A Facebook friend of Glenn Reynolds recently argued that, life under the leadership of Barack Obama, is a lot like the vision of Pottersville George Bailey was shown by the angel Clarence.
Letâ€™s accept, arguendo, that the outgoing DIA chief is right, and that we are now in an era of danger similar to the mid-1930s. How did we get here? Itâ€™s worth looking back into the mists of time â€” an entire year, to Labor Day weekend 2013. What had not happened then? Itâ€™s quite a list, actually: the Chinese ADIZ, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the rise of ISIS, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fall of Mosul, the end of Hungarian liberal democracy, the Central American refugee crisis, the Egyptian-UAE attacks on Libya, the extermination of Iraqi Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the scramble to revise NATOâ€™s eastern-frontier defenses, the Kristallnacht-style pogroms in European cities, the reemergence of mainstream anti-Semitism, the third (or fourth, perhaps) American war in Iraq, racial riots in middle America, et cetera and ad nauseam.
All that was in the future just one year ago.
What is happening now is basically Americaâ€™s version of â€œItâ€™s a Wonderful Life.â€ The President of the United States â€” supported to an exceptional extent by an electorate both uncomprehending and untrusting of the outside world â€” is Clarence the Angel, and heâ€™s showing us what the world would be like if weâ€™d never been born, Unsurprisingly, Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, and itâ€™s a terrible place. Unfortunately we do not get to revert to the tolerable if modest status quo at the end of the lesson: George Bailey will eventually have to shell the town and retake it street by street from Old Man Potterâ€™s Spetsnaz.
But the larger point here is not whatâ€™s happening, because whatâ€™s happening is obvious. Things are falling apart. The point is how fast itâ€™s come. It takes the blood and labor of generations to build a general peace, and that peace is sustained by two pillars: a common moral vision, and force majeure. We spent a quarter-century chipping away at the latter, and finally discarded the former, and now that peace is gone. All this was the work of decades.
Look back, again, to Labor Day weekend 2013, and understand one thing: its undoing was the work of mere months.