Monday, July 28, 2014

Is the world really exploding?

You don't even need to read the article. Michael Tomasky's column today is titled: Is it just me or is the world exploding? So why isn't Obama doing more? I'm going to pick on Tomasky. But he's hardly the only one. The Very Serious People in the media have created a reality out of world events that they want us to ponder. What Tomasky did was pretty much summarize it all in a headline.

But I'm not buying it and here's why:

First of all, lets consider whether or not the world is really exploding. Its true that several "hot spots" have developed in the Middle East. I'm not going to minimize the seriousness of what is going on in Israel/Gaza, Syria or Iraq. I'd simply point out that, for some reason, the U.S. seems to get fixated on what happens in that region of the world. We tend to pay precious little attention when the same kinds of things happen all over Africa, for example. And we certainly don't have columnists who declare that the "world is exploding" when those hot spots flare up. Why do you suppose that is?

If we were to pay attention to the whole globe, I'd suggest there is a framework for understanding what's going on. For decades the places that are inhabited by black and brown people were the playground of colonizers. About the time that was coming to an end, the Cold War heated up and they became pawns in our proxy battles with Russia/China.

Once the United States "won the Cold War," the neocons vision of a new world order was Pax Americana (think: Pax Romana for the origins) as outlined by the Project for the New American Century. Their goals were three-fold:
  1. Total U.S. military dominance
  2. Pre-emptive war against any challengers
  3. U.S. control of the world's oil supply
These are the folks who were advocating for "regime change" in Iraq all the way back to the Clinton administration. The 9/11 attacks simply provided them with an excuse. But it was also their un-doing. The fiasco of our occupation of Iraq dealt a serious blow to the neocons and PNAC was disbanded in 2006. 

I would suggest that when the media reduces our understanding of global concerns to either the activities of Russia and/or what is happening in the Middle East, they are playing right into the hands of the script laid out for us by the neocons. It doesn't surprise me when this kind of tunnel vision comes from Bill Kristol (PNAC founder). Someone like Michael Tomasky should know better.

Secondly, this approach to foreign affairs has the added benefit for the neocons of framing the conversation in such a way that Tomasky asks, "So why isn't Obama doing more?" We've been hearing that one for a while now, haven't we? But the truth is that the real critique comes in simply asking the question. It implies that the President isn't doing enough. As Bill Maher so powerfully demonstrates though, the answer to the question about what he SHOULD be doing is always a vacuous reference to "leadership." Tomasky's two big suggestions come down to (1) more positive rhetoric about the Syrian rebels and (2) more pro-democracy foreign aid. Pretty damn weak tea if you ask me. 

What we need from our media is for more of them to go back to first-principles and begin to examine the question of the role of the United States in global affairs. President Obama carefully laid out his own vision in his speech last May at West Point. The reason so many in the media have avoided applying that vision to his actions is that they remain wedded to the idea of Pax Americana - the idea that the United States can/should control world affairs via dominance and that any president who fails to do so is not doing enough. 

As countries in Africa, South/Central America, the Middle East, and Asia emerge from the effects of both colonialism and the Cold War, a certain amount of chaos is inevitable. I believe that President Obama has articulated his North Star when it comes to responding to that chaos:
  1. The people of those countries have the right to determine their own destiny
  2. Global norms and ideals must be followed and enforced
  3. We must face our challenges via partnership
That's an American foreign policy for the 21st century.


  1. there's also the ahistorical aspect of such hair-on-fire screams, which benen addressed a week or so back:

  2. A foreign policy I applaud, but one that stands little chance of continuing beyond Jan 2017.

  3. One of the things I continually remind myself about is that the world, as a whole, is more peaceful and prosperous right now that virtually any time in human history, despite the "hot spots."