Skip to comments.America must rediscover values to reclaim identity
Posted on 09/16/2001 2:51:24 AM PDT by Jakarta ex-pat
AND then there was none. Last Tuesday, the only superpower remaining from the old world order of the 20th century collapsed into the debris of Manhattan and the Pentagon. For once, the instinct of American commentators to embrace the most apocalyptic interpretation of events was right: nothing will ever be the same again.
Of course, the US will remain, for the foreseeable future, the richest and most technologically advanced nation on earth, with a corresponding political and military capability. That, however, is not the same as being the worlds only superpower.
The concept of empire depends more upon psychological than military dominance. The US was a belligerent in two world wars, suffering heavy casualties, without one bomb or shell landing on its own soil. Domestic security is almost the definition of empire: the luxury of waging war at long range, exclusively on other peoples territory.
Rome enjoyed the same immunity; its consuls and armies suffered sporadic disasters, but business in the forum and sport at the colosseum went on as usual. When the tide of war finally swept back upon the city itself, it was an augury of defeat.
That was historys intimation to America last week. The myth of invulnerability - the indispensable attribute of a superpower - has been demolished. This is the end of hegemony. The present crisis is the product of very disparate histories and the cultures they have created coming into collision.
The US, with its short history, has become embroiled in a vendetta that was already ancient, centuries before America was discovered.
The Crusades, now decried in politically correct Western schools, were the first confrontation between Islam and the West. The anguished cries for intervention presently resounding throughout the western world are almost identical to the clamour which induced Pope Urban II to preach the First Crusade in 1095.
That was the culmination of almost a century of Muslim harassment of Christian pilgrims, initiated by the Caliph Al-Hakim - which today we would call state-sponsored terrorism.
In those days there was a symmetry of faith and resolve on each side. The Koran told the faithful: "And those who are slain in the way of God... He will admit them to Paradise."
With equal ardour, St Bernard of Clairvaux exhorted the crusaders: "Certainly blessed are they who die in the Lord, but how much more so are those who die for Him."
A millennium later, Islam has retained its vitality, whereas Christianity has imploded into materialistic unbelief. One week after Cardinal Murphy-OConnor masochistically proclaimed that "Christianity is vanquished", an unambiguous message came from Osama bin Laden that Islam most decidedly is not. Bin Laden himself, incomprehensible to western liberals, is a figure straight from the mediæval Jihad: the Old Man of the Mountains, the Sheikh al-Gebel, leader of the Hasishiyun or Assassins, whose weapon was the poisoned knife and who believed they would enter Paradise instantly after committing a suicidal attack.
Introduce into this melange of ancient hatreds those other People of the Book - the Jews, whose state of Israel is in the same precarious situation as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem - and America assumes the aspect of an innocent abroad.
In its War of Independence, from 1775 to 1781, a total of 6,000 Americans died on the battlefield to win their nationhood; that is approximately the same figure as the estimate of the fatalities resulting from one hour of carnage last Tuesday. It also approximates to the US casualty figures on D-Day.
Of the two superpowers of the last century, the Soviet Union was created by the Bolshevik coup in 1917 and collapsed with the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The American empire - unique in being non-territorial - began with Woodrow Wilsons disastrous dictation of the Versailles settlement of 1919, paving the way for Hitler. It renewed its global influence from 1947, under Trumans doctrine of global containment of communism, then retreated after defeat in Vietnam.
During the last three decades of the 20th century there were telltale signs of Americas declining influence. The US was unable to interdict the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 and in 1973 was itself subjected to an Arab oil embargo.
The Iranian revolution of 1979, which Jimmy Carter and the liberal American media had irresponsibly encouraged, laid the foundations of the present crisis over Islamic militancy.
The blowing-up of 241 American servicemen and 58 French soldiers by Lebanese Shiite guerrillas in 1983 should have alerted the US to what was to come.
The Gulf War showed an American administration, hobbled by a ragtag coalition proceeding at the pace of the least committed, failing through lack of political will to remove Saddam Hussein and thus leaving a running sore in the Middle East.
Yet Americas worst decline has been internal. There are two nations and cultures now living under the star-spangled banner. One is the old, stoic, pioneering America, with which George Bush intuitively identifies. It is church-going, hard-working, family-centred; its emblem is the picket-fence, its festival Thanksgiving Day.
The other nation is the tinsel America of the likes of Barbra Streisand and Tom Hanks, with which Bill Clinton empathised. Politically correct, self-indulgent and self-regarding, it has feminised America, even as the Disney Corporation has infantilised it.
If George W Bush wants to destroy the enemy within and reclaim the American identity, a cruise missile strike against Hollywood would be a good beginning.
Last week was that academic cliche come to life: a watershed in history. The imagery of catastrophe - crumbling monuments to hubris - was among the most ancient in the memory of mankind, from Babel to "the topless towers of Ilium".
The message of history is that America, if it rediscovers its moral values, can still be a potent power for good: the humble picket-fence has the potential to withstand the malignant forces to which the proud skyscrapers of Manhattan were forced to succumb.
And now we will stop being a silenced factor in this nation. Even now we gather shoulder to shoulder and ready for the prolonged war our numbers are joined by those who were seduced by the other culture. The other culture will learn that it is time for them to be quiet. We shall not look back and the other side will not win the battle or the war.
What a line. What a thought. Such insight. But impractical of course. Too bad.
Except for yogurt.
When we started making God a persona non grata in America, and accepting evil ideals and behaviors, it was inevitable that bad things would happen to us. We've been blessed as a nation, I believe, because we were established on Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. If God spares us now, it will be only because of His mercy; we really don't deserve it.