Monday, June 2, 2014

Kagan: Unapologetic Neocon

Andrew Sullivan takes down neoconservative writer Robert Kagan and his argument for continued American global hegemony on The Daily Dish.

Super-powers have retired again and again in world history – and it’s usually compulsory retirement. The retirement of both the British super-power in the twentieth and the previous Spanish super-power in the seventeenth came about because of imperial over-reach, in which the fiscal and economic costs of empire bankrupted the imperial motherland. And one of the striking lacunae in Kagan’s worldview is any sense that the US has limits, any awareness of the massive debt under which this country still labors, preventing all sorts of vital investments in education, infrastructure, and the like. The perpetual pattern of super-powers finding themselves hollowed out domestically, while for ever moving forward abroad, is one you would think Kagan would at least nod to. But like the neocons in the Bush administration for whom “deficits didn’t matter,” Kagan simply waves away the crippling cost of maintaining a military power greater than the ten next countries.

Then there is Kagan’s simply shameful refusal to note the catastrophes of over-reach that we just experienced in the Bush-Cheney era. You can read the essay and find not a scintilla of reckoning with that nightmare that Kagan himself did so much to promote. So we get an essay that deliberately and disingenuously says far more about America in the twentieth century than about America in the 21st. This after close to a hundred thousand dead in a broken, failed state called Iraq, thousands of fatalities of young Americans, and staggering costs.

Kagan also refuses to acknowledge another key aspect of the Bush administration legacy – and his own. The United States no longer has a leg to stand on when it comes to basic, universal moral norms that undergirded the entire internationalist system the US set up. The US is the only democratic power, apart from Israel, to violate the Geneva Conventions at will. This country perpetuated a regime of brutal torture and has never reckoned with it. This country still detains innocent prisoners of war indefinitely without trial and still subjects them to the torture of foul force-feeding. This country seized and brutally tortured one of its own citizens, without any trial, and with no due process, in the case of Jose Padilla. Its former vice-president and a large chunk of a major party aggressively want to bring back torture as a formal instrument of American democracy. If you think the world sees America as it once did – either as the lesser of two evils or as a paragon of democratic norms – you are deluding yourselves.

No comments: