The taking down of America 18

President Obama believes that America is arrogant.* If his foreign policy can be explained by anything, it would be his intention to bring America down a peg or ten. Looked at like that, the disasters we see happening in many parts of the world are testimony not to  Obama’s failure, but to his success.

Not that President Obama can have any objection to arrogance as such. He is an arrogant man. He just doesn’t want America to be proud of its superiority. He hates the very idea that it is superior. But while he would not even acknowledge its political-moral superiority as a republic constituted for liberty, he cannot deny that it is economically and militarily stronger than any other country. So he’s been working to change that for the last six years.

The whole world is the worse for his efforts.

This is from Front Page, by Bruce Thornton:

The 6 years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy have seen American influence and power decline across the globe. Traditional rivals like China and Russia are emboldened and on the march in the South China Sea and Ukraine. Iran, branded as the world’s deadliest state sponsor of terrorism, is arrogantly negotiating its way to a nuclear bomb. Bloody autocrats and jihadist gangs in the Middle East scorn our president’s threats and behead our citizens. Countries in which Americans have shed their blood in service to our interests and ideals are in the process of being abandoned to our enemies. And allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia are bullied or ignored. All over the world, a vacuum of power has been created by a foreign policy sacrificed to domestic partisan advantage, and characterized by criminal incompetence.

Incompetence is what it looks like. But if failure is the aim, then either the incompetence is only an appearance, or it is a means to the end.

How we have arrived at this point, the dangers to our security and interests if we don’t change course, and what must be done to recover our international prestige and effectiveness are the themes of Bret Stephens’ America in Retreat. The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. …

A clear sign of American retreat is the precipitous decline in military spending. “In the name of budgetary savings,” Stephens writes, “the Army is returning to its June 1940 size,” and “the Navy put fewer ships at sea at any time since 1916.” The Air Force is scheduled to retire 25,000 airmen and mothball 550 planes. Our nuclear forces are being cut to meet the terms of the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, even as its nuclear arsenal has been increasing. Meanwhile Obama … issues empty threats, blustering diktats, and sheer lies that convince world leaders he is a “self-infatuated weakling”.

Unfortunately, 52% of the American people agree that the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally”,  and 65% want to “reduce overseas military commitments”, including a majority of Republicans. This broad consensus that America should retreat from global affairs reflects our age’s bipartisan isolationism, the centerpiece of Stephens’ analysis. This national mood is not a sign of decline, according to Stephens, who documents the enormous advantages America still enjoys globally, from its superiority in research and entrepreneurial vigor, to its healthy demographics and spirit of innovation. But it does bespeak a dangerous withdrawal from the policies that created the postwar Pax Americana – even though this global order policed by the U.S. defeated the murderous, nuclear-armed ideology of Soviet communism, and made possible the astonishing economic expansion that has lifted millions from poverty all over the world. …

For Stephens, isolationism has not been the only danger to American foreign policy success. What he calls “the overdose of ideals”, specifically the “freedom agenda” of the sort George W. Bush tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, has misdirected our efforts and squandered our resources in the pursuit of impossible goals. The success of the Cold War and the subsequent spread of democracy and free-market economies suggested that the world could be not just protected from an evil ideology, but “redeemed” by actively fostering liberal democracy even in countries and regions lacking the necessary network of social mores and political virtues upon which genuine liberal democracy rests. But in attempting to redeem the world, Stephens notes, policy makers “neglected a more prosaic responsibility: to police it”.

The failures to create stability, let alone true democracy, in Iraq and Afghanistan have enabled what Stephens calls the “retreat doctrine”, one to be found in both political parties. Barack Obama is the master of this species of foreign policy, incoherently combining idealistic democracy-promoting rhetoric with actions that further withdraw the U.S. from its responsibility to ensure global order. Under the guise of “nation-building at home,” and in service to traditional leftist doubt about America’s goodness, Obama has retreated in the face of aggression, and encouraged cuts in military spending in order to fund an ever-expanding entitlement state.

But also, equally, in order to make America weaker.

Meanwhile, “Republicans are busy writing their own retreat doctrine in the name of small government, civil liberties, fiscal restraint, ‘realism’,  a creeping sense of Obama-induced national decline, and a deep pessimism about America’s ability to make itself, much less the rest of the world, better.”

