Krauthammer’s Ridiculous Essay on American Hegemony

charles_krauthammerCharles Krauthammer has written a provocative article in The Weekly Standard arguing that liberals are to blame for purposely engineering American decline. Krauthammer sometimes has intriguing ideas, such as his proposal for a net-zero gas tax. Unfortunately, Krauthammer’s jingoistic, neoconservative ideology blinds him to some of the most obvious realities about American foreign policy.  Most of his argument focus on the negative symbolism of recent foreign policy decisions of the Obama administration.  Yet, when one looks at the examples Krauthammer cites of liberal weakness on the part of the Obama administration, it becomes clear that many of these foreign policy decisions were sensible, practical choices.

He criticizes the Obama administration’s decision to end the planned missile-defense system in the Poland and Czech Republic as showing weakness to the Russians.  Ever since President Ronald Regan’s Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980’s, Republicans have yearned for missile defense systems.  The only problem is they don’t work.  Physicists describe the challenge as trying to hit a bullet with another bullet.  In 2008, Russia had 5,200 nuclear weapons deployed, not to mention nearly 30,000 tons of chemical weapons.  If Russia really wanted to obliterate the United States, it is just absurd to believe that any missile defense system we could develop would protect us from the simultaneous deployment of over 5,000 nukes.

Krauthammer attacks the Obama administration for condemning the military coup against the Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, in June of this year.  In response to the coup, every nation in the hemisphere, except for the United States, recalled its ambassador.  Furthermore, both the EU and the UN condemned the coup.  President Zelaya was by all accounts a corrupt leader, but why does it make any sense for the United States to isolate all of Latin America for the dubious reward of supporting over a government that nobody else in the region thinks is legitimate?  Even the right-wing Alvaro Uribe, the President of Colombia and America’s closest ally in Latin America, strongly criticized the coup.  Honduras is a country of minuscule geopolitical significance, which means we would gain very little even if America’s support somehow were crucial to keeping the new government in power (due to stalled negotiations, Zelaya remains out of power even with America’s condemnation of the coup).  Especially given the history of American imperialism in Latin America, it would have been absolutely crazy for America to support a coup condemned by the rest of the world which did essentially nothing to promote American interests.

Krauthammer’s essay shows how obsessed he is with America asserting its dominance with useless symbolic gestures.  The missile defense plan was doomed to technical failure and enraged the Russians.  Supporting a military coup against the democratically elected leader of Honduras would have done nothing to promote American interests in the region and would have enraged all of our allies in the region.  The Obama team made sensible choices, only Krauthammer’s ideological blinders cause him to think otherwise.  For some more discussion of the essay, I highly recommend the Opinionator blog of The New York Times, which has a good summary of Krauthammer’s essay and some insightful critical commentary.