A pointed examination, both timely and lively, of the risks and responsibilities attendant in being the world’s sole superpower.
Since the day of Woodrow Wilson, when America’s global power first became apparent, politicians have expressed discomfort at the notion that the US is anything other than a world apart. Yet, as Newsweek writer Hirsh persuasively argues, this kind of isolationist thinking is both deluded and dangerous, for “today we simply cannot live in the world safely without setting it in order”—without, that is, removing tyrants and terrorists from the scene, but also, and more vexing, improving the lot of the rest of the planet’s inhabitants. The present administration, Hirsh writes, is sharply divided on whether we have any such responsibilities at all, or whether we have much business acting as the globe’s lone sheriff; witness, he remarks, the ongoing clash between the wings of the Cabinet represented by Donald Rumsfeld on one hand and Colin Powell on the other, the first concerned with visiting vengeance on wrongdoers, the second with nation- and coalition-building. Owing to the ascendance of the former, Hirsh argues, the president has steadily been “frittering away much of the goodwill he had started out with after September 11,” while the so-called Bush Doctrine has effectively been serving as an instrument of isolation all its own, alienating allies all around. If the world is indeed to be made safe from terrorists and rogue states, Hirsh maintains, the US will have to take the lead. But it will do so most effectively by turning to the international organizations it has helped bring into being, especially the United Nations: “Washington must get past its now-settled bias that the UN and its sister agencies are hopeless, effete institutions,” he writes, “recognize where they have value, focus on improving their performance in those areas, and fund them accordingly.”
A well-argued white paper for the internationalist set—and sure to be dismissed as wooly liberalism by readers on the right.