In Darwin’s "Origin of The Species" the theory of evolution through natural selection is made to appear simple and inevitable. Certain biological variants, argued Darwin, are more robust than others, i.e. better suited to survive and thrive in the environment in which they find themselves.
Over time the robust variants supplant the less robust varieties. In a world of limited resources, the better adapted versions stand a better chance of survival. Darwin assumed that natural selection could transform one species into another and eradicate some species, leaving the field to its tougher competitors.
While social Darwinism attempted to take Darwin’s theory and apply it to social settings (“Root, hog or die”), the lack of compassion and the imposition of human needs sent the social version of Darwinism into the political interstices. However, since evolution ultimately deals with success and failure, survival and disappearance, it may be appropriate to resuscitate Darwinism to explain global conditions of the moment.
Needless to say, there is a logical danger in pushing the analogy too far, but on some level the Darwinian model offers insight, even if the conclusions are not dispositive.
In an effort to appease or comfort America’s foes, the Obama administration is attempting to redefine, perhaps transform, our system of government, law and basic economic assumptions.
Presumably, Obama adherents would contend that this adaptation is necessary for survival in an evolving global stage. However, the question that emerges is whether this conscious transformation enhances survivability.
Is America more robust or less robust as a consequence of the change? Can this nation transform other national variants or will other nations transform the United States?
It is evident in the global war for survival the U.S. government refuses to see jihadism, or violent efforts against it, as a function of Islam. It is also evident that the government is intent on treating enemy combatants as “criminals” with the attendant Constitutional privileges vouchsafed to U.S. citizens.
The system for rooting out those intent on imposing violence against Americans is saddled with bureaucratic weariness and inefficiency. A Nigerian with a history of radical Islamic sympathies and someone identified by his father as a potential threat was still granted a visa to enter the United States.
Moreover, Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, noted after the aborted attempt to blow up an airplane, that “the system is working.”
A government that is seemingly incapable of dealing effectively with national security questions has nonetheless undertaken to manage the complex American economy.
In one year, Washington D.C. has replaced New York as the center of economic transactions. Astonishingly the government is now directly involved in the insurance, banking, credit card, automobile and healthcare industries.
While socialism has failed wherever it has been undertaken, the Obama administration is intent on proving its version can defy historical precedent.
The last year has also seen the American military star in eclipse. Signs of withdrawal from international commitments have led former allies to scramble in an effort to secure new alliances, an alternative to the American nuclear umbrella and security pacts.
The so-called schism between Shia and Sunni Muslims has been trumped by the emerging correlation of international forces, particularly the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons.
If the Darwinian analogy holds, perhaps it is time for readaptation, a return to a time when American exceptionalism was understood here and abroad.
How can a seemingly weak America eager for isolation be sufficiently robust to compete against a fanatical strain of Islam? How can allies count on an American commitment when we often pull the rug out from under our friends (vide: abrogating the anti-missile treaty with Czech Republic and Poland)? In what sense is the United States a nation, indeed an idea, to be emulated?
Natural selection has its obvious points and logical gaps, but as a model for prediction on the international scene, it has advantages and lessons to be learned.
Unfortunately, unless the public rises and stops this historic movement for change, there will be an inevitability about the current state of affairs that would convert an American Darwinian into a Cassandra.
Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of "Decade of Denial" (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001) and "America's Secular Challenge" (Encounter Books).
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