Thursday, May 1, 2014

Abandoning Obama

Pundits who thought that Barack Obama was the solution to all the world’s problems are jumping off the sinking ship. It’s been happening since the beginning of the Obama presidency, but now we have Maureen Dowd and Leon Wieseltier offering especially harsh condemnations of President Obama’s leadership, or lack of same.

To be clear, they may all have suddenly seen the light about Obama, but one suspects that they are motivated by a refusal to be associated with an obvious loser. I am confident that they will all line up like good little soldiers when Hillary announces her candidacy.

Harsh is the word that describes Maureen Dowd’s comment on Obama:

It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world.

How can we accept these reduced expectations and truculent passivity from the man who offered himself up as the moral beacon of the world, even before he was elected?

Were it not for the fact that more sober and rational minds have been saying this for years now, this would be news. As such, it reflects more on Dowd than on anyone else.

Everyone should have seen that Obama was not sufficiently experienced to conduct the American presidency. Everyone should have known that it would take more than speechifying to run the country, to say nothing of leading the world.

Again, Dowd is late to the party:

Once you liked to have the stage to yourself, Mr. President, to have the aura of the lone man in the arena, not sharing the spotlight with others.

But now when captured alone in a picture, you seem disconnected and adrift.

What happened to crushing it and swinging for the fences? Where have you gone, Babe Ruth?

Of course, Barack Obama was never Babe Ruth. He was never even a major leaguer. Only the Maureen Dowds of this world imagined that he was. They need to offer an apology and to explain how they mistook their fantasy for reality.

However bad Dowd’s dismissal is, it pales in comparison to Leon Wieseltier’s commentary in The New Republic:

The tiresome futurism of Obama, his dogmatic views about what this ritualistically ballyhooed century will be like and what it will not be like, are only a part of what lowers his vision. The bigger problem is that the president feels inconvenienced by history. It refuses to follow his program for it. It regularly exasperates him and regularly disappoints him. It flows when he wants it to ebb and it ebbs when he wants it flow. Like Mr. Incredible, the president is flummoxed that the world won’t stay saved, or agree to be saved at all. After all, he came to save it. And so the world has only itself to blame if Obama is sick of it and going home.

Part of the problem is that Obama had never played on the world stage. Another part of the problem is that he has never believed in American leadership. Another part of the problem is that the American people, influenced by the rantings of the mainstream media, no longer believes that America should be leading the world.

Having been outplayed by Vladimir Putin on the world’s chessboard, Obama has concluded that it is best not to engage with his Russian counterpart.

And yet, when you are president of the United States, picking up your toys and going home to sulk has consequences:

Ignoring the master [Putin], of course, has the consequence of ignoring the master’s victims: the Obama administration abandons to their fates one people after another, who pay the price for the president’s impatience with large historical struggles. The Ukrainians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Czechs, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, the Baltic populations: they are all living with the jitters, and some of them on the cusp of despair, because the United States seems no longer reliable in emergencies, which it prefers to meet with meals ready to eat. No wonder that so much of our diplomacy consists in tendering reassurances. The United States now responds to oppressed and threatened peoples by making them more lonely and afraid—a sentimental objection, I know, and one that is unlikely to trouble Henry Kissinger’s epigone in the White House.

Of course, a man who suffers from Obama’s inexperience can only refer to his ideologically-defined fictions about the way the world works. It was inevitable that he would be mugged by reality.

Wieseltier explains:

There was no reason to expect that the Ayatollah Khamenei would take Obama’s “extended hand,” but every reason to expect that he would crack down barbarically on stirrings of democracy in his society. There was no reason to expect that Assad would go because he “must go,” but every reason to expect him to savage his country and thereby create an ethnic-religious war and a headquarters for jihadist anti-Western terrorists. There was no reason to expect Putin to surrender his profound historical bitterness at the reduced post-Soviet realities of Russia and leave its “near abroad” alone. There was no reason to expect that the Taliban in Afghanistan would behave as anything but a murderous theocratic conspiracy aspiring to a return to power.

Obama rode to the presidency on an anti-war platform. He did not understand that the media was using the pacifist message to cudgel the Bush administration. Schooled by Jeremiah Wright, Obama believed, in the depths of his soul, that America was more the problem than the solution.

In Wieseltier’s words:

It turns out that Obama’s Iraq-based view of America’s role in the world, according to which American preeminence is bad for the world and bad for America, is not shared by societies and movements in many regions. 

