Forget about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. This week the media is really obsessed about “This Week.” Christiane Amanpour made her debut on Sunday morning as the anchor of the ABC program. The former peripatetic CNN star, known for her passionate and self-appointed advocacy for the world’s dispossessed, announced that she will “open a window on the world.”
But was it actually closed? And are Americans actually interested in peering through it? Or is Amanpour headed for her first big failure with no real personal exit strategy in sight?
Initial reviews of Amanpour’s performance were mixed. Robert Lloyd observed in the Los Angeles Times:
Her hallmark is rather an almost inelegant, even partisan urgency, with a tendency to personalize politics—that is, to make it about people—born possibly from all the years she has spent in distressed places under fire. ‘Is America going to abandon the women of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan?’ she asked [Nancy] Pelosi.
This is classic Amanpour. In recent days, supporters of the Afghan war have pointed, again and again, to the plight of women in Afghanistan to insist that America cannot depart. The Taliban’s record is, it goes without saying, grotesque. But by that standard, America should be intervening in a lot more countries around the globe to safeguard women. President Obama can hardly justify the war in terms of promoting women’s rights.
For all her advocacy of the underdog, her show, as the Washington Post’s television critic Tom Shales observed, had a rather swollen feel to it, beginning with “pomp and panoply befitting a visit from a foreign dignitary.” The broader conceit of Amanpour’s approach is that America needs more global coverage. But as Shales put it in a scorching assessment, “the show was hardly a haven for isolationists, and refashioning it to take advantage of Amanpour’s specialty could, in a word, ruin it.”
Foreign-policy mavens are constantly bemoaning the American public’s lack of interest in foreign affairs. A few weeks ago at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting on journalism at the Newseum, the same themes were sounded. But the truth is that the public has never been all that interested in foreign affairs. Few publics are, whether it’s in Europe or Central America. They have their own pressing domestic concerns. Foreign affairs, by and large, is the province of elites, which is the way they like it. Nothing would alarm the foreign-affairs types more than if the general public were actually to become keenly interested in the topic. As retired General Stanley McChrystal observed, the Afghan war would really be in trouble only if the public started to follow it more closely. That’s the last thing the Obama administration wants.
The era in which Amanpour ascended is probably ending. In the 1990s America and its NATO allies could bomb the Serbs into submission with impunity and establish a fragile peace in the Balkans. That intervention helped set the stage for the war in Iraq, another liberal humanitarian intervention, even if it was executed under the aegis of the neoconservatives. But if the Afghan venture goes belly-up and the American economy fails to recover, the era of intervention is over, at least temporarily.
Amanpour will continue to proselytize to the benighted natives about the significance of events abroad. Her globalist mind-set was crystallized by her decision to call upon Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid to discuss the American economy, in what Shales called a “ludicrous” attempt to show that foreign policy affects the economy. Well, duh!
Amanpour will continue to focus on foreign policy. But will anybody be listening? Soon “This Week” may become so yesterday.