Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Tag Archives: Obama Administration

Untruthful and Untrustworthy Government

The massaging of critical data undermines our society.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Transparency and truth are the fuels that run sophisticated civilizations. Without

echosofstars via Flickr

echosofstars via Flickr

them, the state grinds to a halt. Lack of trust — not barbarians on the frontier, global warming or cooling, or even epidemics — doomed civilizations of the past, from imperial Rome to the former Soviet Union.

The United States can withstand the untruth of a particular presidential administration if the permanent government itself is honest. Dwight Eisenhower lied about the downed U-2 spy plane inside the Soviet Union. Almost nothing Richard Nixon said about Watergate was true. Intelligence reports of vast stockpiles of WMD in Iraq proved as accurate as Bill Clinton’s assertion that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Presidents fib. The nation gets outraged. The independent media dig out the truth. And so the system of trust repairs itself.

What distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities are our permanent meritocratic government bureaus that remain nonpartisan and honestly report the truth. Read more →

The Incoherence of Western Foreign Policy

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The crisis in Ukraine is just the latest in a long series of foreign policy failures brought about by the incoherence in our thinking about foreign relations. On the one hand, we have championed ethnic-national self-determination as the highest international good, while on the other we have assumed that all these various nations and peoples share the same ideals, principles, and goods, and so can comprise a transnational order that will eliminate war and conflict and create peace and prosperity. Over a hundred years of history reveal these ideals not just to be incompatible, but also to foment and worsen inter-state violence. Read more →

Sacrificing the Military to Entitlements

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

Vladimir Putin, playing geopolitical chess while our president plays tiddlywinks, has effectively taken over Crimea. Armed men, looking suspiciously like Russian military personnel, have seized both airports and established border checkpoints decorated with Kalashnikovs and Russian flags. This comes after other armed men seized two government buildings and raised Russian flags, as the legislature appointed a pro-Russian regional

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, is escorted by U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Weinstein after arriving at the missile alert facility and launch control center at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., Jan. 9, 2014. Hagel was on a two-day trip to visit commands in the western United States.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, is escorted by U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Weinstein 

leader. Meanwhile Russian military forces are gathering on the border, with Russia’s parliament unanimously voting to approve deploying troops in Ukraine.

This is just Putin’s latest revanchist expansion of Russian power throughout the region. He’s been at this for a while. Remember that during the Bush administration he stole chunks of Moldova and Georgia, using the same argument of ethnic self-determination that served Hitler so well in 1938, when he made the Sudeten Germans the pretext for gobbling up Czechoslovakia. Remember when in 2005 Putin said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union––the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, as he put it–– “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”? And just as England and France did nothing except talk about Hitler’s aggression, so too the West has blustered Read more →

Ukraine and Our Useless Outrage

The history of Obama’s foreign-policy posturing bodes ill for the future of Ukraine.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Don’t step over the line and re-militarize the Rhineland. Absorbing Austria would cross a red line. Breaking up Czechoslovakia is

premier.gov.ru.

premier.gov.ru.

unacceptable. Get out of Poland by the announced deadline. The rest was history.

Don’t dare blow up another American military barracks overseas. Don’t even consider another attack on the World Trade Center. Don’t even try blowing up one more American embassy in East Africa. Don’t ever put a hole in a U.S. warship again. The rest was history.

President Obama issued yet another one of those sorts of warnings to stop the violence to Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych just before protesters drove Yanukovych out of office. “There will be consequences if people step over the line,” Obama threatened.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, amplified that veiled warning. He called the Ukrainian government’s repression “completely outrageous” — as opposed to just outrageous or completely, completely outrageous.  Read more →

The Value of Putin

Putin ends up existing to warn us in the West of what we are not.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Vladimir Putin has the world’s attention this week. The circumstances will remind everyone that reset with Russia is dead. Its

Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Sebastian Derungs

Copyright by World Economic Forum
swiss-image.ch/Photo by Sebastian Derungs

working hypothesis — that it was the George W. Bush administration, not the Putin regime, that had either inadvertently or provocatively offended the other’s sensibilities — was invented before the 2008 election on Obama’s partisan and political considerations, not empirical observation.

Under reset, the incoming Obama administration, more nuanced than the outgoing Bush administration and drawing on more enlightened thinking, would appeal to the better angels of Putin’s Russia. The more complex Obamaites would help enlighten the Putin autocracy to the fact that the U.S. and Russia had common interests in improving free trade. We really both wanted to calm world tensions while discouraging proliferation, combating terrorism, working with the United Nations, quelling international crises, and promoting human rights. Once Russians had been tutored about America’s good intentions, we could undo (“reset”) the damage done by the swaggering braggadocio of the interventionist prior administration. Misunderstanding and ill feelings, not ill intentions and malfeasance, were Russia’s sins.

