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.
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. Continue reading “Loud + Weak = War”→
By the beginning of 1980, Jimmy Carter was in big trouble. Almost everything he had said or done in foreign policy over the prior three years had failed — and he was running for reelection.
Carter had come into office in 1977 promising a new American stance abroad predicated on human rights. He bragged of an end to our supposedly inordinate fear of Soviet-inspired Communism. He entertained the hope of not losing a single American soldier in combat during his tenure. And he rejected the realpolitik of the Nixon-Kissinger years.
The State Department would end the excessive influence of the bellicose National Security Council. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance would put a kinder, gentler face on American diplomacy. We championed Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe over more moderate black reformers. We broke with the Shah of Iran, who fled his country in January 1979. We for a while praised the Ayatollah Khomeini and sought ways to reach out to him. Carter’s U.N. ambassador, Andrew Young, called Khomeini “some kind of saint.” Young met secretly with PLO representatives in Kuwait. In an interview, he falsely alleged of his own country that “We still have hundreds of people that I would categorize as political prisoners in our prisons.” Continue reading “A New Obama Doctrine?”→
In the old postwar, pre-Obama world, the United States accepted a 65-year burden of defeating Soviet communism. It led the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. The American fleet and overseas bases ensured that global commerce, communications, and travel were largely free and uninterrupted. Globalization was a sort of synonym for Americanization. Continue reading “Obama’s Ironic Foreign Policy”→
The passing of Nelson Mandela has been attended with the usual global encomia we have come
to expect from those political leaders who have become international celebrities. Sometimes these extravagant praises and out-sized mourning surpass any real achievement. It is hard to find any justification in Princess Diana’s life for the hyperbolic praise and hysteria that saturated her funeral rites. Many another “leader of his people” or “liberator” has after his death been bestowed with dubious qualities and achievements, while his crimes and flaws are airbrushed from the narrative. That’s why George Orwell famously counseled, “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”
Future historians may temper the current exalted judgment of Mandela, and there is much to remember as the world rushes to beatify him. His endorsement of communists and support for terrorists he made part of the struggle against apartheid should not be forgotten. Nor should be the victims of machete attacks and “necklacing,” the gruesome practice of putting around the victim’s neck a tire filled with gasoline and then igniting it, This form of lynching was a favorite of the African National Congress, of which Mandela was a member.
But after spending 27 years in prison, Mandela recognized on his release in 1990 the pragmatic reality that the dismantling of apartheid and the inclusion of the black majority in governing South Africa meant that the revolutionary justice of the sort that has ruined Zimbabwe, and the command economy beloved by Marxists, both were the road to just another form of injustice and ultimately failure. Continue reading “Nelson Mandela, Western Saint”→
The American custodianship of the postwar world for the last 70 years is receding. Give it its due: The American super-presence ensured the destruction of Axis fascism, led to the eventual defeat of Soviet-led global Communism, and spearheaded the effort to thwart the ability of radical Islam to disrupt global commerce in general and Western life in particular. Continue reading “The World’s New Outlaws”→
The mythologizing of John F. Kennedy in the 50 years since his death has verified the adage in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” The JFK legend recycled all these years is of a liberal icon, the glamorous martyr whose violent death has validated and sanctified big government, redistributive economic polices, and quasi-pacifist internationalism. The facts, however, belie this myth, which also obscures the true significance of JFK’s brief administration.
In reality, Kennedy was not a liberal in today’s sense of the word, but a conservative Democrat, a Cold-War warrior and tax-cutter, as documented by Ira Stoll in JFK, Conservative. Far from the civil rights saint portrayed in the legend, his support for civil rights legislation was lukewarm, driven by the momentum for desegregation started before him by Truman’s desegregation of the armed forces, and codified by Eisenhower in the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights acts, the first civil rights legislation since 1875. In fact, Kennedy believed that over-hasty progress on civil rights would alienate the conservative Southern wing of the Democrats. That’s why he advised Martin Luther King against his groundbreaking March on Washington in August of 1963, and put little effort into passing additional civil rights legislation. Continue reading “Facts, Democrats and the JFK Legend”→
Let us confess it: Many of the things that are bothersome in the world today originate in the Middle East. Billions of air passengers each year take off their belts and shoes at the airport, not because of fears of terrorism from the slums of Johannesburg or because the grandsons of displaced East Prussians are blowing up Polish diplomats. Continue reading “The Neurotic Middle East”→