Friday, September 27, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking President

I knew it had to serve a useful purpose, but I didn’t know what the purpose was.

Now, I have a better idea. Aside from the fact that the annual United Nations meetings bollix up the traffic in my neighborhood, they provide intrepid reporters a chance to interview a multitude of world leaders without having to travel.

Peggy Noonan has risen to the challenge. What she heard on her perambulations through Turtle Bay has not been very encouraging.

Foreign diplomats and political leaders have a decidedly downcast view of
America. They miss the old America, the America that led the world. They despair over the loss, both in the example America set and the leadership it showed on the world stage.

She heard this from “the prime minister of a Western democracy:”

"In the past we have seen some America overreach," said the prime minister of a Western democracy, in a conversation. "Now I think we are seeing America underreach." He was referring not only to foreign policy but to economic policies, to the limits America has imposed on itself. He missed its old economic dynamism, its crazy, pioneering spirit toward wealth creation—the old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle, rise. The prime minister spoke of a great anxiety and his particular hope. The anxiety: "The biggest risk is not political but social. Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright—they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given. It cannot be taken for granted. The recession reminded us how quickly circumstances can change." His hope? That the things that made America a giant—"so much entrepreneurialism and vision"—will, in time, fully re-emerge and jolt the country from the doldrums.

You knew that the Obama administration had been systematically tamping down American economic dynamism. Now you know that you were not the only one who noticed. It’s worthwhile to measure the consequences these policies are producing around the world. They facilitate the work of those nations who seek to displace America.

World leaders know, as you know, that wealth must be produced. It must be earned. An administration that does not whatever is necessary to produce wealth is immiserating itself.

Surely, the administration has caused other nations to respect us less. Our president does not stride over the globe like a great leader; he presents himself and he is increasingly seen as a minor figure, a small man. Other nations witness Obama’s ineptitude and see a man and a nation diminished.

Noonan explained:

The second takeaway of the week has to do with a continued decline in admiration for the American president. Barack Obama's reputation among his fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant. Part of this is due, obviously, to his handling of the Syria crisis. If you draw a line and it is crossed and then you dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy, the world will notice, and not think better of you. Some of it is connected to the historical moment America is in.

A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. "World leaders are very negative about Obama," he said. They are "disappointed, feeling he's not really in charge. . . . The Western Europeans don't pay that much attention to him anymore."

And then there was the snub heard ‘round the world.

Back in the bad old days Iran belonged to the axis of evil. The tyrannical Islamist regime had become a pariah on the world stage.

Thanks to President Obama, such is no longer the case. Obama decided that he wanted to do business with Iran. He reached out a hand of friendship to Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, suggesting that they meet during the U.N. meetings this week. The Iranian leader replied that he did not have the time.

Noonan analyzed:

But [Obama’s] spokesmen had suggested the possibility of a brief meeting or handshake between Messrs. Obama and Rouhani. When that didn't happen there was a sense the American president had been snubbed. For all the world to see.

Which, if you are an American, is embarrassing.

While Mr. Rouhani could not meet with the American president, he did make time for journalists, diplomats and businessmen brought together by the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Early Thursday evening in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Rouhani spoke about U.S.-Iranian relations.

Obama has not only succeeded in diminishing himself, diminishing the nation and reducing the respect we command on the world stage. He has managed to enhance the prestige of the president of Iran.

As that nation gets closer to building a nuclear weapon what makes you think that anything or anyone will now be able to stop it.

Heck of a job, Barack.


Sam L. said...

I read that article, and was again not impressed.

True to what I'm seeing, but...

Glengarry said...

A weirdo presidency soon arriving at the Presidential Retirement Home for Lame Ducks.

Anonymous said...

"Experts" have been fretting, fulminating, and strategizing about Iran's nukes for at least 10 years. I think it's been futile, feckless, and dangerous.

Persia Will Get Its Nukes. Pakistan already has them. The most sophisticated air strikes, with the best bombs, will kill countless civilians. Miss or fail to destroy many/most of the targets. Lead to worldwide Terrorism on a vast scale.

I'm all for fighting our fanatical enemies. But this problem can't be solved from the air. It can't be solved at all.

It's compounded by the real fear Islamic leaders might want to become, and by extension their "countries", Martyrs. Now or later.

In "A World Restored", Kissenger pointed out it's impossible to negotiate w/madmen. This may prove to be a period of nuke & WMD anxiety much worse than the Cold War.

IMHO, we should strengthen our defenses, and stay out of Muslim lands. The West keeps learning the same lessons since the Crusades.