There's so much to love about Charlie Sheen's diatribes that about the only improvement I can think of would be to have Jean-Claude Van Damme be the one interviewing him. Obscured by the spectacle of Sheen's crash-and-burn party are some very serious critiques of the consensus drug treatment paradigm in the U.S. But there are also some very important insights into U.S. foreign policy and national security. In particular, Sheen's remarks, which I'm tempted to refer to as the Sheen Doctrine, illustrate one tendency prevalent on the left and another prevalent on the right, while succinctly articulating a major tenet of U.S. military doctrine that will likely come into play in Libya.
1. The Blink Cure: "I have cleansed myself," Sheen said in one interview. "I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond, I cured myself." He subsequently phrased it somewhat differently: "I blinked and I cured my brain." Whether it's the euphoria following the election of Barack Obama as president or the painful lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, the left's search for an instantaneous cure for America's past abuses of power is a recurring one. Unfortunately, true recovery occurs not with the first blink, but with all the subsequent blinks that follow. For now, the Obama administration has demonstrated an admirable discipline in the face of calls -- in Iran in 2009 and currently, in Libya -- for a more assertive approach to the domestic affairs of foreign countries. But staying clean requires an ongoing effort -- that is, an endless series of blinks -- especially when there's a ready supply of one's drug of choice. American power might be in relative decline, but there's still plenty to make the temptation to use it a constant struggle.
2. The One-Speed Gearbox. "I have one speed," Sheen said, "I have one gear: Go!" Whether it's in regard to Iran, Honduras, Egypt, Libya and Lebanon, not to mention North Korea, China, Venezuela and at times Brazil, the right has one speed: Go! On all fronts, Obama has been too slow, too weak, too cautious. For the right, American power is a hybrid vehicle that can take corners with blinding speed while also steamrolling all adversaries. Most remarkably, no maintenance is required, and quite unlike just about anything else in the real world of today, the parts are all American made. I initially misquoted this pearl to Kari as, "I've got one speed: Bam!" And I think that the misquote might even be a more accurate reflection of this thought pattern on the right. This is the temptation of power that the Blink Cure must resist. The problem is that sometimes blinking is a cure, but sometimes it is, indeed, a sign of weakness. The challenge is to know the difference.