We've finally consigned another election campaign to the history books. How we judge it later may be very different from how we see it today. Perceptions are influenced, sometimes wildly, by the passions of partisanship. Current events change with the times, so to speak, along with theories to interpret events, and especially in foreign affairs.
Foreign policy, usually the preserve of wonks, actually became an issue in the campaign just past, with the focus narrowly limited to the war on terrorism. The war on terror was probably the single most important factor to voters this week. It's a complicated world, and the president and his men (and women) have to map a path that reaches far beyond terrorism. How do we see ourselves in the mix of nations?
At the end of the 20th century, an imaginary character became a frequent visitor to wonk conversations, with the United States compared to Lemuel Gulliver, the hero of Jonathan Swift's classic "Gulliver's Travels," who finds himself sunk in the sand on a beach in the kingdom of Lilliput, whose tiny inhabitants have tied him down with threads and pegs. Gulliver can hardly move.
"In this telling, the international community - that comfortable euphemism for the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court and other U.N. agencies and the massed ranks of Non-Governmental Organizations - sought to constrain America's freedom of action in a web of international laws, regulations and treaties such as the Kyoto accords," writes John O'Sullivan in New Criterion magazine. These Lilliputians have also been called "Tranzi's," the hip jargon for transnational organizations that seek to impose participation in "global governance," to impose "global tests" that serve the interests of "the international community" and not ours.
The Lilliputians as invented by Swift are little men marked by moral pettiness, trivializing pretense and obsession with pompous "points of honor." The United States has acted in accord with the Lilliputians in certain acts of humanity, where common interests meet, but the Lilliputians have generally tried to constrain Gulliver through propaganda and the contrived pressure of public opinion. Gulliver was unbound by 9/11, as John O'Sullivan notes, but "Gulliver's Travels" has since become "Gulliver's Travails."