Here is Barack Obama explaining that America once was awesome and will once again be awesome once more again. As a speech, it's an unsurprising collection of vaguely ecclesiastical non sequiturs, hopeful bromides, and broad assurances "that America is the last, best hope of Earth." The last, best hope of Earth to what?
The conviction that the United States of America represents the end state of history, that the final perfection of human nature consists in quadrennnial elections, a bicameral legislature, the two-party system, the cul-de-sac, the National Football League, the dollar, the internal combustion engine, and The Troops™ is not a new one, but never has it seemed so foolish as now. It's like listening to some futsy commissar expounding the eternal virtues of the revolution in permanence while West Berliner punks tear chunks from the wall in 1989. Here we are gazing into the gaping maw of our self-made impermanence and speaking as if at last we hold the true prospect of immortality. I suppose the natural caveat here is to say something like, "I do not object to a little home-team cheerleading to rouse the nodding Rotarians in the audience," but alas, I do object.
Really, why sigh and throw up our hands? This vision of the world is totally fucked. Accepting narratives of national primacy is how nations goad themselves into committing atrocities. "We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people," says Obama, who goes on to advocate for adding 90,000 new shock troops to drop here and there in order to arrest "narco-trafficking" or to "prevent wider regional chaos" or, as goes the popular cruise-missile-liberalism, "to respond to contingencies." I'm sure that comforts them in the hovels of Bogota, in the newly-walled neighborhoods of Baghdad. Yanqui go home!
The sobering lesson here is not the depths of Americas self-delusion about its "role in the world," ante-W or post-W, but the sheer tenacity of those delusions in the face of even the most countervailing evidence. Despite the disastrous consequences of the Iraq War, despite its catastrophic human toll, despite its plain demonstration of the absolute limits of any one people's ability to dictate the national fortunes of another, there remains the basic consensus belief in America's preeminent position of "global leadership," the basic shared conviction that we have a right and duty to send men with guns into other countries to kill people whenever we deem it politically necessary and expedient, the millennial belief in the ultimate disposition of the symbolic human heart to constitutional governance and the four Rooseveltian freedoms, après The New Deal, le déluge--these have budged not one iota in the political mind.
"America is the last, best hope of Earth," isn't a political philosophy; it's a goddamn eschatology. It's the sort of thing spoken out of a whirlwind by a patriarchal god. It deserves thunder and lightning. It deserves a rain of frogs, a staff cast on the ground that becomes a snake, tablets cast upon the earth and golden idols melting in a fire. Needless to say I am not a religious man, but the sheer impiety of the suggestion, the staggering vanity of it, the Babelian audacity of the claim make me wonder if I oughtn't hop a ship and hope for a whale. This man, understand, is the antiwar candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The new thing. The big hope. The next wave. The last, best hope of the Donkle. Over to you, Max Sawicky:
Evidently we are to believe the fairy tale that before 2001, the U.S. played a benign role around the world, a role the world is aching for us to return to. I submit that there is no daylight between dominating the world militarily and "leader of the free world" (sic).
In other words, Obama is saying what he has to say to be president, which means doing what he has to do if he is president. Clinton was a McGovernik, and Obama was a community organizer. Either could have been the editor of Trotskyism Monthly and I fear the results would be the same.