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Fareed Zakaria (CNN)

But, first, here’s my take. Conservatives are, of course, mad at Barack Obama, and we’ll talk about the various scandals in a moment, but they are also mad at a country that isn’t mad enough at him.

This frustration is now taking over mainstream and intelligent voices within the conservative movement and about broader issues than Benghazi.

Bret Stephens, the columnist for the Wall Street Journal, laments that President Obama is not paying a price for a foreign policy that he, Stephens, describes as “isolationist.”

Now, our isolationism will surely come as a surprise to the diplomats, soldiers and intelligence officers working on America’s vast foreign policy.

Washington spends more on defense than the next 10 great powers put together and more on intelligence than most nations spend on their entire militaries.

We have more than 200,000 troops stationed at dozens of bases abroad, from Bahrain to Germany to Japan to South Korea to Turkey. We have formal commitments to defend dozens of our important allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

And our vast footprint has been expanded under the Obama Administration. The White House has extended America’s security umbrella to include defending Israel and the moderate Arab states against the threat posed by Iran’s possible development of nuclear weapons.

It is enlarging the U.S. military presence in Asia with a new base in Australia to deal with China’s rise. To call all this isolationism is to mangle both language and logic.

In fact, President Obama’s worldview is rooted in American exceptionalism. You see, the fundamental pattern of international relations is that as a country becomes powerful, others gang up to bring it down. That’s what happened to the Habsburg Empire to Napoleonic France to Germany and, of course, the Soviet Union.

There is one great exception to this rule in modern history, the United States. America has risen to global might, and yet it has not produced the kind of balancing opposition that many would have predicted.

In fact, today it is in the astonishing position of being the world’s dominant power while many of the world’s next most powerful nations, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, are all allied with it.

The reason surely has something to do with the nature of American hegemony. After World War II, we helped revive and rebuild our enemies and turned them into allies. For all the carping, people around the world do see the U. S. as different from other, older empires.

But it also has something to do with the way that the U.S. has exercised power, reluctantly. Historically, America was not eager to jump into the global arena. It entered World War I at the tail end of the war. It entered World War II only after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

It contained Soviet aggression in Europe but was careful not to push too far in other places. And when we did, as in Vietnam, we paid a price.

From Dwight Eisenhower to Robert Gates-, there is a strand of American thinking, realism, that urges America to be disciplined about open-ended military interventions for just this reason.

We have just gone through a decade devoted to a very different idea, that American power must be used actively, aggressively, preemptively and in pursuit of expansive goals beyond the narrow national interest. The result was thousands of American soldiers dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead, $2 trillion spent and the erosion of American influence and goodwill across the globe.

Can we get please a few years of respite to rebuild our economic, political and moral capital?

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1305/19/fzgps.01.html

 

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