The Hollow Men

Paul Greenberg
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Posted: Sep 10, 2014 12:01 AM
The Hollow Men

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

--T. S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"

..

Once again our secretary of state is busy observing American foreign policy rather than shaping it. John Kerry was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new museum of American diplomacy, where examples of America's leadership in world affairs will doubtless be on display along with other relics of the past.

Secretary Kerry took advantage of the occasion to warn against creeping isolationism. Creeping? It's galloping by now. For it's been hurtling on ever since January 20, 2009, when a new president sounded a new call for American foreign policy: Retreat!

This administration had barely begun before the Hon. Barack Obama shelved plans for an anti-missile shield planned for Poland and the Czech Republic. Then he was off to Cairo to unveil a whole different policy ("A New Beginning") for the Middle East and the Muslim world in general: Apologize profusely and withdraw from everywhere as soon as possible.

We can all see how well that approach has worked out -- from Syria and the Levant and across North Africa as Islamist terror has spread like a fast-growing bloodstain. Or as Sarah Palin, once derided as some kind of nut, might put it, and did: "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?"

Even as all the chickens (or rather vultures) he has unleashed were coming home to roost, Barack Obama was sounding as blase as ever, careless and callous as his emblematic "military" salute. What, him worry?

Or as the president told a fundraising dinner for Democratic candidates just the other day, "The world has always been messy." Ho hum. Ukraine, Iran, Syria, what's left of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. ... Forget it, or maybe give it a lick and a promise if we really have to, and maybe it'll all go away.

There are no easy answers in diplomacy, no matter how simple it once looked to our current president, who seemed to believe all he had to do was declare our good intentions, extend the hand of friendship to the old mullahs and new tsars all around the world, and all would be well in his fairy-tale version of international affairs.

Has he learned any better since? Maybe not. Illusions, like ideology, are hard to shake. But that rumble you hear is the world trembling under his feet after he's neglected it for so long. Is it too much to hope he'll wake up at last? The country already has. If only it could get the word to the White House.