Russia invades Georgia. China jails dissidents. China and India pollute at levels previously unimaginable. Gulf monarchies make trillions from jacked-up oil prices. Islamic terrorists keep car bombing. Meanwhile, Europe offers moral lectures, while Japan and South Korea shrug and watch -- all in a globalized world that tunes into the Olympics each night from Beijing.
"Citizens of the world" were supposed to share, in relative harmony, our new "Planet Earth," which was to have followed from an interconnected system of free trade, instantaneous electronic communications, civilized diplomacy and shared consumer capitalism.
But was that ever quite true?
In reality, to the extent globalism worked, it followed from three unspoken assumptions:
First, the U.S. economy would keep importing goods from abroad to drive international economic growth.
Second, the U.S. military would keep the sea-lanes open, and trade and travel protected. After the past destruction of fascism and global communism, the Americans, as global sheriff, would continue to deal with the occasional menace like a Muammar al-Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il or the Taliban.
Third, America would ignore ankle-biting allies and remain engaged with the world -- like a good, nurturing mom who at times must put up with the petulance of dependent teenagers.
But there have been a number of indications recently that globalization may soon lose its American parent, who is tiring, both materially and psychologically.
The United States may be the most free, stable and meritocratic nation in the world, but its resources and patience are not unlimited. Currently, it pays more than a half trillion dollars per year to import $115-a-barrel oil that is often pumped at a cost of about $5.
The Chinese, Japanese and Europeans hold trillions of dollars in U.S. bonds -- the result of massive trade deficits. The American dollar is at historic lows. We are piling up staggering national debt. Over 12 million live here illegally and freely transfer more than $50 billion annually to Mexico and Latin America.
Our military, after deposing Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, is tired. And Americans are increasingly becoming more sensitive to the cheap criticism of global moralists.
But as the United States turns ever so slightly inward, the new globalized world will revert to a far poorer -- and more dangerous -- place.
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