The Economist had a strange leader on Obama’s foreign policy (subscription required). The title was “The quiet American,” and the leader went on to ask:
Does this president have a strategy, backed if necessary by force, to reorder the world? Or is he merely a presidential version of Alden Pyle, Graham Greene’s idealistic, clever Quiet American who wants to change the world, but underestimates how bad the world is–and ends up causing harm?
This is very odd. First of all, Alden Pyle was the character who had a strategy backed by force (to be precise, the employment of terrorism to undermine the current government) to reorder Vietnam, and it proved to be a disaster for all concerned. Pyle was certainly idealistic, and it was this trait that blinded him to dangers of his meddling in the affairs of another country that he didn’t really understand. The problem with the Pyle character wasn’t that he underestimated “how bad the world is,” but that he grossly overestimated his own abilities (and the abilities of Americans in general) to “reorder the world” as desired. In other words, The Economist wants Obama to be more like Alden Pyle and they don’t seem to understand that this is what they want. One would have thought that we had had quite enough of ambitious, world-reordering Presidents ready and willing to use force quite often.