Home/Daniel Larison/Hegemonists and the Dishonest Charge of “Retreat”

Hegemonists and the Dishonest Charge of “Retreat”

Niall Ferguson makes a characteristically ridiculous claim:

Mr. Obama’s supporters like nothing better than to portray him as the peacemaker to George W. Bush’s warmonger. But it is now almost certain that more people have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East during this presidency than during the last one.

This is almost certainly not true, but Ferguson is wrong to make the comparison in the first place. Hawks may disapprove of the decision not to intervene in Syria, but only the most dishonest would suggest that U.S. military intervention in Syria would not have intensified the conflict there and probably would have resulted in even more deaths than have already happened. More to the point, the U.S. cannot be blamed for the consequences of armed conflict in which it has not been directly involved. The U.S. is responsible for what it does and for the policies that it supports, but it cannot conceivably be held responsible for things it has not done.

Ferguson’s calculations depend on ignoring the many terrible things that happened during the Bush era in countries that the U.S. also chose to ignore. Terrible and costly conflicts raged in Congo and Sudan while Bush was president, but it would never have occurred to Ferguson to lay the consequences of these conflicts at Bush’s door. Bush was no more responsible for these conflicts than Obama is for Syria, and no one but the most desperate and dishonest partisan would claim that he was at fault for “failing” to halt these conflicts. The real problem isn’t just that Ferguson is a hopelessly biased, hawkish buffoon, but that he pretends that the U.S. is in some way responsible for everything that happens anywhere in the world. This requires him to blame the U.S. for “failing” to “lead” whenever something goes awry anywhere, but it’s a preposterous idea that the U.S. should be doing this, and it is one that should be dismissed out of hand.

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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