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.
The 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 Continue reading “Foreign Policy: From Bad to None”→
It’s often hard to determine whether a series of bad policies results from stupidity or malicious intent. Occam’s razor suggests that the former is the more likely explanation,
as conspiracies assume a high degree of intelligence, complex organization, and secrecy among a large number of people, qualities that usually are much less frequent than the simple stupidity, disorganization, and inability to keep a secret more typical of our species. Yet surveying the nearly 6 years of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy blunders, I’m starting to lean towards Goldfinger’s Chicago mob-wisdom: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.”
Obama’s ineptitude started with his general foreign policy philosophy. George Bush, so the narrative went, was a trigger-happy, unilateralist, blundering, “dead or alive” cowboy who rushed into an unnecessary war in Iraq after alienating our allies and insulting the Muslim world. Obama pledged to be different. As a Los Angeles Continue reading “Obama’s Foreign Policy: Enemy Action”→
In the past there have been all sorts of presidential fibbing. Some chief executives make promises that they know they probably cannot or will not keep. Before his reelection for his third term in the midst of a world war, Franklin Roosevelt swore that he would never send American boys to fight in a foreign war. In just a little over a year, he did just that. Lyndon Johnson likewise before the 1964 election said he would not send troops to Vietnam. But once reelected, he sent nearly 200,000 troops to fight the North Vietnamese; by the time he left office, over a half-million Americans were deployed in Vietnam.
In 1988 presidential candidate George H. W. Bush pledged that he would not raise taxes and did so emphatically: “Read my lips — no new taxes!” But in 1990 he flipped and agreed to tax hikes.
Barack Obama has offered all sorts of similar empty pledges, like promising to close the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year of taking office. It is still open. Obama also promised to halve the deficit by the end of his first term. Instead he doubled it. Ditto Obama’s promises on the good things to follow Cash for Clunkers, on the shovel-ready jobs that would follow the stimulus, and on the summer of recovery to be spawned by massive borrowing. At your own job, if you promise the boss that you will do something and then don’t, you’re likely to get fired; when presidents do the same, it’s called politics. Continue reading “How Presidents Lie”→
Adding straws of scandal — Fast and Furious, the Associated Press monitoring, the IRS fiasco, and the NSA spying — on any presidential back except Barack Obama’s would have long ago broken it. Watergate ruined Richard Nixon. Iran-Contra earned a special prosecutor and nearly destroyed the Reagan second term. Katrina’s incompetent local and state reactions, coupled with a tardy federal effort — and the insurgency in postwar Iraq — ended the viability of George W. Bush in his second term. Continue reading “Obama and the Suspension of Disbelief”→
The second terms of the latest three presidents have not been successful. Bill Clinton was impeached after his infamous lie to Americans, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
George W. Bush was blamed for the postwar violence in Iraq.
Barack Obama’s scandals — with his accompanying “limited hangout” denials — are ruining his second term: the growing IRS messes, the Associated Press monitoring, the NSA embarrassments, the Benghazi killings, the Syria bluster and backdown, and, of course, the Obamacare fiasco and the misleading statements about it.
What are other common denominators of this collective tenure of our recent presidents?
After popular first terms and reelection, they seemed to have lost public confidence and the ability to continue an agenda.
Do two terms wear out a president?
Maybe the hubris of getting reelected convinces our commanders-in-chief that they are mostly beyond reproach. Overreach ensues. Then the goddess Nemesis descends in destructive fashion to remind them that they are mere mortals. Continue reading “Needed: A Different Sort of President”→
By 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was finally done in by his “credibility gap” — the growing abyss between what he said about, and what was actually happening inside, Vietnam.
“Modified limited hangout” and “inoperative” were infamous euphemisms that Nixon-administration officials used to mask lies about the Watergate scandal. After a while, few believed any of the initial Reagan-administration disavowals that it was not trading “arms for hostages” in the Iran–Contra scandal.
George H. W. Bush thundered during his campaign that voters should “read my lips: no new taxes,” only to agree later to raise them. Bill Clinton’s infamous assertion that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman” was followed by proof that he did just that with Monica Lewinsky.
The George W. Bush administration warned the nation about stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and never quite recovered its credibility after the WMD were not found. No one believed Bush when he told incompetent FEMA deputy director Michael Brown that in the midst of the Katrina mess he was doing a “heck of a job.” Continue reading “Obama’s Credibility Gap”→
The one requisite in a presidential speech is honesty. Without it, nothing else matters. The president’s speech last night was incoherent in its call to be ready at some future day to use force that he just recently insisted must be used immediately. Continue reading “Predictably Misleading”→
To support the president’s enforcement of his red line in Syria requires suspensions of disbelief. Here are several.
I wish it were not true, but there is scant evidence that the world, led by the U.S., went to war in the past over the use of weapons of mass destruction — whether by Gamel Nasser in Yemen or by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds and the Iranians. Understandably, the current West’s reaction, including Obama’s, to possible Syrian WMD use is calibrated mostly on the dangers of intervention, not the use of WMD per se. Thus Obama is now focusing on Syria in a way he is not, at least overtly, on Iran, the far greater WMD threat, because he believes the former could be handled with two days’ worth of Tomahawks and the latter could not. That would be understandable pragmatism if it were not dressed up in the current humanitarian bluster about red lines and the “international community.”
If you still doubt that Barack Obama has disastrously bungled our foreign policy, check out this video. In it Egyptian singer Salma Elmasry brutally insults Obama for supporting the Muslim Brothers and Islamists in general, her vulgar insults laced with an image of our President sporting a bin Laden cap and beard, and another of him with thickened nose and lips, no surprise to anyone familiar with traditional Arab racism. Continue reading “Epitaph for a Foreign Policy”→