by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media
In his 1988 presidential race, George H.W. Bush was trashed by the left for selecting the Bobby McFerrin hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” as his campaign song. Maybe Bush thought he needed a lighthearted optimistic echo of Reagan’s 1984 mantra, “It’s morning in America.” But the Left thought the ditty confirmed the image of a callous and vacuous Bush who didn’t “worry” enough about the poor and minorities. The liberal McFerrin was outraged that Bush sought to play his own song at rallies. Shortly afterwards, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was quietly dropped by the Bush team.
Perhaps no other slogan better characterizes the Obama tenure.
America is relieved that things at least appear calm, as war and death rage abroad. At almost every critical juncture, the administration chose short-term happy talk in lieu of worries over long-term consequences. No matter how frequent the disasters abroad, Obama can proclaim the world is at peace in an unprecedented age of stability and security.
We did not lose a soldier in the bombing of Libya. Only an ambassador and three U.S. personnel were killed in the aftermath. As Hillary Clinton put it: “What difference does it make?” Indeed, of Libya, she also chuckled : “We came; we saw; Khadafy died.”
That Libya is now a terrorist beheading hellhole on the Mediterranean is someone else’s problem at some future date. The bombing of Khadafy may have been the first time in U.S. history that we bombed an autocrat out of power without staying around on the ground to thwart the ensuing and inevitable chaos.
Was that “smart” diplomacy?
Remember “reset”? What happened to it? Did it die in Crimea or Ukraine? For nearly four years, from a plastic reset button to cancelled missile defense with the Czechs and Poles (how prescient that anti-Iranian initiative of George W. Bush now seems in light of the current talks), we were told how Obama and Hillary Clinton had undone the damage that Bush had inflicted on Russian-American relations.
Then, after serial Putin aggression, only silence followed.
There has not been a peep from the administration about the fate of “reset,” much less about the long-term consequences of appeasing Putin for four years. I think the Obama strategy is to keep quiet about the disaster, hope that it takes Putin some time to digest Ukraine, and then leave Putin’s agenda in the Baltic states to the next president.
Why worry about Iran? They promise not to make a bomb for a decade. Translated, that means that Obama (“I don’t bluff”) envisions more laureate accolades for getting out of office ahead of an Iranian nuke, and woe to the president who follows.
Pulling all U.S. peacekeepers out of Iraq at the end of 2011 proved a useful short-term campaign talking point . But the ensuing vacuum birthed the “jayvees” of ISIS, who probably also have a rendezvous with the next president. Why should anyone in Malibu worry about Tikrit or the impending fall of Ramadi, or how a new, low-grade caliphate might remake the Middle East?
Issuing various red lines and deadlines  to the Syrians and Iranians sounded tough at the time, but at some future date an American president is going to have to reestablish — at some cost — the authenticity of an ultimatum by the president of the United States.
But for the short term, Americans were collectively relieved that Obama proved a gasbag and did not enforce the threats.
Leading from behind and forcing Gulf monarchies to fend for themselves is attractive to the American people, who are tired of Middle East ingratitude after 9/11 and all the machinations of the Saudi royals. But again, at some point amid the growing chaos an American administration is going to have to assemble partners to hammer out some sort of order other than Iranian hegemonies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
When Iran, empowered by endless negotiating with the U.S., begins squaring off against the Gulf states, who really cares? I think the Obama administration message would be: “That’s oil-hungry Japan’s problem, not ours.” If only Iran were the Tea Party, and the Ayatollah Khamenei a Ted Cruz, and if only the Gulf exported wind and solar power.
Obama certainly has a genius for packaging progressive lead-from-behind escapism and empathy for anti-U.S. revolutionary regimes in such a way as to appeal to war-weary Americans in general and isolationists of all sorts.
As far as Israel goes, who cares? Forget growing rocket brigades in Gaza, no-man’s land in what used to be Syria, or thousands of missiles pointed at it from Lebanon and a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran.
Don’t worry, Netanyahu, be happy.
There once was much Obama talk of an “Asian pivot” — apparently a muscular show of force to Pacific allies who were concerned that American talk of drastic cuts in our nuclear arsenal, and paralysis in the face of Chinese and North Korean aggression, meant they weren’t still inside the defense umbrella of the United States. In two years, those concerns will spike. A future president will have to beef up our Asian defenses, talk tough with the Chinese, and assure our allies that they neither have to go nuclear nor accommodate China.
But for now, who cares? Be happy!
