US power: the change Obama seeks 13

Claudia Rosett writes in Canada Free Press:

From World War II to the winning of the Cold War, to the push during the Bush first term to stop the old axis of evil in its tracks, American influence and might has long served the world well. “Change” on this front is perilous, and it is happening.

What began as a shift to “soft power” during the Bush second term has been further evolving under Obama into a surrealpolitik of reset buttons, apologies for America and avowals of “respect” for governments such as Syria and Iran–whose rulers respect neither America nor the basic rights of their own citizens and neighbors.

Iran’s rulers brag up their nuclear program on Iranian television–as they did, again, just last week. In response, Washington huffs and puffs, and reverts to the much-tried-and-failed formula in which the solution to such menaces as terrorist-sponsoring Iran is supposed to be the speedy incarnation of terrorist-spawning Palestinian authorities into rulers of a sovereign state. North Korea conducts illicit missile tests, threatens a second nuclear test, and announces that after years of talks and American concessions Pyongyang will pursue whatever nuclear programs it wants…

On the nuclear front, the threat is not just the prospect of proliferation of bombs among rogue and despotic states–problematic enough though that would be for anyone inside the blast radius, should one of those bombs go off. The further problem is the message such proliferation sends: that arsenals of this kind may be acquired with malign intent and relative impunity; that the least scrupulous of nations are rewarded with out-sized power and influence.

Since the toppling of Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2001, and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in 2003, America has shown growing reluctance to engage in anything smacking of real confrontation abroad. Saddam’s overthrow is by now an issue now so macerated by Washington infighting that the majority of American policymakers treat it as a terrible mistake to have rid the Middle East of a mass-murdering, war-mongering tyrant. And while America has been sticking it out in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been no clear signal sent that when fresh threats arise, America will as a matter of course stand up definitively to anything more than four Somali pirates in a small boat.

In this opportunistic world, what, then, are the new rules of the game? Are they the rules of the morally perverted United Nations Human Rights Council? That’s where America, in its new eagerness to “engage” with all comers has just won a seat alongside such world-class human rights abusers as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. Are they the rules of the Indian Ocean? That’s where America now seems willing to try to rescue its own citizens if they are actually held hostage, but there is still no will to actually clean out the pirate dens. Are the new rules those of Iran’s hostage politics? That’s where victories consist of obtaining the release of prisoners who should never have been held in the first place…

America is coasting right now on the strength of genuine past victories and of the seemingly inexhaustible resources produced by a longtime mix of democracy and free markets. Lamentations and financial woes notwithstanding, most Americans still live cocooned in enough comforts so that it’s easy to forget just how rough the world can get. If America won’t lead the way, lay down the rules and proudly defend them, big change is indeed on its way. It won’t be the change we seek.

Posted under Commentary, Defense by Jillian Becker on Friday, May 15, 2009

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