Here are four paragraphs from Mr. Douthat’s March 28, 2015 essay that seem more pertinent than his analysis of the difference between the ‘Pax Americana’ model of Foreign Policy and the ‘offshore balancing system’. Title it Douthat’s Potted History. The point of this potted history is firstly not to upset the bourgeois Sunday morning New York Times readers, and secondly to give a politically convenient reading of ‘history’: to produce a more muted, sanitized form of ideologically charged propaganda.
Since the Cold War, and especially since 1991, the Pax Americana idea has predominated in our foreign policy thinking. But in the Middle East, there has been no real evolution toward democracy among our network of allies; instead, their persistent corruption has fed terrorism and contributed to Al Qaeda’s rise.
Hence the Bush administration’s post-9/11 decision to try to start afresh, by transforming a rogue state into a regional model, a foundation for a new American-led order that would be less morally compromised than the old.
That order did not, of course, emerge. Instead, it took all the king’s horses and all of David Petraeus’s men just to hold Iraq together; a different bad actor, Iran, ended up empowered; and the old problem of repression led to the Arab Spring and the civil wars that followed.
Sticking to the Pax Americana model after these developments would have required keeping American troops in Iraq for decades. It might have forced us to choose between bombing Iran and extending a Cold War-style nuclear umbrella over most of the Arab world. And there still would have been no easy answers about how to deal with corrupt allies, or with the zealots who move in when they fall.
The last two paragraphs of his essay are the summation of this lengthy policy explication/meditation, that reaches as far as this practitioner of Foreign Policy Metaphysics is capable of moving the conversation:
If we could actually escape Middle East entanglements entirely, even that “something worse” might be less costly to the United States than trying to sustain the Pax Americana. And if we had a trustworthy hegemon in the wings to replace us, all of this might be moot.
But in the world as it exists, what we have is an administration that wants to believe it’s getting us out, but a region that’s inexorably, inevitably pulling us back in.
In sum, we are not just fated to be an Empire, it is our responsibility, our burden. Sound familiar?