Victor Davis Hanson:
At home President Obama is well known for his preference for perceived parity over liberty. Most of his domestic agenda — Obamacare, executive-order amnesties, open borders, near-zero interest rates, quantitative easing, the piling up of $9 trillion in new debt, tax hikes, more regulations — is apparently aimed at shifting power and capital away from the upper middle class to the lower classes.
From Obama’s first appearance on the national scene, his rhetoric has been directed against those whom he perceives as the inordinately privileged — much more the supposedly uncouth upper middle class than the tasteful Martha’s Vineyard Wall Streeters or the jeans-and-T-shirt Malibu super-rich.
Americans who did not favor his redistributionist vision were rhetorically reduced to clingers, nativists, the privileged unwilling to spread their wealth, leaches on government who didn’t build their own businesses and who didn’t realize they had already made enough money. Obama once suggested that he was for higher capital-gains taxes even if such tax hikes would discourage profitable activity and thus lead to lower revenues for the Treasury, simply for the sake of “fairness” — reminding us of Tocqueville’s various warnings that many people would prefer parity even if meant less liberty and wealth for themselves.
Obama sees the rest of the world as he does the United States — and thus in need of a redistribution in power that will bring greater fairness to the planet. Accordingly, under current U.S. foreign policy, the desire for supposed equality trumps most considerations of human rights, values, consensual government, and our own national interest.
Take the current destruction of the Middle East. Most of the influence there for many decades has rested with Israel, a small but powerful nation with nuclear weapons and a vibrant economy, and the so-called moderate, Sunni-based authoritarian regimes — Egypt, Jordan, and the oil-exporting and plutocratic Gulf monarchies. Obama, however, apparently saw this as unfair. He sought as a counterweight to empower other Islamic nations and movements deemed more revolutionary and more deserving of American attention. By any sober measure, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is a fervent Islamist bent on eroding Turkish democracy; but to Obama, he was an avatar of hope and change who would steer Turkey away from its blinkered neo-colonial NATO alignments, even as, within Turkey, Erdogan empowered fundamentalism among the Anatolian underclass against the Westernized Ionian elite. Thus followed our “special relationship” with Erdogan — and unofficial American endorsement of his anti-democratic thuggery, anti-Semitism, and Islamism.
Obama came a day late and a dollar short to the Arab Spring. But he got his licks in with the subsequent U.S. destruction of Moammar Qaddafi — a monster in rehab who had surrendered his WMD arsenal after the toppling of Saddam Hussein and was slowly handing off power to a transitional secularized and Westernized second generation of the family mafia. No matter — we bombed without congressional sanction, left the feuding terrorist cliques to wreck the country, and were hit at Benghazi — even as the Obama administration gave us the revealing new “lead from behind” doctrine and Hillary Clinton’s hubristic boast, “We came, we saw, he died.”
Egypt followed a similar script. Obama was romanced by Mohamed Morsi — the erstwhile anti-American president of Egypt, who as a young man had spent several years in California, first as a student at USC and then as an assistant professor at CSU Northridge. Obama apparently envisioned Egypt as soon to be run by somebody schooled in the modern American university’s race/class/gender activism who would appreciate Obama’s own Cairo Speech mythologies. If Egyptian theocracy replaced autocracy, so much the better, given that the former at least had a revolutionary authenticity that the latter lacked. The result, however, was the veritable destruction of Egypt until the unexpected coup by the now-shunned junta of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
No one is terribly sorry that the Gulf monarchies are being ostracized by Obama. After all, they were the architects of the OPEC oil cartel and past masters at stealthily funding anti-Western terrorists. Their schizophrenic theocracies were sorry spectacles of what happens when high-tech consumerism meshes with seventh-century mores. Nonetheless, the Gulf monarchies remained anti-Communist in the Cold War, largely escaped the violence of much of the Middle East, talked tough about Israel rather than fighting her, and welcomed U.S. military bases. Now they are orphaned, not because they are corrupt, anti-democratic, or theocratic, but because they represent wealth, power, and influence in inordinate fashion in the Middle East.
Ditto Israel. The Obama administration does not seem to care much that Israel is democratic and pro-Western and that it created a successful economy ex nihilo. Instead, it represents Westernism at the expense of revolutionary entities like the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and perhaps now even Hezbollah. Thus, from the beginning of the Obama administration, its Middle East invective was aimed not at Iran, Hamas, or the Muslim Brotherhood, but at Israel in general and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in particular. Like the Kurds, whom Obama has largely neglected, Israel is simply too successful, too unlike the failures elsewhere in the Middle East, and too patently pro-American.
Note that in June 2009 Obama forbore to support the one million Iranian reformers who hit the streets to protest the corrupt election engineering of the theocracy. Obama stayed mum throughout the year-long protests. In February 2009, in his first formal interview as president (with Al Arabiya, no less), he had hinted that he alone possessed the bona fides to connect with Islam’s authentic leaders. Obama apparently saw the Iranian reformers as retrograde neo-cons rather than legitimate revolutionaries who would appreciate his own unique radical credentials. Certainly Iran’s minister of foreign affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif — a Westernized dandy who sounds like the chairman of a Middle East Studies program on an American campus — seems to have appeared right out of central casting to charm Obama with his Anti-America-Lite obfuscations. The result is the Iranian nuke deal, a treaty that is apparently not a treaty, an accord that violates all the prerequisites that Obama himself set out prior to the talks, and a blueprint for any other Middle East nation to obtain nuclear weapons under the guise of promising not to obtain them.
What a resounding success.
