Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Walter Russell Mead Tells Us How America Can’t Help Being Good, Even When It Is Bad

Walter Russell Mead unleashes another big one, with Failing Upward, subtitled Relax, America will survive George W. Bush, in the New Republic. In the article, he asks:

For two centuries, the United States has astounded critics with its bad foreign policy--and, for two centuries, the United States has steadily risen to an unprecedented level of power and influence in the international system. Why does the team with the worst skills in the league end up with so many pennants?

His answer:

But there is another dimension to our special providence, one that has come into greater prominence during the Bush administration. U.S. foreign policy isn't successful just because our process reflects the varied interests and priorities of our diverse and dynamic society (which I think was the core argument in Special Providence, the book). We also succeed because our core strategic interests--liberal society, global economic growth, geopolitical stability--fit well with the interests and aspirations of other people around the world. They remain popular even when U.S. policy is widely disliked; when we fail to achieve our goals, others often do the work for us.

Does this sound like American triumphalism with a little help from its friends, neo-con lite, if you will? Perhaps. But Mr. Mead does a breathtaking around-the-world analysis for the Bush era that argues in essence that the world is indeed buying into the deal despite the Bush Presidency.

No doubt you should be able to amass all the regional downsides to construct a different argument For example, the concentration of liquid and gaseous energy resources in the Middle East and Russia is troubling; I also have no handle on what to me was a revelation over the inroads Christianity has been making in Africa and its effects.

Still, on first reading, I find him persuasive. I think that this is going to be one of those articles that are widely talked about.

The article is split into 10 pages, but it’s not that long and can easily be read during lunch break, if you must. You can also read page 9 for the gist of his underlying argument (it is not that unfamiliar; remember the resemblance to neoconservatism), then go over the entire piece.

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