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Archive for the ‘foreign policy’ Category

Recounting various failures of Obama’s rhetoric to accomplish anything–from Copenhagen on the Olympics to Iran–Bret Stephens’ timely editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal reminds us that Obama’s fatal weakness is his own and his supporters’ unshakeable faith in his powers of persuasion:

He seems to have come to office believing that America’s problems abroad could mainly be put down to the rough-edged persona of his predecessor. Change the president, change the tone, give magnificent speeches, tinker with the policy, and the world would revert to some default mode of liking America and wanting to work with it. It doesn’t work that way. Nor does it work in domestic policy, where personal salesmanship has failed to overcome the defects of legislation. Americans still generally like Mr. Obama, or at least they’d like to like him. It’s the $12 trillion deficit and Rube Goldberg health schemes that rub them wrong.

So what’s Copenhagen Syndrome? It is a belief in your own miracles. It is thinking that those who crowned you king actually knew what they were doing. It is buying into your own tulip bulb mania. It is the floating evanescent bubble of self. God help you when it bursts.

Incidentally, I wrote something on this earlier this year, and it’s notable that Obama’s experience with the presidency is much like the rest of his life:  a series of attainments but few achievements, exactly what one would expect from a smooth-talker who time and experience have repeatedly revealed is basically a sophist.

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Obama has been critiqued by some conservatives for a lack of sufficient embrace of “American exceptionalism,” which is normally defined as the view that America is a unique nation, with a unique international role, which views that role as chiefly a positive for the advancement of human rights and justice around the world. As the Washington Times put the matter:

President Obama’s reference to British or Greek exceptionalism suggests a belief that the United States doesn’t stand alone with a particular greatness but that every nation is great in its own way and America is simply one of many nations with something cool to offer.

This kind of multicultural, politically correct, “we’re all unique in unique ways, every kid must win at dodgeball” thinking is the basis for his economic and foreign policies, from his schemes to nationalize the auto, banking, and health care industries to his lollygagging on behalf of those fighting for greater freedom in Iran.

So, we are led to believe by interventionist neoconservatives and others, the choice is between the John McCain and George W. Bush approach that would have America involved everywhere fighting for democracy and justice. And, on the other hand, we have the “internationalist” approach of Barack Obama, which also wants to be involved in the world, but shows contempt not only for America’s military and diplomatic power, but contempt for all distinctive aspects of America, such as free markets and limited government, an historical people of mostly European ancestry, a history of very charitable treatment of the defeated in foreign conflicts, and an historical desire to maintain sovereignty and independence.

Missing from this false dichotomy, and the political scene generally, is a true nationalist voice that is neither excessively indebted to nor overly influenced by or concerned with the rest of the world. A humble view that is aware of our limitations and jealous of our advantages. A view that does not seek to manage or influence the world with the exception chiefly of providing a good example to others and protecting what is ours.

America’s foreign policy and sense of self was, to some extent, permanently altered by its heading down the wrong road in World War I. That was the war “to make the world safe for democracy” where our elites’ first widely embraced the idea that we should be transforming the world to make the rest of it more like America. It’s not clear this sunk very deep in ordinary Americans’ consciousness. It took Pearl Harbor for America to get involved in World War II, in spite of FDR’s best efforts, and the Cold War was largely understood as a unique threat that called for a unique response by Americans fearful of domination by an aggressive internationalist ideology. Even then, Americans desire not to get too involved in unnecessary conflict eventually led to an early withdrawal from Vietnam and a more practical approach of containment, with a special emphasis on our backyard in the Western Hemisphere. In any case, regardless of the merits and rhetoric of that lengthy detour, the world changed dramatically with the fall of the Soviet Union, and Americans more or less remained aloof from and only mildly supportive of our activities overseas in the 1990s.

With the 9/11 attacks, like Pearl Harbor, Americans widely called for tribal revenge for our murdered countrymen. Bush and Obama both have misread the cause of this attack as the lack of American-style institutions overseas, and Bush in particular sought in its aftermath to make the spreading of democracy in the Middle East by force of American arms the central strategy, even when ordinary revenge attacks would have sufficed for his conservative supporters. Some conservatives, liberals, and moderates all eventually soured on the nation-building approach in Iraq in particular. Obama now has scaled back these ambitions, even as he desires to get foreigners and international institutions more involved in controlling America and its policies, whether on carbon output or the use of force and much else. His incoherence reflects this tradition of division between foreign involvement as “savior of the world” and its equally liberal counterpart in the form of deference to the UN and suspicion of American unilateralism of all types.

