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Works and Days

War’s Paradoxes II: From the Peloponnesian War to ‘Leading From Behind’

February 6th, 2013 - 10:45 pm

Obama is not the sole architect of this new Hagel/Kerry/Brennan vision, but rather quite adroitly has tapped into all sorts of new bipartisan currents in American civilization:

1) The public is exhausted over Afghanistan and Iraq and equates the $1.5 trillion spent there as the cause of its additional $9 trillion in debt from 2002-2013. Blaming the war in Iraq is analogous to blaming Bush — the catch phrase that precludes introspection and provides an emotional end to all discussion of present melancholy. The new America has no problem with a leader who kills suspected terrorists by cut-rate drones, or who outsources power to Europeans, or who tries to back off from the predictable Western alignment in the Middle East — if it costs little and is out of the news.

2) There is a lot of support for Obamism from the paleo-right. Chuck Hagel plays the role to Obama that Pat Buchanan once did during the Iraq War with MSNBC — a useful conservative that is a far better critic than are Leftists of Republican supported foreign policy. Suspicion of big government accruing from neoconservative foreign policy, allegedly too close a relationship with Israel, too much power for the Washington military-industrial-consultant-diplomatic nexus — all these concerns appeal to a new conservative notion of isolationism and dovetail with Obamism.

3) The demography of the U.S is gradually changing to one of mixed ancestry from a traditional majority population of predominately European heritage. That reality means new areas of the world are of greater concern — Latin America, Africa, Asia — than the old European focus that had led to the UN, NATO, and the trans-Atlantic alliance with Great Britain: thus the “pivot” to Asia, the gratuitous occasional snubbing of Britain, and the haggling with France over supplies to forces in Mali.

The irony is that much of the vast wealth of the U.S., its unbridled leisure and affluence, and even its huge entitlement industry are the direct results of an active, interventionist policy and a resulting global economic order that sought to replace the isolationism of 1914 and 1939 — even as it is now blamed for most of our problems.

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