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Blaming America For Things The U.S. Hasn’t Done

Bill Kristol thinks everything in the world is America’s fault except for the things that the U.S. actually does:

Kiev is ablaze. Syria is a killing field. The Iranian mullahs aren’t giving up their nuclear weapons capability, and other regimes in the Middle East are preparing to acquire their own. Al Qaeda is making gains and is probably stronger than ever. China and Russia throw their weight around, while our allies shudder and squabble.

Why is this happening? Because the United States is in retreat [bold mine-DL]. What is the Obama administration’s response to these events? Further retreat.

This is nonsense, but it is typical of a hawkish worldview that takes for granted that the U.S. is supposed to police and oversee the entire planet. In every example given here, it is false or extremely misleading to say that the U.S. is responsible for what is happening. It is absurd to pin these events on American “retreat,” since for the most part this isn’t even happening. So-called U.S. “retreat” didn’t cause any of these things, and all of them would probably still be happening whether the U.S. was “retreating” or “advancing.” The U.S. is responsible for the effects of its own actions and policies, and to a lesser extent the actions of its allies and clients that it supports, but it isn’t responsible for what authoritarian and illiberal regimes do inside their own countries, and for the most part it can’t be held responsible for how other major powers behave. Terrible things happened in the world at the height of the “unipolar moment,” and they will unfortunately keep happening regardless of how the U.S. conducts itself in the world.

If the U.S. is responsible for anything that happens in Ukraine or Syria, it is because Washington has insisted on involving the U.S. in their internal conflicts to some degree. The fact that this has not been as aggressive and intrusive as Kristol and other hawks would like is irrelevant. We have ample evidence from the last fifteen years that an aggressive and hyper-activist foreign policy tends to compound existing problems and creates new ones that otherwise wouldn’t exist. If that is the alternative to so-called “retreat,” I suspect that very few in the U.S. or elsewhere genuinely desire a return to it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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