by Victor Davis Hanson
Our Philosopher Organizer
The most successful practitioner of community organizing looks around for what he thinks is a problem, chastises both sides and allots absolutely equal blame, gives exalted moral lectures about compromise and understanding, and then waltzes away well paid, praised for his moderation, but having accomplished nothing.
So I wasn’t too surprised to learn that President Obama decided to tackle European-American relations — something that has a pedigree going back to our Revolution, and has been analyzed by the likes of Tocqueville and Henry James to contemporary essayists such as Bruce Bawer, Joseph Joffe, Robert Kagan, and Bruce Thornton. But then who needs to read them, when you have the power of ‘hope and change’?
Had Mr. Obama done his homework, he would have learned that our transatlantic “differences” transcend communication problems, and, yes, even Barack Obama’s charisma.
An Old Sore
Europe — given its Western heritage, its own intellectual roots (reflected in the French Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the canonization of 1848, Marx’s natural landscape, postcolonial guilt, the lingering shame of appeasement and collaboration, postmodern anti-Western philosophy), the legacy of the bloody twentieth century, the conditions of the Cold War, and the American defensive shield — has devolved into a largely secular, if not atheistic society.
That it is now shrinking, facing endemic childlessness, can neither assimilate nor deport Islamic immigrants, becoming increasingly protectionist, and is unarmed and pacifist is all logical rather than aberrant. How we still maintain such friendly relations with our now distant European cousins, given our (prior) capitalism, Christianity, fertility, assimilation practices, classlessness, enormous military power, and international profile is the real mystery. One thing that Europe most definitely does not want is for President Obama to turn the United States into a socialist, protectionist, disarmed, pacifist — Europe II — a clone of itself that won’t protect it, provide an open market for its goods, or stimulate the world economy.
While capitalism survives there, it does so by the more successful buying insider influence, relying on hereditary wealth and inherited privilege, avoiding as many laws as possible, and praising publicly socialism as you privately get around it in the real world — sorta like the New York Timeslauding Obama’s bailout of GM while it threatens to shut down the Boston Globe unless the print unions shave off millions in wage concessions, or the city officials of Detroit serially alleging racism while they loot what little is left of the city solely for friends and family.
To visit Italy or Greece is to be impressed by the sheer human ingenuity of small entrepreneurs who deal mostly in cash, avoid taxes, arrange barter, skirt regulations (half their restaurants would be shut down for safety violations in the states), hire either family or workers off the books without proper papers, and generally try to have some sort of government job that requires no work but income in down times.
Again, despite our common culture and long shared history, there is bound to be differences. President Obama should read about poor General Pershing’s frustrations with Foch and Petain, the hatred between Wilson and Clemenceau, the tension between de Gaulle and Roosevelt/Truman, Reagan’s efforts to base Pershing missiles to counter Russian tactical nukes, and Bill Clinton’s five-year long frustrations in dealing with Germans, Italians, Greeks, and the Dutch over Milosevic.
Sit Down and Listen!
No matter. Obama walks in. He sees a “new” problem (read Bush’s). And as if he’s trying to resolve a renter group’s anger over bad conditions in a city-owned apartment building, he immediately decides his “cool” can relieve the “tension”. So Europe gets 50% of the blame, America 50% — but, wait, in reality more since an American while abroad “courageously” blames first his fellow Americans on the charge of being “arrogant” cowards. Then, presto, problem addressed and solved, Obama goes into campaign mode to wow the crowds with his untraditional heritage.
If you dare suggest that when he serially announces “I’m more interested in looking forward than backward” it simply means he has just trashed his predecessor; if you let out a peep that the Euros are smiling over no more combat troops sent to Afghanistan; that the Russians are delighted that they got everything they dreamed of; that Sarkozy is preening about his transnational financial czar; that Merkel wasn’t joking when she boasted that she won’t stimulate a penny; that the 50/50 “speech” to the Euros was more like the spring 2008 Rev. Wright effort (Wright had reasons to be racist himself given people like Obama’s racist grandmother, but failed to see we’ve gotten better), then you are “partisan”, “angry,” “need to get over it,” and more or less acting like the petulant Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi did the last few years.
Heard it Already?
And please, no more of those desperate gratuitous cries in the wilderness, “NO! We are not arrogant!” followed by frantic, Hannity-like recitation that we defeated German militarism, Hitler’s Nazism, Italian fascism, Japanese imperialism, Soviet totalitarianism, rebuilt Europe, sent massive aid to the Middle East, allowed gargantuan trade deficits to stimulate the world export economy, offered the most liberal immigration policies in the world (cf. Obama’s auntie), allow billions in remittances to be sent freely abroad, removed Milosevic, the Taliban, and Saddam, helped Muslims in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, Somalia, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan, and on and on.
Brave New World
None of that. Instead, listen up and learn — and feel better that your community-organizing President has just organized the world along the transnational principles that we alone will fight the Taliban, go into massive debt to ’stimulate’ exportation into the U.S. market, follow the U.N. lead on problems from Iran to North Korea, apologize for the Neanderthal ‘war on terror’, push the “reset” button on our past terrible policies, borrow and spend well over a half-trillion for ‘cap and trade’ to combat ‘global climate change’ — and are to be loved as never before.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson