons, but do you think any American president would want to get into a nuclear shooting match with China or Russia? Look at how we reacted to two airplanes crashing into two office buildings. What do you think we would do if San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco became radioactive ruins with millions of casualties? We are not prepared mentally, spiritually or materially to deal with a nuclear war.
We are like all empires in their final stages. We have grown soft. We like our comforts. We don't wish to be inconvenienced. We like poor Mexicans to do our stoop work and poor Americans to do our fighting, provided they do it far away so we won't be disturbed by explosions and screams. We enjoy our decadence, and there are always people in the media who can rationalize anything, no matter how sick and revolting it is.
As for trying to understand the world, we are just too busy being amused and following the adventures of Britney Spears and other celebrities. We like to let the TV and the politicians do our thinking for us. It saves energy. They tell us whom to hate.
The only way to avoid a bad end is to find some realists and put them in public office. We need a brave Congress, not a pack of cowards. We desperately need a president with a brain. We need to retire the warmongers in the foreign-policy establishment. Otherwise, we will join the other third-rate countries, once empires, on history's discard pile.
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.