Obama as Wilson: Playing the Historical Analogy Game Forget Lincoln and FDR – it’s worse than that

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by Justin Raimondo Antiwar.com

Recently by Justin Raimondo: A Covert Affair: Petraeus Caught in the Honeypot?

A drone war that takes out old ladies in the name of “fighting terrorism” – a “regime change” campaign that plays with the fate of millions – a President supposedly committed to “transparency” who has topped the unprecedented secrecy and authoritarianism of his predecessor – a foreign policy that subsidizes and blindly supports a racist apartheid-style ally who brazenly spies on us, periodically invades its neighbors, and then demands more subsidies – and a brain-dead “left” that cheers it all as “progressive.”

This is America in the year 2012, Anno Domini. Sickening, isn’t it?

A more pertinent question, however, is how did we come to this pass? In as few words as possible: the Obama cult.

With the President’s near-landslide victory, and the triumphalist mood of the progressive elements of his coalition, the old-fashioned liberal attachment to a foreign policy of peace has been thrown overboard, while liberal Democrats exult in projecting American military power abroad.

Such is the power of the Obama cult, which mystifies its Maximum Leader as some kind of “transformational” figure in American politics, the grandiosity of which has no precedent except in the old-style Stalinist regimes of the former USSR and Eastern Europe. Indeed, the paeans of the President’s most fervent supporters bear an uncanny – and unseemly – resemblance to the rhetorical style of North Korean regime propagandists, who regularly infuse their praise of the ruler with historical and even mystical allusions.

Ignore the media hype likening Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln, a propaganda campaign that includes a major motion picture and countless Lincolnian allusions in the “mainstream” media: the only resemblance is height, fealty to big corporate interests, and a certain saturnine look. In our facile society, where politics and celebrity are virtually indistinguishable, this is enough to conjure a typically vapid historical analogy.

Of course, the Lincoln meme was preceded, you’ll recall, by a similarly ridiculous identification with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is useless to remind these people that Lincoln and Roosevelt had to deal, respectively, with a civil war and a great depression coupled with a world war: fawning pundits rarely deal in facts.

When will progressives wake up and smell the Wilsonian coffee?

If President Obama goes down in history as the incarnation of one of his distinguished predecessors, it will likely turn out to be the 28th president of these United States, whose name has become a byword for preening self-righteous interventionism on a global scale. I refer, of course, to Thomas Woodrow Wilson, a towering icon of “progressive” liberalism who dragged us into a war that was the downfall of European civilization.

There is already a suspicion of this in some progressive circles. Stephen Walt, writing on his Foreign Policy blog, complains the ascension of Susan Rice to lord it over Foggy Bottom will lead to a lack of “diversity” within our foreign policy councils. To the average progressive, who thinks almost exclusively in terms of identity politics, this seems like a strangely inverted way of looking at things. That Walt means intellectual diversity is beyond their comprehension.

Walt is nervous because most of the “realists” have left: he fears the Obama administration is “narrowing” its policy horizons in its second term. He also makes what I consider an ancillary argument: that, unlike Hillary Clinton, Rice lacks an “independent power base,” which is supposedly the main reason this “narrowing” is likely to occur. The problem, avers Walt, is Rice will tell the President what he wants to hear – but what is that, exactly? Walt never tells us, perhaps because he is unclear on the matter.

In any case, Walt misconstrues Rice as a mere campaign apparatchik, ignores her ties to the Clinton administration, and never mentions her history as a protg of Madeleine Albright. Furthermore, he is silent on her prominent role in the Libyan intervention as one of the Three Horsewomen of the Humanitarian Apocalypse: it was Rice, along with Clinton and Samantha Power, who nagged the President to let loose the dogs of war. None of this is particularly surprising: after all, Rice rose up through the ranks of the foreign policy establishment as a star student of what Walter Russell Meade characterizes as the Wilsonian school of American foreign policy, and it is Meade who, in noting Walt’s discomfort, actually names what Walt spends an entire blog post evading:

“As the President and his staff gear up for a second term, American foreign policy seems to be making a shift. The Obama administration is moving from a realist, in some ways Jeffersonian approach to foreign policy – limiting commitments, looking for compromise solutions with opponents regardless of ideology – to something more Wilsonian: giving democracy promotion and human rights a higher profile in the national security portfolio.”

Whatever “Jeffersonian” tendencies once existed in this administration have long since been expunged or driven underground. While the President had some use for them when extricating himself from his predecessor’s follies, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that usefulness has since expired. By the way, the Afghan issue is by no means settled, especially with the news that the occupation will continue well after 2014.

Libya was the turning point, and from here on in the liberal internationalists are in charge. Their “multicultural” approach will broaden the scope of US military and political intervention, extending the Empire into Africa and escalating the drive to achieve American hegemony in the Gulf. The “Pacific pivot” is a key component of this hegemonic military and diplomatic strategy, a risky and provocative course that requires the reinvention of Japanese militarism and – shades of the Vietnam era! – a revived Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) as an anti-Chinese bulwark in the South Pacific.

This time, however, the focus has moved north – and the stakes are much higher. Nuclear-armed and dangerously unstable North Korea is the powder-keg of East Asia, just as the Balkans played that fateful role in the run up to World War I.

The Chinese leadership no doubt is looking on with growing nervousness as the US executes its “Pacific pivot” and American politicians in both parties take turns bashing China as the all-purpose international villain and number one cause of American decline. Riven by internal tensions and an increasingly restive population, China is surrounded on all sides by claimants to its historic borders. The Japanese in the north, the Philippines to the west, and the Vietnamese in the South, all with conflicting claims to the South China Sea, threatening Beijing with encirclement. The flashpoint of these seething regional tensions is North Korea, the wild card in Washington’s emerging cold war with Beijing.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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