The U.S. military defeated both Saddam Hussein and the Islamic insurgency that followed him in Iraq, while fostering consensual government. With the same determination, there is no reason why it cannot do the same in Afghanistan. Certainly neither enemy is comparable to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, which a much poorer America helped to defeat simultaneously within four years of engagement.
Nearly 70 years ago, a far less scientifically sophisticated country developed the atomic bomb in three years. It could likewise surely mobilize to plug a leaking oil well in three months.
If the United States chooses to close its southern border -- by finishing the fence, fining all employers of illegal aliens and increasing patrols -- illegal entry from the south would cease almost at once. The pool of resident illegal aliens would shrink through assimilation, intermarriage and voluntary repatriation while Congress keeps haggling over the particulars of comprehensive reform.
Our supposedly intractable problems are hardly insurmountable. Ascendant China and India have much less freedom and far greater environmental problems, political turmoil and class disparity. Europe is not as productive as America and is shrinking in size, not growing as we are.
In the bleak 1930s, we were told that German discipline and order were the answer; during the depressing stagflation of the 1970s, Japan Inc. was supposed to be the way of the future. Then a resurgence of American confidence and renewed faith in our exceptional system dispelled all such nonsense.
The United States still remains the most racially diverse, stable, free, productive and militarily strong country in the world. Its current crises are largely the political and cultural creations of the most affluent and leisured generation in civilization's history -- not due to long-standing civil unrest, structural weakness or a sudden shortage of natural resources.
America may well soon decline and simply become no different from any other nation. But such a depressing future would largely be our generation's own free choice; it is not a historical inevitability.