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  1. #1 Decline or Decadence? 
    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    Decline or Decadence?
    Almost daily we read of America’s “waning power” and “inevitable decline,” as observers argue over the consequences of defense cuts and budget crises.

    Yet much of the new American “leading from behind” strategy is more a matter of choice than of necessity. Apparently, both left-wing critics of U.S. foreign policy and right-wing Jacksonians are tiring of spending blood and treasure on seemingly ungrateful Middle Easterners — after two Gulf wars, the decade in Afghanistan, and various interventions in Lebanon and Libya.

    We certainly have plenty of planes and bombs with which to [COLOR=#216221! important][COLOR=#216221! important]pound[/COLOR][/COLOR] Syria’s Bashir al-Assad. Never in the last 70 years has the U.S. military been so lethal.

    But chaos in Libya followed the death of Moammar Qaddafi, and the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood seems poised to replace Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Most Americans assume that if we were to remove the murderous Assad dynasty in Syria, the rebels would either show us no gratitude or install a replacement regime not much better.

    So much of our sagging profile abroad is simply a growing realization that the Middle East is, well, the Middle East: You can change the faces, but the regimes end up mostly the same — as innate reflections of the volatile mix of tribalism, vast infusions of oil money, radical Islam,and generations of dependency.

    Can decline be better measured by our vast debt of $16 trillion, growing yearly with $1 trillion deficits? Perhaps. But Americans know that with a new tax code, simple reforms to entitlements, and reasonable trimming of bloated public salaries and pensions, we could balance federal budgets. The budget crux is not due to an absence of material resources, but a preference for not [COLOR=#216221! important][COLOR=#216221! important]acting[/COLOR][/COLOR] until we are forced to in the eleventh hour.

    Do high gas prices and huge imported-oil fees reflect an energy-short America? Not really. There are 25 billion barrels of oil sitting right off California’s central coast, and much more in Alaska, the Midwest, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern shore. At some point, when gas hits $5 or $6 a gallon, a new generation of Americans will be cured of its smugness and decide to tap trillions of dollars in natural riches.

    In other words, the manifest symptoms of decline — frustration with the Middle East, military retrenchment, exorbitant energy costs, and financial insolvency — are choices we now make, but need not make in the future.

    If our students are burdened with oppressive loans, why do so many university rec centers look like five-star spas? Student cell phones and cars are indistinguishable from those of the faculty.
    The underclass suffers more from obesity than malnutrition; our national epidemic is not unaffordable protein, but rather a surfeit of even cheaper sweets.

    Flash mobbers target electronics stores for more junk, not bulk food warehouses in order to [COLOR=#216221! important][COLOR=#216221! important]eat[/COLOR][/COLOR]. America’s children do not suffer from lack of access to the Internet, but from wasting hours on video games and less-than-instructional websites. We have too many, not too few, [COLOR=#216221! important][COLOR=#216221! important]television[/COLOR][/COLOR] channels.
    The problem is not that government workers are underpaid or scarce, but that so many of them seem to think mind readers, clowns, and prostitutes come with the job.

    An average American with an average cell phone has more information at his fingertips than did a Goldman Sachs grandee 20 years ago. Over the last half-century, bizarre new words have entered the American vocabulary — triple-dipping, Botox, liposuction, jet set, COLA (cost of living adjustment), three-day weekend, Medi-something compounds (Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal) — that do not reflect a deprived citizenry. In 1980, a knee or hip replacement was experimental surgery for the 1 percent; now it is a Medicare entitlement.

    American poverty is not measured by absolute global standards of available food, shelter, and medical care, or by comparisons with prior generations, but by one American now having less stuff than another.

    As America re-examines its military, entitlements, energy sources, and popular culture, it will learn that our “decline” is not due to material shortages, but rather arises from moral confusion over how to master, rather than being mastered by, the vast riches we have created. If decline is fighting just two wars at a time rather than three, budgeting as we did in 2008, tapping a bit more oil offshore, or having our colleges offer more grammar courses and fewer rock-climbing walls, then by all means, bring it on.
    — Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author most recently of The End of Sparta. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.



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  2. #2  
    Senior Member DumbAss Tanker's Avatar
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    The Punic Wars are an object lesson for us, as I told my CPTs in a protracted OPD on military thought and history a few years ago. Look at what we are doing in the GWOT, and ask yourself, 'Are we conducting this more like the way Rome fought the Punic Wars, or more like the way Carthage fought them?' IMHO the answer to that one is not good for us.
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    Senior Member Molon Labe's Avatar
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    Gues I'm one of those "Jacksonians".

