- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

Some four decades ago, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Thomas Kuhn, propounded one of the most important intellectual theories of our time, what he called the paradigm shift, to explain what happens in scientific revolutions, such as those brought about in physics by Newton, Einstein or Planck.
"A revolution happens, his theory goes," to quote the London Economist explication, "not because of startling new facts, but because of a change in the overall way that the universe is seen… . After this shift, old knowledge suddenly takes on new meaning: the sight of the rising sun becomes evidence for the turning Earth." In other words, one conceptual world view is superseded by another; the Ptolemaic universe is overthrown by the Copernican universe.
While Mr. Kuhn applied his illuminating theory (his seminal work is titled, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"), primarily to the history of science, his theory when applied to nonscience areas can also lead to new understanding about changes in society, government, culture and politics. The cataclysmic events in the 20th century World War I and the overthrow of four empires; World War II and the end of European colonialism; the Bolshevik Revolution and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in August 1991; the end of the Cold War produced, to quote Professor Kuhn in another context, "the successive transition from one paradigm to another."
For example, domination of subject peoples in Eastern Europe by the Austro-Hungarian Empire or planting colonial regimes in Asia and Africa was once accepted as normal behavior until other events wars and revolutions forced "a change in … the overall way that the universe is seen."
Such a paradigm shift is now under way in the 21st century. It involves the relationship of the United States and the rest of the world, particularly the world of dictatorial states like China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea although democracies like France and member states of the European Union are also part of this paradigm shift.
What is involved is the ebbing credibility of the United States as a superpower capable and willing to inflict harm on its enemies. The nose-thumbing defeat by secret ballot of the U.S. at the United Nations as a member of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights would not have been possible when there was a Soviet Union because the U.S. during the Cold War was viewed as essential to maintaining a political balance in a world dominated by nuclear weaponry. In fact, China, now openly Americas enemy, accepted U.S. leadership in the resistance to Soviet imperialism. There was little outcry, except of course in the U.S. media, when President Reagan invaded Grenada to prevent a Soviet coup or when he undertook SDI, the so-called "star wars." There was widespread support of U.S. leadership in the Gulf war against Iraq.
Today the same U.S., supposedly the only superpower, is seen as a paper tiger and with reason: China making the U.S. jump through hoops over the Hainan Island spyplane incident; Iraqs Saddam Hussein still building weapons of mass destruction; Cubas Fidel Castro still in business; North Korea blackmailing the U.S.; Iran leading a war against Israel; Latin American drug lords raking in billions of dollars in the rich American market. And, of course, the continuing terrorist war of Osama bin Laden in the name of Mohammed against the U.S.
The paradigm shift has to be reversed, and the only man who can do it is President George W. Bush. He should keep in mind that Ronald Reagan was one of the most successful U.S. politicians of the postwar era. A London Economist editorial explained why:
"Judged strictly on his own terms, Ronald Reagan was a great president. He said he would reduce regulation; he did. He said that he would cut taxes; he did. He said that he would spend the Soviet Union into submission; he did. He was a successful president … because he knew who he was and what he believed in." In other words Mr. Reagan was elected and re-elected, just as Margaret Thatcher was three times, because, as the Economist put it, they were "conviction" not "consensus" politicians. Americas enemies feared Mr. Reagan as they did not fear Bill Clinton and as they do not now fear George W. Bush.


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