Posted on May 24th, 2011

By Nimal Fernando

Perhaps it is time to rethink “manifest destiny.”

After all, since charity is believed to begin at home, America has an urgent problem on her hands: keeping a great many home fires from going out. Worse, over a million home owners could not pay their mortgages and had to foreclose.

Globally, it is time America stopped playing the now-familiar role of global firefighter … and turned those hoses on the hot spots at home.

Pick any American state, as they are all in a huge financial hole, to the collective tune of $430 billion, a situation not seen since the Great Depression, we’re told.

Social scientists, economists, [some] politicians, number crunchers and all manner of experts keep warning that the whole position is untenable; that America, a debtor nation for as long as anyone can remember, is finally in real danger of becoming a dead beat.

And many from all walks of life, including some in Congress who excel at living in denial, have the temerity to ask ” how did we got here?”!

“We” got here not just by taking the eye off the ball … but by dropping it even during those few times when “we” received a Hail Mary pass. Americans have repeatedly done so, accustomed as they are to expect the good times to just keep rolling.

Both parties keep going their merry way: the Republicans stay gung-ho about low taxation, tax breaks and laughable levels of regulation; the Democrats keep coddling organised labor, at times far beyond justified, reasonable regulations safeguarding the well-being of all working folks; waste and earmarks make your head spin and ‘bipartisanship’, readily rolled out for the sound-bite, gives way to a vicious backbite the moment the media goes away.

How about “We The People”? How much have “We” helped the nation to get here’? Quite a bit, considering Americans’ incessant demands of their elected representatives to never modify any of their long-enjoyed benefits (perks?), pet pursuits, et al …

One salient point the boisterous Tea Party makes is the absolute need to roll back spending and balance the budget. So simply put, budgets cannot be balanced by spending billions, which add up to trillions, all over the world, defending/promoting democracy; building nations, breaking barriers.

Historic circumstances made America bear the burden of being the spearhead in overcoming the challenges to world peace and managing the ideological struggles of modern history and undertaking rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of those momentous happenings.

America is at a time now in history, however, when dozens of other nations — some U.S. allies, others not in the mood for such coziness — are in a position to play significant roles in maintaining the pace of global development and safeguarding/promoting global harmony.

True, American power may remain the driving force in world affairs for decades to come, but what seems to be emerging now is a desire to balance this pre-eminent role in global partnerships and spread the responsibility.  Eventually, such an outcome might come to pass even in the face of American reluctance, given the stupendous economic strides being made by China, Brazil, India and Russia “”…”- given the acronym BRIC.

And any future incumbent of the Oval Office, suffering from a unilateralist itch akin to the one that got the better of George  W. Bush, will be unable to give in to temptation simply because the nation will no longer be able to afford such luxuries. No more will the commander in-chief be able to send America’s best and toughest away to wage war in distant lands, on a whim.

This is a good thing. America can, indeed should, move to a position of perhaps being the first among equals, much like a prime minister in a parliamentary democracy. A good example of this is the U.S. stance in the NATO action in Libya.
It’s early days yet, but just such a policy could emerge from the Oval Office in the months ahead.

As America grapples with a way to avoid debt default and manage its return to global competitiveness — taken for granted for so long — even its security interests will need re-evaluation.
If that urgent exercise results in the quick return of those warriors who make the Home of the Brave what it is, that’s when one and all can all let the good times roll … and keep them rolling!

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