Uncanny. John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday says exactly what I think, before I realised that I think it:
There was a moment last month – it was when Susan Sarandon, the actress, said she might emigrate to Italy or Canada if McCain won – when it seemed essential to the sanity of America that Obama should lose.
But, no, it is more important that the daydream should be broken. The idea that there is some kind of clean, different, painless, perfect alternative to politics as usual is a distraction from taking difficult, compromised decisions in an imperfect world. If Obama lost, too many people around the world could continue to believe that if only America got out of whatever it is in, everything would be better.
I think McCain is right about Iraq – that the surge has been a success, and that eventual troop withdrawal should depend on that success continuing. But I think it is more important, for America and the world, that Obama should be the one who learns the truth of this the hard way.
In office, he would be forced to use his eloquence and his global popularity to make the case for what is left of the coalition to see its responsibilities to the Iraqis through. Many of his supporters, especially outside the US, would see it as a betrayal. I think it would be a necessary one, by which he could at last heal the suspicion of American power that provides so many around the world with easy excuses.
Obama will receive much adulation on his European trip. It will not be merited, if you consider merely what he has achieved and said. But it will be welcome on two grounds. First, there is the obvious symbolism - which is important and entirely justified - of an articulate black American vying for the leadership of the free world. Secondly, there are few conflicts, crises or social problems in the world that would not benefit from more rather than less American intervention.
The United States performs a unique and essential role in the international order. In the absence of world government, the US provides what the scholar Michael Mandelbaum describes as international public goods. These encompass such diverse goods as a reserve currency; conflict resolution (not an invention of Jimmy Carter, incidentally; it extends at least as far back as President Theodore Roosevelt's mediation to end the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5, for which he won a Nobel Prize); and collective security through the Nato alliance. It's well past time that we progressive welfarist Europeans acknowledged the point. The pace of candidate Obama's "betrayals" suggests we might have to sooner rather than later, I'm pleased to say.