What neoconservatives and liberals both reject is the tradition of American non-intervenetionism. The distinct American tradition is one of avoidance of controlling and being controlled by foreigners. It stretches from George Washington’s Farewell Address and the Monroe Doctrine, to the so-called Know-Nothings, and more recently to Charles Lindbergh, Robert Taft, and Pat Buchanan. It has been the abiding idiom of American conservatism. It is the real exceptionalism because, in addressing the uses of American power, it does not seek domination of others whether from the will to power or the missionary impulse to transform the rest of the world. Its ideas on the use of force are largely defensive and focused on the preservation of the American way of life. It’s a view largely absent from both parties, yet it finds support in what is likely a majority of working class ethnic whites, business-oriented conservatives, many Vietnam veterans, as well as a swath of anti-war Americans who come from a variety of traditions.

The nationalist is against the proposed surge in Afghanistan (and was against saving the anarchy of Somalia or liberating the supposedly victimized Kosovars) not because such acts are an evil to these people–to them, they are probably on balance a good–but because such activity distracts us from our chief concern, which is our own flourishing as a people and the protection of a distinct way of life from foreign attack and excessive foreign influence. This older tradition has the benefit of being more just, less costly, and more consistent with free institutions and fiscal austerity than the so-called “American exceptionalism” of the bellicose neoconservatives.

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John Kerry was a man of his long-gone times:  the 1960s.  He admired the Western European social democracies, particularly that of the French, with their cinema, socialism, complexity, six week vacations, and mostly harmless student riots. 

Obama, by contrast, is a man of the multiculturalist branch of leftism, which emerged in the 1980s.  This group sees its heroes in the Sandanistas, Nelson Mandela, Black Panthers, and the Third World generally.  Its heroic events include the L.A. Riots and the expulsion of European “colonists” from places like Rhodesia.  So it’s not terribly surprising that Obama’s abilities as a diplomat have  consisted mostly of egregious displays of subservience to Third Worlders and non-white leaders in general, such as the Emperor of Japan.  Most important, his lopsided Third World focus has begun to create a minor rift with our civilizational forebears in Europe.

For the record, I thought that some of the conservative venom directed against Western Europe and France during the run-up to the Iraq War was ignorant and short-sighted.  I said so at the time.  John Kerry may have been anti-American in many important ways, but at least he remained rooted in Western Civilization for his models of good government. 

Obama is something different and more dangerous.  Obama doesn’t just want good social services and economic equality, which are the things a John Kerry might admire in Sweden.  Rather, it appears that Obama wants to see the white upper classes collectively brought low in dramatic and humiliating fashion.  Why else the repeated refusal to defend his putative people–his fellow Americans–from calumnies and insults and disrespect by foreigners?

Obama will hobble America and reduce its power and prestige not for spite, though that’s part of it, but also as an act of justice, rebalancing the scales relative to the Third World, in which he sees nations of nonwhite people who are chiefly defined by collectively having been oppressed one time or another by the mean white people of both the First and Second Worlds. 

Why else the snubbing of Nicholas Sarkozy and also Dmitri Medvedev?  Why else the obsequious bowing to the Saudi King and Japanese Emperor, while remaining cool to the British and Germans and Poles?  Why else the extreme unease with waging war in Afghanistan after having promised to do so? 

While Obama is a proud and even somewhat narcissistic man, he finds it very difficult and unnatural to stand up for the United States in the face of criticism that channels the rhetoric of multiculturalism and racist oppression.  When this happens, he is completely morally and psychologically disarmed from critics and will accomodate them to an extreme degree rather than assume the role of America’s first citizen.  Whey else his refusals to condemn Al Sharpton, Farrakhan, Professor Gates, or anyone else on the black left of the United States in his entire life, even when they act ridiculously? 

