What the presidential choice could mean
By Martin Wolfhttp://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/78274ce0-7917-11dd-9d0c-000077b07658.html
Barack Obama and John McCain are both Americans. Inside the US what seems striking is their differences. To most of the rest of the world what is obvious is the similarities. Both represent the Anglo-American tradition, this being a matter of culture, not of ancestry. They both believe in US destiny and the beneficence of its great power.
Yet they also reflect divergent elements in the tradition: the instincts for conflict and for co-operation. The first instinct seeks enemies and the latter deals. The former is manichean and the latter conciliatory.
The Bush administration has been a devotee of the former point of view. it has even embraced evil – torture, most notably – in order to fight it. Mr McCain, too, is a warrior against evil. In another fascinating book, Robert Kagan, most intelligent of the neo-conservatives, has laid out the ground for a new era of conflict.** The world’s democracies must, argues Mr Kagan, unite to shape the world, against opposition from “the great autocratic powers, along with the reactionary forces of Islamic radicalism”. This is an impressive “axis of evil”, one that links China to Russia, Iran and Osama bin Laden.
This vision is seductive, plausible and dangerous. It is dangerous because it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is dangerous because, as the world becomes smaller and the challenges of managing the global commons greater, co-operation is essential. It is dangerous, not least, because the so-called new autocracies pose no existential threat and offer no compelling new ideology. This is a huge over-reaction to a modest threat.This presidential election might well determine the character of the next, possibly final, epoch of Anglo-American global hegemony. The question is whether the American people will choose the instinct for conflict or that for co-operation.