The “retreat doctrine” is dangerous because global disorder is a constant contingency. The remainder of Stephens’ book approaches this topic first from the perspective of theory and history, and then from today’s practice. History teaches us that all the substitutes for a liberal dominant global power have failed to prevent the descent into conflict and mass violence. The ideas of a balance of power, collective security, or the presumed peaceful dividend and “harmony of interests” created by global trade did not prevent World War I or its even more devastating sequel. Nor are they any more useful in our own times.

As for today, Stephens identifies several challenges to a global order fragilely held together by the commitment to liberal democracy, open economies, and the free circulation of ideas and trade. The “revisionists” attack this model from various perspectives. Iran sees it as a fomenter of godlessness and hedonism, Russia is moved to oppose it by “revanchism and resentment”,  and China believes that it “is a recipe for bankruptcy and laziness”,  lacking a “sense of purpose, organization, and direction”.  All three see evidence for their various critiques in the failure of the U.S. to exercise its massive power in the face of challenges, and in the willingness of American elites to revel in guilt and self-doubt. These perceptions of national decline invite rivals and enemies to behave as if the U.S. is in fact declining.

The other international players that could worsen disorder are “freelancers” and “free radicals”.  The former include those countries like Israel or Japan who, convinced that America will not act in its own or its allies’ interests, will understandably take action that necessarily entails unforeseen disastrous consequences. Much more dangerous are the “free radicals”, the jihadist gangs rampaging across 3 continents, and the nuclear proliferators like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, whose collaboration with each other and rogue regimes like Venezuela endangers the world through provoking even further proliferation on the part of rivals, or by handing off nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations. And then there are “free radicals” like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who have undermined global order by publicizing the necessarily covert tools, practices, and institutions that undergird and protect it.

Finally, there are the structural weaknesses of the globalized economy and its continuing decline in growth, which may create “breaks” in national economic systems that “will be profoundly disruptive, potentially violent, and inherently unpredictable”. Add America’s retreat from world affairs and reductions in military spending, and in the “nearer term”, Stephens warns, “terrorists, insurgents, pirates, hackers, ‘whistleblowers’,  arms smugglers, and second-rate powers armed with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles will be able to hold the United States inexpensively at risk”,  provoking further American retreat from world affairs and the inevitable increased aggression by our enemies and rivals.

 So what can be done? In his conclusion Stephens applies to foreign affairs the “broken windows” tactics of urban policing that caused rates of violent crimes to plummet over the last few decades. Thus “the immediate goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to arrest the continued slide into a broken-windows world of international disorder”.

This foreign policy would require increasing U.S. military spending to 5% of GDP, with a focus on increasing numbers of troops, planes, and ships rather than on overly sophisticated and expensive new weapons. It would mean stationing U.S. forces near global hotspots to serve as a deterrent and rapid-reaction force to snuff out incipient crises. It would require reciprocity from allies in military spending, who for too long have taken for granted the American defense umbrella. It would focus attention on regions and threats that really matter, particularly the borderlands of free states, in order to protect global good citizens from predators. It means acting quickly and decisively when conflict does arise, rather than wasting time in useless debates and diplomatic gabfests. Finally, it would require that Americans accept that their unprecedented global economic, cultural, and military power confers on us both vulnerability to those who envy and hate us, and responsibility for the global order on which our own security and interests depend.

No matter how understandable our traditional aversion to military and political entanglements abroad, history has made us the global policeman, one committed to human rights, accountability, and political freedom. If we abdicate that position, there is no country powerful, or worthy enough, to take our place.

We agree with that.

And Thornton tantalizes us with this:

Stephens ends with an imagined “scenario” of how a serious global disruption could occur, one grounded in current trends and thus frighteningly believable.

When we’ve found out what that scenario is, which is to say when we’ve read the book, we’ll return to this important subject.

 

*  “In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City. He has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.” – Mitt Romney, quoted by PolitiFact.com

  • liz

    “Self-infatuated weakling” – that has quite a ring to it! Because it’s so true, along with “arrogant” and “criminally incompetent”.

  • Luther

    I can see the inherent goodness in every American that continues to give the benefit of the doubt to our president: “Is he incompetent? Or is he against us?”

    Jesus H. Fucking Christ people – he graduated from Harvard Law.

    He ain’t incompetent.

    • liz

      Right. The only conclusion, therefore, is that he’s against us.

    • Did he? With what condescending affirmative action concessions?

      Why is his record sealed?

