We may need to consider that what Daniel Larison calls “hegemonism” is on some level embedded within the American project itself, its revolutionary liberalism, its Enlightenment universalism, its Jeffersonian “federative” imperialism. A divorce from such pretensions, or even a declaration of their fulfillment and therefore their obsolescence, does not merely require but likely entails, is likely already entailing, a political and economic crisis corresponding to the deeper conceptual or ideological crisis. Even a re-conception of liberal-universalism, a notion of some truer realization of its essence, leaves the fate of American nationalism, and of the American nation, meaning the real lives of its people, or the real meaning of the lives of its people, in question. The transformation to a self-understanding of “one country just like the others” might still be experienced as a greatest loss, spiritual as well as material, by many or in some sense all Americans, even the ones promoting it and perhaps able to look at the world it creates and call it good and necessary.
Though information technology now pervades both the most advanced “military estate” via the so-called “Revolution in Military Affairs,” as well as every sphere of political and cultural life, it maintains within itself the same original principles of self-sabotage and self-superannuation.
The plural-realist or perspectivist thought (or anti-thought) can never be understood as generally valid except by reference to a standard that would govern the truth and consistency of all such assertions. This problem has always stood in the way of taking the “post-modernist insight” seriously: If it means what it is meant to mean, then it is at best provisional, and otherwise meaningless.
If conservatives are wrong about everything else, they may be right about this one underlying fact: A certain idea of American greatness may be slipping into the past. From that perspective, “steady incremental decline” may even begin to look like one of the better open paths.