Going feckless into that dark night
The President's unexpected winning of the Nobel Prize for peace, and his inexplicable acceptance of it, beggars my ability to be sanguine... I didn't froth at the mouth when I heard, as some people did; I didn't laugh or cry about it. But I can't be sanguine.
The only explanation for it is that Oslo, at any rate (I'd assume they represent a big whomp of Europe, though clearly not our again-friends the French, nor the truly heroic Lech Walesa, whose ideology I disagree with but whose courage and persistence earned him what used to be this honor), hopes to influence American foreign policy - and just as discomfiting, that they believe they can do it, with this president. Why reward a chief executive for doing nothing except to be a different president from the previous one? Why? Because they want him to continue doing nothing. Doing something, and worse yet, urging allies to do something along with us, is so distasteful, so risky at the ballot box.
That this desire is freaking short-sighted, stupid, and transitory (wait until Norway gets into hot water; we'll see how long the "America as unexceptional parvenu" thing lasts) is beside the point. The point is that Pres. Obama was a fool to accept. He either tied his own hands or presented the near-certainty that he'll have to "betray" his neo-Viking BFFs sometime soon, squandering his presidential credibility overseas as he's squandering it at home.
I say again, as I said in election season: Why on earth THIS man? Who anointed this naif?
Charles Krauthammer looks deeper:
The corollary to unchosen European collapse was unchosen American ascendancy. We--whom Lincoln once called God's "almost chosen people"--did not save Europe twice in order to emerge from the ashes as the world's co-hegemon. We went in to defend ourselves and save civilization. Our dominance after World War II was not sought. Nor was the even more remarkable dominance after the Soviet collapse. We are the rarest of geopolitical phenomena: the accidental hegemon and, given our history of isolationism and lack of instinctive imperial ambition, the reluctant hegemon--and now, after a near-decade of strenuous post-9/11 exertion, more reluctant than ever.
Which leads to my second proposition: Facing the choice of whether to maintain our dominance or to gradually, deliberately, willingly, and indeed relievedly give it up, we are currently on a course towards the latter. The current liberal ascendancy in the United States--controlling the executive and both houses of Congress, dominating the media and elite culture--has set us on a course for decline. And this is true for both foreign and domestic policies. Indeed, they work synergistically to ensure that outcome.
In Strasbourg, President Obama was asked about American exceptionalism. His answer? "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Interesting response. Because if everyone is exceptional, no one is.
In other words, our president considers himself elected to preside over our decline.
I am not ready to decline.
Physical decline, our culture of youth notwithstanding, is the right and proper condition for the elder whose grandchildren are old enough to fetch and carry, responsible enough to want to be helpful; it's a well-deserved rest after a lifetime of striving. Whether it's the right and proper condition for a nation, I can't say - but certainly, when decline overtakes a nation as it overtakes an otherwise vigorous person stricken with a wasting disease (like France, with its life-sapping repeated revolutions focusing on egalite at the expense of liberte) or a sudden double-amputation (like Britain, losing so many of its people and God knows how much of its treasure to war twice in two generations - with Churchill's speeches still echoing down the rubbled streets of London, Britain no longer had legs to stand on), it's a tragedy, not something to be sought. What's the deal with the neo-Vikings? Have they utterly forgotten themselves? Or are they so envious of the vigor of those who are still vigorous that they have to do their best, in grand Leftist style, to even the field at their low level?
Not that Vikings were like us. Vikings took what they wanted; we keep trying to give back what's thrust upon us. We're the perfect hegemon, not, as Krauthammer says, just the accidental one: we're the hegemon who never wanted the job, who is terribly uncomfortable with it, who, while repeatedly and sometimes wearily stepping up to fulfill the responsibilities of it, is constantly on guard against the nation-state equivalent of the droit de seigneur that goes along with it.
Be careful what you wish for, Europe.