Today, Americans are adrift and at odds in their vision of the role they must play in the world. We crave a return to normalcy in the way we always do after a big victory abroad — only, in this case, we have no victory. Yet neither do we have the benefit of an instructive defeat, which focuses the mind and steels the nerve. We have the geopolitical equivalent of a lot of student loan debt — an unshakable obligation to get back, step by step, to square one, stretching out over decades. In 10 years, when our “strategic partnership” with Afghanistan comes up inevitably for renewal, it will be 2022. Does anyone believe the America of 2022 will look a great deal like the America of today? No wonder Americans can’t recognize what America ought to be and do on the world stage. We can hardly envision our own future here at home.
Democrats are salivating at the prospect of throwing a victory party atop president Obama’s Afghan “end zone dance.” Yet no matter how enthusiastic Democrats may be about celebrating Obama’s political victory, that victory has a grotesque character because it comes at the cost of progressive ideology. Although the president has destroyed the GOP with his foreign policy, he has actually failed to dent the core of the conservative case against it — that we owe the rest of the world nothing. Obama’s political windfall for Democrats, meanwhile, comes almost entirely at the expense of the progressive case for a leftist foreign policy. Obama has deftly avoided disaster, but he has teed up America for a stark ideological choice in the not-so-distant future. Then, the advantage will go to conservatives — though the GOP may lie bleeding on the battlefield.
James Poulos is a columnist at The Daily Caller, a contributor at Ricochet, and a commentator in print, online, and on television and radio. Recently he has been the host of The Bottom Line and Reform School on PJTV and a fellow of the Claremont Institute. His website is jamespoulos.com and his Twitter handle is @jamespoulos.