Principalities & Powers

Zippity-Doo-Dah Rhetoric

Despite the zippity-doo-dah rhetoric that many conservatives have spouted for the last decade, the United States in the 1990's will encounter challenges that neither the "right" nor the "left" is prepared to recognize, much less meet. The challenges go far beyond the "relative decline" that Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers prophesied in 1988. Mr. Kennedy argued only that the United States would be unable to keep pace with the redistribution of economic power toward the Pacific Rim and the transfer of military might that will follow it. He never broached the much more serious threats that today signify the rapid unraveling of American society: high school and college students who don't know when Columbus discovered the New World and who think the slogans of Karl Marx are drawn from the US Constitution; urban murder rates that even idiots savants would find difficult to calculate; drug wars fought with arsenals the Vietcong would have envied; political corruption that makes the senators of ancient Rome look like Eliot Ness's picked men; and a population so frightened of thrift and sacrifice and so addicted to instant gratification that it often prefers foregoing reproduction altogether to the responsibility of bearing and raising children.

Yet these signs of moral and social decomposition are not as alarming as the prospect, celebrated vociferously by...

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