Beyond the 'fiscal cliff': 6 reasons to be optimistic about America's future

As Americans take stock of 2012 and gear up for 2013, it's tempting to adopt "decline think" about the country, especially since there is still no deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of steep budget cuts and tax increases. But here are six reasons Americans should still be optimistic about their future.

2. The 'good old days' weren't so good

The assessment of American decline is not as persuasive as it might appear, depending, as it does, on the "good old days" being as rosy as many people recall. At least in foreign policy, the US is often said to have achieved "hegemony" – having its way – after World War II, only to have become impotent in recent years. But this alleged period of postwar dominance was rife with strategic setbacks. Among them:

The emergence of seven additional nuclear-weapons states between 1945 and 2000 (Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Israel, and Pakistan); a series of strategic crises (the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Berlin Crisis of 1958, and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962); the costly and protracted war in Vietnam and beyond that ended in US defeat and the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 that contributed to US stagflation; and the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

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