Obama is someone of an uncertain and also a self-chosen identity.  He made this choosing of his blackness completely in spite of his mixed heritage and white relatives.  This deliberate identification of the idealized people of his  idealized absentee father has always made the sting of “selling out” the worst, most painful cross for the “black” Obama to bear.  He’s insecure about his blackness, even after spending so many years at his crazy church, as a community organizer, and in the household of his more authentically African-American wife.  There’s no slaves in his family tree, unless they were owned by other blacks in Kenya.  This insecurity about selling out is equally vital wether the criticism is levided by a Bobby Rush or the Emperor or Japan or Daniel Ortega.  Having become the American President, far from aleviating this insecurity, makes him doubly determined to show everyone that he knows who his people are:   the multihued oppressed everywhere, not the America which is still 75% white, whose wealthiest and most long-established cohort for many years held “his people” in chattel slavery.

The justice that Barack Obama seeks, it is increasingly clear, focuses on the resolution of “north south conflicts,” or, in other words, whites versus everyone else.  This view of world history was spoken of until now mostly in late night dorm-room bull sessions.  Now it informs the President of the United States.   His foreign policy, in particular its symbolism, is the practical implementation of Jeremiah Wright’s condemnation of  “a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people.” 

Look at his words. Look at his deeds.  Little else but Obama’s racial psychodrama writ large and its associated and distorted concepts of “justice” explain his strange behavior.

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It’s been a heady few weeks for Obama’s foreign policy.  It has echoes of Carter all around.  It is animated chiefly by guilt and a lack of confidence.  Its big features in recent weeks are as follows:  (1) we will have more due process for al Qaeda detainees in Afghanistan; (2) we are going to give Russia a huge victory (and our allies a huge headache) without anything in return by dropping missile defense in Eastern Europe; and (3) we are going to meet unconditionally and bilaterally with North Korea, even though this marginalizes Japan, South Korea, and other important and interested parties in the region.

Foreign policy was a campaign prop for Obama, but it was not nearly  as important as it was to John Kerry, for whom getting the respect of the French was the most important thing in life.  Obama’s apparent belief that if we are “nice” to people that are critical of us, hostile to us, or competitive with us, they will back down. This is reminiscent of President Carter, who dropped the B-1 bomber program, abandoned the Panama Canal, defunded the MX Missile, and reduced military spending–all in an attempt to treat all countries as our equals, even when we were many times stronger, and also to placate the Soviet Union.  The end result was an emboldened Soviet Union that invaded Afghanistan, the toppling of the Shah in Iran, and the loss of the Panama Canal.  Obama takes this principle further, thinking that it is important not to be nice merely to potential competitors like Russia and China, but also to cultivate the self-respect of the Third World by treating weak dysfunctional countries like Egypt or Iran or North Korea, as if they were our equals.

It’s true the Cold War is over. Insofar as NATO should exist at all, it made sense after the Cold War to integrate the fundamentally western and friendly powers of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into its command structure.  These countries were bullied by the Soviet Union and also by Tsarist Russia, and the would risk being bullied by an independent Russia after the Soviet collapse without western support.  That said, Russia is a great power, and there is no good reason today to antagonize a post-Soviet Russia through policies like missile defense or expanding NATO to countries on its border like Georgia.

Whether aimed ostensibly at Iran or in actuality at Russia, missile defenses in Eastern Europe were a mistaken policy of the last eight years, a product of the neoconservatives’ view that Russia was an intractable enemy as opposed to a manageable regional power with basic nationalist concerns for influence and security.

Even with these caveats in mind, the President and conservatives who applaud this decision, such as Daniel Larison, should recognize that the friendly countries of Central Europe have gone out on a limb for the United States in Iraq, and their governments whethered a great deal of pressure from domestic political factions and Russian saber-rattling for their friendliness to missile defense.  If this policy turned out to be counterproductive, the reward for their support of the United States should be something tangible such as conventional arms sales, and this substitution should have been public and showy.  Instead, for Poland in particular, insult was added to injury as the dropping of missile defense was announced on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland in 1939.  Nice optics there Obama.

It’s not so clear this policy will gain us anything from Russia on Iran, which was the ostensible purpose of this gesture.  Russia simply implied this would be an opening for more brinksmanship, viz., Putin was quoted as saying “And I hope very much that this correct and brave decision will be followed by others.”

