Do you ever wonder about the acts committed in our name and the blowback that will be inevitable? After all, Osama bin Laden didn't spring fully formed as a madman from the head of Jove, nor did the terrorist organizations that continue his work. While their roots are complex, one big cause is that America has spent decades meddling around the world in conflicts it ill understands and whose consequences we rarely think through. Bin Laden was one of "our S.O.B.s" in Afghanistan when we were trying to bleed the Soviets. So were Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Hosni Mubarak, Noriega of Panama and the House of Saud, the latter's extreme Islam helping radicalize the Middle East. What did we want? "Stability." Cheap oil. Anything Israel wants. No matter the long-term dangers or injustices inflicted on millions. When 9/11 happened, we were shocked, shocked. Aren't we always a force for good?
One feels compelled to quote John Quincy Adams at length about what America's role should be in the world: "Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own...She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet on her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.... Her glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind."
Now our march is the worldwide drone war of Mr. Obama. We kill whom we want, where we want, without due process, in violation of international law. Maybe we get a terrorist. We certainly kill women and children, too. Just another day as global hegemon. We could be leading the global effort to stop the worst of climate change. Instead, we're just bumbling imperialists. Someday this will come back on us.
It has happened before. After Adams left the White House, he was the most articulate voice of opposition to Andrew Jackson breaking treaties to steal Indian land and extend slavery and white supremacy to the Southeast, to James Knox Polk's war of aggression against Mexico, again a Southern strategy to gain land for slaveholders. Lincoln wasn't alone in believing that the Civil War was divine retribution ("...until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword...").
Today, a sane opposition party would be useful. Instead, we have the Republicans. The Party of Crazy. Led by John Sydney McCain III, the GOP is obsessed with what happened in Benghazi. Not, why were we there or was it a good thing to help in the overthrow of Gadaffi, but why weren't we killing even more people. This is the Project for the New American Century crowd that led us into Iraq, torture, rendition and the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians. This is the bunch that declares war on a billion Muslims (even George W. Bush tried in vain to avoid this perception). At home ("the homeland"), civil liberties are inconvenient things to be disposed of, unless we are discussing corporate personhood.
Mr. Obama is "pivoting" American power to the Pacific. You can't have high-speed rail or universal health care, but we'll have a Marine base in Darwin and maybe the Navy soon at Cam Rahn Bay. Let me ask a question: How would we feel if China was assembling its armed forces and lining up Latin American countries to "contain" the United States from exploiting the energy supplies in the Gulf of Mexico? This is pretty much the way a Chinese nationalist would view our efforts to keep Beijing from what it sees as its legitimate sphere of influence in the South China Sea.
In my lifetime, an American president or vice president could travel in a motorcade through the streets of a foreign city. An angry mob attacked Vice President Richard Nixon's car in 1958, but we neither went to war nor hid our leaders behind vast cordons on security. Now our embassies are fortresses. Our citizens are potential hostages. Every event is seen as a reason to spend more treasure on the military.
We're sowing a whirlwind.
I know: They hate us for our freedom.