The Headless Superpower – by Ross Douthat _ NYT

“IF the United States imperium in all its might did not exist, if the Washington, D.C., of Donald Trump and James Comey were just the Sicilian-style backwater that it currently resembles, then no one looking at recent events would doubt that the entire Middle East is on the verge of its own version of a European Great War.

Most of the elements that hurled European powers into conflicts in 1914 and 1939 (and 1870, 1853, 1805, 1756 …) are present in the Middle East right now. You have two rival alliances, one led by Iran and the other by the Saudis, riven by religion, ideology and strategic interests. You have ongoing proxy wars between them, in Syria and Yemen, that resemble the Spanish Civil War in their ferocity and factional complexity. You have various unpredictable third forces, from the Islamic State to the Kurds to the Russians, whose instigationist activities or mere self-interest could help set a catastrophe into motion.”

Good piece. Goes light on our big mistakes in Vietnam and Iraq. Here is a comment I support:


Austin 11 hours ago

Is the world a better place than it would be in the absence of American power? I think so, but asking what the world would probably be like if it were different than it is quickly gets complicated and uncertain. There are too many variables to figure.

Pax Americana: I think it’s worthwhile to contemplate what America was like between WW II and the Watergate/Vietnam War era. I remember a sense of power, purpose, and innocence. To try and convince you that that was the case I’d say listen to the title music for the movie How The West Was Won; look at the Pan Am (MetLife) Building; look at the plans for the Interstate Highway System; read up on the “space race”; hear how the leader of the Soviet Union once visited America and the president decided to intimidate him by taking him on a helicopter ride around Washington to see the astonishing amount of economic activity.

Power, purpose, and innocence was a heady combination. Times have changed.

But if American elites still value American power and the rule of law I think they had better accept progressive taxation, rebalance the interests of labor and capital, and promote the idea that mutual respect among races, genders, and different faiths and philosophies is a positive sum game.

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