American Power: A Time to Pause & Reflect

Is it possible that the United States’ influence on the world was really so strong that we managed to keep whole nations, with civilizations far older than ours, at bay — or even intact — for so long?

As I take a look at the turmoil we are currently experiencing and contrast it with the criticism of President George W, who had a very clear vision of America’s role in the world, I must say that I am somewhat dumbfounded with what has transpired in just six short years.

It is akin to the old adage that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. Or when parents don’t parent, the kids have their way.

I look around the world right now and, I must say, I truly feel sorry for President Obama. I’m not saying that he didn’t contribute in any number of different ways to where we are at this point, I only wonder why it was not as clear to his leadership team, as it was to the Fox Network pundits, that it was dangerous.

After all, one of the first international excursions for President Obama was to head to the Arabic Peninsula to apologize for what he described as a modern brand of American Imperialism. His trip to the European Continent shortly thereafter resulted in a message not far different from that.

Yes, it’s true that we were coming off of George W and his Texas gun-slinger ways, but was that, in retrospect, particularly wise for Mr. Obama?  Perhaps George W represented a certain amount of Wilsonian American sentiment that our way is clearly the best way.  And it might also be said that perhaps he expressed that American optimism with less tolerance for other sovereigns than was prudent.  But President Obama’s retreat was so pronounced, so articulate, so international, that it clearly provided a clarion call for what was to come . . . whatever that might be!

And indeed it came!

Monday morning quarter-backing is obviously 20/20. But you probably did not have to get all that far past President Obama’s first term to know that we were not on a happy-dreams course in our international relations.

Close to two years after President Obama’s reelection, all hell has broken loose.

o Russia has shed all pretense of being a non-aggressive after months of deceit, posturing and disassembling. Now, with Russian trucks and troops rushing across Ukraine’s borders to secure an Eastern Channel to the Crimea, and inconsistent messages as to whether Russia has a right to participate in “cease-fire” discussions or not, there is no question that Putin, in 2014, seeks to recreate Russian dominance, as once prevalent through the USSR.  Some have even noted that his efforts begin to nudge towards Chancellor Hitler, boldly recreating Arian supremacy after the humiliating acceptance of the Versailles Treaty.

o ISIL, morphed into ISIS, further morphed into the Islamic State, charges across Arabic sands to create a Caliphate intended to rival the Ottoman Empire in its breadth, depth, and violence. The Islamic State respects no borders and, were it left to its own devices, would solidify the entire Arabic Peninsula under one Caliphate Ruler. Moreover, its love lust only feeds its economic appetite as it harnesses cruelty, violence and indifference to a mass economic supremacy further feeding military supremacy.

o Israel is left with a determined but measured response to Hamas which, upon the signing of the last non-limited Peace Treaty, put an end to the fifty (50) day warfare which not only left Hamas barely wounded, but which laid the foundation for anti-Israeli forces far more powerful a year from now than they are today.

o In the African Continent, Harran to the south, and the Somali pirates to the east, lay plunder to all notions of decency, dignity or humanity.

o I could go on and on and on.

And throughout it all, Nero fiddles!  

President Obama shifts intermittently from one rhetorical declaration to another, but with no strategic or even tactical objective to anchor them.

But frankly, that’s not even my point.

This blog isn’t about the miserable state of affairs in which we find ourselves internationally.

And this blog is not even about how President Obama is or is not creating an historical legacy for himself, or whether he’s a good President or a bad President.

This blog is really more about the fact that all of these incidences appear to have occurred within a short six year period of the transition from George W to President Obama and with a shift in America’s mentality and philosophy as to its role in the world.

If America’s intention is to parent to the world’s spoiled children, then that vision produces particular behaviors.

If America’s vision is to look within its borders and take care of our own, then that produces a particular set of circumstances.

And if America’s vision reflects not only a shift from the first to the second, but also the perception that the first was an intolerable embarrassment, then that creates its own particular consequences.

There may not be a consensus that all of these international travails have resulted from the shift in American sentiment from number one to number three; however, were that true, then what has transpired makes sense.

It makes sense that, as America has continued to withdraw its resources and has clanged the bell letting everyone know that we intend to do so, every vagabond nation, terrorist organization, or marauding paramilitary unit, not only was on notice as to what our intentions were, but was in a position to plan around it. The media messages were loud and very clear; President Obama was loud and clear:  it was wrong to go into Iraq; we’re now out; and we’re not going back!

And, if the truth be told, it probably was wrong to go into Iraq, particularly to search for WMD which didn’t exist upon faulty intelligence.  But does a bad decision on the facts need to necessarily alter judgment on the fundamental strategy?

I don’t know whether President Obama had the foresight to foresee these things and whether it is even fair to suggest that any human being we elect as a President can.

However, what is clear is what we see. And what we see is a world gone mad at a time in which America has conspicuously withdrawn from exercising foreign leadership as we play the theme of tending to our own.

If that’s not a causal connection, so be it.

But my suspicion is that when the cat’s away, the mice will play and when the parents don’t parent, the kids will take charge.

And my further suspicion is that while the way forward may not be George W’s, since, after all, we are dealing with sovereigns and our democratic aspirations need not necessarily be imposed on them.  At the same time, it’s certainly not President Obama’s, since, for whatever reason, he has simply reneged on the United States’ willingness to lead, regardless of circumstances.  

It is somewhere in between:  less ideological than George W, but far more pragmatic and less idealistic than President Obama:  a foreign policy based on our rational self-interest, coupled less with a concern for democracy and far more with preservation of human dignity.

It is probably somewhere between Kissinger and Reagan — the cat’s not away and is watching very carefully!  The parents are here and prepared to take control!

There is no immodesty or arrogance in a perception of American Exceptionalism.  And current history is showing us in full video what happens when we turn our backs on it.

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