Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cowboy Nation By Robert Kaga

These days, we are having a national debate over the direction of foreign policy. Beyond the obvious difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a broader sense that our nation has gone astray. We have become too militaristic, too idealistic, too arrogant; we have become an "empire." Much of the world views us as dangerous. In response, many call for the United States to return to its foreign policy traditions, as if that would provide the answer.
What exactly are those traditions? One tradition is this kind of debate, which we've been having ever since the birth of the nation, when Patrick Henry accused supporters of the Constitution of conspiring to turn the young republic into a "great and mighty empire." Today, we are mightier than Henry could have ever imagined. Yet we prefer to see ourselves in modest terms--as a reluctant hegemon, a status quo power that seeks only ordered stability in the international arena. James Schlesinger captured this perspective several years ago, when he said that Americans have "been thrust into a position of lonely preeminence." The United States, he added, is "a most unusual, not to say odd, country to serve as international leader." If, at times, we venture forth and embroil ourselves in the affairs of others, it is either because we have been attacked or because of the emergence of some dangerous revolutionary force--German Nazism, Japanese imperialism, Soviet communism, radical Islamism. Americans do not choose war; war is thrust upon us. As a recent presidential candidate put it, "The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation." more...


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