Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

So, the first decade of the 21st Century has come to an end. It certainly hasn't gone as planned. Speaking frankly, the hopes we all felt on New Year's Eve of 1999, when we saw out one millenium and welcomed in another, have not come to pass the way we expected.

Ten years ago, the world seemed energized by tremendous optimism. The Soviet Union was gone and the Cold War was a memory; the possibility of a general war between major powers seemed ridiculous. Terrorism was an admitted problem, but the horrors of the 9/11 attacks had not yet been experienced. The global economy was humming along and there seemed no reason for it to stop. Science and technology were making rapid gains. More than perhaps any time in history, the future looked bright and sunny.

But almost immediately into the new decade, things began to go wrong. The first disaster was the horribly undemocratic election of George W. Bush in the 2000 election, when half a million more Americans voted for Al Gore than for Bush and the result in the state of Florida was settled by a biased Supreme Court rather than a fair recount of the votes.

At the same time, the booming economyof the 1990s morphed into te sluggish economy that would characterize the first decade of the 21st Century. This was largely on account of the "dot com" bubble bursting, but the situation was made worse by Republican fiscal policies, which helped the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class, and took a federal budget surplus and turned it into a deficit. Uncertain economic times would characterize the entire decade.

Then, of course, we had the horrors of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. For the remainder of the decade, the political and diplomatic activities of the United States would revolve around the threat of terrorism. The image of a world largely at peace, which seemed obtainable in 1999, was shattered.

And finally, we had the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the resulting war which has dragged on to the present day. While the campaign in Afghanistan was undertaken in response to a direct attack, we now know that Iraq was no threat to the United States and that the claim that it possessed weapons of mass destruction was a mere excuse used to justify the invasion. 4,400 Americans, and a much larger number of innocent Iraqis, have paid the ultimate price.

The great thing about New Year's Day is that is presents the possibility of a fresh start. In the next decade, we can hope that our country will avoid foolisly stumbling into unnecessary wars, enact sensible legislation to deal with critical problems and pursue more sound fiscal policies. And while we're in such a hopeful mood, we can even envision the implementation of critical political reforms that are so desperately needed.

So, on this New Year's Day, let's hope that the coming decade is one of peace and prosperity, rather than war and disorder. Jefferson would certainly raise a glass of Bordeaux to such a toast.

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