Yglesias has a great post on the fallacy of these "national greatness" politicians.
Francis Fukuyama's much-misunderstood book The End of History isn't really about how there isn't going to be any more history. Instead, the thesis was that the forces of liberal democracy were now so strong that there wasn't going to be any more capital-H History -- just somewhat banal problem-management. Fukuyama's neocon enough to find that semi-regrettable. He's also smart enough to see it as quasi-inevitable, which is why he's soured on many of his fellow travelers who've essentially been engaged in a self-deceiving effort to gin up a more dramatic problem than the one we really face. One would hope that Katrina, like the tsunami before it, would remind us that fundamentally banal problems -- nature sometimes throws up big swathes of water and lots of people live near the sea -- are plenty important and worth focusing on even if they don't involve killing lots of people.
I find aesthetically pleasing the idea of Fukuyama seeing the statement as both regrettable, and still somewhat inevitable.
Anyway, this sort of attitude I think needs to be cultivated again and again in our post-"flight or fight" industrialized world.