Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Tag Archives: Barack Obama

The Perils of International Idealism

American foreign policy could use a does of hard-nosed realism.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas 

United States foreign policy has been defined lately by serial failures. Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and appears to be preparing a reprise in eastern Ukraine, and possibly in the Baltic states. Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad is poised to win the civil war in Syria at the cost so far of over 200,000 dead. Negotiations with Iran over its uranium enrichment program have merely emboldened the regime and brought it closer to its goal of a nuclear weapon. And yet another attempt to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs has failed. In all these crises the U.S. has appeared weak and feckless, unable to direct events or achieve its aims, even as its displeasure and threats are scorned. Read more →

Foreign Policy: From Bad to None

Our enemies are gloating, and our allies are grimly deciding where to go from here.

by Victor Davis Hanson

Barack Obama had a foreign policy for about five years, and now he has none.

3115968002_be17a06f55The first-term foreign policy’s assumptions went something like this. Obama was to assure the world that he was not George W. Bush. Whatever the latter was for, Obama was mostly against. Given that Bush had left office with polls similar to Harry Truman’s final numbers, this seemed to Obama a wise political approach.

If Bush wanted garrison troops left in Iraq to secure the victory of the surge, Obama would pull them out. If Bush had opened Guantanamo, used drones, relied on renditions, reestablished military tribunals, and approved preventive detention, Obama would profess to dismantle that war on terror — even to the point where the Bush-era use of the word “terrorism” and any associations between it and radical Islam would disappear.

If Bush had contemplated establishing an anti-missile system in concert with the Poles and Czechs, then it must have been unwise and unnecessary. If Bush had unabashedly supported Israel and become estranged from Turkey, Obama would predictably reverse both courses.

Second, policy per se would be secondary to Obama’s personal narrative and iconic status. Obama, by virtue of his nontraditional name, his mixed-race ancestry, and his unmistakably leftist politics, would win over America’s critics to the point where most disagreements — themselves largely provoked by prior traditional and blinkered administrations — would dissipate. Rhetoric and symbolism would trump Obama’s complete absence of foreign-policy experience.

Many apparently shared Obama’s view that disagreements abroad were not so much over substantive issues as they were caused by race, class, or gender fissures, or were the fallout from the prior insensitivity of Europe and the United States — as evidenced by a Nobel Prize awarded to Obama on the basis of his Read more →

Obama’s Enlightened Foolery

He views Putin, the 21st century, and himself as in a fun-house mirror.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

President Obama talks about Vladimir Putin as if he were a Pennsylvania “clinger” who operates on outdated principles, who is driven by fear, and whom unfortunately the post-Enlightenment mind of even Barack Obama

Mykl Roventine  via Flickr

Mykl Roventine via Flickr

cannot always reach. Deconstruct a recent CBS News interview with President Obama, and the limitations of his now-routine psychoanalyses are all too clear. Consider the following presidential assertions:

Obama said in the CBS interview that Vladimir Putin was “willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union.”

Is that any surprise? Why would Putin not “show a deeply held grievance” — given that Russians enjoyed far more pride and influence when they had far more territory and power than they do now? Just because elites in the West might consider Denmark and Luxembourg model societies, given their per capita incomes, ample social services, high-speed mass transit, and climate-change sensitivities, does not necessarily mean that the grandchildren of Stalingrad and Leningrad would agree.   Read more →

The Race-Hacks Defend Their Industry

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The race-hack usual subjects recently attacked Congressman Paul Ryan for stating that the problems plaguing the poor––incarceration, fatherless children, drug abuse, rampant violence, and welfare-dependence–– are a consequence of a dysfunctional culture that scorns marriage, parenthood, education, work, and virtues like self-control. Given that blacks are overrepresented among the underclass, these unexceptional observations––regularly made by others, including Barack Obama––called down a firestorm of racialist invective on Ryan. The abuse ranged from the usual clichés about “blaming the victim” and racist “dog-whistles,” to a New York Times columnist accusing Ryan of being as callous as the Brits were about the 19th century Irish famine. Such ad hominem calumny suggests that somebody’s ox is being gored and doesn’t like it. Read more →

Loud + Weak = War

China and Russia are no more impressed with empty bluster today than Japan was in 1941.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.477px-Franklin_Roosevelt_signing_declaration_of_war_against_Japan

The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.

Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Britain at the same time promoted a loud Singapore Strategy, trumpeting its Malaysian base as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” But London did not send out up-to-date planes, carriers, or gunnery to the Pacific.

Japan was not impressed. It surprise-attacked the base right after Pearl Harbor. The British surrendered Singapore in February 1942, in the most ignominious defeat in British military history.

By 1949, the U.S. was pledged to containing the expansion of Communism in Asia — even as Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson (who had been chief fundraiser for Truman’s 1948 campaign) declared that the Navy and Marines were obsolete. He began to slash both their budgets. Read more →

Of Pre- and Postmodern Poseurs

Obama’s postmodernism has met its match in premodern Putin.

