Do you remember when you were at school? Do you remember when you got to be one of the big kids? Were you told that as one of the big kids, you were expected to set an example for the littler kids? Were you told it was because the younger kids looked up to the older kids and took behavioural cues from them? Well, it probably wasn’t put like that, but I’m fairly sure that was the message that was given. If you behave badly, others will copy you. I’m fairly sure all of us were given this kind of lecture in one context or another as we were growing up.
Which brings us to this:
The headline is misleading. It’s not Obama whose influence is limited but the United States. It’s not President Obama specifically but the US government as a whole that has lost the moral authority to lecture anyone about invading sovereign nations for dubious reasons.
Now why do you think that might be?
Much as people on both sides of American politics would like to pretend the slate was wiped clean on January 20th, 2009, it was not. Every leader has to lie in bed that previous administrations made for them.
Now I’m not saying it’s the Bush administration’s fault that Vladimir Putin seems to want to annex part, if not all of the Ukraine, but it is their fault that the world laughs at John Kerry when he says, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” There’s no point in arguing that Kerry said similar things about the Iraq war. Nobody cares, especially not anyone who would like to point to America’s own foreign excursions this century in order to justify their own operations, or at least negate America’s valid arguments against them. The example has been set, and by the self-styled leader of the free world, no less.
More than ten years ago, when I would argue the case against the Iraq war on forums, I was frequently told I was on the wrong side of history. I wanted them to be right, but they weren’t. “Bush is a chess player,” they would tell me as things began to go wrong. “He’s playing the long game, thinking three moves ahead.” No, seriously, people said this to me. I would kind of like to hear from them again. I doubt I will though.