Anthony Gregory writes on Obama's recent denial that America is an empire.
President Obama tries to have it both ways when talking of American foreign policy. He sold himself to the public in 2008 as a more prudential steward of U.S. power. He would avoid “dumb wars,” as he had called the Iraq fiasco in a speech years before. He would save money by bringing the troops home from that place, and direct the resources toward the domestic fiscal mess. He would abolish torture and end the Bush-era programs of indefinite detention and Patriot Act–style surveillance.
We all know that he’s disappointed many of his supporters in the realm of national security. The letters, “N S A,” tell us all we need to know. The truth, however, is that Obama has always embraced a very active role for U.S. militarism abroad, which puts serious limits on his ability to serve as a peace president, even if he wanted to. Indeed, in his speech to the UN, he denies the existence of American empire and cautions against too much restraint:
The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or public opinion. Indeed, as the recent debate within the United States over Syria clearly showed, the danger for the world is not an America that is eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war; rightly concerned about issues back home; and aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim World, may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.
It is true that the American public has managed to restrain the U.S. government from waging another war, this time against Assad’s Syria. This is a new development, however. I can’t recall or think of any modern U.S. war, pushed by the president, and thwarted by public opinion. This has been a beautiful thing to see.