Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, March 03, 2005
 
Superpower

I've been really intrigued with the discussion of Superpower stirred up by my blogpost on reinstating the draft.
MichaelM wrote last:
I just don't feel that the US is qualified to lead as things stand. I don't want to see someone else stepping up if that's what most people (with varying points of view) believe would happen-- I can't escape the perception that everything we (the US gov't) touch(es) goes bad.
The list of American failures and blowbacks that feed such a perception is long and true: Chile, East Pakistan, Central America, Pre-Revolution Iran, Afghanistan, even Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We can be awful bullies, and the sooner regular Americans realize that and work to deal with it, the better off everyone will be. We are often extrordinarily arrogant, and many of the broiling problems threatening to overwhelm us today are the direct consequences of our previous carelessness. As Fitzgerald observed on the small, social scale so many years ago:
"They were careless people . . . . .they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess that they had made. . ."
But I cannot agree that everything we touch goes bad. It's simply not true. I recall Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech at last years DNC:
To me, one of the best faces America has ever projected is the face of a Peace Corps volunteer. That face symbolizes this country: young, curious, brimming with idealism and hope, and a real, honest compassion.
And it rings true to me. It rings true, also, of the humanitarian work American soldiers do all the time--whether it's on an ordered mission providing crucial aid to the Tsunami victims, or helping to build schools in Iraq and Afghanistan on their own time and with donations they raised themselves. And it rings true of the hardwork of hundreds of Foreign Service workers the world over, promoting human rights and extending American aid.

I'm a big believer in breaking false dichotomies. One does not need to overemphasize one of these formulations while turning a blind eye to the other. Acknowledging our failures and mistakes is not unpatriotic--it is, in fact, supremely patriotic. And acknowledging our good qualities and the fact that we are far from the worst candiate for world Superpower is not unidealistic--it's merely realistic.

I don't have some sentimentally patriotic notion that America should always be on top. I prefer to envision a multipolar world, hopefully dominated by democracies built on strong and free republics, well informed by humanitarian ideaologies. Democracies that at least aim for the ideals of freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of religion, due process, and human rights. It's a beautiful vision, and I think it's a vision that I share with MichaelM and J., and with plenty of patriotic Americans and idealistic non-Amerians alike. It's not entirely unrealistic. EU and India are just two other candidates that come to mind. Others may shape up with needed reforms. We'll see.

But there are many ways to get there and not get there, and we aren't anywhere near there yet. The problem with America right now--the big, big problem--is that we the people are disengaged from the operation of our Republic. We are ostensibly the power and the will behind a giant colossus, but we are abdicating our say in its actions--most especially abroad. At this rate, one could say we deserve to lose our status as Superpower. But lose it suddenly because of a stupid failure to adaquately prepare our military? That really helps no one. I'm just not too keen on what's shaping up to take our place. So we, the people, really need to do what we can to shape our collective future, and as always, that starts with a good discussion.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
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Dave Barry
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Forsv
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Geomblog
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Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
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Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
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KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



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Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
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Yglesias:Tpmcafe

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Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
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Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

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