August 06, 2023
The U.S. Is In Real Decline
By: Victor Davis Hanson
Part One: Energy – August 1, 2023
Far-called, our navies melt away;On dune and headland sinks the fire:Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Rudyard Kipling, “Recessional”
There is proverbially a lot of rot in any great nation, which accordingly can endure a lot of self-induced damage.
But has the U.S. exhausted its reserves? Britain after World War I denied that its empire was doomed and its standard of living unsustainable. The Soviet Union was in decline gradually, then abruptly by 1989 became doomed. In the fourth century AD, Rome had established a modus vivendi of incorporating non-Romans into the empire, defending its borders, and tamping down on corruption. A century later, the Western empire collapsed from internal decay and tribal invasions across the Danube and Rhine.
Affordable energy had been America’s strength. We are still the largest combined natural gas and oil producer in the world—but determined to forfeit that advantage on the world stage and at home damage the viability of the middle class.
We were once the premier nuclear-generated power nation as well. No longer. Joe Biden and his surrogates on the state level have systematically waged war on fossil fuels, precluding even the reasonable idea that oil, gas, and coal can serve as necessary transition fuels over the next half-century, guaranteeing the American standard of living until the advent of viable alternative and renewable energies.
The only time Biden focuses on oil and gas is before a midterm or general election when he hurriedly will either drain more of the strategic petroleum reserve or showboat a few more new federal energy leases.
A state like California has the highest taxed and the costliest electricity in the continental United States, mostly as a result of bragging that it is self-sufficient in daytime electricity production due to massive and heavily subsidized solar and wind farms. Yet it keeps mum that after dark it must import equally large amounts of fossil-fuel-generated power from neighboring states.
One of the most bizarre developments during the Biden years has been the complete exemption given massive and growing Chinese coal use, coupled with the furor over domestic natural gas production and use.
Think of the logic: we coax and ignore our Chinese enemies who are hell-bent on record dirty coal use while hectoring the mostly now green American public on their supposedly toxic use of clean-burning natural gas—as if we could persuade 1.4 billion Chinese to cease burning coal by showing them that 330 million Americans can sacrifice by not burning natural gas.
Here again, is the ancient bureaucratic principle in play of focusing on the misdemeanor of the law-abiding, as a way to square the utter inability to deal with the felony of law-breaking.
As the U.S. is pushed to embrace the massive use of electrical vehicles, the vast majority of which will be charging after commute hours and in the dark, the more it resists nuclear and fossil fuel power generation, the only sure ways of producing steady and reliable electricity when the sun goes down.
As the elite clamp down on gas cooktops, pizza ovens, and gas water heaters of the middle classes, it is silent on the use of private jets, or the energy consumption in huge homes over 5,000-6,000 square feet, of the Obamas-Al Gore sort.
In California, we are far more likely to blow up a hydroelectric plant on a manmade reservoir than to create a new one—on the theory that someday we will have clean energy in abundance, but for now, the middle classes must suffer for energy-consuming sins.
A final thought. The Left pushes mass transit as the cure-all for supposedly wasteful and consumptive automobile use. Yet it can offer no alternative to the car that any sane American would consider.
In California, its multibillion-dollar price tag “high-speed” rail is stagnating between Merced and Bakersfield. After a decade, not a foot of track has been laid, and no one yet can explain why anyone would wish to go over 100 mph an hour from Bakersfield to Merced.
The Bay Area’s once state-of-the-art BART rail system is in decay. The cars are increasingly unreliable, dirty, and crime-ridden.
BART either cannot or will not ensure the safety of its passengers, in the toxic manner of all major contemporary urban mass transit systems. Why? In part, because to enforce laws against turnstile-jumping, harassment of passengers, or various assaults in stations would be, in the Age of Post-George-Floyd, somehow inappropriate.
One does not have to be a conspiracist to see that the Left likes mass transit and hates cars for reasons other than energy-per-mile individual consumption. The more millions become captives of trains, the more unions control their very lives, the more the state alone can ensure their safety, the more the government can determine their travel and commute, and the more “equity” can be enforced.
