Peter Beinart thinks Barack Obama just may end the culture wars.
For several decades now, analysts have divided American politics into three categories: economics, foreign policy, and culture. . .
When it comes to culture, Obama doesn’t have a public agenda; he has a public anti-agenda. He wants to remove culture from the political debate. He wants to cut our three-sided political game back down to two.
Beinart may have things backwards. The closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, for example, was not ultimately a foreign policy decision or an economic one. It was a sweeping nod from on high to one side in the culture wars, a gift to that portion of the Left who defines itself in opposition to George W. Bush and his policies. In fact, the practical dimension of the decision is such an afterthought that the Obama administration has not yet formulated a plan for trying or housing the detainees. Contra Beinart, President Obama — within 24 hours of taking office — made America’s system for handling enemy combatants a casualty of the culture wars.
Beinart points to President Obama’s opacity on traditional cultural issues as evidence of his wanting to remove them from political debate. But how does Beinart account for Obama’s opacity on political and economic issues, as well? After all, Barack Obama isn’t only pro-gay rights while being anti-gay marriage (Beinart somehow missing the latter point in his piece), but pro- and anti- missile defense, in favor of ending the war in Iraq while extending it, and both pro-tax hikes and pro-tax cuts.
Muddles don’t end wars. They draw them out. Winning (or losing) ends wars – cultural or otherwise. Beinart’s piece ultimately speaks to a worrisome trend among reasonable people: the desire for President Obama to sweep challenges under the rug — unmet. There is nothing presidential about ending cultural debate, randomly pausing wars, or gratuitously closing detention facilities without plans to deal with detainees. Americans want a recess from ugliness, but that’s not how history works. The winning of wars brings clarity and direction. And the West could use heavy doses of both at the moment.