Why did the administration do this in a way so insensitive to our partners in Eastern Europe? Well, first, I think Obama thinks the US was not such a great guy in the Cold War, and that our pig-headedness and myopia did much to increase tension.  Giving Russia respect is part of his concept of justice, therefore.  Second, he believes we’re much too concerned with Europe in general.  To him, part of global social justice requires the protection of the rights, independence, and sovereignty of the Third World from the machinations of the First World (US and Western Europe) and the Second World (former Communist Countries).  Keeping the First and Second Worlds’ conflict down to a dull roar allows him to focus on the Third World, with gestures like amnesty for illegal aliens, human rights reforms in our treatment of terrorists, increasing foreign aid, standing on the side of leftists in Honduras, and kowtowing to Muslims in Cairo.

Obama’s heart is in the Third World.  In the 1980s when he was in college, he was inspired by anti-apartheid politics and movements for domestic nuclear disarmament, not the heroic Contras of Nicaragua or the Poles of Solidarity. As he said in Dreams of My Father regarding a post-college trip to Europe, “[B]y the end of the first week or so, I realized that I‘d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I‘d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine.”   And love of the Third World, the Third World of his father’s national socialist Kenya, is the ideology of the Third World nonaligned movement. The Nonaligned Movement was led by countries like India, Indonesia, and Brazil to forge a new, independent socialist destiny.  It viewed the Cold War as an act of quasi-imperialism, which diverted attention from the Third Worlders’ nationalist interest in expropriating wealth from First World businesses and their interest in gaining independence from the influence of both the United States and the Soviet Union.  As Obama said in Cairo, “More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”

In this view, Russia will not treated with exceptional respect, and it wasn’t on his recent state visit. Instead, it’s just a big hungry bear that needs to be appeased so the real business of radicalizing the home front and forging common cause with “oppressed peoples” at home and in the Third World can continue.

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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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Foreign policy is a bit like insurance.  Most voters don’t think about it very much, and it doesn’t make the front page news, until something really bad happens. Foreign policy–in particular, foreign policy failures–have much to do with any president’s legacy.  Upon assuming office, Bush had a real passion for tax cuts, legalizing Mexican illegal immigrants, and moving Medicare and Social Security towards privatization.  Instead, after 9/11, he became a “war president,” and his deep unpopularity stemmed in large part from the long duration and indifferent results of the Iraq War.

Obama has never apparently thought much about foreign policy before becoming President.  His passions were personal and domestic:  a quest for identity through inner-city black power politics.  To the extent he has expressed thoughts about foreign policy at all, he has been vaguely anti-imperialist, anti-military, and pro-Third-World. Such views dovetail nicely, after all, with his domestic politics.  In addition, he fancied himself during the presidential campaign as the master of nuance, whose soft touch and appreciation for complexity stood in sharp contrast to Bush’s expressions of American exceptionalism.

How’s Obama doing? Well, perhaps still angry at his father’s treatment under British rule of Kenya, he recently, and without provocation, insulted the British Prime Minister, our long-standing ally in a great many wars and crises.

Now, in a story not widely reported, he’s formally committed to continuing American military support for Georgia, a nation run by the madman Saakashvili with whom we share few interests.  This action’s only strategic importance is that our presence there is considered extremely provocative by its Russian neighbor.  Everyone now pretty much acknowledges that Georgia started the war in South Ossetia last summer, that it is an indefensible country that must make peace with its large neighbor, and that any commitment thereto would further extend our thinly stretched military leading to a possible disastrous clash with the world’s second largest nuclear power.  No change to believe in here.

On his centerpiece concern of Afghanistan, for no apparent reason, Obama has publicly insulted its Prime Minister, Hamid Karzai, apparently shifting the blame for our lackluster results in Afghanistan to this unlikely scapegoat.  This kind of comment suggests someone unable to switch his tone from the variously permissive venues of academic hall, senior staff meeting, and public square.  In other words, you don’t think out loud when talking about other nation’s leaders. Further, the content itself evidences willful ignorance, letting Pakistan’s occasionally disloyal intelligence operatives off the hook, and, to be fair, not grappling with our own mistaken strategy and tactics.  Anyone genuinely concerned with U.S. counterinsurgency must notice that the U.S.’s extensive use of aerial bombs and penchant for heavy firepower routinely kills innocent rural Afghans and further alienates them from our goals and the Karzai government.

