Where Are the Americans?

They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way, To do something, to speak on their behalf Or at least not to close the door again. DEREK MAHON In foreign policy, the remedial efforts of the new administration, the post-Caligula administration may come down to this: the position of the United States in the world must be restored, but not too much. Sometimes, when people speak of all the damage that Biden must undo, they talk about giving us a fresh start by getting us back to zero. But zero is zero; and nobody in their right mind, in the terrifying social and economic crisis in which we have been living, would propose zero, a return to 2016, as the proper objective of domestic policy. In social and economic policy we must be ambitious, monumental, transformative, and finally translate the humaneness that we profess into laws and programs and institutions; we must assist and even rescue the weak and wounded millions in our midst. But the Rooseveltian moment is to be confined to our shores. Abroad, I fear, we will rescue nobody. We will be only national humanitarians. We are resolved to “repair our repaired alliances,” as we should — but this leaves the larger question of what we are to accomplish with our alliances, what we and our allies are to do in the world together. We are similarly resolved to “restore American leadership,” but we are also haunted by the prospect of genuine American leadership, grand leader-ship, leadership with power as well as politesse, unpopular but persuasive leadership, not least because we have distorted the modern history of American leadership into an ugly story, a sordid and simple tale of imperialism and exploitation, which is a calumny that will cripple us for the conflicts that are on

Already have an account? Log in

Want to keep reading? Join our community:


Support great writing by becoming a full subscriber to Liberties Journal.

Subscribe Today

Free Preview

Sign up with your email address, and access two free articles per month.

We hope you've enjoyed your free articles!

Become a full subscriber for only $50/year, (33% off cover price).

Thank you for supporting great writing.

Subscribe Today
Log In Subscribe

Sign Up For Free

Read 2 free articles a month after you register below.

Register now