Foreign Policy: From Bad to None

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.

3115968002_be17a06f55The 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”

War’s Paradoxes II: From the Peloponnesian War to ‘Leading From Behind’

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

1. Why Did Athens Lose the Peloponnesian War?

It really did not in a way: Athens no more lost the war than Hitler did the Second World War between September 1939 and May 1941. Instead it was defeated in a series of wars (only later seen as elements of one long “Peloponnesian War”) against a litany of enemies — none in isolation necessarily fatal, all in succession and ultimately together lethal. Continue reading “War’s Paradoxes II: From the Peloponnesian War to ‘Leading From Behind’”

The Ahistorical Krugman

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Paul Krugman weaves a fantasy tale of how high taxes, big unions, and government regulations created a booming 1950s economy — the implication being that in reactionary fashion we can now in a second term return to our heyday under Obama’s envisioned union support, growth in government, tax hikes, and greater regulations. Krugman takes little note of history — that his redistributionist Fifties followed the near-complete destruction of what was then the industrialized world — a devastated Germany and Japan were still emerging from ruin; Russia and China were all but destroyed and suffered 50 to 70 million dead; there was no Taiwan or South Korean economic miracle yet; France, Italy, and most of Western Europe were still reeling from war, ruin, and occupation — all leaving an intact and untouched United States in a unique position in the 1940s and 1950s as the supplier for pent-up demand, and restorer of the world economy — all at a time when America was still almost self-sufficient in cheaply priced gas-and-oil production and cutthroat globalization was still a pipe dream.

In such a landscape of postwar monopoly, the United States, which had not recovered before the war despite eight years of statist policies, could sustain, for a brief time, Krugman’s dream tonics of a top income tax rate of 91 percent (with plenty of loopholes) — or almost any tonics within the broad parameters of free-market capitalism. Yet soon by the mid-1960s and 1970s, America reentered a competitive global economy, became increasingly dependent on soon-to-become-costly imported oil, and found its high-cost unionized labor, high taxes, and highly regulated 1950s economy inflexible and hardly able to adjust to the rise of dynamic competitors like Germany, Japan, South Korea, and later China. That is why the fossilized 1950s paradigm, which Krugman is nostalgic about, by the time of the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations had stalled and was plagued with periodic bouts of high inflation, high unemployment, high interest rates, stagnant inner cities, a growing rust belt, and a generally stagflating economy. If Obama succeeds in taking us back to Krugman’s 1950s dreams, then he likewise better hope that horizontal drilling and fracking, and in large part on federally leased lands, can return the US to energy independence, that technological breakthroughs increase productivity even more, and that rivals such as Japan, China, and Germany recede either because of demographic ossification or a desire to go backward and command and control their economies even more than we do.

©2012 Victor Davis Hanson

Liberal Psychoses

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

How are we to make sense of flash mobbing, the London rioting, more hatred expressed for the Tea Party, more calls for ever more debt and spending, and Barack Obama’s dive below 40% approval in the polls? Let me backtrack a bit. Continue reading “Liberal Psychoses”

Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

“They Did It!”

The president just concluded a frenzied “jobs” bus tour to explain why unemployment is at 9.1% — after borrowing nearly $5 trillion in stimulus the last three years. Continue reading “Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging”