Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American Acceptionalism

(Pun intended)
So here's President Obama, talking about America's role in the world last night:
"For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom," Obama said. To allow a slaughter in Benghazi would have been to "brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and... would have been a betrayal of who we are." 
For ten years, we've been endlessly reminded of America's "special" place in world affairs. America is the world's biggest economy, has the world's biggest armed forces, is the policeman to the world...yet can't hunt down one skinny sick Saudi in a small region that straddles the border of two of the most desolate regions in the world. 
Even the strongest have limitations. 
Now, none of this is to say that America shouldn't throw its weight around when necessary, and Obama alluded to this last night in the negative:
"We must always measure our interests against the need for action."
Again, fair enough. When our interests are at stake, we ought to be prepared to take measures to protect ourselves. 
But what threat does Gaddafy pose to us? After all, he voluntarily shut down his nuclear program (altho given the level of interest the Bush administration had in him, and their effectiveness in addressing terrorism, one has to wonder if indeed this ever happened) and cozied up to the previous administration. No one has claimed that he has had aspirations against us, and if anything, he's presented a face of reconciliation for Africa, offering his aid to the situations in Somalia, Darfur and Zimbabwe.
Again, there's no judging his sincerity on these, either.
The slaughter in Benghazi is certainly a legitimate concern of Obama's, and the world's, and it was nice that Obama put the veneer of legitimacy by asking for the UN's blessings on this mission, and did so without sending his Secretary of State in to do a snake-oil presentation complete with vials of white powder. Too, Gaddafy suffers from his own world image, one that seemingly did not endear him to any of the Security Council who could have vetoed the action (China abstained).
Of particular interest to me, however, was the curious lack of invitation to powers-to-be to assist in patrolling the world now. Nations like China, Brazil and India, with their steaming-hot economies and massive expansion of trade and influence, are living off our military dime. It's about time they started ponying up. China has a strongly vested interest in the region of North and Central Africa. Brazil certainly by dint of its location will look to Africa as a trade partner, and India with its billions of people must have some eye on Africa and its enormous resources and access to Europe and the Americas.
So the question I want to ask Mr. Obama is, why not China? Why not India? Why not Brazil? I accept that it had to be us in the past, but why now? Have we gotten so locked into the old Cold War thinking that, if America doesn't do it, this will not hold? That it will turn socialist/Islamist/terrorist without American intervention?
It's a new century. You're a new age man. Surely it's time to think out of the box.