Modernity is So 2006


The American Conservative has a knack for coaxing fascinating essays out of journalists or thinkers shut out of the national conversation. Exhibit Umpteen: this terrific piece by Michael Vlahos, "a principal professional staff at the National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory."

This is our defeat-dynamic: We have set up non-state triumph in Iraq, no matter when or how we leave it. We have ensured the eventual collapse of our ancien regime nation-states. We have no relationship with revolutionary communities that will succeed them.

Tragically, the transformation of the American narrative is no simple, awful misstep. It is no neocon excursion that simply needs to be recalled, at which point a sound course will set things right. We created our inescapable struggle with Islam—and the world's awareness is unraveling American modernity, whose existence always depended on its confident future. This is finished.

Years may pass before this becomes clear. So cries for a rejuvenated liberal internationalism will shout down their own irrelevance. They will get all the airtime they want in the national conversation because they are performing an essential service. They reassure national elites that our historical disaster can be reversed by a stroke of policy. But over time, the oratory will wear so thin that reality will at last be naked: our universal story is now chaff to the wind like the grand narratives of all empires.

The whole thing's worth a read.

UPDATE: Well, I liked it.