The Republican Vision

Clint Eastwood speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention

Clint Eastwood speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention

The spectral void that haunted the Republican National Convention was not the empty chair that lingered behind Clint Eastwood as he transformed himself from film legend to rambling dolt. It was the absence of a blueprint for America’s badly drifting foreign policy.

Though Condoleezza Rice offered a fresh appeal for U.S. restraint abroad - bizarrely, her speech was met with a standing ovation even though it jarred with Republican hymns to imperial power - there was no serious reference to the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the price of sustaining the U.S. commitment there, nor to the brewing rivalry between the U.S. and China for control of Asia. This should come as no surprise, as presidential nominee Mitt Romney is unschooled and apparently not much interested in what goes on beyond America’s borders. (His passionate support of Likudnik Israel doesn’t count, as Washington’s embrace of the Jewish state is less foreign policy than domestic political imperative.)

2016 Obama's America (2012)

2016 Obama's America (2012)

The handful of foreign policy pragmatists who advise Romney are vastly outnumbered by a cadre of neoconservatives, many of whom are the same Beltway insiders who have proven their lust for one Middle East war after another. So it is safe to presume that a documentary film currently packing U.S. movie houses is a reliable measure of the candidate’s own worldview, and it’s nothing like “Unforgiven,” Eastwood’s dark meditation on American myth-making.

2016: Obama’s America was created by Dinesh D’Souza, a college president, public intellectual and best-selling author of books popular among the reactionary right. D’Souza, depicted in the film conducting a kind of field study, posits that the cipher to Obama’s policies is “the anti-colonial ideology of his African father that [he] took to heart.”

D’Souza made the same argument in his 2010 book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” and it was quickly mounted by such Republican nuts as New Gingrich. It characterizes the president as being “remote from America” and “separate from American thought.” In the film, commentator Daniel Pipes, who has labored to stifle the free speech of university professors who criticize Israel, who once demeaned Muslim winners of American beauty pageants as beneficiaries of “an odd form of affirmative action,” and whose work inspired Norwegian white supremacist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, laments that Obama “doesn’t think well of America.”

The leitmotif of D’Sousa’s work is that the anti-colonialist Obama is trying to pauperize the U.S. for its imperial past by burdening the nation with debt and hirer taxes, antagonizing allies, over-regulating business and depriving Americans of their guns. It implies his education abroad and at university, where he fell under the spell of dangerous imports like the Palestinian Edward Said and the Brazilian Roberto Unger, has turned him against what D’Souza called America’s “empire of ideals.”

Clearly, D’Souza draws a distinction between the kind of imperialism that left his native India plundered and partitioned and what he regards as a somehow benevolent American hegemony. It is a popular conceit among Romney and his shadow cabinet, though not among citizens of countries like the Philippines and Diego Garcia, Chile and Guatemala, and Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan, all of which have, in one way or another, labored under the U.S. imperial yoke.

That it would defend, let alone celebrate imperialism in any form, even one draped in the folds of a mythical American exceptionalism, reveals just how reckless and parochial the Republican Party has become. If that’s not enough to unsettle a world that still hosts some 900 U.S. military bases, try digesting this:

Secretary of State John Bolton.


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