Victor Davis Hanson

And European elites can't blame their problems - a bullying Russia, Islamic terrorists, unassimilated minorities and high unemployment - all on George Bush's swagger and accent. The recent elections of Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France suggest that Europe's cheap anti-Americanism may be ending, and that our practices of more open markets, lower taxes and less state control are preferrable to the European status quo.

In truth, a never-stronger America is being tested as never before. The world is watching whether we win or lose in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Middle East is either going to reform or remain an oil-rich tribal mess that endangers the entire world.

A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation's success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit - or religion, tribe or class - mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?

Try becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical op-ed in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart, iPods, the Internet or F-18s came from.

In the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet workers' paradise, Japan Inc. and now 24/7 China all were about to displace the United States. None did. All have had relative moments of amazing success - but in the end none proved as resilient, flexible and adaptable as America.

That brings us to the United States' greatest strength: radical self-critique. We Americans are worrywarts, always believing we're on the verge of extinction. And so, to "renew," "reinvent" or "save" America, we whip ourselves up about "wars" on poverty, drugs and cancer; space "races;" missile "gaps;" literacy "crusades;" and "campaigns" against litter, waste and smoking.

In other words, we nail-biters have always been paranoid that we must change and improve in order to survive. And thus we usually do - just in time.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.