Finally, his economic policies have annoyed the Chinese, Germans, and French. Chicago politics did not require ideological choices rooted in principle, but rather chiefly consisted of payoffs to aggrieved ethnic constituencies. After leaving Chicago, as U.S. Senator, Obama focused on himself, the lunacy of the Iraq War, and uncontroversial projects like the Lead Free Toys Act. Now he must deal with genuine, principled, and likely irreconcilable conflicts regarding a complicated and worsening economic crisis.  I predict many more stumbles, some with real consequences.

How could this all be?  Even I’m a bit surprised. I would suggest that Obama is an example of what teenagers call “a legend in his own mind.”  He never really considered these issues deeply.  And his political life has been characterized by incubation in super-liberal Hyde Park, relatively liberal Illinois, nonideological Chicago ethnic politics, and a successful confrontation with an uninspiring GOP candidate in the general election.  Obama’s always been introspective, race-obsessed, and self-obsessed as evidenced by the tortured prose of his first book, Dreams of My Father. But foreign policy requires more than brains and self-knowledge, but empathy, perspective, good sense, a deep store of knowledge, a good decision-making process, and a sense of limitations.  For America, at this time, it calls above all for humility.  Nothing in Obama’s policies or personal story exemplify much of this, nor does he have the personal failures, setbacks, and chastening confrontations with disaster that gave men like George Bush Sr., Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon a great deal of foreign policy horse sense.

Obama’s a conventional and very lucky politician, surrounded until recently by a sycophantic press corps.  In his chosen arena, he has mostly faced opposition from weak and (with the exception of McCain) scandal-ridden competitors.  Throughout his adult and political life he’s been coddled in one way or another by the high hopes and guilty fears of liberal whites. This is bad training and has bred in Obama an overinflated ego and sense of ability.  This schtick won’t fly so much overseas, not least because, for the rest of the world, Obama’s simply the head of a very powerful nation with policies that many oppose for reasons of perceived interest rather than bad faith.  His words won’t soothe foreign nations and foreign peoples, because they are much more focused upon the ways obscure U.S. policies may harm their interests.  Worse still, a great number of foreigners want to see the U.S. fail because of lesser motives like pride and envy.  Obama thinks that he can get a pass on this last piece because he too is one of the erstwhile oppressed, but I would suggest that it’s pretty hard to play that card when travelling by Air Force One and commanding the still mighty wealth and power of the United States.

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One of Bush’s more asinine theories of foreign policy, a theory at the heart of much of neoconservatism, is the idea that everyone everywhere wants American-style freedoms and American-style democracy.  As he said in his 2007 speech on the surge:

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy, by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom, and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

But is this really what a great many Iraqis want?  They surely want order, commerce, fair treatment, and the good of their individual tribes.  But freedom? And if they celebrated the fall of Saddam, hasn’t it been clear that for some this was a signal that they now could oppress their erstwhile oppressors?

The sorry history of liberal movements in 19th Century Europe and South America should give some pause to those who believe that people everywhere desire freedom.  That desire has often been fleeting or coexstensive with darker desires of envy, revenge, and license.  We’ve seen this in our own times, particularly in Eastern Europe, where misguided notions of freedom left a great many Russians, Poles, and others with unfortunate disrespect for free markets, borne by the rapidity of the social change and the inclusion of accidental aspects of free societies that could have been disregarded in deference to national cultures and other goods.

I recently read Tocqueville’s excellent work The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution and was struck by the relevance of the following passage:

I see quite clearly that, whenever nations are poorly governed, they are very ready to entertain the desire for governing thesmelves.  But this kind of love for independence, which has its roots only in certain particular and passing evils brought on by despostism, never lasts long; it disppearas along with the accidental circumstnaces which caused it.  They seemed to love freedom; it turns out they simply hated the master.  When nations are ready for freedom, what they hate is the evil of dependency itself.

At home and abroad, a desire for security by the lower classes above all is the main competitor of freedom.  Instead of looking to export this difficult to maintain good overseas by military force, America would be better served to cultivate its own national independence at home.  But instead of the Republican evils of imperial adventures abroad and the false freedom of unproductive financial gimmicks at home, Obama promises humanitarian interventions overseas and crippling debts at home in the name of economic stimulus.  Having replaced the old stawart American people with a newer breed through mass immigration, and having accelerated that old breed’s decadence at home with the welfare state begun in the 1930s, the various effects of liberalism have rendered the old American type that “hate[d] the evil of dependency itself” in short supply to say the least.

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