David Brooks: Why not here?
David Brooks published a fascinating piece in the NY Times editorial page yesterday, titled, "Why not here?" The question is a representation of a larger question running through the national minds of many oppressed countries as they look at the success in Iraq; as they look at the revolt in Ukraine; as they see democracy at their very fingertips. If you, like me, are a free subscriber to NYTimes.com, I recommend reading the whole piece. Otherwise...
Brooks explains that the American will to dream big dreams and do the impossible is infectious, and stands in stark contrast to the prevailing attitudes of modern Western Europe, as he here explains:
It's amazing in retrospect to think of how much psychological resistance there is to asking this breakthrough question: Why not here? We are all stuck in our traditions and have trouble imagining the world beyond. As Claus Christian Malzahn reminded us in Der Spiegel online this week, German politicians ridiculed Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech in 1987. They "couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany."Indeed, Reagan was vilified to an extreme degree. No one could imagine anything else but the continued threat of Soviet Russia as long as there was a Europe for it to threaten. It’s ridiculous to suggest, first of all, that Bush has completely “gone it alone,” as much as it is to suggest that he is the first to ruffle so many feathers.
But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, "In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. ... We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow."
Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a "maximalist" agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal - like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.