Decline Is A Choice

001Victor Davis Hansom,  a “neoconservative” democrat, American historian, scholar of Ancient Warfare, currently the Martin Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, “The Perils of Obama’s Foreign Policy.”  You can read his article in full at this link.

Don’t step over the line and remilitarized the Rhineland.  Absorbing Austria would cross a red line.  Breaking up Czechoslovakia is unacceptable.  Get out of Poland by the announced deadline.  Don’t you dare blow up another American military barracks overseas.  Don’t even consider another attack on the World Trade Center.  The rest is history.

With Obama, we’ve seen the Rhineland, we’ve seen the Anschluss, we’ve seen the Sudetenland and now all that’s left is the invasion of Poland.   Whereas we might have been disliked under George Bush because of the fear that he was unpredictable and maybe a little scary or dangerous, now there’s a sense that we’re disliked and all too predictable and unscary.

The mystery remaining about Obama’s foreign policy is not whether it has worked, but whether its failures will matter all that much.  That is no rhetorical  question, given that it is hard to permanently damage the position abroad of the U.S., given its vast military power.

Hugo Chavez is more hostile to American than ever, whether symbolically by accusing Obama of spreading cancer among Latin American leaders or concretely by entertaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  There is no new warmth from Cuba or Nicaragua, as there never could have been from their Stalinist heads of state.

Putin has as much contempt for Obama as he had for Bush.  Our policies remain the same – trying to encourage Russian reform without causing a war or neo-Soviet adventurism.

The decision to reach out to Assad with recognition and an embassy failed.  Syria became more unhinged and violent, not less.  The verdict is still out on the Arab Spring even though Obama stopped taking credit for it once the Muslim Brotherhood began its ascendance.  So angered were the Egyptians over the U.S. betrayal that they recently turned to Russia for arms, signing a two-billion dollar, Saudi-financed deal.    The Palestinians are now talking of a third intifada and hope that, when the shooting starts, their new friend the U.S. will hector Israel in a way it did not under Bush.

Outreach to Iran was a disaster; the serial face-to-face talks and the quiet neglect of the Iranian dissidents did not work.  We are reduced to the sort of catch-up sanctions that would have earned Bush the charge of warmongering from the Left.  Obama’s policy now seems to be a silent hope that tiny Israel does the unthinkable that a huge U.S. would not, while Saudi Arabia expands its pipelines to nullify the value of the Strait of Hormuz in a way we are refusing to do at home with the Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama likes Prime Minister Erdogan even more than he hates Prime Minister Netanyahu.  But what he thinks the Israelis have done to the Palestinians pales in comparison to what he must know the Turks have done to the Kurds, Greeks, and Armenians.

Lecturing China while borrowing ever more money does not work.  Japan and South Korea don’t feel any safer with Obama in office despite claims of a new focus on Asia at the expense of Europe.  The more Obama talks of eliminating nuclear weapons, the more both Japan and South Korea will probably consider acquiring them.   China, seeking to expand its maritime borders and engage in yet more land grabs, has embarked on a series of aggressive military deployments designed to intimidate our Pacific allies.  One analyst noted that China might be gearing up for a quick sharp war, aimed at seizing Senkakus or southern Ryukyu islands.

There is no need to review the reset flip side of estrangement from the Czech Republic, Britain, Israel and now Canada, allies who believe in staid things like democracy, human rights, and alliances in times of peril.

It is hard to calibrate Obama’s policy toward the EU since the entire enterprise is unraveling and the Europeans seem puzzled that we are emulating the very failure they are learning from.  Mexico is more violent and unstable than ever.  Fast and Furious, promises not to deport illegal aliens and suing Arizona did not have a warming effect on our relationship.

Obama’s dream of re-energizing the United Nations and working to eliminate nuclear weapons doesn’t seem to be working either as the likelihood that the atomic club will become even larger.   Obama’s claimed that he was doing U.N. work in Libya when  in truth he exceeded a U.N. mandate for humanitarian help and no-fly zones by stealthily bombing “from behind.”  By ignoring Congress and the War Powers Act and championing, but not obeying , the U.N., Obama managed to snub both in a way Bush never did.

Obama did get out of Iraq but it was on the Bush-Petraeus timetable long ago negotiated with the Iraqi government.  No one believes the situation in Afghanistan is better.  Obama tweaked the war on terror in cynical fashion, mixing euphemism and realpolitik.  Rhetorically, we learned of overseas contingency operations and man-caused disasters, while mention of Islamic terrorism became taboo.

In the U.S., fracking and horizontal drilling redefined our oil and gas outlook despite, not because of, Obama.  The insolvency of Mediterranean Europe has taken attention from the near insolvency of the U.S.  Treasury.  The EU pact, and styles of governance in China, Russia and the Arab world remind us that the U.S. Constitution remains exceptional.  And, the stagnant American economy has muffled domestic objections to vast cutbacks in defense and our new follow-rather-than-lead foreign policy.

In other words, we are back to the deceptive quiet of a 1913, 1938, or 2,000 consumed by internal problems, suspicious of the world abroad, assuming that foreigners’ challenges are worse than ours, and convinced that no one would be so stupid as to start a stupid war.  Decline is a choice, it always is by every society.


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