16.6.19

A FISKING.

David Brooks wrote a defense of the international order that followed on from D-Day.  "The liberal order was built by foreign policy elites, from George Marshall to Madeleine Albright. The problem is that voters are now actively hostile to the project. Instead of widening the circle of concern, most Americans want the U.S. to simply look after itself."

Daniel Larison performs the Fisking.
The things that Brooks derides as “negative aspirations” are fairly normal national security concerns that most people in most nations would have. Most Americans have this crazy notion that the U.S. government’s primary responsibility is to the security and welfare of the United States, and Brooks wants you to know that he does not like it.
That might have been the selling point of a Trump presidency: no more "stupid" wars.

Read on, though, and discover that perhaps a lot of the lamentations of the political classes and their spear-carriers in the legacy press is really of crying with their mouths full.
The U.S. does not face anything like the threat it did during the Cold War, the rest of the world has recovered from the devastation of WWII, and more countries than ever before are democratic, prosperous, and independent. If this is not the time when the U.S. should spend more of our time and resources on looking after ourselves, when will that time ever come? To the extent that the U.S. deserves credit for helping to usher in a better postwar world, the U.S. should also be freed of some of the burdens that it took on in the immediate aftermath of WWII that it no longer needs to bear. The U.S. took on those burdens because the other industrialized nations of the world were in ruins or bankrupt after the war, but that is no longer the case. If “liberal international order” maintenance conflicts with reducing our burdens, why shouldn’t most Americans reject it?
For a corollary to that proposition, check out the victory dividend resource curse.  But that dividend has long been dissipated, and Mr Larison suggests that the principle of an international order is honored more frequently in the breach.
Fetishists of “liberal international order” or “liberal world order” are happy to talk about the importance of a global order based on rules, but they are typically among the first to advocate breaking them when they get in the way of exercising American power. Many of these same people back illegal invasions and bombing campaigns, endorse regime change, and justify interference in the internal affairs of other states all the time. They like to use “liberal world order” rhetoric as a bludgeon against their political opponents, just as Brooks is doing in his column, but they suddenly lose interest in that order when it conflicts with their desire to intervene against this or that regime.

The argument today is not between those who want to uphold this imagined “world order” and those that don’t care what happens to everyone else, but between those who still possess the hubris to think that the U.S. can and should “lead” the world as hegemon and those of us who believe the costs of this are too high and conclude that the task is beyond the competence of any government.
Alternatively, it might be that the conflict is between the people who would like to exercise that leadership inconclusively and the people who have seen all those limited wars since 1945 turn out badly.  That is the complaint of Angelo Codevilla (via Ed Driscoll at Insta Pundit):  "Since then, the U.S. government has won no wars. More important, it has not sought to win wars. Instead, our foreign policy establishment has spent some 100,000 American lives and trillions of dollars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in pursuit of world order, multilateralism, or collective security."  Mr Larison summarizes, loosely, as, the elites have governed poorly, and fail to grasp that.
American policymakers are so susceptible to hubris and overreach because they often fail to take account of human passions, vices, and destructive impulses. They assume that everyone wants to be like us. More than that, they think that everyone should want to be like us and that there is something wrong with them if they don’t. They overestimate U.S. capabilities and competence, and they underestimate the difficulties in dealing with other governments and other cultures. The first 20 years of U.S. foreign policy in this century have been marked by an insouciant stupidity about how other nations view the world, and part of the problem is that our policymakers are far too ambitious and optimistic in the worst way possible. It is that ambition and deranged optimism that have kept U.S. troops fighting pointlessly in Afghanistan for 18 years, and that is also what motivates elite pundits to look down on the majority of their countrymen simply because they think that U.S. foreign policy should have some discernible connection to America.
The alternative, though, might be for the elite to self-abdicate. Icicles will likely form in hell first.

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