Already journals and magazines are running articles on reestablishing American leadership, restoring trust in Washington, and regaining the moral initiative. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) might be demanding withdrawal from Iraq and former Gov. Mitt Romney might be edging away from President Bush's failed war, but both promote a foreign policy vision that looks remarkably like that of the administration, with the U.S. as dominant power, possessing an expanded military, and ready to intervene any where at any time for any reason around the globe.
They, and most of their competitors – with the notable exception of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) – seem to be saying, "trust us." Turn the keys to the U.S. military over to them and let them wage war whenever they desire. Admittedly, it's hard to imagine that doing so could turn out worse than it has under President George W. Bush. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) probably would have had us at war with North Korea had he been president; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) seem ready if not anxious to attack Iran. Ironically, Iraq truly would be a cakewalk compared to conflict with Iran.
The time for "trust me" global imperialism is over. Americans need to change their government's foreign policy as well as their elected officials. The fact that the U.S. is the strongest nation on earth does not require it to attempt to micro-manage the world. Advocates of a new, militarized imperium constantly claim that America has such a responsibility because it has the ability, but that's nonsense.
Washington has proved that it is unable to run the world, despite its attempts to do so. But ability and competence are not the most important considerations. The wealth and especially the lives of Americans should not be squandered in national crusades, no matter how grandiose or humanitarian they might sound.
The principal responsibility of those chosen to lead this great country is to protect the lives, liberties, and prosperity of Americans. The interests advanced should be truly national: the job of the U.S. government is not to enrich U.S. corporations, open new markets for American businesses, enable U.S. ambassadors to order around foreign politicians, determine the political systems of other states, or even attempt to save foreign peoples from oppression.
I never did get the "Because we can, we must" argument. I can kick the crap out of you, so I have to make sure you do whatever I want?
Politicians can't be trusted with that power.