Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Haunted by the Ghost of Imperialism: The Establishment of a Presidential Pattern

I count the president among the Americans who are sunk in stereotypes and dogmas
Leon Wieseltier writes, from the Left, of the Apologizer-in-Chief as the The New Republic's Washington Diarist points out that "the awakening peoples prefer our assistance to our penance" —
even if the good people at the White House want you to know that he is somehow a hero of this springtime. By now—after Tehran, Tunis, Cairo, and Tripoli—a presidential pattern has been established. Obama’s reluctance to lead, and to establish the United States ringingly and incontrovertibly as the ally of the freedom movements, is owed to many things, but most of all, I think, it is the result of certain conventional assumptions about the historical agency of the United States in the developing world.

In almost his every pronouncement about the valiant accomplishments of the liberalizing crowds in “the Arab street” (now an honorific!), Obama keeps insisting that we had nothing to do with this, that they did all this on their own, that Arab democracy must not be the work of the United States or any foreign power. He dreads the imputation of our influence. All his assurances of a new world notwithstanding, he is haunted by the ghost of imperialism.

…the post-post-imperialist moment in the Arab world … means only that the awakening peoples prefer our assistance to our penance. Obama seems to prefer something like the opposite. He seems to believe that American support for Arab democracy—actual support, loud support, practical support—would constitute a repetition of an old and ugly pattern of American intrusion, and would therefore set the collective memory of the region against us.