The American Empire is and will be at perpetual war. That is the fate of empires, but the fate of the Republic is a matter of our gravest concern. How do the tangible facts of empire and it’s necessary strategies and practices affect, confront and nullify republican values,practices and institutions? President Obama seems to think that he can,will and is fully capable of mastering that conundrum. There was nothing anguished about the President or his speech, just the relaxed,confident demeanor of the most gifted American rhetorician of the age. The serenity of the just? One might even liken this problem to that of the Gordian Knot and cast the president as the radiant Alexander,too much,perhaps?The President’s enemies can and do argue this as a product of his aloofness and arrogance.
As for the question of Reinhold Niebuhr, the President and he have much in common. They were/are both endless self-promoters, Niebuhr kept an exhausting schedule of public appearances and speeches,his health permitting, to near to the end of his life, both are political and moral conformists,both ardent believers in the falleness of man, as the root cause of the world’s problems:sinfulness and willfulness and the inability to confront that in oneself as a moral failing. Please see Richard Fox’s friendly biography of Mr. Niebuhr, as the most readily available source about his life and career. Those are the salient points, and the President being a gifted orator used to great and telling effect, that undeniable talent in his self-presentation. That may be the whole point of Mr. Douthat’s essay, the large bit of sand that produced this pearl.