Q&A Friday #26: Do Americans Have It Too Easy?
Question: “My question for Hawkins: Have Americans got it too easy? Has life become so cooshy that the people are beginning to lose touch with reality? Aren’t people at their most enterprising and industrious when times are hardest?
Machiavelli once said a king should set up his territory where the soil was neither too harsh nor too lush, so as to keep his people healthy but not too soft. Do you agree? — Chairman_Mao”
Answers: Here is my far ranging answer to your question.
“Have Americans got it too easy?” Yes and no.
In one sense, our country can never have it “too easy.” Ideally, it would be great if every American were living in a mansion, had a Jetson’s style robot maid, and had so much dough to spare that we could all play catch with stacks of hundred dollar bills.
Of course, we’re not doing that well yet, but if you look at our GDP per capita, the only nation ahead of us is Luxembourg, which has less than a half million people. So this is a very rich, prosperous country with a vibrant, growing economy, that’s continuing to produce more jobs.
On the other hand, the more prosperous and comfortable a society becomes, the more willing and able it becomes to shelter itself from the harsh realities of the world. This is a dog eat dog world and the moment a country becomes weak or soft, they can soon expect to find a wolfpack at their throat.
Sometimes this isn’t apparent, because the US has been playing the role of “world super-hero” for the past few decades. We saved Europe in WW2, helped Germany and Japan become democracies, saved Korea, tried to save Vietnam, saved Grenada, saved Kuwait, guaranteed Europe’s security from the Soviet Union, are helping Iraq and Afghanistan towards Democracy, are protecting Taiwan, sticking up for Israel, on and on and on.
The problem is that if we ever stop playing Spider-Man to the world, things are going to start falling apart at the seams because Europe is on a downward slide and is unlikely of being capable of picking up our slack anytime soon.
Are we tough enough to keep doing what we need to do? To tell you truth, I have no confidence whatsoever that the Democrats are capable of handling national security. Other than a few exceptions, like Christopher Hitchens, most liberals today are so naive and soft on national security that it would be almost suicidal to have them in charge during a foreign policy crisis. If that type of thinking gains purchase in this country and spreads across party lines, then eventually it will lead to a world wide bloodbath.
Just look back to WW2. Americans believed the hype when people said WW1 was the “war to end all wars.” Plus, they were angry at the Europeans for starting another big war so soon, for not taking our advice after WW2, and for ungratefully referring to us as “Uncle Shylock” because we insisted they repay their debt after WW1.
So consequently, Americans were totally opposed to getting involved in WW2. Just to give you an idea of how wide and deep the isolationist sentiment was back then, according to Robert Leckie in his book, Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War 2, when WW2 broke out, polling showed that only 2.5% of Americans favored getting involved. Granted, pro-war sentiment had picked up a bit by late 1941, but had it not been for Pearl Harbor, it seems highly doubtful that the United States would have actually gone to war although we certainly would have continued to aid Britain while officially remaining “neutral.” Look at the damage that occurred to this country and the world as a result of that stance and Europe’s foolish appeasement of Germany in the thirties.
“Oh, but Hawkins, come on, we couldn’t have another WW2!” Well, not as long as we’re on the job.
If we had to count on clowns like Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac to be the “world’s policemen,” we’d have China and Taiwan going to war, Israel fighting their neighbors, Pakistan and India lobbing nukes at each other, Russia scarfing up smaller countries around them, Iran and Turkey ripping off chunks of Iraq, cats and dogs living together, rabbits ganging up on lions, cows buying baseball mitts, just general world higgledy piggledy.
That, my friend, is why this country cannot afford the luxury of isolationism or going soft.