Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“Four Years Later, the World is no Safer”

Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“Four Years Later, the World is no Safer”

July 18, 2012

President Obama recently claimed that his problem has been that while he got the policy right, he failed to tell the story well. He could not be more wrong. He is a wonderful story teller, but his policies have further divided an already divided nation, he has nudged people toward greater dependency and has created uncertainty in the economy. His foreign policies have produced an increasingly dangerous world. Overseas, our enemies see us as weakened.

Mr. Obama talks all the time. If one adds up the speeches he has given (over 900) and the golf games he has played (over 100), one can account for almost 80% of his time in office. He is also not shy to mention himself. On July 5, 2012, in a speech in Sandusky, Ohio, he used the first-person pronouns “I” and “me” 117 times in a 25 minute speech – once every 13.09 seconds. Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the same old habit was repeated – “I directed…”, “I determined…”, “…at my direction…”, “I’ve made clear…”, “I’ve repeatedly made clear…” His comments can be contrasted with those of President Bush following the capture of Saddam Hussein: “United States military forces captured…”, “He was found…in a swift raid conducted without casualties.” For Mr. Obama to claim that he didn’t get his story out is impossible to believe. Now, unable to talk of the accomplishments of his Administration, he has chosen to follow his mentor Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” – “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” The target is Governor Romney, and the President has been relentlessly ruthless. Mr. Romney, raised in a culture with rules of civility, finds it difficult to respond in kind.

Killing Osama bin Laden was definitely a high point in Mr. Obama’s Presidency. It was a very positive development, but in no way marked the end of the terrorist threat. North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela are all countries run by terrorists. One has nuclear weapons; a second is well on its way to getting them; Syria tried, but ran into Israelis who disapproved. Venezuela is the second largest producer of uranium in the world, and is closely allied with Iran and the others. The President and his administration have been unable to enlist Russia and China to dissuade Bashar al-Assad from murdering his own people. A “pragmatic” approach to China has done nothing vis-à-vis Syria, Iran, or to moderate (or counter) China’s expansion into the South China Sea. The “re-set” with Russia has yielded nothing in terms of benefits to Americans or to the safety of Europeans in terms of a missile defense shield.

Early in his Presidency, Mr. Obama gave a speech in Cairo in which he promised a new vision and in which he essentially apologized for his predecessor. It was a promise to improve relations with the Muslim community. Granted, Libya seems to have elected a moderate, pro-Western government, but Tunisia and Morocco have elected Islamist governments. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, along with even more radical Islamists control 70% of the parliament. The Arab Spring, as Charles Krauthammer writes, is a misnomer, “This is an Islamist ascendance likely to dominate Arab politics for a generation.” Turkey, under Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan, has become increasingly authoritarian.

When we have bowed to international pressure, as President Obama has done in Iran and Syria, disaster has been the result. 15,000 Syrians are dead because of President Assad’s desire to remain in office. No humanitarian “safe zones” have been established on the Syria-Turkish border. No arms have been provided the rebels. We have done nothing to establish a no-fly zone over Syria. Iran is well on its way to developing nuclear capability, because of a refusal to take unilateral action earlier by both President Bush and President Obama. Perhaps no harm will come with Iran’s accession to nuclear weapons, but the risk of proliferation in one of the world’s least stable regions is one hell of a bet.

Can the President argue that relations in the western hemisphere have improved since he took office? Mexican drug lords hold sway south of our border. Illegal immigration has slowed, but credit for that falls on the states and the economy. Jobs aren’t as plentiful here as they had been. Columbia has restored relations with Venezuela, run by a dictator and outspoken enemy of the United States, a man whom Mr. Obama warmly greeted soon after taking office in 2009.

During the 225 years of our republic, there has been no closer ally of the United States than England. The relationship has been tempered by war, twice against them, but more often with them. We share a common language. Our legal system is based on theirs. Their political philosophy and constitutions helped shape ours. Regardless of that “special relationship”, less than a month from assuming office, President Obama upset British diplomats by returning to England a bust of Winston Churchill, loaned to President Bush following the attacks on 9/11.

Russia and China are rising, as we decline. Putin seems determined to restore at least the influence of the old Soviet Union. If he is successful he places in jeopardy millions of East Europeans who placed their lives and fortunes on the line twenty years ago. China has been flexing her muscles in the South China Sea, a trade route imperative to America’s commercial interests, and now has built her first aircraft carrier. In both countries, it is the rule of men, rather than the rule of laws, that governs behavior. “Pivoting to the Pacific” has yielded no benefits. As Michael Ignatieff, writing in a Reuters piece on July 12, put it: “History is not necessarily on the side of these liberal values, but fighting for them remains a moral duty.”

In 1980, Ronald Reagan asked the rhetorical question, “Are you better off today than four years ago?” Last November, President Obama was asked the same question. His response was quite different and reflected more ego than facts: “We are better off than we would have been if I had not taken office.” Perhaps. The question is unanswerable, but Mr. Obama’s response reeks of pomposity. In mid 2008, the country was in recession and was entering a credit crisis. Before George Bush left office, the credit crisis was essentially resolved. The TED spread had shrunk more than 200 basis points and the bond market had begun to rally. Today unemployment remains above 8% and the labor force participation rate at 63.6% is the lowest since 1981. The same question can be asked today as to whether we are safer than four years ago. I don’t think so.

In the campaign speech where he made the fantastic suggestion that people owed their success to government, rather than to their own creativity, their willingness to bet on the future, and their hard work, he made the incredible and perhaps Freudian comment: “We rise and fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president.” Running for President? He is the President. Is he so intent on distancing himself from his failed policies that he wants to run as the contender? The 19th Century Russian writer, Alexander Herzen, wrote that “history has no libretto.” It follows no predetermined or predestined path. But it is greatly influenced by our nation’s leaders. And we need a leader who will help other nations evolve toward a liberal democratic order. Our safety depends on it. Mr. Obama has not been that man.

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