I’m a bit confused by Tom Friedman’s New York Times column this morning. I don’t like having a “lying, unethical bully at the helm”, either. Here’s what confuses me:
It all depends just how far Trump goes with this. Will it be a mild departure from the approach of every other U.S. president of the postwar era — each of whom understood that we had an overall interest in being the overall steward of a democratizing global order — or a radical departure? I don’t know yet, but if you look around, a lot of people are acting as if the cat’s away so the mice can play.
I have a three part question for Mr. Friedman. How does each of the following:
- President Bush’s invasion of Iraq without clear casus belli and without United Nations Security Council sanction
- President Obama’s bombing of the internationally recognized government of Libya that ultimately led to the overthrow of that government exceeding the UNSEC resolution that permitted the bombing and
- President Obama’s support for anti-government Syrian rebels without UNSEC sanction
comport with a “democratizing global order”? And from 2012 to 2016 did the world become more democratic, less democratic, or stay about the same.
My answers to those questions is that none of those actions is consistent with a democratizing global order or liberal values more generally and none have promoted U. S. interests. I would tell a somewhat different story of the last 20 years.
All of our presidents very nearly without exception are, to varying degrees, liars and bullies. It goes with the job. Lying and bullying with nicely creased pants is still lying and bullying nonetheless. Like it or not promotion of a democratizing global order is facilitated by American military and economic strength and nothing promotes America’s military strength quite so much as its sparing use. When used it must be decisive.
Even more important we cannot maintain American economic strength without an industrial base and a revised relationship between the returns to capital and the returns to labor. Unsightly as industrial production is, we must make and build more of what we consume. The vision that so many of our elites seem to have of a park-like America with themselves in the role of the eloi and the Chinese, South Koreans, and much of the rest of the world cast as Morlocks ignores that in The Time Machine the Morlocks were the masters and the eloi cattle. That is what comes of watching movies rather than reading the books they’re based on.
I think that the world is less democratic than it was in 2012 and any globalization of democracy has declined, a victim of promiscuous use of American military strength and the decline of America’s economy and society. Government-furnished health care and higher education will not correct either of those.