There has been a near constant stream of commentary from right-wing pundits claiming that America is in a headlong retreat from the world and that it is all President Obama’s fault. If the President only stood taller, if he only spoke louder, if he only rolled up his sleeves and flexed his biceps, then the world would fall into line. Just like in the good old days.
Rhetoric like this might have made sense in the 1980’s or even in the 1990’s, but I think it is clear that such language no longer usefully contributes to America’s standing in the world. From the close of World War II through the twilight of the George W. Bush Administration, America defined its place in the world essentially by means of its military superiority, if not its supremacy. Yes, America exercised “soft power.” Yes, America was generous with its peace-building initiatives, and the American volunteer spirit was — and is — alive and well in service organizations like the Peace Corps. But the world was always aware that behind these ventures stood an American military that was ready to act in clearly defined ways.
Read the rest of this blog post at my HuffPo column here.