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After the Days of War: The Making of A Conservative Obamican

I am aware, and do accept the fact that this essay represents a retraction--and a resounding one--of my previous endorsement of John McCain. Little did I know that the 2008 election here in the United States--contested by presidential candidates who routinely fail to answer the important theoretical questions posed by their stated philosophies--would become a watershed. Nor did I expect the heart of the question--American foreign policy--would become a strength for Obama, and a weakness for McCain. Especially in light of the views of the one who evaluates the case (that is, me). After 9/11 a self-professed neoconservative, I did not, and still in large measure do not, fear the projection of US military power. I believe this time of its ascendancy was altogether natural and understandable, given the rotted corpse of a certain realism which seems to prize an honored place at European cocktail parties above justice itself. I cannot overstate my contempt for it: half-hearted apologies for a blatantly corrupt UN bureaucracy which to the present day is not only ineffective (were it only this!) but actively aids, abets, and promotes injustice all over the world. I certainly sympathize even now with those American leaders, who, faced with the choice between this sad state and the troubles and trials of a Pax Americana imposed by force, would gladly choose the latter. Ask me this day who I think is a nobler example of humanity, Kofi Annan and his predecessors, or a battallion of US Marines, that's an easy call and not simply because I'm an American. And John McCain is the epitome of that heroic sort. Let me underline it: The military of the United States not occasionally but routinely attracts and produces the selfless and the other-centered. That should not be in doubt.

But war is war, and everyone pays a price. There's no discount for nobility. The monsters who attacked the United States on 9/11, all the adherents of that vicious ideology (whether before or since) thrive on death and chaos. The justifications for such violence rest, as they often do, on dubious moral equivalences. None will be made here. But shall we oblige them by creating the same destruction, varying intents notwithstanding? Perhaps we sow the seeds of the next grievance in so doing, and we reap it, even--and this is critical--when that grievance is wholly unjustified.

Yes, we should fight them, terrorists, rogue states, and other oppressors. But the means by which we do so are more numerous than we think. Commerce and technology can combine to produce an interconnected future surely more desirable than hostility. And if, after we have resolutely chosen the path of nonviolence, our enemies persist, surely it will be said that they molested a truly humble and agreeable people. In such a case, we would not be alone, and no equivalences would stand against us.


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