Conrad Black has an interesting column in the New York Sun about parallels between the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-91, the fall of France in 1940, and the collapse of American influence in the last few years,
Black, an interventionist on Syria, nevertheless offers lessons on how to throw away American power by electing incompetent leadership:
What we are witnessing now in the United States, by contrast, is just the backwash of inept policy-making in Washington, and nothing that could not eventually be put right. But for this administration to redeem its credibility now would require a change of direction and method so radical it would be the national equivalent of the comeback of Lazarus: a miraculous revolution in the condition of an individual (President Obama), and a comparable metamorphosis (or a comprehensive replacement) of the astonishingly implausible claque around him.
Until recently, it would have been unimaginable to conceive of John Kerry as the strongman of the National Security Council. This is the man who attended political catechism classes from the North Vietnamese to memorize and repeat their accusations against his country of war crimes in Indochina, and, inter alia, ran for president in 2004 asserting that while he had voted to invade Iraq in 2003, he was not implicated in that decision because he did not vote to fund the invasion once underway. (Perhaps Thomas E. Dewey would have been an upset presidential winner in 1944 if he had proclaimed his support for the D-Day landings but advocated an immediate cut-off of funds for General Eisenhower’s armies of liberation.)
As has been touched upon here before, the desire to avoid America in another foreign conflict is understandable. But if that is the policy, the president of the United States should not state that presidents of countries in upheaval (e.g., Bashar Assad) “must go,” should not draw “red lines” and ignore them, should not devise plans to punish rogue leaders but not actually damage their war-making ability, should not promise action and send forces to carry out the action, and then have, in current parlance, a public “conversation” with himself about whether to do anything, and should not thereby abdicate his great office in all respects except the salary and perquisites.
What does America need to begin to recover?
What American will need in 2016 is a new president who enunciates a clear policy: foreign intervention only to prevent genocide, to avenge extreme provocations, or to preserve world peace, and in accord with constitutional and international law. That policy would have cut post-Korea war-making to evicting Saddam from Kuwait, the Taliban from Afghanistan, modestly assisting the opponents of Gaddafi and Assad, (as leaders who had monstrously provoked the West), and would have spared everyone the chimerical extravagance of nation-building in hopeless places. Vietnam and the second Iraq War would have been sidestepped altogether.
The Americans show no sign of wanting their country to be regarded as absurd in the world, and they are so America-centric, and so suffused with the heroic mythos of America, that they seem unable to grasp the possibility that it is.
There is a contagion that makes the condition less startling: The United Kingdom suddenly has begun to appear ridiculous, too. The British replaced leaders who did not conduct wars effectively, during the Seven Years’, American Revolutionary, Napoleonic, Crimean, and both World Wars. But never in their history until last week have they had a prime minister who summoned Parliament to seek authority to make war and then was denied that authority. The Grand Alliance of Churchill and Roosevelt, the Special Relationship of Thatcher and Reagan, is reduced to slap-stick, farce.
Black is a noted historian, but I think his analoigy is a little overstated. The earthquake in world affairs that was caused by the break up of the Soviet Union – including the astonishing fall of the Berlin Wall and communist regimes in Eastern Europe – makes our decline in influence look small by comparison. Also, it is not impossible to regain that influence, as Black himself points out, where putting the Soviet state back together won’t happen without Russia starting World War III.
Still, Black’s column is enlightening. You should read the whole thing.