Obama has underestimated the intentions of our adversaries and would-be adversaries, and will continue to do so until his last half-day in office (morning of Jan 20 2017). He already has put the lit match to the fuse of the powder keg in the Middle East.
Obama plays checkers. Putin plays chess.
@Mully: Obama plays Candyland… Putin plays Risk.
@David: While you were in Iraq, did you ever think in a million years that a former head of the KGB would do more to preserve our hard fought victory over there than an American president?
@another vet #5 –
No. It would also say most of my other teammates wouldn’t have thought, let alone think, Russia would be filling a void if we left completely. If Iraq fractured, it would be strictly along ethnic lines. To be in the situation where the region is at now, it would be a rather fair assessment a lot of intel had to have been ignored – the type that only circulates at the highest level.
@David: Agreed. I don’t think any of us would have thought that Putin would step in to fill the void left by Obama. The DoD assessment warning him what was going to happen there was spot on in its assessment and he ignored it. It’s quite sad to see an American president get slapped around on the international stage by the likes of a Putin. Obama talks and acts real tough when dealing with his “enemies” here but cowers when confronted by someone who is not intimidated by his threats or by his enforcers in the IRS and Justice Department. One bully out-bullying another bully. Gotta love it.
I can only imagine what the morale in the military is like right now that this has been added to his social engineering and downsizing. One of my friends knows a recently promoted lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve who went to a leadership course. The main topic of discussion wasn’t war fighting strategy or anything remotely associated with it. It was all about their concerns about how they are going to integrate transgenders. I will have to give my former Training NCO who is working at USASOC a call and get the lowdown. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories from those you served with who are still serving.
@another vet #7 –
To an extent, we could use the Russian entry into Syria to our advantage. We know Russian forces are much more brittle than they portray to be. The Syrian operation is taking them over their limits in terms of a sustainability. Putin, by every measure, is Soviet in his thought and actions. We have plenty of Soviet/Russian specialists who can read the tea leaves. They include Stephen Cohen from NYU and Condi Rice. Madeleine Albright used to be a very good Soviet specialist, but lost her objectivity long ago.
But, of course, the Obama WH will not seek out the proper expertise because it would be an admission of total failure of their foreign policy, and that it was naïve. They cannot figure why the Bush 43 administration was able to confound Putin. The Bush 43 WH always treated him as a Soviet – the look into the eyes/soul of Putin remark was largely playing to Putin’s vanity. The airlift of Georgian military personnel from Iraq in 2008, authorized by Bush, back to ROG really got under Putin’s skin.
Regarding morale, in the NSW community, the pressure to admit women into BUD school is substantial. Unfortunately, the CNO is of the mind to have women operators. He has gone as far as saying the physical requirements may need to be modified. There is concern the physical qualification requirements may be diluted to reduce the 85-90% washout rate to let a woman earn her Trident. Naturally, we have a separate subset of fitness requirements apart from the rest of naval personnel. Since NSW draws heavily from the enlisted ranks, the number of enlisted women applying for BUD school is anticipated to be very, very low. The number of officers accepted into BUD school are limited, and competition for slots is quite high among officers.
But as you correctly point out:
Everything he has touched, both foreign policy/national security wise and domestic wise, has been a failure. Real job creation, economic growth, fixing healthcare, Iraq, ISIS, AQ, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Georgia, improving race relations, the National Debt, strengthening the Constitution…………………..
@another vet #9 –
You’re being too hard on the man, LOL. 🙂
Have a good weekend.
@David:Thanks and you do the same.
@David: If you look at the coalition being formed, I would bet the Kurds are as vulnerable as the Jews. Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey all want the Kurds to disappear. Turkey is already bombing them instead of ISIS. That could leave Northern Iraq open for an Eastern European country to take over the oil fields. Would Russia have any interest in that?
@Randy #12 –
The Kurdish have been our best bet in maintaining stability in Northern Iraq. That it is part of the rationale why we worked closely with them during OIF and post-OIF. Much of that work ended with our withdrawal of forces. Though it’s likely DOD recommended renewing our contacts and cooperation with the Kurdish regarding ISIS and other developments, it is very fair to say the Obama WH dismissed the recommendation out-of-hand.
Against this backdrop, your question: are the Kurdish on borrowed time? Short answer, yes. ISIS has changed the dynamic. They have an interest in Northern Iraq as part of their caliphate. Turkey has purchased black market oil from ISIS for their own domestic consumption. The northern oilfields have always been of interest dating back to the Ottoman days, pre-WWI. Turkey (Ottoman empire) derived an income from those oilfields then. They wouldn’t mind to have control of those fields now for their own use and to establish an export market (Europe) for that oil. Syria, they consider the Kurdish as a tolerable nuisance – they generally have left them alone. That arrangement has worked to Assad’s advantage in his war. Iran, like Turkey and Iraq, have been unable to assert any control over them.
Would the Russians have an interest in controlling those northern oilfields? They would, but in more practical terms, Russia is ill-equipped to re-tool the infrastructure. Their own infrastructure needs major re-tooling and investment. Militarily, the Syrian operation is stretching them to their limit. Simply, they’re not good at power projection. Similarly, Iran is ill-equipped for the same reason and is likely in poorer shape than Russia. What may work is a Turkish-Russian-Iranian consortium. ISIS, they would act as an enforcer, to make sure the remaining Iraqis and Kurdish cooperate. Putin is the mob boss – he’s the final decider, he has the will to act. Don’t be surprised if Russia has already cut a side-deal with ISIS.