I feel like Bette Midler, reading this.
The attitude of much of the outside world towards the United States could be summoned up in five words: “Do something but not that.” The sole superpower is both expected to have a policy for every square inch of Earth and condemned as the source of all evil for anything that goes wrong. The White House is supposed to convince Iran and North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons programmes without issuing any threats against those states, eliminate the al-Qaeda menace through intellectual arguments alone and ensure that various African countries do not become failed states at the very same time. The United States is condemned for having “messed up” in the Middle East, yet at the same time is attacked for having not followed up this allegedly disastrous approach by intensive diplomatic engagement in the same theatre.
Awww. I feel so warm, now, and comforted.
It is time for two crucial points about the US and the wider world to be acknowledged.
The first is that the world needs the United States to be fully engaged in international affairs. If that is to occur, a degree of realism is essential. History teaches us that the power of any potentially dominant actor is either exercised fully or not at all. Calls for the US to be “multilateral” are legitimate in the sense that it is always wise to collect allies but are often code for the notion that it should devote its forces to any and every cause. It is allegedly all-powerful and fundamentally flawed. It should be neutral, but take the right side in every conflict that emerges.
The United States is being asked not only to be the world’s policeman but also its pyschologist and social worker. It is a wholly implausible and inconsistent set of demands.
The second relates to the Middle East as it exists at the moment. … Nor is Mr Bush betraying his closest ally by expressing scepticism about whether the road to peace throughout the Middle East runs via an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Such a political accord would be a welcome outcome. But even if it transpired, such a resolution would have little impact on the Shia-Sunni struggle in Baghdad, or dissuade Iran from its nuclear plans or oblige al-Qaeda to abandon terrorism. It would be a wonderful start yet far from the end of the road.
Changes in the composition in Congress are likely to make the United States more isolationist and protectionist next year. Is that what the world really wants of Washington? Those with contempt for American foreign policy should be careful what they wish for this Christmas.
Ho ho ho, people, the American ninme says warningly