There's a very curious op-ed in The Los Angeles Times today by Rosa Brooks, who is identified as "a professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center and a fellow at the New America Foundation." She has a curious and disagreeable premise:
Stung by Republican attacks, Obama has been insisting that he's no declinist. In last week's State of the Union address, he nearly out-Romneyed Romney, proclaiming, "Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about."
That's dangerous pabulum. Any honest diplomat will tell you that American power and global influence is waning, and if we shy away from acknowledging that fact, we'll only speed up the process.
America's in decline? That's a debatable proposition, though clearly Brooks is doing her level best to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, it's an astonishing statement to make considering what was left out of Brooks's bio at the end of the piece. Brooks is formerly a "Counselor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy" in the Obama administration.
Brooks then goes on to explain that the decline in American influence is nothing to worry about because other countries will fill the power vacuum:
American influence is waning for two reasons, the first of which should potentially be a source of comfort, not despair. While we continue to have the world's most formidable military, America's power in the world is declining simply because once-weak states are growing stronger. Europe, despite its current woes, is an economic and diplomatic force to be reckoned with. China, India and Brazil are emerging as regional powerhouses with increasingly global reach.
To repeat, someone who thinks China's increased "global reach" is a "source of comfort" was determining defense policy in the Obama administration. Here's what does trouble Brooks about the supposed decline of American influence:
But there's another reason American influence is declining, one that should cause us far more concern. Obama put his finger on it during the State of the Union speech, when he asked whether we wanted to settle for being "a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by."
By many measures, we've hollowed out the American dream: American life expectancy ranks well below that of other industrialized democracies, and the same is true for infant mortality rates and elementary school enrollment rates. We have the highest documented per capita incarceration rate in the world. And as the Occupy Wall Street movement has helped point out, we have greater income inequality in this country than in any other state in the developed world — and most states in the developing world.
So in order fix what ails the nation, Brooks maintains should accept the fact America's in decline and embrace the message of Occupy Wall Street. One can hope that the Obama administration's other Pentagon officials are less enamored with perpetrating class warfare and more concerned with maintaining a state of readiness in the event America needs to engage in actual warfare. But after reading Brooks's article, we can't be too sure.