It was nice to be the world’s unparalleled superpower following the fall of the Berlin Wall but it was also a little boring. A little rivalry goes a long way and without it, life just isn’t quite as spicy. Luckily we now have plenty of new enemies who are redefining the terms of the conflict and we can once again experience the existential angst our parents knew during the 60’s and 70’s.
At the same time, even within smaller rivalries you want to see a little spice. I’m sure Yankees fans love to see their Bronx Bombers beating up on this season’s hapless Red Sox. But does it feel quite as rewarding as beating them when Beckett was in top form? Sure, the Sox took one last night but that wasn’t exactly vintage Beckett.
Same goes for our current battles in the Islamic world. Many pundits have imagined Islamic society to be one monolithic bloc that seeks the destruction of the Great Satan but that’s a generalization that serves no real purpose. Cultural battles continue to roil majority Muslim states from Morocco all the way to Indonesia. Sometimes it’s deadly serious. Sometimes you can’t help but laugh and maybe even wish you had been there to see it.
Healthy rivalries keep the competitive juices flowing. There’s no way our space program would have reached the heights it attained without the constant pushing of the Soviets. Likewise, our current conflicts are forcing us to re-examine policies and their long-term effects on our safety and well being. And who knows, maybe if a couple more women beat up a couple more “religious” policemen, even the Saudis might grow up.