Who read The Economist today?
Hopefully no one. Because outside of an American college campus, it takes a rare bird to think economic and foreign analysis is smarter with a British accent. But the burden of being a grown up comes with a few drawbacks. One being that discerning readers missed this gem:
Foreign policy follows cycles. The Soviet collapse ushered in a decade of unchallenged supremacy for the United States and the aggressive assertion of American values. But, puffed up by the hubris of George Bush, this “unipolar world” choked in the dust of Iraq. Since then Barack Obama has tried to fashion a more collaborative approach, built on a belief that America can make common cause with other countries to confront shared problems and isolate wrongdoers. This has failed miserably in Syria but shown some signs of working with Iran. Even in its gentler form, it is American clout that keeps sea lanes open, borders respected and international law broadly observed. To that extent, the post-Soviet order has meaning.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
Because it really does take a special kind of editorial board to blame the decline in American hard power on President George W. Bush; to say President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is “collaborative”; to think that Syria is an American loss; to think Iran is an American win; to think that borders are respected; to think that international law is broadly observed.
Of course, the editors don’t bother with any evidence for the foundation of their thesis. Their paragraph is couched in important foreign policy buzzwords, like “ushered in a decade” and “post-Soviet,” so it’s unassailable; practically peer-reviewed.
(“Choked in the dust of Iraq.” Somebody wake Joseph Pulitzer, we have ourselves a poet!)
It’s really a waste to explain how the invasion of Iraq was not the end of American power. And if someone really thinks Mr. Bush’s “hubris” is the reason why President Vladimir Putin’s long, long-planned vision of a restored Russian empire has finally gotten rolling, then have at it. But still, it would be nice to hear the explanation of how “collaborative approach” is defined by a cancelled missile shield in Poland, the snubbing of our British alliance, no status of forces agreement with Iraq, no status of forces agreement with Afghanistan, and the offering of food (not weapons) in Ukraine.
Or how a Muslim civil war where Iran and Hezbollah are bogged down fighting al-Qaida, which is bogged down fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is a place where Mr. Obama ought to be meddling.
Or how Iran’s accelerating nuclear ambitions — and Israel’s increasing isolation — are examples of Secretary of State John Kerry and Mr. Obama’s global cunning.
Or how an article about the invasion of Crimea — written in a world where proxy wars, terrorist incursions and drone strikes are the norm — could cite “borders respected.”
Or how exactly our friends at The Economist can claim an “international law broadly observed” while Syria’s Bashir al-Assad gasses his own. What does a world where “international law is broadly” ignored look like to the editors? (Just a guess: Mr. Bush and Iraq.)
And finally, we’re curious just how current Russian belligerence is a marked departure from the “post-Soviet order.”
Why now, and not when Russia poisoned a defector in London with plutonium, poisoned a politician in Kiev with Dioxin, invaded Georgia? Is it because the editors recognize Ukraine from their Risk map so they know it’s for serious this time?
The United States is different from our cousins across the seas for a number of reasons, one among them never having had a permanent aristocracy. As such, we lack a native accent that carries with it a degree of authority. And so our college students turn to the BBC, to The Economist. Foreign policy with an British accent. Authoritative, right?
Not necessarily. Just a reminder.
Enjoy the weekend.