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media 

Vladimir Putin thinks he has a winning formula to restore the global clout of the old Soviet Union. Contemporary Russia is a chaotic, shrinking, and petrodollar-fed kleptocracy. It certainly lacks the population, the vast resources, and territory of its former communist incarnation. For Putin, restoring a lot of the latter without necessarily the former failed communist state makes sense — especially if he can do it on the cheap with passive-aggressive diplomacy and not getting into a shooting war with the far more powerful U.S. If there is a downside for Putin annexing the Crimea in the short term, no one has yet to explain it. Read more →

The Hitler Model

Why do weak nations like Russia provoke stronger ones like the United States?

by Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas 

An ascendant Vladimir Putin is dismantling the Ukraine and absorbing its eastern territory in the Crimea. President Obama is fighting back against critics that his administration serially projected weakness, and thereby lost the ability to deter rogue

World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum

regimes. Obama, of course, rejects the notion that his own mixed signals have emboldened Putin to try something stupid that he might otherwise not have. After all, in terms of planes, ships, soldiers, nuclear strength, and economic clout, Putin must concede that he has only a fraction of the strength of what is at the disposal of the United States.

In the recriminations that have followed Putin’s daring intervention, Team Obama has also assured the international community that Putin is committing strategic suicide, given the gap between his ambitions of expanding the Russian Federation by threats of force and intimidation, and the rather limited means to do so at his disposal. Perhaps Putin is pandering to Russian public opinion or simply delusional in his wildly wrong calculations of all the bad things that may befall him.

Do any of those rationalizations matter—given that Putin, in fact, did intervene, plans to stay in the eastern Ukraine, and has put other former member states of the former Soviet Union on implicit notice that their future behavior may determine whether they too are similarly absorbed?

History is replete with examples of demonstrably weaker states invading or intervening in other countries that could in theory or in time bring to their defense far greater resources. On September 1, 1939, Hitler was both militarily and economically weaker than France and Britain combined. So what? That fact certainly did not stop the Wehrmacht over the next eight months from invading, defeating, and occupying seven countries in a row.

Hitler was far weaker than the Soviet Union. Still, he foolishly destroyed his non-aggression pact with Stalin to invade Russia on June 22, 1941. Next, Nazi Germany, when bogged down outside Moscow and having suffered almost a million casualties in the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, certainly was weaker than the United States, when Hitler idiotically declared war on America on December 11, 1941. Read more →

Following the Trail Nixon Blazed

Obama shows the same Orwellian disregard for the Constitution.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

What would a president do if he were furious over criticism, or felt that his noble aims justified Nixon_while_in_US_Congressmost means of attaining them?

Answer that by comparing the behavior of Richard Nixon to that of an increasingly similar Barack Obama.

Nixon tried to use the Internal Revenue Service to go after his political enemies — although his IRS chiefs at least refused his orders to focus on liberals.

Nixon ignored settled law and picked and chose which statutes he would enforce — from denying funds for the Clean Water Act to ignoring congressional subpoenas.

Nixon attacked TV networks and got into personal arguments with journalists such as CBS’s Dan Rather.

Nixon wanted the Federal Communications Commission to hold up the licensing of some television stations on the basis of their political views.

Nixon went after “enemies.” He ordered surveillance to hound his suspected political opponents and was paranoid about leaks. Read more →

The Chihuahua Theory of Foreign Policy

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner 

The new administration party line is that Putin is now weak and acting out of just that weakness by sending troops into Ukrainian territory — a sort of chihuahua who took on a pit

bhlogiston via Flickr

bhlogiston via Flickr

bull because he knew he was weak.

But even weak states do not typically invade others because they accept that they are weak (and thereby expect to lose?), but usually because, even if weak, they at least still expect to be strong enough to win. Even demonstrably weak Mussolini apprised the political and military landscape and thought that he could win something when he opportunistically invaded a tottering France in June 1940.

Of course, the point is not so much whether Putin is acting out of weakness and frustration at Obama’s purported strength (a fantasy), or even whether he is acting out of strength due to Obama’s clear weakness (most likely), but rather that he is acting at all.

While he absorbs eastern Ukraine, we may call that gambit stupid, catered toward Russian public opinion, self-destructive, strategically inept, and proof of weakness. But those remain Read more →

Obama: Ike Redivivus?

Obama admirers have created a complete distortion of “the Eisenhower era.”

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

In critique of the George W. Bush administration, and in praise of the perceived foreign-policy restraint of Obama’s first five years in the White House, a persistent myth has arisen that WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIESObama is reminiscent of Eisenhower — in the sense of being a president who kept America out of other nations’ affairs and did not waste blood and treasure chasing imaginary enemies.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Andrew Bacevich, Fareed Zakaria (“Why Barack Is like Ike”), and a host of others have made such romantic, but quite misleading, arguments about the good old days under the man they consider the last good Republican president.

Ike was no doubt a superb president. Yet while he could be sober and judicious in deploying American forces abroad, he was hardly the non-interventionist of our present fantasies, who is so frequently used and abused to score partisan political points.

There is a strange disconnect about Eisenhower’s supposed policy of restraint, especially in reference to the Middle East, and his liberal use of the CIA in covert operations. While romanticizing Ike, we often deplore the 1953 coup in Iran and the role of the CIA, but seem to forget that it was Ike who ordered the CIA intervention that helped to lead to the ouster of Read more →

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