Well, via Glenn Greenwald's post today, we have this from the New York Times (December 21, 1989):
For George Bush ['41], the United States invasion of Panama early this morning constituted a Presidential initiation rite as well as an attempt to achieve specific goals. For better or for worse, most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest... [List of leaders omitted.] All of them acted in the belief that the American political culture required them to show the world promptly that they carried big sticks.Emphasis added.
There it is, folks, in the newspaper of record: it is a requirement -- or felt to be a requirement, which amounts to the same thing -- of "American political culture" that Presidents act like the cheapest of horror of villains.
This is not some wide-eyed leftie radical saying this; it's the New York fucking Times. The only difference is that a wide-eyed leftie radical would probably see this as immoral, rather than neutral or good, which is how American political culture -- or at least American political elites -- see it.
Something to remember next time you hear someone talk about America's goodness, how we run our foreign policy on moral grounds rather than self-interest (or even in addition to self interest), etc. Whereas in fact we require our leaders to be Buffy-style villains... and no one even thinks that it's wrong.
* I was going to cite an example here, but they are endless, from the blood needed to power the ritual at the end of the opening two-parter of Buffy Season one through the initiation ritual of the powerful evil circle at the end of Angel's Season Five. It's simply ubiquitous.