On the eighth anniversary of 9/11, a professor of mine made a comment that inspired a lot of soul-searching for me. He remarked, quite casually, that the United States is in decline.
His words angered me. Nobody likes to hear his country characterized in such a manner. But ever since then I’ve been considering that casual statement, and I think it accurately describes the state of our nation.
We are a nation in decline.
We are on this downward path for a variety of reasons, some more preventable than others. Economic volatility has played a role, as has the rise in anti-American sentiment abroad. (Thank you, George Bush.) Misadventures in the Middle East and the rise of China as a global opponent have also contributed to our decline.
But enough about the “why”—Americans aren’t in the business of diagnosing problems, they’re in the business of fixing them. What can be done to stop this concerning trend?There are two courses of action that the United States could elect to take, both of which would run dramatically counter to its trajectory of late. The first solution would be to focus less attention on the Middle East. After the 9/11 attacks, the region drew the undivided attention of the United States: to this day, the bulk of our foreign policy is still shaped around Iraq, Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, and now Yemen.
Many would argue that the United States has been hurt by this obsession. The expensive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to drain both our energy and national coffers, and America’s world image has likewise suffered. Moreover, the U.S. stands to gain little from its investment in the region, except perhaps oil. Even a resource as valuable as oil does not justify excessive entanglement in a region more hostile to the U.S. than perhaps any other place in the world.
The second bit of advice I would offer is to admit more immigrants into our country. Immigrants are enormous assets to a country because they must be ambitious and hard-working enough to move thousands of miles away from friends and family to a place where they often do not know anybody or even speak the language. Our country could use more citizens with this level of determination.
Immigrants have also created many jobs in our country. For example, the technology boom of the late ’90s was significantly impacted by Chinese and Indian immigrants who moved to Silicon Valley. Albert Einstein was an immigrant; Barack Obama is the son of an immigrant. For continued economic growth and national prosperity, admitting more of these ambitious souls is essential.
Yet every year, the United States denies entry to an enormous number of potential immigrants. Sadly, the immigration debate today is dominated by xenophobic anger, and it seems unlikely that America’s doors will crack wider anytime soon. This appeasement of anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. is certainly a great detriment to our society.Admitting more immigrants might not reverse the decline of our nation, nor might limiting U.S. involvement in the Middle East. A superpower—whether it is Britain, America, or China—cannot last forever: in the end they always fall. But perhaps if these two suggestions are considered, the United States might just last longer than most.