And what is the result of reset? It is open Russian promotion of the Syria/Hezbollah/Iran axis that was active in Iraq and is now more so in Syria. It is Russian obstruction at the U.N. of most American initiatives. It is another round of strangulation of the former Soviet republics. It is satisfaction that a frustrated United States has been reduced to appeasement instead of taking serious steps to thwart Iranian nuclearization, as Putin eggs Iran on. It is more pressure on Eastern Europeans to look to the East, not to the West. It is humiliation of the European Union over Ukraine. It is more internal oppression of a brutal sort. And it is a gratuitous delight in exposing the Obama administration as sanctimonious and weak, while the U.S. lectures Russia on human rights, as if its tepid moral remonstrations de facto translate into shamed abidance. In sum, what the Obama administration is for, Putin is mostly against. Read more →

The Poison of Postmodern Lying

by Victor David Hanson // Tribune Content Agency 

Fabio Premoli via Flickr

Fabio Premoli via Flickr

All presidents at one time have fudged on the truth. Most politicians pad their resumes and airbrush away their sins. But what is new about political lying is the present notion that lies are not necessarily lies anymore — a reflection of the relativism that infects our entire culture.

Postmodernism (the cultural fad “after modernism”) went well beyond questioning norms and rules. It attacked the very idea of having any rules at all. Postmodernist relativists claimed that things like “truth” were mere fictions to preserve elite privilege. Unfortunately, bad ideas like that have a habit of poisoning an entire society — and now they have.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was recently caught fabricating her own autobiography. She exaggerated her earlier ordeals, lied about the age at which she divorced and was untruthful about how she paid for her Harvard Law School education. Read more →

Governing by Pen and Phone

Obama used to sigh that he was not a dictator who could act unilaterally. No more.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Lately a weakened President Obama has fashioned a new attitude about consensual government: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama boasted Tuesday as he convened his first cabinet meeting of the year. At least he did not say he intended to govern by “pen and sword.” If Obama used to sigh to supporters that he was not a dictator who could just implement progressive agendas by fiat, he now seems to have done away with the pretense of regret.

Obama has all but given up on the third branch of government since he lost control of it in 2010: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

There are lots of creepy things about such dictatorial statements of moving morally backward in order to go politically “forward.” Concerning issues dear to the president’s heart — climate change, more gun control, de facto amnesty, more massive borrowing supposedly to jump-start the anemic, jobless recovery — Obama not long ago had a Read more →

‘Duty,’ and the Taint of the Tell-All

Robert Gates’s insider memoir is the latest in a dishonorable genre.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

For all the hysteria over former defense secretary Robert Gates’s new insider memoir of his tenure during the Bush and Obama administrations, the disclosures are more breaches of trust than earth-shattering revelations. Much of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War is the ordinary stuff of public service.dutygates1388871061

What little gossip in the book there is that may be controversial — revelations that both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cynically opposed the successful Bush-era surge in Iraq on political grounds, or that Vice President Joe Biden is a buffoonish blowhard — was already common knowledge to many Americans.

Gates sees himself as reluctantly drawn to Washington to help rescue the fading Bush administration’s unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, he grudgingly stayed on at the Defense Department, apparently to add some sobriety to an at times comically inexperienced new Obama team.

There is a long tradition of retired court insiders revealing unflattering details about their bosses before they leave office — and it is not uplifting. The Roman court insider Petronius thought he could get away with caricaturing the buffoonish emperor Nero through his racy novel The Satyricon. Read more →

Obama’s Recessional

There is nothing accidental about the president’s apparent foreign-policy blunders.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Does Barack Obama have a strategy? He is often criticized for being adrift.

cmccain202dc via Flickr

cmccain202dc via Flickr

Nonetheless, while Obama has never articulated strategic aims in the manner of Ronald Reagan or the two Bushes, it is not therefore true that there is no “Obama Doctrine.” Indeed, now that he has been in office five years, we can see an overarching common objective in otherwise baffling foreign-policy misadventures.

Collate the following: large defense cuts, the president’s suspicions that he is being gamed by the military, the pullout from the anti-missile defense pact in Eastern Europe, the pressure on Israel to give new concessions to its neighbors, the sudden warming up with an increasingly Islamist Turkey, the failed reset with Russia, radical nuclear-arms-reduction talks, the abject withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq, the timetable withdrawals in Afghanistan, the new worries of our Asian and Middle Eastern allies, the constant euphemisms on the war on terror, the stepped-up drone attacks, the lead-from-behind removal of Moammar Qaddafi, the pullaway from Mubarak in Egypt, the support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the pink lines in Syria, the Iranian missile deal, the declaration that al-Qaeda was on the run and the war on terror essentially ending, the Benghazi coverup, and on and on. Read more →

2014: Year of Decision

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

This year we will see if America is still a center-right country, or if Obama’s two terms will mark a historic shift to the left. History and recent events give cause for optimism, Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickrsubject, of course, to unforeseen events.

The champions of big government, wealth redistribution through taxation and entitlement transfers, and a coercive, intrusive regulatory regime have many times exaggerated the death of conservatism and the final victory of progressivism. Remember this famous pronouncement by culture critic Lionel Trilling in 1950? “In the United States at this time Liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation . . . But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” Even as Trilling wrote those words, the work of Russell Kirk, F.A. Hayek, Richard Weaver, Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, and many others were developing a powerful conservative philosophy that would bear fruit in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Read more →

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