… but, as usual with Leftists, they don’t really get it. The result is perverse.
The Founding Fathers regarded Government as a necessary evil. They didn’t express their distaste in terms of “strong central control”, because they didn’t have any other examples of strong central control other than the Church (which they disparaged, in forbidding Establishment of Religion), slavery (which was recognized at the time as as Not A Good Thing by many), and the labor-gangs, businesses, and Army units they were familiar with, in which the groups were small enough that the leadership principle was both necessary and workable.
Nowadays we have many examples of strong central control, and all of them creak and leak at the seams. It’s easier to recognize the problems with the idea when you have James J. Ling (the bee in my personal bonnet; there are many others) to kick around. (Yes, Virginia, a Corporation is an instance of the class “Government”.)
Obama and the rest of the America-Lasters, whose picture of the world is amply illustrated by Obama’s UN speech, see the situation as an instance of strong central control of the world by the United States, and recognize that as a problem which they wish to eliminate. That’s the philosophical impetus behind the objection to “Imperialism”.
Leftists don’t recognize that even in their own thought processes, because like all Progressives they are focused on the effects and not the causes. They see poverty and oppression, cast about for a source of power that can be logically connected to it, and when they find such a source they go after it with hatchets and knives. It’s much easier to make the logical connection when there’s an overwhelming example of power visible. The US is the hyperpower. Poverty and oppression exist. Connect the dots. It’s a facile explanation, easily comprehended by the sort of mentality that thinks tossing paving-stones through shop windows is an effective protest against the G20.
It’s perverse, because as they see it (and they are perfectly correct) the only way to change the situation is to gain sufficient power to modify the US’s behavior. In doing so, they themselves become (perhaps have become) an instance of strong central power, with all the ills appertaining thereto — a tail-chasing, positive-feedback perversion of the original concept. That’s inevitable if you don’t go back to first principles. You can’t break Monopoly unless you have sufficient power to oppose the Monopolists. You can’t prevent oppression of the Workers without building Unions strong enough to oppose the employers. In every case, the new power centers simply merge into the old, and the problems either continue or get worse.
The Founding Fathers of the US saw that the only way to break that positive-feedback cycle was for the strong central power to limit itself. The Constitution of the United States attempts to define the maximum powers of Government, and the Bill of Rights lays out a list of the most-likely abuses of the power of Government (as they saw it) and forbids them. Generations of people, most of them with the best of intentions, have been seduced by the opportunity to oppose power with power, and spent great effort and ingenuity to interpret the Constitution in ways that would allow them to gain power to eliminate the problems. The tactic doesn’t work. It can’t work, because it creates a new instance of the problems that adds, rather than subtracts, from the original one.
The Progressives and Pacifists are right about something else, too — the power of example. The US is a Great Power. Others “naturally” (or “instinctively” </sneer>) attempt to gather enough power to oppose it. If the United States had continued to restrain itself from the accumulation of power, and continued to prosper under that philosophy (which it did for a long time, however attenuated its allegiance to the philosophy became), it would have served as a powerful example to other power-seekers that the way to become powerful was to abjure power-seeking. Two things block that road.
First, nobody ever articulated and preached that principle. It is very difficult, almost impossible, to convince a power-seeker that his own efforts are self-limiting, that minimizing power leads to greater power in the long run; and because nobody ever codified that principle and tried to communicate it in those terms, it never reached the consciousness of the people who needed to hear it. It is, after all, counter-intuitive, and thus must be appreciated intellectually rather than viscerally.
Second, much of the US’s behavior has contradicted it. Lincoln accumulated the power to preserve the Union in order to use the power of the Union to better the lives of the People. The Government accumulated the power to bust up Standard Oil in order to prevent the concentration of power represented by Monopoly. There are a thousand other examples, each perfectly justifiable on its own merits — but they add up to a violation of the original principle. Power must limit itself, or the whole thing devolves into the power vs. power vicious cycle.
In the present day, Obama and his philosophical allies are reaching for an application of the same principle that led to Breaking Monopoly. They see the US as a monopolist, controlling the lives and fortunes of many with no effective counterbalance, and seek to reduce the power that allows it to do so. In order to do that, they must build their own power — and thereby pervert their own ideals. Sauron was a Good Man.