Thursday, March 23, 2006

Vainglorious imperialism

The Daily Show had an interview with Michael Mandelbaum the other day.

Mandelbaum's new book, The Case for Goliath, is reviewed by Martin Walker for the NY Times (reg'n req'd).
[The global society made possible by US hegemonic control] has been a remarkable and seductive economic success. Having built the tripartite trading structure of the modern world (North America, Western Europe and Japan) to enrich its citizens and allies and sustain the cold war, the generous Americans have expanded it to include the Asian tigers and Eastern Europeans. Now 1.3 billion Chinese and 1.1 billion Indians are clambering up the food chain to prosperity. They deal in dollars, raise money in the New York and London financial markets, generate big trade surpluses with the United States and then send their brighter and most ambitious children to American graduate and business schools, where they are exposed to the creeping osmosis of the Western value system. This is a magnificently benign loop, and will continue to be so once those American-trained graduates figure out how the biosphere is going to handle tens of millions of Asians living the American lifestyle, with their own cars and air conditioning and fast food. |NYT|
I like how Walker points out the many blessings of our global economy while not ignoring the looming environmental disaster before us.

It's too bad that Bush is such a poor hegemon.
If President Bush were to run for re-election in 2008 it is not difficult to imagine the kind of devastating indictment that might be made of his foreign policy, not least because the terms of such an indictment were brilliantly anticipated more than a century ago...[by] William Ewart Gladstone, the only true genius among 19th century British politicians...

Gladstone eviscerated [Benjamin Disraeli's] foreign policy as a disastrous mixture of vainglorious imperialism, cynical Realpolitik and fiscal improvidence. His speech...reads amazingly well today.

Gladstone...regarded freedom as the foundation of a correct foreign policy. "The foreign policy of England," he declared, "should always be inspired by the love of freedom. There should be a sympathy with freedom, a desire to give it scope, founded not upon visionary ideas, but upon the long experience of many generations within the shores of this happy isle…" That is precisely what a Democratic challenger to President Bush would want to begin by saying: We share your aspiration to spread freedom.

But Gladstone's other five principles can be read today as an ideal first draft of the case against the practice of this administration's foreign policy.

Gladstone's first principle of foreign policy was, paradoxically but rightly, "good government at home" - to be precise, fiscal stability. By that measure, Bush's second term has been an almost unqualified failure. To cut taxes and run deficits in 2001, in the aftermath of a stock market crash, made sense. But to allow the federal government to continue to run deficits even as recovery has strengthened has left the United States dangerously dependent on foreign capital for its economic stability. A net external debt equivalent in magnitude to more than 20 per cent of gross domestic product is no laughing matter...|Niall Ferguson in Telegraph|(emphasis added)
Thanks to the Brothers Judd for the link.

In some ways I'm proud of Bush. He has grown up so much during his time in office. Bush has finally figured out that the environment is vital, that war is dangerous and that torture is bad for his image.

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