There are lots of valid comparisons made between British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (who resigned the day Germany invaded France and the Low Countries) and Barack Obama. But one similarity does not hold. Chamberlain stayed in office too long, and suffered firsthand the consequences of his own appeasement on September 1, 1939. Obama, on the other hand, will probably be long out of office and on the global lecture tour when the wages of his policies come due in the Middle East, Russia, the Pacific, and Latin America.
The world today is stable in the sense that it was in summer of 1914 or in August of 1939 — calm before the dark clouds when any who pointed to the storms on the horizon were ridiculed as alarmist fearmongers. No one was more popular in the West than Neville Chamberlain after Munich.
Unfortunately, they who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. But for now, don’t worry, be happy.
Copyright © 2015 Works and Days. All rights reserved.
11 thoughts on “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
you nailed it.
you nailed it.
Congrats—unfortunately for all of US.
I hate everything Obama stands for, however I am satisfied that we are not sacrificing our young men for thankless, dishonest Middle Eastern barbarians. Let the Oil monarchs defend their kingdoms. Our former deals to defend them as long as they priced their Oil in U.S.$$’s is not worth the blood and treasure.
The balance of power there has shifted from the Monarchs, who used the clerics to control the people, to the religious leaders. I suspect the religious terrorism is a tool for the transfer of wealth and power.
We should protect Egypt and Israel, but it won’t happen under Obama, who only knows how to get votes with lies, and has no competency beyond that.
“I am satisfied that we are not sacrificing our young men for thankless, dishonest Middle Eastern barbarians” – well, they are not barbarians, but rather civilized cruel and aggressive men. Obama has saved you from NOTHING. There are even reports of ISIS training camps in Mexico and even in Texas. “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”
I repeat, Obama has saved you from NOTHING.
And today, 4 May, this: ” The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has taken responsibility for the attacks [in Texas] in posts to social media, The Telegraph reports.
“They thought they was safe in Texas from the soldiers of the Islamic State,” one suspected jihadist tweeted.”
Obama has saved you from NOTHING.
But what are the alternatives to the oil sheiks, DenisO? If you think they’re bad, then imagine the dysfunctional Middle East run by ISIS or Iran, of whom both are far more inimical to our interests than any of the Gulf state monachs installed after the Sykes-Picot agreement. And if we do abdicate our traditionally strong leadership in the region and just let ISIS and Iran battle for hegemony, a much greater conflagration could result, which as Dr. Hanson points out will be much harder to repair and will be some future president’s problem.
I understand your frustration with Rumsfeld’s post war bungling of Iraq with respect to the squandered blood and treasure. The force left in place after the war was too small to secure the country and the rules of engagement made our military personel sitting ducks to a rag-tag insurgency. You may recall Rummy’s rather flippant response to a soldier wondering why he had to look around in scrap heaps for armor to protect his lightly armored Humvees from road side bomb attacks. He said, “you go to war with the army you have – not the army you might want or wish to have a later time.” Clearly, the Bush administration grossly underestimated the scope and effectiveness of the insurgents. And it took General Petraeus’s surge – which Senator Obama criticized at the time – to turn the situation around.
By failing to secure a Status of Forces agreement in Iraq, Obama has, in a typically myopic, self-serving move, squandered the peace and stability that cost so much blood and treasure to achieve. The real problem, therefore, isn’t so much the bungled attempt to provide stability to a normally chaotic region that we depend on for 30% of our oil, as much as the dangerous abdication of American leadership, and who will fill the ensuing power vacuum.
Thanks for a cogent, level-headed approach to a seemingly (in their own minds) irreproachable administration. May I highly recommend a sobering assessment of our nations direction and equally level-headed suggestions for the saving of our country in a book by Dr. Os Guinness, “A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future.” Intervarsity Press
obama the “gasbag.” i like it.
Obama is so anti american as a president that it´s almost feel as Jean Paul Sartre has left hell deepest circle and taken possession of him.
Simone revient, il est devenu fou…..
You know if we look at Obama these days it seems to me his ‘looseness’ and ‘coolness’ tells me he’s at bottom glad to get out of the hot seat. It’s like ‘Whew, pretty soon I’m outta here!’ I think he’s glad he doesn’t have to handle the ‘heat in the kitchen’..
Only time will tell of how Obama’s ‘reign’ plays out in US history for the late-20th and early 21st . But for now arguably I think we lost the ‘initiative’ out there in the big wide world. Not good. We may have a bit to catch up on. ‘Initiative’ was certainly a terrible thing to waste.
Obama may have saved the lives of a few soldiers by pulling out too soon from Iraq, but in so doing and with all of his incompetence, cowardice and turning friends into enemies and enemies into friends he has placed our entire nation’s lives at risk in a future conflagration.