Towards A Good Samaritan World

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Pat Buchanan inspires in me admiration and loathing. Loathing because he is a fascist dog, with bigoted and amoral positions on every subject. Admiration because he is an excellent writer. That he manages to write persuasively despite the vileness of his views only underlines his talent. I decided his latest bit of mindless isolationism pitch deserved fisking.

Did I miss something? Where did all the “not since Rome” bombast, talk of America’s “benevolent global hegemony,” “Pax Americana,” and the New World Order disappear to? Whatever happened to the “jodhpurs and pith helmets” crowd?

None of them have backed down, that's for sure. Actually, they've been crowing a lot lately.

Just a year ago, in the Irving Kristol Lecture at the annual AEI dinner, columnist Charles Krauthammer rhapsodized about America’s “global dominion” and our having “acquired the largest seeming empire in the history of the world.”

We have “overwhelming global power,” said Krauthammer. We are history’s “designated custodians of the international system.” When the Soviet Union fell, “something new was born, something utterly new—a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe. This is a staggering new development in history, not seen since the fall of Rome. ... Even Rome is no model for what America is today.”

The term "empire" has always been controversial among the neocons and their sympathizers, and is usually modified with some variant of the word "liberty," e.g. "liberal empire" and "empire of liberty." That the principle of democracy, of government by consent of the governed, was not to be abrogated or supplanted was always well understood. In the case of Iraq, this could not possibly have been more explicit. "The tyrant will soon be gone," Bush addressed the Iraqi people before the invasion. We would help the Iraqi people to establish a democratic government, "and then our military forces will leave."

That said, what Krauthammer said is still just about right. We're still basically unchecked by any rival, with decisive reach in any corner of the globe. And if our power has been drained a bit by the war in Iraq, well, power was never an end in itself, but a means to spread and defend liberty. If we've spent a bit of that power to spur the democratic renaissance that seems to be stirring now, it was well spent.

Well, reality does have a way of intruding upon one’s fantasies, and, looking at our world today, it would seem multipolarism is making quite a comeback.

Note the word "fantasy." We'll revisit it later. For now, note that if multipolarity is "making a comeback," that implies that there was a unipolar moment there.

Buchanan has a point that there are signs of what the realist international-affairs school would call a "balancing coalition" forming against a "hegemon." He just exaggerates the trend, and applies it opportunistically to attack the neocons at a moment when more truthful and reasonable observers, even some who previously opposed them, realizing that events are beginning to vindicate their vision.

Castro, though literally on his last legs, yet defies the Americans and is about to be succeeded as the leading hemispheric Yankee-baiter by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan ruler who lately defeated a U.S.-backed recall. Chavez has just ordered Russian-built MIG-29s and purchased 100,000 AK-47s and, despite U.S. protests, Moscow appears ready to sell.

Well, that's slightly annoying, but hardly important. You said Saddam wasn't a threat. Now Chavez is? Give me a break.

And as Chavez finds imitators in the Andean nations, the Mexican government instructs its citizens in how best to sneak across the border into the United States. Would Caesar Augustus have put up with such as this in mare nostrum?

I am honored that so many Mexicans and other foreigners desire to make their home here. I wish them the best of luck in peacefully providing for their families in our country. I appreciate their contributions to our country, both economic and cultural. I hope they continue to come. That our country is able to provide them with that opportunity is one of the chief sources of my patriotism. I realize all this is painful for a bigot like you, Buchanan. Not all of us feel the same way.

Our NATO allies, Tony Blair included, are lifting their embargo on weapons sales to China over the protests of President Bush. Old Europe remains adamant in its refusal to send troops to Iraq, as the Ukrainians and Poles, following the Spanish, quietly depart the beleaguered nation.

The beleaguered nation? Well, that's one way of putting it. Iraqis are proud of their new democracy, hopeful for the future, glad to have left behind their nightmarish past, and now appear to be a shining example to the Middle East. Their nightmarish past is behind them. And some of our allies feel the job is done and now it's time to go home.

The Iraqi elections appear to have deposed our client Allawi and empowered Shia parties with ties to Iran and Kurds who covet Kirkuk and its oil and look to ultimate independence.

Allawi was defeated in an election. That's normal. He was never merely our "client" in any case. We wanted to bring democracy, not install a puppet. And the Shias do not want to install a mullahcracy. More likely, Shia democracy will be contagious and be our best bet to bring about the end of the failed theocracy in Iran.

Whatever the neocons’ vision of Iraq—as strategic base camp for World War IV or crown jewel of Middle East empire—Americans seem to be looking for an exit.

Nice phrases, those. "Strategic base camp [in the struggle against Islamofascism.]" "Crown jewel of Middle East empire [of liberty.]" I'll have to remember those-- they may prove to be excellent descriptions of Iraq's role in the near future. By the way, let's put to rest this notion that "exit" would somehow be a form of defeat. Exit was always part of the plan.

And openly contemptuous China lectures us on our failure to rein in our voracious appetite for imports, which is sending the dollar the way of the peso. Beijing refuses to pressure North Korea to terminate its nuclear-weapons program, permits Pyongyang to use Chinese territory to transship missiles and nuclear materiel, and spends a goodly slice of its $160 billion trade surplus with America to build up air, naval, and missile forces for the showdown with Taiwan.

I don't find it particularly humiliating that the Chinese are giving us advice. Lord knows they're running their economy pretty well. Yeah, there could be trouble in East Asia at some point. No one promised a dream of perpetual peace. Perhaps you think that your isolationist foreign policy would provide it? Read about the 1930s.

“Unchecked by any rival,” is how Krauthammer described the new Rome. Yet as one watches the Old Republic spend herself into bankruptcy, run up trade deficits that debauch her currency, decline to defend her own bleeding borders, permit rivals to loot her technology and cart off her manufacturing plants, America does in a way resemble Rome. But it is, unfortunately, the Rome of the late fourth century.

For America 2005, unlike the America we knew not long ago, has become a newly dependent nation, dependent on the Gulf for oil to run our economy, on imports for the necessities of our national life, on Beijing and Tokyo to buy the bonds to subsidize our self-indulgent lifestyles.

Make that interdependent nation, Buchanan. Free trade benefits both parties. There's nothing wrong with that.

And the late fourth century? Armies of barbarians were pillaging the country. Inflation; demographic decline; economic and cultural disintegration. The irony is that Buchanan had the nerve to accuse Charles Krauthammer of indulging in "fantasies."

The ugliest part of Buchanan's ideology is his total apathy to the freedom or welfare of anyone who is not American-born. In this sense, he closely resembles Howard Dean. Those two would make great political allies. I wonder if we can expect to see them draw closer together before 2008.


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