The suicide-murders and roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan sicken Americans. Soon-to-be nuclear Iran seems loonier than nuclear North Korea. American debt keeps piling up in China and Japan. And we think of angry Venezuela, the Middle East and Russia every time we fill up - if we can afford to fill up.
Then listen to Al Gore on global warming. Or hear Jimmy Carter on the current president. The common denominator is American "decline."
Books by liberals assure us that our "empire" is kaput. Brace for the inevitable fate of Rome. Conservatives are just as glum. For them, we are also Romans - but the more decadent variety, eaten away from the inside.
In response, many bored Americans turn instead to the la-la land of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
Yet American Cassandras are old stuff. Grim Charles Lindberg in the late 1930s lectured a Depression-era America that Hitler's new order in Germany could only be appeased, never opposed.
After World War II, it wasn't long before the Soviet Union ended our short-lived status as sole nuclear superpower. And when Eastern Europe and China were lost to communism, it was proof, for many, that democratic capitalism was passé. "We will bury you," Nikita Khrushchev promised us.
After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991, America proclaimed itself at the "end of history" - meaning that the spread of our style of democratic capitalism was now inevitable. Now a mere 16 years later, some are just as sure we approach our own end.
But our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than many think.
Take oil. With oil prices at nearly $70 a barrel, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez seem invincible as they rally anti-American feeling.
But if we find alternate energy sources, or reduce slightly our oil hunger, we can defang all three rather quickly. None of their countries have a middle class or a culture of entrepreneurship to discover and disseminate new knowledge.
Russia and Europe are shrinking. China is an aging nation of only children. The only thing the hard-working Chinese fear more than their bankrupt communist dictatorship is getting rid of it.
True, the economies of China and India have made amazing progress. But both have rocky rendezvous ahead with all the social and cultural problems that we long ago addressed in the 20th century.
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