Part Two: Racial Relations – August 2, 2023
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Shelley, “Ozymandias”
I say America is in serious trouble because the Left has attacked systematically all of the U.S.’s great strengths and advantages on the world stage. It apparently thinks it must dismantle the old America before it can create a “new” America, something like a European Union state, only far more radical and volatile.
One, we were the only multiracial constitutional state that had avoided the tribalism and violence of the Balkans, Rwanda, or the Middle East. Europe, for all its public grandstanding about ecumenicalism, has yet to have a black president or prime minister. The idea that Barack Obama could become a Russian or Chinese citizen and reach similar pinnacles of political power is absurd. (And for that matter, include Mexico and much of Asia and Latin America.)
Yet race relations in the U.S. are at a historic low. More than 50 years of affirmative action have morphed into woke extremism, or the idea of racially separate graduations, dorms, workshops, and safe spaces. When working out, keeping a reasonable weight, camping, or showing up on time are now deemed racist, then there is no more Civil Rights movement which has instead descended into caricature.
The more minorities reached parity with or exceeded the income of, the majority population, the angrier and more volatile racial relations became. The operative principle seems to be something like “Before we can have racially blind relations in the 21st century, we must first make up for the racism, largely in the South, of the prior two centuries by similarly fixating on race, but in reverse fashion of granting preference to nullify past bias.”
No one dares talk about the violence of the inner city that makes 19th-century Dodge or Tombstone seem tame in comparison. No one discusses the utter failure of the inner-city schools or the need for intact families and omnipresent fathers to ensure any chance at parity. Instead, there is the notion that if blacks appear in 50 percent of television commercials, such ecumenicalism will magically either curb gunslinging on Saturday nights in Chicago or improved math scores in the Detroit or Baltimore public schools.
Why do we obsess over the supposedly suggestive illiberal themes of Jason Aldean’s, “Try That In a Small Town,” when rap and hip-hop for decades have institutionalized violent misogyny, homophobia, violence against the police, anti-Semitism, and blanket anti-white lyrics?
Orwellian censorship, coupled with deplatforming, cancel-culture, ostracism, and shadow banning, make any reasonable discussion of race taboo. The Left—instead of the old 1960s agenda of integration and assimilation—leveraged race and tribalism to create permanent constituencies, nursed on grievance and victimhood, and expectant of endless government redress and largess.
In a strange development, the Left believes by according affirmative action and reparatory admissions and hiring to the African-American upper-middle class and wealthy and privileged, thereby the mostly neglected black underclass, trapped in the neglect and pathologies of the inner city, will somehow benefit.
After George Floyd and the defunding of police forces and the decriminalization institutionalized by the Soros-funded prosecutors, there was an epidemic of inner-city crime, as smash-and-grab and carjacking became commonplace and swarm shoplifting became quasi-legal.
The result is that while elites of all races are bonding as never before, the minority underclass is angrier and more separate from the mainstream than at any time in the last half-century. That reality is evident by the avoidance of entire swaths of urban America by liberal city-dwellers—even as the latter are prone to call “racist” anyone who describes honestly their segregationist behavior.
One sign of toxic racial relations can be found in online newspapers and internet news sites that report crime.
When a murder makes the news and the perpetrator is known to be black (55% of all homicide offenders constitute 12% of the population), the news site either does not describe the race of the murderer or mentions it only at the very end of the article—usually in dire contrast if the perpetrator is considered white.
Yet if one reads the following comment section (and published comments are increasingly rare despite usually being carefully censored of racist and foul language), the so-called reading public, often disguised by pseudonyms, appears utterly cynical. The posters express disgust with the dishonesty of the media, but also no longer show much sympathy for “root causes” or why blacks continue to murder others (mostly other blacks) at over four times their numbers in the general population. Oddly, the more leftwing media tries to censor the news to disguise racial disparity, the more the public resents its one-sided selective censorship and veers into outright hostility.
