The idea that the United States is the global hegemon, that we have first dibs on the title of world policemen — indeed, our entire post-WWII foreign policy — is nothing but a delusion. That is one of the chief lessons of the recent economic downturn, one that, unfortunately, the incoming administration has yet to face up to — and the pundits (ensconced as they are in the culture of hubris) have yet to realize.
Delusions die hard. This poor woman — faced with the dire prospect of having to sell the Palm Beach cottage, and, omigod, lay off Yolanda, the thrice weekly cleaning lady — is just beginning to wake up, albeit with great reluctance. Along with these people, she will live in a world of reduced expectations. Our rulers, however, show every sign of inflexibility in the face of the need to change.
For decades, we’ve been living inside a bubble, here at the epicenter of the imperial metropolis, protected from the dire fate of the rest of the world’s peoples — who live in poverty, tyranny, and worse — by the productive and political capital amassed by our intrepid ancestors, who built the world’s most successful (and freest) constitutional republic, and, because of that were able to create an enormous amount of wealth. Both are gone, now, and yet we are still acting as if they’re intact, like an amputee who feels pain in an arm that no longer is attached to his shoulder.
For example, the New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama is already backpedaling on his pledge to get our troops out of Iraq in sixteen months — yet how does he imagine we’ll have the means to keep them there even that long? The Times tells us that "the officials made clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals’ recommendations would not come until some time after May 2010, Mr. Obama’s target." But by that time the Chinese will have long since stopped lending us the money to pay for it all.
President Obama is pledged to launch an Afghan "surge" that will dwarf our continuing efforts in Iraq — but how will we pay for it? He and his surrogates pontificate on the need to "reconstruct" Afghanistan, when he’ll be hard-pressed to reconstruct the economy in the wake of a devastating deflation.