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Bromwich: Where did Cheneys get the idea that ‘dominance’ is the goal of foreign policy?

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Here is something curious: evidence, via Liz Cheney, that the very idea of the U.S. as merely a major nation in the world of nations is considered by the Cheneys to be craven, weak, indeed pusillanimous to the point of effeminacy.

The occasion was local: a routine charge against President Obama that he is more a European than an American leader. The reason he is liked in Europe, says Liz Cheney, is that he does not respect the idea of American dominance. And he got the Nobel Prize because that is the kind of behavior Europeans want from an American president.

Americans think differently, she says. For us, nothing less than full belief in "dominance," and the display of dominance regardless of circumstance, can be counted an acceptable interpretation of America’s role by an American leader. 

The political daughter of Dick Cheney here reveals more than she may have recognized. For U.S. "dominance" has never–not even at the height of the Bush-Cheney administration’s confidence and control of American opinion (2002-2005)–been openly admitted as the doctrine guiding American foreign policy. Dominance was felt to have too Roman and German a sound for general consumption; our military had so many outposts because America was genuinely threatened, case by case. The only place in which the sweeping doctrine was avowed in just those terms was in documents published by the Project for the New American Century; especially, its central policy statement, Rebuilding America’s Defenses (September 2000).

Where did Liz Cheney learn that American dominance was the stated doctrine of our foreign policy? Where imbibe it so casually that in an unguarded moment she could let it slip as the common view–widely shared by many Americans, part of our good publicity about ourselves?

David Bromwich

David Bromwich's latest book is "American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us." He teaches literature at Yale and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has written on politics and culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.

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