What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

America and the walls of particularity.

My old friend (and proprietor of the precursor to this website) Josh Trevino hits the nail on the head. Reflecting on Senator Obama’s extravagant public appearance in Berlin yesterday, he writes that the speech “was very much in the rhetorical tradition of one George W. Bush. In listening to it, the recollection was not of the oft-cited JFK or Ronald Reagan, but of the current President’s Second Inaugural Address.” That would be the “end of tyranny in our world” and “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands” speech.

“The central themes,” Josh continues, “are quite nearly the same: a wholesale reversal of John Quincy Adams’s formulation of American foreign policy, which stated that America ‘goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.’”

Republican commentators have been full of snarls at Obama’s one-worldism, which he articulated through the fitting metaphor (given the location of the speech) of oppressive walls. “The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.” But these right-wing snarls ring pretty hollow, for we have heard the same drivel from Republicans for eight years and more. Hostility toward nationality; antipathy for the distinctiveness of peoples; contempt for the particularity of nations — this has been a bipartisan game for many a long year now.

And Josh is right to conclude:

We’re a long way from the United States’s former mission — you know, the one compelling it to “form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” America’s engagement in the world after 1945 used to be justified and justifiable on those terms, and every postwar president till now more or less grasped this. George W. Bush decisively changed that, and the question was whether his re-orientation of America’s raison d’etre was unique to him, or a lasting shift in foundations of American policy. With Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin today, we know the terrible answer.

If America is the one indispensable and universal nation, vindicator of liberty everywhere, organized for the project of throwing down all tyranny, then indeed her opposition to all walls of distinctiveness must be implacable. She is moved by what Burke called an armed doctrine; she is revolution on the march. If, however, America is to remain the well-wisher of freedom but champion only of her own, then particularity is not a stark staring contradiction of her identity, interest still guides her aspirations, and walls may be, not merely necessary but noble and just.

Comments (15)

This election is little more than an internal power struggle within the Jacobin

Obama's handlers can only say; meet the new boss. More charsimatic and well-spoken, than the old boss.

Precisely: heads, you may have an empire; tails, we will establish an empire anyway. The establishment does not deliberate as regards the ends of empire; it deliberates solely with respect to the means of empire. The entire pantheon of revolution, from the Jacobins down to Trotsky, claims posthumous honours from the American establishment.

Terrific post. And a terrific post by JT (who I will always think of as Tacitus). And Maximos provides the perfect summary: "heads, you may have an empire; tails, we will establish an empire anyway."

Ok, sure, all Obama has to offer is (at best) Empire-lite.

But seriously. What are you guys smoking? Jacobins in America? I wish!

You don't have to wish! The global-democratic-capitalist revolution is our Jacobinism!

"Ok, sure, all Obama has to offer is (at best) Empire-lite."

His metrosexual persona and vapid platitudes are "light", but not his policy prescriptions. He's "revised" his position on Iraq, kept the nuclear option on the table vs. Iran and promised to "remake the world." Sounds like other people's kids will be doing some heavy-lifting.

For what it is worth; 45% of our casualties in Iraq have been borne by those raised in cities of 25,000 or less.

Small towns never fare well during times of Empire.

I haven't been following the candidates all that carefully. I've felt that things are more or less "for more of the same, vote McCain, but to get more drama (or trauma), vote Obama."

But when I heard a bit of Obama's Berlin speech on NPR this morning, the part that creeped me out the most was when he was refering to himself as a "world citizen".

I guess I should chalk that up to nothing more than hackeyed rhetoric. But I don't want a "world citizen" for president.


Why the mention of Obama's "metrosexual persona"? Assuming that is an accurate description, who cares?


Why don't you want a "world citizen" for president? (Obviously, seeing oneself in this way is compatible with seeing oneself as an American in the first instance. And nothing Obama said suggests that that is not his stance.)

"Why the mention of Obama's "metrosexual persona"?"

Because it is a telling insight into the spirit of our Oprahfied age, an age that is uniquely open to his narrative; he will nurture us into a better place as he lovingly elicicts the better angels of our nature to the fore.

This aspect offers a defining contrast with his opponent and all previous presidencies and is indicative of our current state of affairs. That doesn't mean the world is safe from an overreaching hegemon. It just means Obama's jackboots are from Prada and will be applied with the utmost in sensitivity.

I find the whole phenomenon fascinating and wonder if our enemies will perceive it as a sign of our cultural weakness. I know I do.

Your analysis is, I think, a stretch. What grounds the move from "metrosexual" to nurturer? And what exactly is "cultural weakness" anyway? Is your point really just that Obama comes off as a sissy. If so, I don't see it. I think he comes off as quite strong. McCain on the other hand has looked insecure ever since he cinched the nomination

Does he use skin moisturizers and personal care products once reserved for women, while dwelling too long in the mirror? Perhaps. More importantly though, his style conforms to the very feminized cultural norms of this time period.

Obama's appeal is based on his empathy and ability to "heal" racial divisions and social wounds. He is flexible and unafraid to reveal his vulnerability or confess his flaws. He brings comfort and affirmation not challenges or hard truths. He does not have to say he feels our pain like other rakes might, just one look and you can see how much he cares.

He's not a platoon leader or demanding coach. He's the misty-eyed, soothing voice of a new archetype; the sensitive male. I won't be voting for McCain either, but there is no question he is a man has the term has traditionally been understood.

If Clinton was our first black president, Obama will be hailed at some point, as our first woman president.

Does he use skin moisturizers and personal care products once reserved for women

At least I'll go down in the history of this site as a seal clubber with great skin. *sigh*

It occurs to me that a country "moved by what Burke called an armed doctrine" cannot itself be a free country. An "armed doctrine" requires constant mobilisation of the populace, the suppression of dissent, and militaristic conformity in every sphere of human activity. In fact, I think that this is more or less what Burke himself was getting at in his comments about the French Revolution. So isn't there a built-in contradiction in the idea of America being the "champion and vindicator" of freedom everywhere on the globe? How can we be freedom's "vindicator" if we surrender our own?

I think, Doug, that two different notions of 'freedom' are at work here. The "global-democratic-capitalist revolution," as Maximos put it, views freedom as a sort of state-managed hedonism, a freedom with no end or telos. Conservatives, on the other hand, see freedom as the liberty to go about our own business without interference by the goverment, with a goal of (hopefully) becoming better citizens and better people.

These two concepts of freedom are not only conflicting, they are mutually exclusive. Modern liberalism wants us to be free only in the first sense -- free to be liberals, in other words.

I believe that the primary function of government is to reduce coercive interference to a bare minimum, throughout society as a whole. That won't necessarily make people better citizens and better human beings; but will be nearly impossible for them to become better if they are not free to make choices. In other words, freedom is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for human betterment.

I also believe that last November the American people said "no" to Bush's "armed doctrine" (loudly trumpeted, lest we forget, by McCain and Palin) in the only way they possibly could--by voting for Obama. The choices weren't very good, but I think that Americans made the right one. If McCain had won, it would have amounted to an endorsement of Bush's policies. I, for one, didn't want to give the "neo-conservative" dog another bone; so I voted for Obama. I fail to see anything very conservative in the party of Bush and Limbaugh.

By the way, isn't "state-managed hedonism" an oxymoron?

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