Saturday, November 8, 2008

Truth and Consequences

James Wimberley:
"will Obama undo Bush's legacy and restore America to its previous prestige and hegemony?

No. . . .

Sometime around 1991, shortly before fairly amicable splitting up of Czechoslovakia, I found myself talking to a group of Czechoslovak university rectors. I hit on a metaphor for their moral condition: the folk tale of the Sleeping Beauty. She had been, like the countries of the Soviet empire, bound in lethargy and illusion by the spells of wicked magicians. The enchantment breaks, and the young woman wakes up. But she does not wake up to the world of her memories. Time is not cheated; the light of day is harsh; the world has changed, and is indifferent to her pathetic story. Her hope of survival and happiness depends on her accepting that there is no going back.

I think this applies to the USA today. George Bush and Osama bin Laden have between them blown the American moment of hyperpower glory. Relative decline was as inevitable as in 1945, but while Truman, Acheson, and Marshall delayed it by trading hard for soft power in a web of new global and transatlantic institutions, Bush and the neocons accelerated it by hubris and stupidity. Obama's administration will start with a lot of goodwill, but it should not mistake this for a willingness to put the clock back.

The always grandiloquent epithet "Leader of the Free World" now fails the giggle test. And Larry Summers would be a bad choice for a job that will involve a regular diet of humble pie.

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