America in decline?

Byline: Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

THEY say one should read the commentary and not the text of these three books: Das Kapital, Mein Kampf and Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. I have read the German leader's book from page to page, and confined myself to the commentaries on the other two. It is Spengler who is relevant to what follows:

Among the signs of a civilisation's decline Spengler mentions is a devastating civil war, followed by a geographical shift in the focus of power. Spengler's book was published in 1918. He died before World War II broke out, but what he predicted turned out to be true. Western civilisation's great civil war began in Europe in 1914 and ended after a 20-year truce in 1945. This was followed by an astonishingly rapid shift in geopolitical power from Europe to the North American continent. This shift across 'the ditch' means Western civilisation has many more centuries to flourish.

We can see this pattern elsewhere. The Mongol holocaust and the sack of Baghdad in 1258 cannot be called a civil war. Nevertheless, it led to the destruction of the Arab - not Islamic - civilisation, because geopolitical power found new bastions for the Islamic culture to bloom in the Ottoman Empire and in Safavid and Mughal sultanates, all three Turkic. In the Ottoman case, the empire lasted six centuries, two (15th and 16th) in glory and the rest in steady, unlike the Mughals' sudden, decline until its collapse in 1918. This was the nadir of Arab-Islamic civilisation. Is America in decline? No, there are no major signs of it. Minor signs, yes, but America's positive indicators are far stronger than those of a negative nature.

In spite of the 'gates' that rocked the US, democracy stood firm.

It is true the quality of American presidents has been slowly falling. FDR was the last great president. Richard Nixon was potentially a statesman. He proved this by his path-breaking visit to China (courtesy Pakistan), but Watergate got him. Jimmy Carter achieved something spectacular at Camp David because of the Sinai-recognition swap between Egypt and Israel, but the disastrous commando raid on Iran cost him a second term. Bill Clinton had all the assets to go down in history as a great president, but Monicagate perjury and the failure at the second Camp David conference pulverised him. Barack Obama will be remembered as the first black American to occupy the White House, and no more. Others don't deserve a mention. Yet, in spite of the...

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