Perspective: The US political pendulum swing

Despite American hubris, the war in Iraq demonstrates what happens when you go too far.

US coffin flag 88 (photo credit: )
US coffin flag 88
(photo credit: )
The Baker-Hamilton Report is part of the larger pendulum swing that is currently taking place in American politics. It is a perfect example of how the US system reacts when politicians such as President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, transcend their limits. The American people are responding in typical fashion, similar to the way Americans of the 60s responded to liberal politicians such as president Lyndon Johnson going beyond the limit of accepted reform; they elected the ultra-conservative Nixon/Ford administration. Today, the American public is demanding an equivalent shift, but this time it's a shift back to a moderate approach. The recent congressional elections are a primary example of this. In terms of foreign policy, Americans have always believed in Americanization and hubris, the idea of manliness and intimidation of other countries. As a country, they have always sought to flex their muscles towards the rest of the world. Former president Bush Sr. started a war, but knew when to stop. The current war in Iraq demonstrates what happens when you go too far. The administration is now being investigated by its own people and being forced towards a healthy development, in which the government must face the reality which it created. This, in fact, may be the greatest outcome of recent US foreign policy. Similar to the actions of president Harry Truman in World War II, the US is shifting back to a realization of the need for global harmony. After the war, Truman understood the need for American influence but he balanced it within a policy of containment. Under this policy, America was to be more conscious of other nations and their influences, something that was evident during the Korean War when Truman recalled General MacArthur as part of an anti-war escalation policy. America is once again being reminded that it has to accept interference by other countries in global politics. In order to survive in a world with a globalized economy, the US is properly shifting towards being more sensitive to the rest of the world. The Baker-Hamilton report should signify a switch from a military to an eventual supervisory role in Iraq. The de-escalation of military activity will hopefully prevent America from creating new enemies. We are at an historical turning point in history. In the American context, we are witnessing a foreign policy shift in Iraq as a result of a shift in American public opinion. Hopefully, this increasing need for change will result in America being more sensitive and sophisticated when approaching both Iraq's future and its own. The author is a professor of American History at Tel Aviv University. This article is based on an interview with David Machlis.