George Melloan: The American Imperium For An Uncertain President

George Melloan has written “The Great Money Binge:  Spending Our Way To Socialism,”  out from Simon & Schuster 2009.  As former Editorial page writer and editor for the Wall Street Journal makes him a protege to the most powerful man in both Washington and New York, the late, great Robert Bartley.  Bartley was on a first name basis with Reagan throughout his Presidency.  Both men triumphed with a policy mix that generated the longest economic and social boom in history.

In contrast, the Obama administration has done the following:

Given a wartime enemy (the Taliban) our political timetable for quitting the field.

Entered a war reluctantly against an old American adversary (Libya).

Damaged American prestige and credibility by issuing unpersuasive threats to Iran.

Hurt longtime strategic ally in London and Israel.

Made concessions to Russia, got nothing in return just to ‘reset’ relations.

Melloan has a list throughout this great book, although highly critical of this administration, he remains fearful that the presidents uncertain trumpet will only embolden fierce enemies and distance needed and future allies.  Although Melloan is not a military historian, his conviction is that reducing our ‘footprint’ throughout South Asia is detrimental to our goals throughout this region.  He has written, “a president should never give ground in any war, to the time/management of political objectives, he/she should never reduce our forward presence.”

Melloan’s conviction is simple:  the American Imperium has underwritten and guaranteed the global order after WWII.  We continue to foster political and economic freedom by being the architect that advances the cause of liberty.  There’s just one problem:  we’re busted financially.

Most Empires die from excessive expansion.  The American Imperium has not been reduced from its labor over seas. But it has taken a hit “by political leaders that continue to overburden the productive sector with social obligations that cannot be fulfilled.”  Amen.

In our current political climate, the American imperium which is underwritten by the only arm of the government that works: namely the U.S. military.  He advances well written arguments that American politicians can hurt the political objectives of the wars we’re engaged by slashing military expenditures.  He admonishes that often, the consequences are dire.

He writes, “Japan attacked a weak U.S. in 1941.  The Ayatollah Khomenini read our weak position throughout South East Asia and Indochina throughout the 70’s only to rage jihad since.  The Americans pursued the “peace dividend” that was the result of winning the Cold War only to have militant nomads throughout the AfPak region turn on their political masters and hit America in 9/11.”

As for the Arab Spring, he engagingly writes that “America’s primary need since WWII has been to learn how to fight unconventional wars and promote the spread of freedom in benighted places like the Middle East.  This means learning to work in troubled areas with political regimes that will support the aspirations of liberty.  IT CAN OBVIATE AGAINST MASSIVE MILITARY ACTION.”

The CIA’s and US Special Forces work done with the Indian friendly Northern Alliance is a model for future work throughout South Asia.  Of course this means acknowledging that Hamid Karzai has policies that are the antithesis of Pakistan.  Our success if not managed politically well by a deft executive means that gains are wasted.

Aristotle was right, the one criteria determining future success of any executive is prudence.   Applying greater political and cultural discretion in the use of force determines our success in dealing with intractable nomads.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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