Monday, March 12, 2007

The Problem

Tony Smith in the WaPo:
Iraq had flustered the congressional Democrats because Democrats don't have an agreed position on what America's role in the world should be. They want to change the Bush administration's policy in Iraq without discussing the underlying ideas that produced it. And although they now cast themselves as alternatives to President Bush, the fact is that prevailing Democratic doctrine is not that different from the Bush-Cheney doctrine....

In fact, these neoliberals are nearly indistinguishable from the better-known neoconservatives. The neocons' think tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), often salutes individuals within the PPI, and PPI members such as Marshall signed PNAC petitions endorsing the Iraq invasion. Weeks after "With All Our Might" appeared, the Weekly Standard, virtually the PNAC house organ, gave it a thumbs-up review. And why not? The PPI and PNAC are tweedledum and tweedledee.
I would, unhesitatingly and immediately, say that anyone who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 was a moron*. That said, the underlying critique -- that Clinton-era neoliberalism was not sufficiently distinguishable from actual Republicanism -- has been borne out by the facts. Neoliberals flocked to the GOP banner -- whether they admit it or not -- to fight this damn war, and the only excuse they have now is that they thought they'd win. Well, duh.
It isn't easy to offer a true alternative. The challenges to world order are many, as are the influential special interests in this country that want an aggressive policy: globalizing corporations, the military-industrial complex, the pro-Israel lobbies, those who covet Middle Eastern oil. The nationalist conviction that we are indeed "the indispensable nation" will continue to tempt our leaders to overplay their hand. The danger lies in believing that our power is beyond challenge, that the righteousness of our goals is beyond question and that the real task is not to reformulate our role in the world so much as to assert more effectively a global American peace.
I'll keep asking until I get a good answer: Is America prepared to be just another country? Or will we see war after war after war based on the premise, not that America is powerful and good, but that America is powerful because it is Good.

*The question of whether Ralph Nader had an empirically correct analysis of the situation in 2000 is totally different from the question of whether he was worth voting for in 2000. Nader's political objectives have never been particularly noble, something that only became clear to me post-2000. In any case, I'm happy to say I never wasted my vote on him. (Yes, I am able to vote in US elections. Sadly, only in New York.)

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