Washington — I detect a new resilience, a new confidence, a newly released faith abroad in the land. I would describe it as a restored expectancy of achievement. It is the underlying atmosphere today and I have no doubt that it will break into the open in the future.
No one has discerned it sooner nor described it better than Henry Fairlie, a British- born journalist who writes for American newspapers and who cherishes the country he has now made his home. He is no Pollyanna.
He tells about being present at a dinner shortly before the election where the guest of honor suddenly interrupted the conversation and said: "I want people to prophesy. I do not want predictions or forecasts. I want the voice of prophecy." His finger moved threateningly around the table until it paused at Fairlie, and he said, "And we will start with you."
Mr. Fairlie could have been coy, he could have been bland, he could have passed. He did none of these. He was challenged and he spoke what was on his mind:
"No matter who wins this election, by 1984 America will be surging with new life. It will have recovered its confidence and creativity, economically and politically and culturally."
He remarked later that "one could feel the shock around the table." The fact that the immediate reaction was one of shock reveals that many have receded from what used to be the instinctive American conviction that, of course, whatever is necessary can be accomplished. Mr. Fairlie tried out his prophecy on several other occasions. He found the response about the same, the argument always passionate.
He explains: "Whether they agreed with me or not, people have responded as if this is a central concern; as if America is indeed, now more than ever, the last best hope on Earth. Europeans are more inclined to agree with me than Americans , although the number of Americans who agree is reassuring."
That is reassuring because it means that he is detecting a developing state of mind in the country which others perceive when the idea is advanced.
The ingredients are present for such a revival of national purpose and confidence.
The miasma of Watergate is behind us, and the political party which suffered from a resigned presidency has been given a vote of confidence by the nation's voters.
The United States is recovering from the humiliating defeat in Vietnam and from its lapse into the feeling that it might just as well give up any brave attempt to use its influence and power in behalf of the safety of the free world. Our influence and power declined through its disuse.
But it now seems clear that the American people are casting aside the wrong lesson from Vietnam and embracing the valid one -- that because the US obviously can't do everything doesn't mean that it can do nothing.
Certainly this presidential election shows that the people of the US want their government to play a more active role in world affairs and to do enough to redress the military balance to be able to do so effectively, and thus fulfill its mission as a stronghold of human freedom.
I see a tendency to quit wringing our hands and talking about national guilt when something goes wrong in the world.
The United States and the European democracies restored most of their colonial possessions to their owners after World War II at the same time the Soviet Union was surrounding itself with a new colonial empire, buttressed by tanks and troops, in Eastern Europe.
We have sought detente with the Soviets while the Soviets have sought detente by invading Afghanistan, by paying Cuban surrogate troops to expand Soviet influence in Africa.
All I am saying is that Western civilization does not have to be apologetic for its record and its values. It is well that falsely assumed national guilt is disappearing.
President Carter was quite right but seriously misleading when in one of his major foreign policy speeches he said that there is no need for "inordinate fear of communism." The danger is not from communist economics -- it is failing around the world. The peril of the 1980s is from Soviet expansionism by force.
The state of mind of America is not aggressive. It is becoming one of alertness with alarm.
In this new atmosphere Mr. Fairlie foresees that "after years of slumber and in response to the shock of competition America is stirring and will not now be held back from another spurt of creativity."
It seems clear to me that the mood is one of expectancy of national achievement and this mood will help further it.