Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Editorial


How often in history has an American President become a prophet? 18th and 19th century presidents were too busy building a nation and saving it to worry much about the future. Come WWI, however, new world-views were in sight by the insightful. The League of Nations certainly had some effect, portioning Palestine would become important negatively, but that was hardly foreseeable at the time. The world was simply not ready. Zionism was not yet in the international conscious. The League never became an international broker and faded in importance. WWII changed that. After some fifty million people died, the United Nations came into being. But it too, had serious flaws if less so. Yet it survives to this day because it does do some good work and world citizenship demands some world governance, whether we like it or not. So we give Wilson a bit of credit for his world view.

Along the line, capitalism came of age through a wild spring and torrid summer only to flounder over its own excesses, and contradictions. The Great Depression hit industrialized nations hard while barely touching the third world still mired in subsistence farming. Franklin Roosevelt believed there was a better way--a social safety net that would protect the ordinary citizens from the abusive lordship of the times. Economic, racial, religious and gender discrimination was still the order of the day in too many places. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Four Freedoms paved the way for expanded equality and, of course, an exploding American hegemony. The latter has yet to play out, but his influence on the social order seems permanent--at least through the century that followed. Blacks and females can now aspire to high office. But religious conflicts continue to fester in most of the world.

But there was an Achilles Heel in the New Deal. Economic equality reached an apex, and then declined. As it neared its apex, Dwight Eisenhower realized unbridled capitalism was again on the march. Fueled by its new-found spirit of invincibility, the American public was more than eager to engage in a Cold War with the USSR that had now begun in earnest. Eisenhower, the consummate military man, counseled caution--for he knew well the devastation and uncertainty war brings to both victors and victims. In his final address to the nation he so dearly loved, he warned of the dangers inherent in the then-developing Military-Industrial-Complex. We are now paying the bill for that extravagance. Not only are we paying, but we are making little headway against the behemoth our defense industry has become. Consider just one fact: Robert Gates, a Republican in “Ike's” mold, is trying to cancel worthless military programs in an effort to save $100 Billion over the next five years. He is having great difficulty. That probably means we are past the tipping point into decline. The reasoning here is three-fold: 1) During those years, the Pentagon will spend $3.5 Trillion on remaining programs and wars--without paying down national debt, 2) Americans are still too entranced with their own invincibility to have patience with the type of limited, local “wars” required in the “Age of Terror,” and 3) Our out-sized Military Spending is roughly equal to the total for the rest of the world; the so-called "Axis of Evil" spends virtually nothing in comparison.

Someone said, “It is not the mistakes you make that kill you, it is how you handle them that counts.” The time is ripe for another prophet in the White House. 9/11 was also one such a moment, but arrogance in the White House and military got in our way. It is retrospect for sure, but had we paid as much attention to building Afghanistan as we did to destroying Iraq, we would not now be in the spot we are in.

Will this opportunity be any different?

Don’t count on it.

Where are the social memes needed to broadly change America’s view of itself?

Are we looking for guidance from the likes of Ike?

One can only hope so!


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.