In early 2008, I interviewed the foreign-policy and national-security brain trust of the Obama campaign for this magazine to gain a sense of what a world led by President Obama would look like. There were two big takeaways. The first was something I called "dignity promotion," an inchoate idea that the architecture of international alliances and institutions ought to prioritize human dignity, material as well as aspirational, in order to achieve global stability and prosperity. Implicit in the idea was that Obama would return the U.S. to its pre-Bush role as leader and champion of international cooperation to build a world in which American power and global prosperity were seen as mutually supporting objectives. The second was a meta-point about a path to get there: by confronting what Obama's advisers called the "politics of fear" that restricted what was possible for America to achieve on the world stage.Er, unless you happen to live in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen, in which case, well, sucks to be you I guess.
On dignity promotion, the administration has racked up real successes and set the stage for several more. Obama has proved that the world is prepared for positive-sum American leadership -- whether it's by restructuring U.S. global economic partnerships through the G-20 instead of the more restricted G-8 set of powerful nations; whether it's resetting relationships with great and rising powers like Russia and China over contentious issues like Iran and climate change; whether it's explaining to the Muslim world that America's commitment to its well-being reaches far beyond securing its cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Dignity promotion, a new twist on the very old idea of liberal internationalism, is still taking shape. But the early evidence is that it's working -- for America and for the world.
Let me preface my next comment by stating that I'm not trying to be obtuse, but I honestly don't understand how otherwise seemingly intelligent people can be so captivated by a bunch of do-gooder balderdash (yeah, I'm bringing that word back) uttered by Obama advisers at confabs of the international elite to the point that one would praise to high heaven the supposed dignity-promoting agenda of an administration that is not only engaged in two full-scale military occupations, but claims the right to carry out extrajudicial killings of Americans and foreigners alike. I also don't understand how one could claim that prior to George W. Bush the U.S.'s role was that of a "leader and champion of international cooperation," unless one's definition of the international community consists of Western Europe/NATO and the Marshall Islands, given the widely condemned embargo against Cuba and Clinton's cruise missile-ing of Sudanese aspirin factories; more to the point, when the "international consensus" (read: France, Germany, Britain) permits sanctions to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children by barring basic but "dual-use" medicinal supplies and dangerous luxuries like clean water from importation, I'm not sure that consensus much matters -- nor that it's "progressive."
But probably the worst thing I could ever say at all about Ackerman's or anyone else's piece: I think Tom Friedman could have wrote it.
(The whole "dignity" thing and non-sarcastic use of "meta-point" -- I mean, seriously dude?)