Can Apple survive without Steve Jobs? The announcement of his departure is one of the biggest milestones in American business history.

Rarely has a single individual been so closely identified with and intertwined with a company’s fortunes as has Jobs. He is Apple. His vision and creativity spawned many successes (and failures!) over the years, but no one could ever say that he was unwilling to take a chance, to throw the dice.

Sony’s founder Akio Morita supposedly put his reputation on the line and promised to resign if the Walkman wasn’t a success in 1979, but that was arguably not as great an electronics culture-changer as the iPod/iPhone/iPad revolution that began in 2002.

Apple’s rise from near-bankruptcy in the late 1990’s to its position today as the company with the largest market capitalization, more cash reserves than the US government, and by far the greatest sales/sq ft of floor space of any retail company ever is unprecedented in business history.

But most importantly, Apple has become an invaluable American national asset. Its financial importance to our economy and our indigenous technology reputation and image is so central to the well-being of our country that past emotional PC vs Mac “feuds” and adolescent rooting interests by PC-aficionados against the “arrogance” of Steve Jobs are not only no longer relevant, they’re outright damaging to our national economic interests.

Apple’s vision and innovation are driving the future of consumer electronics and fundamentally changing the manner in which people send and receive information, personal communications and entertainment. Their “i” products have ushered in the future, and nothing will ever be the same again. Samsung, HP, Dell, RIM, Sony et al are merely scrambling to not miss the bus.

The US economy, our technology employment/research base, our national reputation, and our standard of living will suffer a tremendous setback if Jobs’ departure results in a crippling blow to Apple.

Our politicians in DC need to understand the central importance to our country of a company like Apple. Successful corporations are not the “enemy.” They’re the backbone of the country.