The Closet Moderate: The End of Pax Americana?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The End of Pax Americana?

Winds of change are blowing across the deserts of North Africa.  First Tunisians, then Egyptians, and now Libyans crowded the streets in protest and insurrection against their respective despots.  In 1989, when a similar wave of freedom swept the former Warsaw Pact, America's voice joined the voices of the oppressed as they cried out for freedom from their socialist masters.  Now, in Africa, those voices are raised again, but one voice is missing from the chorus.  Ours.

Between mutterings about the United Nations and the international community, between shifting blame to his Secretary of State and making his NCAA tournament picks, President Obama hasn't managed to say the one thing the Libyan rebels long to hear: we are with you.

The shores of Tripoli, 1804
Don't get me wrong: Obama's said plenty of words.  He's great at words.  But words are of no import without the action that makes them true.  Expressions of moral support are fine and good, but they pale in comparison to actual support.  For all the good he's done, Obama might have just changed his Facebook status.  LIBYA SHULD BE FREE!! IF U AGREE POST THIS AS UR STATUS!!!

If he was just a harmless fool with a Facebook page, there would be little reason to object.  But Obama's bully pulpit makes him America's voice to the world.  As Calvin Coolidge said, "[t]he words of a President have an enormous weight, and ought not to be used indiscriminately."  Obama should recall his wise predecessor when he speaks of support that is moral rather than material.  Or, as another wag once put it, don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash.

America's great power and willingness to use it has created what historians have called the Pax Americana.  Our national strength deters lesser powers from starting wars.  It has been an imperfect pax, to be sure, but without the threat of American reprisals the petty tyrants around the world would have nothing to stop them.  But our current peacenik-in-chief believes that his foreign policy can be all velvet glove, no iron fist.  If we just find a way to make everyone love us, all will lay down their arms.  Peace!  The goal of all good men!

But peace is not an end in itself.  Justice is an end.  Liberty is an end.  Equality is an end.  All of these ends can be applied to American policy at some point in our history.  Peace is often the way to achieve justice but so, at times, is war.  Peace did not keep Saddam Hussein from annexing Kuwait; war did.  Afterward, the knowledge that America would resort to war at need kept other despots' armies in their barracks.  Now, as Libyan rebels cry out for a no-fly zone, the sort of thing Bush and Clinton did all the time to protect rebels, Obama sits and thinks and talks.  But he does not act.  Is it a surprise that no other nation will step forward?  Is it a surprise that Saudi troops are suppressing democracy protesters in Bahrain?  Who's going to stop them?  The international community?


Silent Cal said...

And speaking of NCAA picks, Obama picked all #1 seeds in the Final Four. If that doesn't show that he has no guts, what does?

Corey Goldiner said...

The spread of democracy to the Middle East does not necessarily mean the spread of Western Values. Democracy in Lebanon gave us Hezbollah. Democracy in the West Bank gave us Hamas. It is unwise to risk American involvement in a country we know so little about. Ideologically we took the high ground by being engaged in anti-soviet pro-freedom revolts in the 1980's. We also got burned (see Al Qaeda). I'm not willing to throw my lot in with abstract values like freedom without an understanding of who will take over after Qadaffi.