Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Real Foreign Policy Reset

Conservatives seem to be in a tiff today about Benghazi Babe Susan Rice's appointment as National Security Advisor.  Meanwhile Charles Krauthammer opines that Republicans would have had a better chance of getting to the bottom of Benghazi if they'd let Rice's nomination as Secretary of State go forward.

But I don't think we should get too worked up about minor tactical issues.  President Obama wants an "America is the real problem" strategic retreat on foreign policy, and he ought to get it.  If he is wrong, deadly wrong, then Republicans will get to fix it, and the Democrats will get to be mistrusted on defense for another generation.

In truth the world is at a hinge point.  The strategic importance of the Middle East is about to decline as the fracking revolution comes on line, and the whole Arab culture is going to go through a gigantic revolution.  What about China?  Who knows?  Iran?

So the Obama policy of retreating from the world and contracting the defense establishment is really a status-quo policy.  We really don't know what else to do.  And if he retreats too far and contracts defense too much then it merely creates maneuver room for the next Republican administration.

The thing to remember is that government is always a complete mess, a record of failure after failure.  The heroic story of the British Empire was in fact a long series of blunders that usually got patched up and repaired just in time.

Our Democratic friends made a big deal about the mistakes and the blunders of the Bush administration.  But in the context of the time, it made sense.  We wanted to contain Iran and we did.

But what about the jihadi threat?  What about the surging Muslim immigrants to Europe?  Aren't they threatening to take over the world?

Well maybe, or maybe not.  The Islamic surge is a strongly divisive movement.  It is tribal in its structure and therefore probably self-limiting, just like fascism in its day.

If we accept the judgement of people like Max Weber the vital spark that powered the West to world hegemony was not its guns and its science but its transcending of mere tribalism.  Christianity, he wrote, taught city dwellers extend the boundaries of trust beyond blood kin.  It taught them personal responsibility.  It taught them to trust the stranger, or at least give him a fair chance to demonstrate trustworthiness.

Liberalism is going down because it contracts the boundaries of trust.  It urges us to trust foreigners and people barely off the farm.  And it tells us to mistrust businessmen and the ordinary middle class.  Instead it should be teaching women and minorities to emulate and admire the culture of business and the middle class.

Years ago the rulers of China and India decided to build their post-colonial regimes on the model they had learned at western universities, the socialist model.  They thought they were buying the latest, hottest thing.  It took them half a century to discover their mistake and switch their economies away from the dead hand of the administrative state.

Perhaps the Islamists are making a similar mistake.  They are practicing the white-hot politics of identity, just like their western liberal professors taught them.  It may take them half a century of bloody mistakes before they discover they have been had.

The only opportunity for a real reset on foreign policy -- and on domestic policy -- is after the liberal way gets exposed as a hopeless failure and a pathetic conceit of the present ruling class.

Then and only then will conservatives get a mandate to resume the western project of freedom, trust, responsibility, and prosperity.

But in the collapse of liberalism it will be minorities and women hardest hit.  As usual.

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