Obama’s noises about abandoning nuclear weapons, his release of torture memos, and his sucking up to Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Cuba at the Summit of the Americas all have the same source: his belief that the U.S’s disproportionate strength, global perceptions of our arrogance, and our shoddy record all combine to make the rest of the world hate us. If we only show that we understand them and are sympathetic, so this thinking goes, they will respond by scaling back their venom.
This is not completely unreasonable thinking. There are times when gestures of humility and magnanimity are effective, particularly in certain kinds of interpersonal settings like the boardroom or in an academic environment, where give and take is the name of the game. There is no doubt his sensitivity in this area had much to do with his electability. However, when such a technique is applied in a world with real and motivated enemies, competitors, hostile strange alien peoples, and Islamic terrorists who believe they are undertaking a religious mandate, it is a formula for disaster. It may make us some friends, but more likely it will invite contempt by our enemies, and such easily bought friends with lack the respect and fear that the U.S. has always commanded and will instead be cowed by our enemies’ threats.
The standard leftist narrative of foreign policy excludes any acknowledgement that our military strength and the sometimes dirty deeds of our security forces are why we have been safe from major threats under Bush’s presidency, and that these actions are also the reason why the Cold War did not end at a summit or conference, but instead ended with the implosion of the Soviet Union after a decade-long and quite controversial arms race.
For someone who has spent as much time in Chicago as Obama has, I’m surprised that something like the following has never affected Obama’s view of human nature: every single time that I gave a panhandler a dollar in a moment of Christian compassion, the response was never–NEVER—an appreciative thank you. It was always a request for more money, a more greatly embellished tale of being down and out, or, sometimes, it was the prelude to a physical confrontation. I learned. Obama should have concluded from the hustling and violence all around him in Chicago that the response of the toughest of the street thugs to weakness is not to scale back, but instead to pounce. Indeed, didn’t his mentor Saul Alinsky teach him exactly that?
In dealing with our friends in Europe, it’s perfectly appropriate to engage in some bonhomie to restore these essential, centuries-old relationships. In dealing with Latin America–a land of prickly poseurs and blowhards that are alternately envious of and fearful of our nation–a certain circumspection is called for. Such jealous lands, with such different histories and values, cannot be completely trusted, especially when they’re indulging in their periodic flirtations with dictatorial caudillos. Any outreach must be tempered by self-respect and reminders of their own failures, crimes, and our relative even-handedness in places like Panama and El Salvador since the 1980s. Finally, when dealing with lunatic nations like North Korea, Somali pirates, al Qaeda thugs, Iran, and other undeniable enemies, strength and clarity are what is called for. It’s this last tool that Obama seems to lack appreciation for entirely, embarrassed as he is by our allegedly sorry history.
Obama is continuing to act out the 1970s psychodramas of the far left, a movement that scuttled its credibility during the Cold War. If Bush looked at the world and mistakenly saw an inviting place where throngs of the oppressed were itching for the imposition of U.S. style government, Obama cannot imagine that if we are sometimes wrong, so too are our enemies. Further, he does not see that while a nation such as ours may at times be selfish, short-sighted, ham-handed, over-eager, and a bit ignorant, other nations transcend these venial sins and can become positively satanic–hostile not only to us, but to civilization itself. The coddled and charming Obama seems unequipped to learn that in dealing with such beasts, one must become the hunter not out of charity or an inflated sense of self-importance but from the primal duty of self-preservation. Or, more ominously, perhaps he thinks some kind of golden mean of U.S. weakness and Third World invigoration can be found, and that in this newly balanced world, conflict will soon evaporate.
In spite of his “community organizin’” background, Obama is first and last a lawyer. And lawyers, as a class, love procedure, words, meetings, resolutions, and all the rest. They do a good job of restraining strong men and would-be tyrants in domestic matters. But men that would become tyrants are also the men that would become generals, leaders, war heroes, and cut-through-the-bullshit problem solvers. Obama and the Europeans are “arresting” pirates that should instead summarily executed. They’re begging for North Korea to stop its provocative actions, when such compliance should instead be demanded and coerced. They’re “reaching out” to Iran, when this crazy nation run by fanatic theocrats should instead be isolated, perhaps by throwing a bone or two to the far less troublesome Russians and Chinese, who share our Islamic extremism problem.
There is little sign that Obama can get beyond the procedural instincts of a lawyer and just do something by speaking in the unmistakable international relations language of force. Diplomacy and alliance-building certainly have their place, and Bush should have shown these tools more respect. But force is a tool too–the most fundamental and reliable in fact–and Obama shows little understanding of the times and places where it sends a message with the greatest eloquence.
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