More American than the President

In a full article titled Man of War in the Jan. 10-17 issue of Newsweek magazine, Stephen L. Carter compared the war records of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and found a lot of similarity; Obama “Sacrifice(d) idealism for pragmatism in pursuit of his primary duty of keeping the nation safe.” because as president he had to “pick from among several unappealing ways to defend the nation”. Mr. Carter goes on to condemn the motivation behind the criticism against Bush, and now Obama, as the simplicity of the “hater” which makes him/her see the world differently from the complex reality in front of presidents. And for that reason, Obama “largely adopted Bush’s approach to Iraq” and “In the end, the administration even adopted parts of the Bush fight our enemies overseas, eliminating them where possible, rather than wait to be attacked.”
The argument of moving the fight against terror to locations outside the US is an old one, it provides the feel-good fig leaf to some Neocon minds for the invasion of Iraq, but the reasoning falls short to explain the multiple failure of the political process in post-invasion Iraq.
While the suggestion of clever GWB policy makes me chuckle, the analysis of Mr. Carter contains enough substance to make it worthwhile for a response. In a nutshell, the analysis suggests that the office of the presidency brings with it a unique American sense of reality (epistemology) which is too complicated for the haters to grasp, or the cognition of the haters is not up to the office of the presidency, whether it was Bush or Obama.
It is not the insult to the intelligence of GWB’s haters that needs addressing, it is the implicit suggestion that the presidency’s sense of reality is the pinnacle of patriotism that calls for re-examination. Preventive interventionism often depends on the judgment of regional US allies, and the relevant doctrine is the adoption of the allies’ position vis a vis regional threats. The ally’s sense of reality comes with the adoption of his position, so that the ally’s sense of reality over-rides poorly defined US policy. The continuation of GWB policies in Iraq can be seen as a continuation of ally piggybacking on the US presidency’s sense of isolationist reality, which contrasts with the promised multilateralism and sharing risks and responsibilities with the international community.
The US allies are not always successful in imposing their sense of reality over the US’s; the events of the recent ME peace talks is an example, where Israel offered token freezing of building expansion in Palestinian land in return for a large military assistance pack with implicit support for Israeli action against Iran’s nuclear installations. The Obama administration acted independently of the Israeli sense of reality and walked out of the deal. To my mind, the haters and this action is more American than the continuation of ally sense of reality lauded by Mr. Carter.

Comments are closed.