Paul Greenberg

As has been observed before, it can be dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but to be our friend may be fatal. By now the world is littered with small countries we have abandoned -- like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in Southeast Asia. And peoples betrayed time and again like the Kurds in the Middle East -- and religious minorities sacrificed like the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon. Not to mention the Captive Nations of Eastern Europe while the Cold War was still on and the Soviet empire still extant. Now it becomes ever clearer that Syria's suffering people are the next to be added to that long and infamous list.

There may have been sound strategic, tactical or political reasons for retreat in each or all of those earlier cases. Other countries may have been abandoned because our policymakers lacked foresight, as when the West allowed the communists to take over the republican cause during the fateful Spanish Civil War, not realizing it was only the rehearsal for what would prove an even greater tragedy, the Second World War.

During the last century an American theologian and realist named Reinhold Niebuhr would make the case for intervening first against fascism and then communism as each bid for global domination. Yes, he knew that the use of power in this world is fraught with moral danger, for who ever came away from exercising power over others with clean hands? Yet he also knew that not exercising power might prove an even greater fault. Just as our sins of omission may outweigh those of commission. For, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, "we have left undone those things which we ought to have done."

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As the American economy continues to struggle, this president's approach to it is proving about as successful as his foreign policy -- that is, not very.

Barack Obama remains a true believer in Keynesianism, the faith that all a government need do to restore economic vitality is pour more and more money into the economy. That doctrine became less an economic theory and more an article of faith decades ago, notably during the 1930s, and it still has its disciples who sleep on, comfortable in their certainty whatever evidence the intervening years have provided.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.