    We are in decline. I like VDH, but he gets it pretty wrong. He measures our freedom in the amount of wealth we have....that someone can possess an "i-phone" or something of that nature.

    We are in decline because we have overstretched ourselves.
    Why anyone gives a shat about the state of any Afghani in a mud hut is beyond me.

    If that makes me a terrible "ally" the so be it. As Patton said. "That's what happens when you stop being an American and start being an ally"
    Gun Control: The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her panty hose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound - Unknown


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  4. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DumbAss Tanker View Post
    The Punic Wars are an object lesson for us, as I told my CPTs in a protracted OPD on military thought and history a few years ago. Look at what we are doing in the GWOT, and ask yourself, 'Are we conducting this more like the way Rome fought the Punic Wars, or more like the way Carthage fought them?' IMHO the answer to that one is not good for us.
    If the "fall" of the Roman Empire is supposed to be meaningful for us, is not the rise and the duration to be taken into consideration?

    I like the idea of an Imperial Consortium of Western European cultures. I find it annoying as hell that we put up with so much bullshit out of countries which haven't invented anything, or anything worthwhile in the last 500 years.

    If we don't do it soon, the time will have passed. Muslims and other backward cultures are breeding like rabbits.

    We need an empire and an emperor. Neither Obama nor Romney fits that bill.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member DumbAss Tanker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post
    If the "fall" of the Roman Empire is supposed to be meaningful for us, is not the rise and the duration to be taken into consideration?
    The Punic Wars were the rise of Rome. The decline and fall were centuries later.

    Sorry, my point has to do with the way the Romans waged war vs. the way the Carthaginians waged war, not in terms of tactics, strategems, or specific leaders, but the approaches to it on a national or strategic scale, and the frame of mind with which their respective governments approached it.

    For those unfamiliar with it, despite stunning battlefield successes and bold strategic moves by their generals in the field, the Carthaginian government viewed war as an annoying interruption of commercial and civil affairs, and wanted to get back to making money and sacrificing the odd child to Ba'al as quickly as possible, so despite having Rome on the ropes at a few points, they could never muster the national will to make the national sacrifices necessary to close the deal. The Romans, on the other hand, saw Carthage as their only true rival for control of the entire Med basin and relentlessly pursued the destruction of Carthage no matter how many legions or fleets had to be sacrificed in the process. In modern terms, particularly in the context of GWOT (Though it is also true for Viet Nam to a large extent) we have pursued war much more in the Carthaginian mold than the Roman one; our enemies seem to be pursuing it more in the Roman fashion.
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  6. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DumbAss Tanker View Post
    The Punic Wars were the rise of Rome. The decline and fall were centuries later.

    Sorry, my point has to do with the way the Romans waged war vs. the way the Carthaginians waged war, not in terms of tactics, strategems, or specific leaders, but the approaches to it on a national or strategic scale, and the frame of mind with which their respective governments approached it.

    For those unfamiliar with it, despite stunning battlefield successes and bold strategic moves by their generals in the field, the Carthaginian government viewed war as an annoying interruption of commercial and civil affairs, and wanted to get back to making money and sacrificing the odd child to Ba'al as quickly as possible, so despite having Rome on the ropes at a few points, they could never muster the national will to make the national sacrifices necessary to close the deal. The Romans, on the other hand, saw Carthage as their only true rival for control of the entire Med basin and relentlessly pursued the destruction of Carthage no matter how many legions or fleets had to be sacrificed in the process. In modern terms, particularly in the context of GWOT (Though it is also true for Viet Nam to a large extent) we have pursued war much more in the Carthaginian mold than the Roman one; our enemies seem to be pursuing it more in the Roman fashion.
    We have already seen the results of getting above ourselves when we declared ourselves to be the first post-industrial society.

    Just begun, the clone wars have.
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  7. #7  
    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post
    We need an empire and an emperor. Neither Obama nor Romney fits that bill.
    Let me guess... You're volunteering?
    --Odysseus
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Janice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post

    We need an empire and an emperor. Neither Obama nor Romney fits that bill.
    I cant help but wonder if the current megalomaniac/ narcissist in chief and his czars might disagree with you on that take.
    http://i1220.photobucket.com/albums/dd445/JansGraphix/ConsUndergrd-Sig2.jpg
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  9. #9  
    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janice View Post
    I cant help but wonder if the current megalomaniac/ narcissist in chief and his czars might disagree with you on that take.
    I'm sure that he dreams of it.

    --Odysseus
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    Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the people!
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