Alex Massie

The Washington Delusion

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In one sense, of course, John McCain is correct to say:

"The president saying that we didn't want to be perceived as meddling, is, frankly, not what America's history is all about."

And while one may say that, more often than not, the United States has been one of, for want of a less crude way of putting it, the Good Guys even that country's admirers must acknowledge that this has not always or universally been the case. And that has led to problems. It also, frankly, makes one pretty happy that John McCain ain't President.

Relatedly, it would be useful if Obama's advisors ceased this sort of nonsense:

But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic's Islamic authority in its 30-year history.

One senior administration official with experience in the Middle East said, "There clearly is in the region a sense of new possibilities," adding that "I was struck in the aftermath of the president's speech that there was a connection. It was very sweeping in terms of its reach."...

Obama's advisers say the outreach may have contributed to the defeat in Lebanese elections a few days later of a coalition led by Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed party, that had been predicted to win. In recent days, administration officials have pointed to the Iranian demonstrations as further evidence of Obama's possible influence in the region. Really? Well, perhaps. But it's safer, and probably more accurate, to suppose that Obama's Cairo speech had, if anything, a tiny impact on recent events in the middle east. We've been here before. Remember how the Bush administration tried to take credit for Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution"? That was presumptious in the extreme and it's equally presumptious for Obama's officials to make the same assumptions.

It's also, of course, natural. The Cult of the Presidency has grown to the point that, in the American capital at least, there is the widespread belief that the sun orbits Washington and that the President and the United States can achieve anything merely by wishing it so. Such are the delusions of Empire.

The immodesty and arrogance of this view - itself scarcely new but stubbornly persistent despite ample evidence contradicting it - persists no matter which party holds the White House as Presidents and their courtiers persist in deluding themselves that they have the power to remake and shape the world. This too leads to the suggestion that any failure of American policy must be attributed to a lack of willpower.

This leads to absurdities such as this from the often-egregious Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca):

If he [Obama] had been talking a little tougher even a few days ago, we might not have been seeing the violence and bloodshed of this repressive regime in Tehran over the last few days.

You really think so? I mean, who knew that the Iranian regime would come to heel the moment the American president snapped his fingers?

As I say, it's no surprise that courtiers and Congressmen think the American President is a latter-day Canute. The danger comes when the President agrees with them and lacks Canute's wisdom.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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