Friday, October 09, 2009

The Sobering Truth

With all of the fun everyone has been having about the ridiculous choice of Barack Hussein Obama as the undeserved recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize, at the end of the day - there is a sobering reality that we all must return to.

Charles Krauthammer nails it in his new article, Decline Is A Choice.

I recommend reading the entire article, but this portion was quite sobering to me:

But whatever bizarre form of multilateral or universal structures is envisioned for keeping world order, certainly hegemony--and specifically American hegemony--is to be retired.

This renunciation of primacy is not entirely new. Liberal internationalism as practiced by the center-left Clinton administrations of the 1990s--the beginning of the unipolar era--was somewhat ambivalent about American hegemony, although it did allow America to be characterized as "the indispensable nation," to use Madeleine Albright's phrase. Clintonian center-left liberal internationalism did seek to restrain American power by tying Gulliver down with a myriad of treaties and agreements and international conventions. That conscious constraining of America within international bureaucratic and normative structures was rooted in the notion that power corrupts and that external restraints would curb arrogance and overreaching and break a willful America to the role of good international citizen.

But the liberal internationalism of today is different. It is not center-left, but left-liberal. And the new left-liberal internationalism goes far beyond its earlier Clintonian incarnation in its distrust of and distaste for American dominance. For what might be called the New Liberalism, the renunciation of power is rooted not in the fear that we are essentially good but subject to the corruptions of power--the old Clintonian view--but rooted in the conviction that America is so intrinsically flawed, so inherently and congenitally sinful that it cannot be trusted with, and does not merit, the possession of overarching world power.

For the New Liberalism, it is not just that power corrupts. It is that America itself is corrupt--in the sense of being deeply flawed, and with the history to prove it. An imperfect union, the theme of Obama's famous Philadelphia race speech, has been carried to and amplified in his every major foreign-policy address, particularly those delivered on foreign soil. (Not surprisingly, since it earns greater applause over there.)

And because we remain so imperfect a nation, we are in no position to dictate our professed values to others around the world. Demonstrators are shot in the streets of Tehran seeking nothing but freedom, but our president holds his tongue because, he says openly, of our own alleged transgressions towards Iran (presumably involvement in the 1953 coup). Our shortcomings are so grave, and our offenses both domestic and international so serious, that we lack the moral ground on which to justify hegemony.

These fundamental tenets of the New Liberalism are not just theory. They have strategic consequences. If we have been illegitimately playing the role of world hegemon, then for us to regain a legitimate place in the international system we must regain our moral authority. And recovering moral space means renouncing ill-gotten or ill-conceived strategic space.

Operationally, this manifests itself in various kinds of strategic retreat, most particularly in reversing policies stained by even the hint of American unilateralism or exceptionalism. Thus, for example, there is no more "Global War on Terror." It's not just that the term has been abolished or that the secretary of homeland security refers to terrorism as "man-caused disasters." It is that the very idea of our nation and civilization being engaged in a global mortal struggle with jihadism has been retired as well.

The operational consequences of that new view are already manifest. In our reversion to pre-9/11 normalcy--the pretense of pre-9/11 normalcy--antiterrorism has reverted from war fighting to law enforcement. High-level al Qaeda prisoners, for example, will henceforth be interrogated not by the CIA but by the FBI, just as our response to the attack on the USS Cole pre-9/11--an act of war--was to send FBI agents to Yemen.

The operational consequences of voluntary contraction are already evident:

* Unilateral abrogation of our missile-defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic--a retreat being felt all through Eastern Europe to Ukraine and Georgia as a signal of U.S. concession of strategic space to Russia in its old sphere of influence.

* Indecision on Afghanistan--a widely expressed ambivalence about the mission and a serious contemplation of minimalist strategies that our commanders on the ground have reported to the president have no chance of success. In short, a serious contemplation of strategic retreat in Afghanistan (only two months ago it was declared by the president to be a "war of necessity") with possibly catastrophic consequences for Pakistan.

* In Iraq, a determination to end the war according to rigid timetables, with almost no interest in garnering the fruits of a very costly and very bloody success--namely, using our Strategic Framework Agreement to turn the new Iraq into a strategic partner and anchor for U.S. influence in the most volatile area of the world. Iraq is a prize--we can debate endlessly whether it was worth the cost--of great strategic significance that the administration seems to have no intention of exploiting in its determination to execute a full and final exit.

* In Honduras, where again because of our allegedly sinful imperial history, we back a Chávista caudillo seeking illegal extension of his presidency who was removed from power by the legitimate organs of state--from the supreme court to the national congress--for grave constitutional violations.

The New Liberalism will protest that despite its rhetoric, it is not engaging in moral reparations, but seeking real strategic advantage for the United States on the assumption that the reason we have not gotten cooperation from, say, the Russians, Iranians, North Koreans, or even our European allies on various urgent agendas is American arrogance, unilateralism, and dismissiveness. And therefore, if we constrict and rebrand and diminish ourselves deliberately--try to make ourselves equal partners with obviously unequal powers abroad--we will gain the moral high ground and rally the world to our causes.

Well, being a strategic argument, the hypothesis is testable. Let's tally up the empirical evidence of what nine months of self-abasement has brought.

With all the bowing and scraping and apologizing and renouncing, we couldn't even sway the International Olympic Committee. Given the humiliation incurred there in pursuit of a trinket, it is no surprise how little our new international posture has yielded in the coin of real strategic goods. Unilateral American concessions and offers of unconditional engagement have moved neither Iran nor Russia nor North Korea to accommodate us. Nor have the Arab states--or even the powerless Palestinian Authority--offered so much as a gesture of accommodation in response to heavy and gratuitous American pressure on Israel. Nor have even our European allies responded: They have anted up essentially nothing in response to our pleas for more assistance in Afghanistan.

The very expectation that these concessions would yield results is puzzling. Thus, for example, the president is proposing radical reductions in nuclear weapons and presided over a Security Council meeting passing a resolution whose goal is universal nuclear disarmament, on the theory that unless the existing nuclear powers reduce their weaponry, they can never have the moral standing to demand that other states not go nuclear.

But whatever the merits of unilateral or even bilateral U.S.-Russian disarmament, the notion that it will lead to reciprocal gestures from the likes of Iran and North Korea is simply childish. They are seeking the bomb for reasons of power, prestige, intimidation, blackmail, and regime preservation. They don't give a whit about the level of nuclear arms among the great powers. Indeed, both Iran and North Korea launched their nuclear weapons ambitions in the 1980s and the 1990s--precisely when the United States and Russia were radically reducing their arsenals.

This deliberate choice of strategic retreats to engender good feeling is based on the naïve hope of exchanges of reciprocal goodwill with rogue states. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the theory--as policy--has demonstrably produced no strategic advances. But that will not deter the New Liberalism because the ultimate purpose of its foreign policy is to make America less hegemonic, less arrogant, less dominant.

In a word, it is a foreign policy designed to produce American decline--to make America essentially one nation among many. And for that purpose, its domestic policies are perfectly complementary.

Domestic policy, of course, is not designed to curb our power abroad. But what it lacks in intent, it makes up in effect. Decline will be an unintended, but powerful, side effect of the New Liberalism's ambition of moving America from its traditional dynamic individualism to the more equitable but static model of European social democracy.

This is not the place to debate the intrinsic merits of the social democratic versus the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. There's much to be said for the decency and relative equity of social democracy. But it comes at a cost: diminished social mobility, higher unemployment, less innovation, less dynamism and creative destruction, less overall economic growth.

Hat tip:

The Weekly Standard

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Nice Deb

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