Rooting around in my files for something else tonight, I ran across a letter I sent to the Guardian a few months back. They didn’t print it, of course. They ran a fair few of my letters back in the Bush-bashing days, but not so much in recent years. Anyway, as it deals with a perennial theme — the yearning of “savvy” liberals for “tough” leaders — I thought it might be worth a brief airing, especially in light of one of the likely electoral outcomes next year.
To the Editor:
Timothy Garton-Ash wonders what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2008 instead of Barack Obama ("Should the US have chosen Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama?"). That’s easy: the same, only more so. The same blunderbuss foreign policy, the same kowtowing to the rich elite, the same spying, lying and White House death squads — all with the added fillip of corruption scandals emanating from her husband’s Tony Blair-like private foundation. But Garton-Ash believes H. Clinton would have been “tougher” than Obama”: even more interventionist, even quicker on the draw, even more cretinously bellicose in word and deed. This, he thinks, would have been better.
Garton-Ash, like the rest of us, lives in an Anglo-American power-sphere that in the last ten years alone has sent hundreds of thousands of innocent people to their deaths, and sown chaos and extremism across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet he, like so many of our “savvy” liberal analysts, constantly decries the lack of “toughness” in American policy. They shake with moral outrage at, say, the Kremlin’s machinations in Crimea; they want, always, a “tougher” response — more brinkmanship, more aggression. They want lives (other people’s lives) put on the line to maintain the West’s “credibility.” All this, while in their name — in all our names — thousands of people are murdered, civil liberties are ravaged and whole regions are destroyed by a system our savvy analysts laud and uphold. In any case, we will likely see H. Clinton’s “toughness” and “credibility” in action soon enough. And I’m sure the world will be a better place for it.
Or to put it another way:
We saw the sleepwalkers
Come dancing down the street
Thrashing at the empty air
with their jagged knives
You been chewing wormwood for so long
It tastes sweet
Every day you cut away a little more
Of what could survive