“NO TIME TO GO WOBBLY, BARACK”….Michael Hirsh has an interesting piece in our April issue that’s partly about Barack Obama and partly about America’s post-9/11 foreign policy — and, from there, partly about Barack Obama’s likely approach to post-9/11 foreign policy. To foreshorten Hirsh’s argument considerably, he’s afraid that Obama’s choice of advisors (Samantha Power and Anthony Lake) suggests that he thinks U.S. foreign policy needs a “wholesale reimagining,” when what’s really needed is just a change of personnel:
What’s needed is not a new birth of liberalism or of conservatism — or cleverly titled ideological mergers of the two — but just one good Democrat or Republican with the courage to say, repeatedly, that invading Iraq was irrational, that the entire war on terror has been misconceived, that the last six years have been such an aberration as to constitute the most disastrous foreign policy in the nation’s history, and that reason will now rule again. I think that person will win.
Hirsh’s piece is long and worth reading completely. He’s actually making one of the most difficult kinds of argument of all, an argument that the current system is fine and doesn’t really need big changes. The UN is flawed but workable. Muscular diplomacy produces results. Liberal internationalism as practiced by FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton is still workable, even (or maybe especially) in a post-9/11 world. And Barack Obama might be just the right messenger to spread this gospel:
For all his openness to rethinking first principles, there’s reason to believe that this is something Obama understands better than any other leading candidate. “I don’t oppose all wars,” he declared in 2002, while Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were triangulating their way toward authorizing the Iraq invasion. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war.” Perhaps, ultimately, this is his real value right now. Not as the perfect vessel for a shining new world order. Though, of course, he is just that: Who could better reassure a jittery and suspicious world that America is ready to resume global leadership than a new young president who is the son of a black African father and a white Kansan mother, with a Muslim middle name who grew up in Asia? Rather, Obama’s value is as someone with the courage, independence, and basic common sense to declare, without equivocation, that America’s loss of global leadership is a result not of the inevitable breakdown of the existing structure, but of the Bush administration’s radical and disastrous policy decisions. And that, with the right mix of patience, wisdom, and common sense, we’re not as far from reclaiming that leadership as it might appear.
Read the whole thing.