In a troubled world, America still has a multitude of strengths

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With so much in the media that is gloom and doom, it might be useful to remind ourselves that America has many fundamental strengths.

Here is a listing of some of the political, economic, technological, cultural, creative and entrepreneurial factors that define the United States today.

- Largest economy. At $14 trillion, our Gross National Product is the largest in the world. You must add up the three next largest -- Japan ($5.5 trillion), China ($4.5 trillion) and Germany ($ 4 trillion) -- to get to America's total.

- Best military. Although our services have faced many stresses since 9-11, the U.S. military excels in many ways. The only military with a genuine worldwide reach, it has more combat experience than the military of any other nation.

- Best alliance/coalition potential. Our ability to find coalition partners has been especially helpful to us in countering terrorism (even the Russians and Chinese assist), and in the war in Afghanistan.

- Best brain/talent sponge. If you live in another country, are really smart and want to get both a great education and an enlightening work experience, the United States will, in most cases, be your first choice.

- More and better entrepreneurs. It seems to be in our genes.

- Productive work force. Whereas Japan led the way in the past, recent analyses by a number of international agencies rank the United States first.

- Ability to bounce back from major setbacks. Just think of what we have faced in the past 70 years -- Pearl Harbor, 1941; Korea, 1950-53; Sputnik, 1957; Vietnam, 1965-1975; Watergate, 1974; the 9-11 attacks, 2001; and the Great Recession, 2007-2009.

- Venture capital availability. If you are German, Japanese, Chinese or Brazilian with a great idea or a new invention, finding venture capital within your own nation is very hard.

- Communications reach and cultural influence. Beginning in the 1940s, America has surpassed all others in reaching even the most remote parts of the world.

l Natural resources. America's supply of coal and natural gas is enormous. In addition, the potential of solar power is huge. Unlike northern Europe, Russia and northern China, America has a great amount of sunshine. Being windy is another American asset.

- The English language. For almost 100 years, English has been dominant.

- Computer power. Led by such corporations as Google, EMC, Cisco, IBM and Intel, America holds the top spot in gross computer power.

- Culture of lifetime learning. Americans have a great love of learning. A high percentage of mature Americans, often encouraged by company policies on pay and promotions, pursue college and postgraduate education.

- Technical colleges. These colleges are a treasure for those seeking good jobs. The CSRA has two first-rate schools, Augusta Tech and Aiken Tech.

- Universities. Sixty-six of the 100 top universities in the world are American.

- Agricultural sector. Only the Brazilians come close to the productivity of the American farmer.

- Contributions of philanthropies. It is not just Bill and Melinda Gates who give away money with great skill. Foundations in the CSRA help make our community a better place to live, work and enjoy our lives.

- Birth rate of 2.1. This ideal birth rate, combined with our ability to attract so many talented and hard working people from other nations, should ensure that we will meet the challenges of the future.

- Diversity. Having so many of us coming from different national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups allows America to interact comfortably with the world's many cultures.

- Nanotechnology, biotechnology and genome research. America leads the world.

- Fundamental optimism. Americans continue to have high confidence in their ability to solve problems, as well as to get things done and done well. This probably is our greatest strength.

I would like to close on a personal note. In the more than 75 years that I have had the blessing of being an American, only twice have I been pessimistic about America's future. First, in the period between the Pearl Harbor attack and the Battle of Midway (I had witnessed the attack, and in the months following I read lots of scary headlines about Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Singapore and Bataan). Second, in 1969 when I returned from Vietnam and observed America in turmoil.

In sum, sustained pessimism can create a death spiral for any organization or institution. Tough-minded realism with an overlay of optimism is the key to our future.

(The writer, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, is the author of six books, including Rules and Tools for Leaders . His email address is

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johnston.cliff 02/21/10 - 03:10 am
I agree with the optimism of

I agree with the optimism of this column, although I wonder about Microsoft being excluded from the list of tech companies and diversity being more important than inclusion. Still, even with a president and leftist congress doing all possible to drag us to "3rd world" status, I feel America can recover our place in the world after "cleaning house ... and senate" in 2010 and replacing our president with someone that has American values in 2012.

JohnRandolphHardisonCain 02/21/10 - 10:18 am
We constantly hear from

We constantly hear from American supremacists that United States is "the greatest country in the world." I find it ironic that American supremacists think they must repeatedly remind us how great we as as if there were some nagging doubt in their minds.

United States is a great country. Nobody ever said it wasn't. But America isn't perfect. A truly self-confidant country can take a critical look at itself and note where it needs to improve.

Militarism has deep roots in this country. While a strong military is necessary for strictly defined, self-defense purposes, the U.S. military can and has been misused as a blunt instrument of national power. War should be a last resort. When the U.S. military is misused and someone questions a misguided mission, a truly great and confident government and its people should consider the criticism carefully.

The U.S. military was misused in Vietnam in an unnecessary, mistaken war. That is the consensus of historians. It is rapidly becoming crystal clear that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was a mistake, not a truly defensive act.

Having an abundance of coal buried beneath American soil may not be a blessing if United States does not have the wisdom and the expertise to move beyond fossil fuels in the production of energy.

United States is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. That fact alone casts and enormous pall over unbridled optimism about America's future. The economies of both China and then India are set to surpass United States before mid-century.

There are benefits in being a polyglot nation. It trains the ear to discriminate sound marvelously. Chinese is the now the language of preference among foreign languages being taught in United States. Look how few Arab speakers, Farsi speakers, Dari speakers, Pashtun speakers the U.S. military and intelligence services have at their disposal. English only and English as the world's dominant language has its negative consequences.

The American system of subsidized, fossil fuel dependent agriculture may not be sustainable. Transporting food from Chile and the far corners of the world leaves a huge carbon footprint. Growing locally makes a great deal of sense. United States should invest in growing more of its food east of the Mississippi. The southeast could benefit substantially from a shift to localized food production.

At present United States has a gridlocked, dysfunctional political system. Americans should heed the Biblical adage that "a house divided against itself will cannot stand." In my opinion, unnecessary, costly, un-winnable wars are at the heart of the great American schism. Until we end those wars, this country cannot focus on its myriad challenges and move forward in an effective manner.

I could go on. United States has multiple challenges. As a world leader we should step forward and meet those challenges in a creative, egalitarian, and sustainable manner.

The Godfather
The Godfather 02/21/10 - 09:28 am
Perry Smith for Richmond

Perry Smith for Richmond County School Superintendent! Want to see some real changes?

deekster 02/21/10 - 09:31 am
The Truth and only the Truth

The Truth and only the Truth will set us free. Most of the accolades involved MONEY and few regarded "people". We have murdered 50,000,000 innocent babies. We have "division" as our goal and damned anyone who would not embrace "diversity". Our greatness came from being the "great melting pot". We have now chosen to be the "great cobb salad". "It hasn't worked and won't work". Rome, UK and now the USA.

Dixieman 02/21/10 - 02:11 pm
This is brilliant and true

This is brilliant and true and should be required reading in every American history class.

baronvonreich 02/21/10 - 06:22 pm
Though one of America's

Though one of America's strengths, at least locally, is not to freely grant and support the rights of other fellow Americans to utilize their 1st Ammendment rights if it is not conducive with the majority's oppressive religion.

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