A Hunger for America? Really?

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Moises Naim is an idiot.

Being the editor of deliriously misnamed Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s (sic) flagship publication, Foreign Policy, we expect Moises Naim to be an idiot. In fact, we expect him to be well nigh an exalted grand poobah of idiots, a knave among knaves, the peddler of interventionist nonsense so thick and syrupy it sticks to just about everything around it and makes walking, or even motion of any kind, impossible. As one of an intellectual (sic) cabal of chief justifiers of U.S. intervention, an aspiring world manager who sees himself as senior advisor to actual world managers, we expect nothing less but well-crafted and impressive idiocy from the likes of Moises Naim.

In a Wednesday piece in the Washington Post, "A Hunger for America," Moises Naim does not disappoint. He displays his idiocy, proudly and unashamedly, for all to see.

The world wants America back.

For the next several years, world politics will be reshaped by a strong yearning for American leadership. This trend will be as unexpected as it is inevitable: unexpected given the powerful anti-American sentiments around the globe, and inevitable given the vacuums that only the United States can fill.

This renewed international appetite for U.S. leadership will not merely result from the election of a new president, though having a new occupant in the White House will certainly help. Almost a decade of U.S. disengagement and distraction have allowed international and regional problems to swell. Often, the only nation that has the will and means to act effectively is the United States.

Oh my. It takes the breath away. "The world wants America back. … a strong yearning for American leadership." These are heady and mind-altering words. They make one dizzy like the kind of smoke one might breathe in an opium den in Guangzhou or the sweet fumes one might inhale from a paper sack while crouching behind a 7-11 in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

I have not been paying as close attention as perhaps I should to the news these last few months, what with my seminary studies, so I may have missed something. This yearning that Naim has apparently so carefully detected and diagnosed, how exactly has it expressed itself? Did the favelas of Sao Paulo, the slums and shantytowns of Mumbai, the impoverished farms of rural China, the villages and refugee camps of Africa and the Middle East, the salons and suburbs of Paris, Geneva and Rome and the trading floors of Frankfurt and London, did they somehow erupt with a deep and abiding love for the United States of America? A burning desire for boots on the ground? Did the poor and wretched of the world lock arms and march, chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" and demanding "Intervention Now!" and proclaiming "No Washington! No Justice!" Was Washington, D.C., recently proclaimed the world’s qibla, and did all right-thinking, God-fearing and faithful world citizens prostrate themselves and send their prayers of supplication to the wise men — high priests and prophets like Naim — of the U.S. capital who are ready to lay hands upon the world and cleanse it of its lepers and turn its water into wine?

No? Not even the littlest bit? I didn’t think so. I wouldn’t have missed such a momentous event. It must be Naim sitting there amidst the rubbish with the glaze-eyed look, clutching the paper bag and the tube of model airplane glue.

Naim’s assertions are, of course, self-serving twaddle. Foreign Policy is high-end pornography for American interventionists and practitioners of empire, akin to Anne-Marie Villefranche’s bawdy stories of Paris in the 1920s. Naim works at one of the premier international foreign policy think tanks in Washington, and he edits one of the world’s premier policy publications. He hopes to benefit from the yearning he supposedly sees in the world because his institute will hopefully get a say in just how the United States government responds to that yearning. Especially after the Bush Regime abandons town.

Whether a Democrat is elected president or not (and this must be Naim’s fondest hope — I’m betting Joe Biden is his man), Naim and those like him will advise anyway. They will fill the air with words and in-boxes with papers in hopes that someone will listen. Why The Washington Post considers this kind of thing serious politics, while calls for non-intervention are somehow not serious, is beyond me. It is one of the things I have never, and probably will never, understand.

At any rate, it’s not enough for the United States to simply act, according to Naim. It has to act properly, thoughtfully, carefully, forcefully, according to the processes of the "international community," in concert with others and considering the needs and wants of other governments. But Naim clearly believes the United States needs to lead the world as the world’s de facto government:

Of course, the America that the world wants back is not the one that preemptively invades potential enemies, bullies allies or disdains international law. The demand is for an America that rallies other nations prone to sitting on the fence while international crises are boiling out of control; for a superpower that comes up with innovative initiatives to tackle the great challenges of the day, such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and violent Islamist fundamentalism. The demand is for an America that enforces the rules that facilitate international commerce and works effectively to stabilize an accident-prone global economy. Naturally, the world also wants a superpower willing to foot the bill with a largess that no other nation can match.

Naturally. And as if to sugarcoat his idiocy, to drench it with a rich powdered sugar and butter frosting, Naim immediately follows this laundry list of ideal future U.S. leadership priorities with "These are not just naive expectations." But of course they are. Nothing could be more naïve than claiming the world is clamoring for U.S. leadership, demanding the U.S. lead, but then insisting that leadership be "just right" all the time! The truth that all interventionists should learn (and some do, but many, especially denizens of foreign policy institutes, do not) is that you intervene (or lead) with the United States that you have, not with the United States you’d like to have. Naim and his ilk would like to be the "brains" of the United States so that it can intervene properly, so that it’s leaders can lead most effectively, and they seem to think that all institutional and cultural problems that make global leadership (or intervention) ineffective or counterproductive can be overcome by something resembling effective and enlightened management. But in wanting exactly this, they have empowered the likes of the neoconservatives and the muscular nationalists of the Bush regime. You give a man a stick, he will likely beat people with it.

Only in Naim’s world of Washington think-tankery would two simultaneous foreign wars and threats of several third wars (Iran, Pakistan) as well as constant interference, lectures and speeches from administration officials about how other governments and nations ought to behave and govern themselves be emblematic of "a decade of U.S. disengagement and distraction." It makes one wonder what exactly Naim’s engagement would like — a dozen wars? Two dozen? Four-score and seven? How activist would a U.S. government need to get in order to have Naim’s heartfelt approval? How much more "global leadership" would I, as an American, be forced to pay for, leadership that right now provides me — and most other Americans — no clear benefits? When did the world’s problems suddenly become ours, and only ours, to solve anyway?

I wish there was a way to put the policy institutes out of business. I sometimes fantasize about burning them all down and sending their inmates to work picking lettuce or harvesting almonds in California, a kind-of Maoist re-education. But the think tanks are very well-endowed, they have become a kind-of fourth branch of our semi-constitutional government, and as long as men and women are paid outlandish salaries to concoct justifications and methods of intervention hither and yon, the giant budget of the United States government and the country’s sprawling and well-endowed armed forces will forever remain an attractive nuisance for those aspiring to global do-goodery and world control. A Ron Paul victory in November 2008 would go some way to putting these people out of business for at least a while, but I’m nowhere near as confident about that prospect as some others at this web site are.

Only national bankruptcy will put the likes of Moises Naim out of business. I hate to hope for this, but it’s coming nonetheless. By being such a wide-eyed interventionist, by demanding such an expansive and never-ending job for the United States government and the people it taxes, Moises Naim is making sure of that.

Charles H. Featherstone [send him mail] is a seminarian and freelance editor living in Chicago. Visit his blog.

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