Rethinking World Leadership

Published on The National Interest, by Bruce Dein, Nov. 2, 2012.

… Barack Obama did not quarrel with Romney’s assertion that America’s founding mission was and remains a global crusade for peace, jubilation and jollities. He chorused, “America remains the indispensable nation. And the world needs a strong America.” Not to be outdone, Romney retorted that “This nation is the hope of the earth.”

Obama and Romney were echoing the arrogant and condescending sentiments of imperialist Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The White Man’s Burden as the British Empire began to crumble. The words of the twin presidential candidates betray a common psychology of empire and intellectual emptiness that contradicts the letter and spirit of the nation’s charter documents. The Founding Fathers would be stunned and appalled.  

Not a word in the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution nor President George Washington’s Farewell Address nor any early presidential inaugural or state of the union message even hints that the purpose or goal of the United States is world peace or world leadership. The Constitution’s preamble modestly confines the United States government to enabling the “People of the United States” to become wise and virtuous in the exercise of individual liberty.

When Central and South America were in revolt against Spain and Portugal in the early 1800s, the United States did not take up arms in the name of peace. It stayed neutral. Then secretary of state John Quincy Adams elaborated on United States foreign policy during its initial fifty years in his July 4, 1821 address to Congress: … //

… In other words, the United States was not founded to make the world peaceful. It was not founded to become a world leader. It was created to enable Americans to be wise and virtuous. That was the social compact among its people that gave birth to the United States. Its influence abroad was to be the influence of example, simpliciter.

Romney suggested that “the mantle of leadership” for promoting peace “has fallen to America.” How does he know? What are the dimensions or color of the leadership mantle? What is the evidence? Did the mantle fall from heaven? Do other nations or peoples agree? Do a majority of Americans agree? When did the mantle fall? Is there a time deadline for bringing peace to all corners of the planet? Romney has no answers.

The governor continues: “We didn’t ask for it.” But who thrust the mantle on us? What empowered him to do so? How and why were we chosen for the mantle? Did we have a right to reject it? Can the mantle be stolen away like Prometheus stealing fire? Is Romney telling a fairy tale?

Romney concludes: “But it is an honor that we have it.” But how does the mantle confer honor? Do persons and nations genuflect before it? Do they pay tribute? If the leadership mantle means spending trillions of dollars fighting perpetual wars under the Orwellian banner of peace, is the honor worth the price of admission?
(full text).

Links:

Is This Really The Most Important Election Ever? If So, Then Where Are Our Issues? on Black Agenda Report, by Bruce A. Dixon, Oct. 31, 2012;

Barack Obama’s Victory Speech, 21.58 min (video and full text): US president addresses supporters in Chicago after decisively winning a second term, on The Guardian, Nov. 7, 2012;

Why Obama Will Disappoint Progressives and I Voted for Him Anyway, on Common Dreams, by Cenk Uygur, Nov. 7, 2012;

Press Release: The Detainee Policies, on wikileaks.org, 05:00am New York Time (EDT), (10:00am London time (BST) Thursday, 25th October 2012.

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