The liberal writ was that a strutting “bring ’em on” George W. Bush for eight years did what he pleased on the international scene. His “unilateral” America supposedly did not consult with either allies or international organizations, as he rammed through democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush’s “my way or the highway” personal credo resulted in an America alone.
Obama, of course, was hailed as the multifaceted antidote to all that. The new nontraditional America would reach out to the world. We would now listen rather than lecture. This was a welcome reflection of Barack Obama’s own cool and tolerant approach to politics, learned as a seasoned community organizer in Chicago.
But things have not quite worked out as planned. Barack Obama to all appearances is certainly more relaxed than Bush. And he resonates abroad as a nontraditional American. Indeed, Obama is now the paradigm of America’s ongoing metamorphosis into something more like the rest of the planet.
Yet in his own way Obama projects a far more prissy, self-indulgent America than we had under Bush. And that self-centeredness seems a logical extension of the new commander-in-chief himself.
How can that be, given Obama’s well-known apologies — for everything from slavery and our treatment of Native Americans to being imperious toward Europeans and Muslims? In obsequious fashion, we have sought to assure the Russians that we won’t deploy anti-ballistic missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama has reminded the Chinese that they enjoy sovereignty over Taiwan. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, the Castro brothers, Hugo Chávez, and assorted other old enemies of the United States are suddenly considered either neutrals or friends.
It seems counterintuitive, then, to suggest that Obama’s America is increasingly self-absorbed.
GLOBAL PENITENT But consider first the nature of his apologies. America deigns to apologize to Muslims without much mention of a murderous Islamic radicalism that almost daily fuels a terrorist attack on some portion of the world’s civilian population.
Left unsaid by the global penitent is that Russiaflattened Grozny and butchered hundreds of thousands of Chechens in serial wars. No need to talk of the absorption of Tibet by China or of the 70 million Chinese who were killed or starved to death under Mao. Will the adjudicator Obama not say who was at fault in Rwanda, who needs to apologize — and how?
Obama is conflicted over Hiroshima, but not so much over the millions of Chinese, Koreans, Australians, British, and Americans who were slaughtered by the legions of the Co-Prosperity Sphere — and were desperate to find a way to stop Japanese militarism.
The point is this: When Obama takes it upon himself to adjudicate, in quite ahistorical fashion, who is culpable and who not, the resulting verdicts are consistent only in terms of the president’s own Chicago-style race/class/gender politics.
Detention in Guantanamo is Bush’s transgression against the Constitution, but the incineration of terrorists and their families by judge/jury/executioner Predator drones in Waziristan is Eric Holder’s approved cosmic justice.