Part Three: Insecurity – August 4, 2023
Nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus.
“We can endure neither our vices nor the remedies for them.”
There are unfortunately other barometers of U.S. ossification.
America’s great strength was also its security. We were protected by two oceans and a similar English-majority-speaking and constitutional state on our northern border. In the modern age, we used to insist on only legal immigration from an often corrupt and impoverished Mexico. No longer.
In just three years, the Biden administration destroyed the southern border, allowing seven million illegal aliens to enter without audit, despite a Covid epidemic, 100,000 American deaths attributable to the free importation of Mexican-produced fentanyl, and the multibillion-dollar cartels’ use of the border to levy fees on millions entering illegally.
The administration’s agenda seems to be homeostasis or symmetry. That is, when the southern United States resembles the poverty and corruption of Mexico, then illegal immigration will largely cease, given there would be no reason to emigrate to a place identical to one’s one, in terms of economics, security, and culture.
Aside from the border, the U.S. military is in decline. Its agenda is no longer just battle efficacy as a sure way to reaffirm deterrence, but a fast-track means to institutionalize a woke agenda, without the Sturm und Drang of federal and state legislative approval. Does the Pentagon have inestimable amounts of time, labor, and capital on its hands to indulge in exploring white rage, abortion on demand, pregnancy flight suits, and transgendered surgeries? Did it so well plan the flight from Kabul or the maintenance of artillery shell stocks, that it could indulge such hot-button social issues?
Whereas the Left used to harangue Pentagon nominees about their revolving-door defense contractor board memberships and lobbyist roles, today they grow mute on such conflicts of interests—if the official in question has demonstrated a faithful adherence to woke principles. And in circular fashion, that reality is known to officers up for promotions, who in turn make the necessary woke adjustments.
The discussion of future Joint Chiefs of Staff appointments center now not necessarily on their proven record of military excellence but on the degree they have been advocates of gay, transgendered, race, and gender agendas.
Unfortunately, this advocacy is not just positive, but negative as well. It entails an overt harangue about “white privilege,” “white rage,” and“white supremacy”—most famously voiced by Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in congressional testimonies—without supporting data confirming “systemic racism.”
The result of such fixations is a radical drop-off in enlistments, perhaps in aggregate reaching a 40,000-person shortfall in all the services. Stranger still, the military remains in denial, blaming the lack of interest in military service to out-of-shape youth, competition from a robust job market, gang affiliation, or criminal upticks—almost anything other than the creation of a hostile climate to the one demographic that has died at twice its numbers in the general population in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are other symptoms of our calcifying military. Our arsenals are emptying as a direct result either of our massive arms shipments to Ukraine or a multibillion-dollar abandonment of weapons in Afghanistan. And our defense industries shrink.
Whether Javelins, artillery shells, or missiles, the military is short of munitions and will be for years.
Our submarine fleet, once the hallmark of our naval superiority, is severely crippled and underfunded—a fact compounded by the dearth of shipyards. The entire navy is a shadow of its former Reagan-era strength. Our weapons systems in theory are unrivaled, but so expensive and scarce to be of dubious utility in a real war, given the rapid consumption of munitions—as we see from the insatiable rate of expenditure in Ukraine.
And while the military enjoys excellent leadership from the colonel level downward, our top brass has scant record of success. What was disturbing about Afghanistan was not just the humiliating flight and careless abandonment of an entire theater arsenal, but the lack of any repercussions for the culpable officers in charge, both in theater and in Washington.
The more wars we stalemate or lose—Iraq, Afghanistan, the Libyan bombing—the more there is little introspection about the causes of such defeats.
Can the U.S. restore its military in time? Only if it were to drop woke and return to meritocracy, stop the politicization of the services, spend 5 percent of GDP on defense, end the revolving-door profiteering of defense-contractor generals, and invest in war-production industries. The only way to recruit American youth is to stop berating millions of them for their purported sins, and get out of the abortion, transgendered, race, and sex virtue-signaling business.