Progressive foreign policy is at its core a paradox. It seeks to promote a more peaceful, interdependent, and egalitarian world in which human rights are protected and the developing world can flourish along with a prosperous United States. Yet the thing most capable of making all of that happen—American power in all of its forms, military and otherwise—is what progressives fear and revile the most.
Maybe you can help me out. I’m puzzling over a line in a New York Times story on The World As It Is, the forthcoming memoir from Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The article, by Peter Baker, is about the parts of Rhodes’s book that deal with Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.
“In the weeks after Mr. Trump’s election,” Baker reports, “Mr. Obama went through multiple emotional stages,” including flashes of “anger,” “rare self-doubt,” and taking “the long view.” Do not think, however, that during the final weeks of his presidency Barack Obama was withdrawn or more self-obsessed than usual. People needed him. The day after the election, Baker continues, “Mr. Obama focused on cheering up his despondent staff.”