He continues:

There are many places in the world where we are despised not for taking action but for not taking action. Our allies do not trust us. Our enemies do not fear us. What if American preeminence is good for the world and good for America? Let’s talk about that. 

One suspects that if the occupant of the White House was a Republican no one in the media would be talking about "American preeminence."


Stirge said...

I agree that Obama is ineffective. But to be fair, I don't think there was anything he could do about Ukraine. Not everything that happens can be laid at the feed to the US president. Remember, Eisenhower was equally ineffective in 1956 when Soviet tanks rolled through Hungary. It is domestic policy where he really struggles. Foreign policy wise he has actually been ok.

Anonymous said...

Stirge - He has been "ok" on foreign policy? I don't think that a credible argument can be made on that front.

His worldview has been shown to be bereft of a deep understanding of the world and the power politics that propels it.

He has been naïve and caught flat-footed in Syria, Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, China, Iran, and Egypt.

He has not stood up forcefully to defend democratic movements in Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt.

Our allies in the Pacific and E. Europe are dismayed by our retreat and disorganization.

Obama threw away our position in Iraq gained at the cost of American blood (when he failed to secure a status of forces agreement that was achievable).

He has cosied up to Turkey's autocratic Islamist president and called him his "best friend" in the region.

He has bullied Israel and ignored/excused persistent Palestinian obstructionism and Jew-hating propaganda.

He de facto supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (Islamist totalitarians who believe in "one election, one time"). When they set about turning Egypt into an Islamist state he (and Hillary) said nothing.

Al Qaeda has metastasized and now controls more territory than at any other time and threatens the entire stability of the ME (just look at Syria and Iraq).

He has essentially green-lighted Iran's nuclear program and given them the cover of futile "negotiations" to further divide and disorient the world.

He stepped up the war in Afghanistan while simultaneously deciding to pull out. The result has been confusion and a higher death rate in the war. Confusing our allies and encouraging our enemies (this is a common theme in Obama foreign policy).

We could go on and on in this vein. If this is "ok" I am scared to think what failure would look like.

Dennis said...

In foreign policy it is what other countries perceive that the US will do and not what it will not do that counts. If one presents an image of detachment, weakness, powerlessness, and the country's president is demonstrating no respect for his on people's, et al then that creates a lack of confidence in our allies and aggressive action by those who would take advantage of us. Peace through strength is not just a euphemism.
Providing the capability for countries to protect themselves is a start. Giving NATO allies missile defense systems. Starting with effective sanctions from the beginning and not gradually increasing sanction in which Putin is well advised to see how far he can go before we actually do something. Suffice it to say that there are a range of option, short of military involvement, that are/were available. Fecklessness and indecision is what leads to larger wars.
We cannot disengage from the world without real consequences to ourselves. In every problem one should approach a solution as early as possible to avoid a larger one later that may not be able to be solved without a great deal of lives being sacrificed.
The litany of Obama's failures both foreign and domestic could fill pages and sadly will take years to fix if we even have the time left to approach the disaster he has created. I suspect that Iran has already got plans of destroying this country's energy grid though the use of EMP and obliterating Israel. One does not have to go to a fighting war in order to real do damage to us. It can be done on the cheap.
Weakness invites war just as a criminal is encouraged by victims who look like they cannot or will not defend themselves. Life does not change just because we are in the foreign policy arena.

CorkyAgain said...

The mistake here is in thinking that Obama is uniquely responsible for the shortcomings of his administration. The Democrats always rule by committee, and Obama's cabinet and his advisors like Valerie Jarrett must share at least as much of the blame.

So does the Democratic team in Congress. Dissatisfaction with Obama himself shouldn't let Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of that bunch off the hook.

Very little will change if the only thing that's different in the next administration is which Democrat is sitting in the Oval Office. They might change the quarterback, but their team will still be playing the same game.

Dennis said...

It is true with the democrats in power that we have an oligarchy in the making instead of a representative government. One has to discredit the "leader" of that oligarchy to the point of undermining those who are part of it.
Fortunately Obama is doing a pretty good job of discrediting those who would create that oligarchy. That seems to be true of Pelosi, Reed, et al.
There is one way to ensure that there is enough opposition that the quarterback is isolated and unable to do anything with the ball. With enough opposition executive orders become meaningless because the money to enforce them will not be forthcoming.
What the citizens in this country are going to have to do is decide whether they are going to play "ain't it awful" or actually do something about it. State nullification, jury nullification, et al are all part of the tool box. A little research will indicate that citizens have a number of ideas that can make things better, but they have to pursue them and not sit back whining.