Friday, September 09, 2016

The Era of Hope'n'Change has been one prolonged act of suicide

Am I the only one who remembers 2008, when we were promised that the election of a Democrat named Barack Obama, aka an apologizer-in-chief with the brilliant forward-looking policy of smart diplomacy, would bring back respect both for the United States and for (whoever was/is) the occupant of the White House?

Thank God the answer is no, and they include Richard Fernandez and Max Boot, along with Instapundit's Stephen Green.

Max Boot, first:
The White House is sensitive to charges that the president is conducting an “apology tour” of the world. And it’s true that on Tuesday the president didn’t actually apologize in Laos for American actions in the 1960s, but he danced right up to the line.

 … Everything Obama said was factual, and there is nothing wrong with his desire to aid Laos—the U.S. needs as many friends on China’s borders as it can find. But his rhetoric was nevertheless one-sided and disappointing.

What was lacking, above all, was any context. Someone who listened to Obama’s speech and knew nothing of Laos’s history would have been left mystified about why the U.S. dropped bombs “like rain” on that country.

 … It is certainly possible to question the utility and even the morality of U.S. bombing in Laos—but it is highly misleading for any analyst, much less the president of the United States, to criticize the U.S. in a vacuum without noting the actions of the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao who killed countless numbers of Laotian civilians, violated Laotian sovereignty, and ultimately overthrew the internationally recognized government of Laos in order to impose a Communist dictatorship. That dictatorship continues to rule to this day, by the way. It has made some economic reforms primarily to encourage tourism, but it remains a dictatorship that is rated “not free” by Freedom House.

To his credit, Obama did speak out about human rights during his trip although in a particularly mealy-mouthed way. He never directly criticized Laos’s human-rights record, which is poor. He never highlighted the plight of dissidents or called for democracy. Instead he spoke in oblique terms about the importance of human rights while making clear that they are not very crucial in the U.S.-Laos relationship … In other words, while saying he would speak out on behalf of human rights, Obama did not really do that.

I get what Obama is up to here. He thinks the U.S. can exercise more influence today by acknowledging past “misconduct” without directly criticizing the behavior of countries it deals with. The problem is that, in practice, this amounts to kow-towing to dictators from Cuba to Iran and buying into their fiction that the U.S. is guilty of conduct just as bad, if not worse, than what they have done. That simply isn’t true, and by shading the truth the president is failing to speak on behalf of the principles upon which the United States was founded–and which have long been our most powerful tool and selling point in international affairs.

He is also inadvertently buttressing the dictatorships he is dealing with; now they can turn to their people and say in essence, “Our problems are America’s fault–the president of the United States even said so.” What we have seen during the two terms of the Obama presidency is that by failing to speak out more robustly on behalf of freedom, the president is not winning any friends; he is simply convincing the world’s dictators that he is a patsy who can be pushed around with impunity.
As Stephen Green notes wryly,
I’m not so sure it’s inadvertent; President Pen & Phone isn’t isn’t a huge fan of representative democracy. And as Glenn [Reynolds] noted earlier, Obama “never much liked the country he was elected to run.”
In any case, for an example of a world leader considering Obama a patsy, or at least someone hardly worth of a huge amount of respect, we turn to Commentary Magazine.

If you listen to Rodrigo Duterte's now infamous rant against president Obama (start at minute 6)
writes Richard Fernandez (gracias por Glenn Reynolds),
you might be forgiven for thinking it was Howard Zinn or Bill Ayers speaking, allowing for the accent. He spoke of the "lapdogs of America" who forget that "America has one too many [offenses] to answer for". He argued that the Philippines "inherited the [Muslim] problem from the United States" and since "everyone has a terrible record of extrajudicial killing ... why make an issue of it."  He describes the massacre of the Indians, the oppression of migrants etc. as reasons for ordering the deaths of thousands proving, if there was any remaining doubt, that he learned the lesson of moral equivalence well.

From this, Duterte concluded that he wouldn't listen to lectures from the SOB leader of such a country. It's almost as if he's been listening to Obama and Obama was hoist on his own petard. The Western left has the habit of preaching from a moral height while simultaneously describing its history as one unending crime. You've heard the teaching moments. "I live in a house built by slaves." "You didn't build that!" This whole country is stolen!

Say it often enough and someone will believe you. Somebody did. The trouble is you can't rise from the toilet to suddenly preach from a great moral height. It's possible to do one but not both simultaneously. Of course the liberal left can context shift and switch between sackcloth and ashes and the throne of moral superiority with the alacrity of Dr. Who. But Durterte isn't that nimble.

The clash between the two is tragi-comedy. … Duterte intuits that Obama is someone to despise and so despises him, because he neither respects nor fears the man from Chicago. Rodrigo Duterte would never call Xi a S.O.B. because he wouldn't dare. The world, as Winston Churchill knew, has people who are either at your throat or at your feet -- and that probably includes most leaders in the Third World.

 … Obama's framing of Duterte's drug war as a human rights problem, which it doubtless is, missed a key dimension. The drug war is the symptom of a national security problem: the narco invasion of the Philippines. The killings are a result and not the cause in themselves of the problem. And now that the diplomatic breach has opened the door to Chinese subversion on an unprecedented scale with incalculable consequences to regional security, it is likely to get worse.

The Era of Hope and Change has been one prolonged act of suicide. If anyone had said that Obama would manage to alienate Israel and the Philippines, lose Turkey, pay Iran a hundred billion dollars, preside over the loss of a won war in Afghanistan, lose billions of dollars in military equipment to ISIS, watch a consulate burn, restart the Cold War with Russia, cause Japan to re-arm and go the knife's edge with China, would you have believed it? If someone had told you in 2008 millions of refugees would be heading for Europe and that the UK would leave the EU after Obama went there to campaign for them to remain, would you not have laughed?

He promised "smart diplomacy" and the restoration of American prestige in the world. How did it come to this?
Glenn Reynolds has the beginning of an answer to this one:
Well, for starters, he was an unqualified community organizer who never much liked the country he was elected to run.