Sometimes the right sees more clearly the Obama administration than does its putative allies on the left.

Even as an increasing number of sky-is-falling lefties flock to the duckspeak that there is little substantive difference between the Obama people and the George II crew, the right is in a ferment over two recent statements, one by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the other by Vice President Joe Biden, that indicate clearly that, in contrast to the rogue lone gunman ethos of the George II years, Obama’s is indeed an in-ternationalist presidency, one that is deliberately, if quietly, decoupling from the pernicious fantasy of divinely-ordained American exceptionalism that has driven US foreign policy since “the two Williams”—McKinley and Hearst—inaugurated America as Empire.

First, Vice President Biden on May 6 opened his remarks to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, by noting:

[A]s you probably know, some American politicians and American journalists refer to Washington, DC as the “capital of the free world.” But it seems to me that this great city, which boasts 1,000 years of history and which serves as the capital of Belgium, the home of the European Union, and the headquarters for NATO, this city has its own legitimate claim to that title.

Unspoken, but known to everyone in the room, is the fact that Brussels has since WWII become one of the foremost internationalist cities in the world, the “polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.” Like The Hague,  the de facto judicial capital of the United Nations, site of the International Criminal Court, and host to more than 150 internationalist organizations, Brussels is a magnet for those working towards a world that transcends the crude bonds of nationalism.

A world that the larval creatures of the American right regard with fear and loathing, as a quick google search of Biden’s remarks reveals. The right is apoplectic that Biden would concede that the “free world” is not delimited to the United States. Just as it wails and rends its garments when justices of the United States Supreme Court cite to international law, just as it concluded that Barack Obama is pretty much a Manchurian president, when he delivered the correct response to the question of “whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of ‘American exceptionalism’ that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world”:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world . . . Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise, and that includes us.

The world is changing, and the American right is not changing with it. Those people are still stuck in the lizard-brain mindset that spawned this unsane remark uttered by George I, when it was discovered that the United States had shot down a civilian Iranian airliner, killing all 290 people aboard: “I will never apologize for the United States—I don’t care what the facts are.” According to these people, America is ordained by God to be first and best and biggest and strongest and right, always, end of story.

The righties are also demanding that the US launch some sort of military strike against North Korea—a few are even shouting for nukes—though they conveniently forget that the last time the US landed troops in Korea it was eventually beaten like a gong by the Chinese.

The reason for this new war would be the March sinking of a South Korean warship, apparently by a North Korean submarine. While on a visit to Tokyo last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the evidence of North Korean complicity in the ship’s demise as “overwhelming and condemning,” but failed to announce that the US would run American soldiers on to the beaches or rain down nukes. Instead, she said, “[w]e cannot allow this attack on South Korea to go unanswered by the international community. This will not be and cannot be business as usual. There must be an international, not just a regional, but an international response.”

What she is talking about is a United Nations response. Not South Korea going it alone, or the US muscling in to “help” South Korea (which, presumably, would result in China shoving in on North Korea’s behalf; a repeat of 1950-53), or the nations who happen to be in the neighborhood sauntering over to get involved. The idea is that when nations get to bloodily bickering with one another, instead of leaving them to fight it out alone, or by calling in busybodies, buddies, or bullies, all the nations of the world will combine to convince the combatants to first lay down their weaponry and go home to their families, and then fairly and equitably assign responsibility, and prescribe remedies. That is the dream of the United Nations; some day it will a reality. That it has not fully moved yet into the real is no reason to abandon it. Like any dream, it requires time, and effort, to attain the actual.

When the histories are written, Obama and his people probably will not occupy as prominent a place as Mikhail Gorbachev, who deliberately declined to exercise the powers available to him, allowed events to take their course, and so presided over the dissolution of an empire. But, I think, they’re working on it. Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Biden—these are people who in their lives have had to face themselves, have seen, and eventually accepted, that they are not always first, best, right. Who sometimes fail, sometimes need help. As with people, so too with nations.


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When I Worked

May 2010
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