Paul Johnson‘s knowledge of history leads him to some dispiriting conclusions, as documented in the latest issue of Forbes magazine.

IN ONE RESPECT Barack Obama‘s reelection is historically appropriate. He’s a weak leader and, by reports, an idle one. Such a man is well chosen to lead America into a period of decline.

Just prior to World War I the U.S. became the world’s largest economy, a position it has held for more than a century. But the latest report from a European think tank suggests that China will overtake U.S. output within four years. Obama will close a long and glorious chapter in world history, not with a bang but a whimper.

After turning his attention to China’s corruption-related woes, Johnson returns to the 44th president.

[B]y electing Obama to a second term, [the U.S.] has taken positions similar to those Britain took with Stanley Baldwin in the 1930s: safety first, avoid all the big issues, prefer palliatives to fundamental solutions, leave the budget unbalanced and simply contract new layers of debt, leave unresolved such major issues as Iran‘s drive for nuclear weapons, neglect the nation’s defenses so it no longer has the capacity to deploy a decisive military presence to the world’s hot spots.

Four more years of relative—and in some aspects absolute—decline may not fatally undermine the Pax Americana that has kept the world at peace for an unprecedented eight decades. But it will severely erode all the margins of security.

In the past the U.S. has shown its capacity to reinvent its gifts for leadership. During the 1970s, in the aftermath of the Nixon abdication and the Ford and Carter presidencies, the whole nation peered into the abyss, was horrified by what it saw and elected Ronald Reagan as President, which began a national resurgence.

We must pray this happens again. The alternatives are too dreadful to contemplate.