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Opening Arguments

Goodbye, cruel world

Caught one of those panel discussions on Fox last night in which George Will said America's foreign policy these days is "complete disengagment." Events happen in the world, and we merely watch and comment on them. The DL (designated liberal) of the day -- it was either A.B. Stoddard or Kirsten Powers -- said, well, yes, that's true, but that's what the American people want. "Do you think anybody could be elected president today by saying we should re-engage in Iraq or Afghanistan?"

That's true as far as it goes. Americans do seem to want to retrench these days, take a breath and let the world whirl on without us, and the polls all show it. But there are other polls showing we're not exactly happy about the way the world is going right now:

Americans may like the theories of disengagement and retrenchment, but they do not seem especially fond of them in practice. While Americans are war-weary and cautious about reengaging in global affairs after a decade of conflict, they are also apprehensive about increasing global instability. An electorate plagued by anxiety about the state of foreign affairs is usually not predisposed to vote for the status quo. Maybe after Americans vent their unease at the polls, the political class will wake up to the fact that Americans are plagued by fears, not just about their own country, but for the world.

That seems about right to me. Americans may be wary of active global involvement right now, but I think most would welcome the right kind of involvement in just the right place. We might not know what and where right now, but I think we'll recognize effective leadership when we see it.