Walter Russell Mead makes some more unfounded assertions:
But thanks to Vladimir Putin and others, Americans are beginning to discover how ugly the world can get when the U.S. takes a breather [bold mine-DL].
Mead’s argument is notable for having no evidence. He makes a number of assertions and treats them as obvious facts, but never attempts to demonstrate that any of them are true. It a stretch to say that the U.S. is “taking a breather” in any meaningful way. In almost all respects, the U.S. is as active and meddlesome as it has ever been, and the fact that many hawks claim to perceive this as “retreat” tells us far more about their goals and obsessions than it does about the current state of affairs. Mead has simply cited a recent event, declared that it is proof of what the “post-American” future holds, and repeated the unfounded belief that “freedom and peace world-wide still depend on American energy and engagement.” This isn’t analysis at all. It is just an ideological statement.
This line stood out for being particularly nonsensical:
South Africa’s coldly pragmatic approach to the Mugabe dictatorship in neighboring Zimbabwe speaks eloquently about the prospects of democracy if America diminishes as a presence in Africa.
It’s true that many other African governments have been reluctant to use punitive measures against Zimbabwe, but that doesn’t tell us anything about “the prospects of democracy” throughout the rest of the continent. Those prospects may be better or worse in different countries for any number of reasons, but they would seem to have little or nothing to do with America’s “presence” in Africa. It also seems very misguided to judge the “prospects of democracy” for an entire continent based on the example of one of its worst governments. One might as well assess the “prospects of democracy” for all of Asia based on China’s support for North Korea. The U.S. role in Africa has actually been increasing over the last ten years (and according to Obama’s speech last week that role is going to keep growing), but it is far from obvious that this has improved the “prospects of democracy.” There are still several U.S.-backed authoritarian leaders in Africa that Washington indulges in spite of their oppressive domestic behavior, so one could make the argument that an increasingly active U.S. role there is making it more difficult for some countries to establish democratic rule. However, it is more likely that the “prospects of democracy” and U.S. “presence” don’t have much to do with one another.
The overwhelming majority of events and developments around the world don’t depend on what the U.S. does or the “presence” that it maintains. It may be flattering to believe that the peace and security of the rest of the world depend so heavily on the U.S., but that doesn’t make it true. Americans should reject this kind of fear-mongering as little more than a desperate attempt by hawks to control the terms of policy debate.