William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
Columns : America Into the Political Void
on 2012/8/15 15:10:00 (8738 reads)

Paris, August 14, 2012 – Mitt Romney’ selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate for the American presidency confirms that this campaign is going to be mainly about domestic issues – barring a not-impossible Israeli attack on Iran between here and there. The choice is likely to count for zero that is intelligent concerning American foreign policy during the next administration. Yet foreign affairs will be the most important issue of all to address as the United States staggers forward into the void.

Instead the campaign may be expected to obsessively deal with the clashing economic and tax ideologies and shibboleths that have driven the Republican Party debate, and under Republican administrations driven the nation itself deeper into deficit and debt, ever since Ronald Reagan laid his blessing upon the teachings that ever lower taxes on the rich produce ever higher tax income for governments; that the dynamism of a nation is produced by market competition unfettered by regulation or government (or excessive attention to law), and the social needs of society are best met by private enterprises working for competitive profit advantage.

Entrepreneurs are believed a race of heroes and their critics the kind of people responsible for the socialist shackles under which Americans struggled from 1932 until their liberation by Dwight Eisenhower’s election to the presidency in 1953. (And even Eisenhower remains a dubious figure to believing Republicans, tainted by his formation in the socialist environment of the Old Regular Army and a professional lifetime spent dealing with foreigners and Abroad.)

Abroad will have need to look after itself if the Romney/Ryan ticket is elected, which might prove a good thing for all concerned were national debt and the daze of domestic dispute to distract a new administration from global adventure – something earlier generations of Republicans were traditionally disposed to leave to the Democrats.

However the party of national isolation from a corrupting world has in recent decades been under neo-conservative foreign policy management, and belligerent in outlook (“Don’t Tread on Me!” has been the Tea Party’s battle flag proclamation, borrowed from the Revolution). The party’s policy leadership has been globalist, a legacy to the neo-conservatives from Trotskyist permanent revolution: the world lies open to be remade, although now by American revolutionary ideology, rather than that of Stalin’s rival and victim.

Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan seem close to the hawkish ideology that gave the United States its present military deployments in Asia and Central Asia, and now increasingly in Africa. But they seem to have no clear intellectual position at all, which is to say that they might easily become the instruments of others with aggressive ideologies of their own. Certainly the Netanyahu government in Israel counts far more on the Republicans than on Barack Obama to endorse or reinforce any Israeli attack on Iran, and Mr. Romney himself has announced that in his mind Jerusalem already belongs whole and entire to Israel.

His attention to the Arab awakening and even to civil war in Syria has been perfunctory at best. However he and his colleagues would certainly back to the hilt the spirit of militarism now in possession of the Pentagon, with the endorsement of the Obama Democrats, expressed in a January 2012 policy statement that reiterated the universal military doctrine that America must permanently be stronger than all possible American rivals combined. As Andrew Bacevich has said on the subject of American statecraft and strategy, “Washington has become an intellectual dead zone.”

For his part, President Obama seems to have nominated himself strategist in chief of the new American war against bandits, highway men, kidnappers, political rebels and troublemakers in the wastes of the Sahara and the Horn of Africa, as well as the thankless task of building nations in Sudan and Somalia. In addition to personally running what amounts to a new American international Murder Incorporated, looking for bad guys to kill, of which there are all to many. Possibly there are better and more constructive tasks for him to undertake.

Copyright 2012 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.


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