      Have you read Michele Obama’s Princeton thesis? I remember thinking when I read (part of) it that ONLY affirmative action could have got this student a pass.

      Affirmative action is cruel.

      • Luther

        Hi Jilian! I do not know if this is accurate or not, but,

        “… we know he graduated from Harvard Law School with academic honors, and the university has acknowledged that fact.” http://www.answers.com/Q/Why_does_Obama_seal_his_college_records

        It’s a sad state of affairs when one is not able to have confidence that the president graduated from said institution.

  • REALBEING

    The question that is on every Conservatives mind about our president is “Is Barack Hussein Obama quite dexterous in his criminality, or unbelievably incompetent in his ambitions and actions?”

    I believe the former……….

  • Don L

    Democracy. Almost everyone believes democracy is synonymous with liberty and freedom. It is not. It is the government type based on mob rule. It cannot be further from liberty and freedom. The United States of America is a republic…government based on law and the principle that the individual is sovereign with unalienable rights. That is not what America has been exporting. We export democracy and centrally-planned economics…the State rules. And, this is the formula for failure.

    Obama thinks we export free-market capitalism. he believes that America’s economic system is free market capitalism. It isn’t and we don’t. Obama, from childhood, has been indoctrinated, conditioned and immersed in hating capitalism…and he has no idea what it is. Most folk haven’t a clue either. It isn’t taught in compulsory-schooling. So, Obama is about destroying America because he is economics ignorant…as are most.

    The world being set ablaze by false ideology and ignorance. Yes, we need to beef up the military to fend off the nuts…we’ve created by exporting democracy and central planning. Yet, until somehow and someway the 545 in the government discover what free market capitalism actually is….

    When recently Turkey’s PM went off and spoke of how he hates the West (NATO member) he was speaking about the West exporting it’s crony capitalism which is the product of central planning. The only way to turn the world around is to adopt free market capitalism and trade freely and there by set examples. Governments cannot impose morality or legislate a reality that doesn’t exist. Free trade between real people works and those who trade willingly don’t fight.

    Until then, the defenses must be maintained against the tyrants and criminal governments and theologies. Bring back the money for missile defense. Work for peace but plan for the worst case. But it is free market capitalism which will ultimately bring about the stability desired.

    Oh, guy must live in my neighborhood…I saw that bumper sticker again: Will someone shoot the president. I still don’t know if it’s a question or a plea?

  • Don L

    I have not yet finished reading this post…yet right off I have to respond to a Lincoln-attributed falsehood: “…nation constituted for liberty…”. Per the Declaration, the Constitution and virtually everything written by our Founders, the correct expression would be …Union ( a republic) constituted for liberty…” In fact it was that the states were separate, free and independent nations that was the backbone of checks and balances on a central government. No Obama’s could exist. It is the chronic acceptance that a nation was born that brings us to Wilson’s, FDRs, the FED, Obama and every other liberty destroying act of the 545 out of control. And, a union does not mean defenseless. It does mean wars of defense rather than the executive’s and cronies’ wars of plunder and adventurism. America divisible was the Founders’ creation. Nation state is what Lincoln created…how’s it been working out for us?

    • Thanks for the correction. You are right. I will amend it to “a republic constituted for liberty”.

    • Luther

      Well said Don, thank you for your your insight. Would you elaborate on the pledge of allegiance topic?

      • Don L

        Contrary to the lie foisted by Lincoln, as created by the Dr Gruber of the day Daniel Webster, the forefathers did not bring forth a new nation upon this continent. Our founders knowingly and purposefully established a union of free and independent nations (Declaration: “…That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…”)

        The free and independent States (nations in every sense of the word) relinquished limited and specific (enumerated) of their powers to the republic under an agreement which allowed nullification and as a last resort cessation from the union. Or, the United States of America was and is a divisible association. The idea that other states would declare war on any state wishing to leave the union was unfathomable. New England states threatened secession a number of times…which, as devised, brought the offending behaviors to a close.

        Lincoln had for 28 years worked to impose a mercantaslist economic policy on America…today it would be termed crony capitalism. It was seen as the way to keep a political party in power indefinitely. His cronies were the northern industrialists. before the income tax, the government raised money through tariffs. Lincoln and the republican paty (newly empowered with the collapse of the Whig party — another story for another day) Imposed tremendous tariffs which were targeted to affect southern states to the benefit of the northern states.

        This tariff scheme had been tried earlier and the south threatened secession (1838?) and the tariffs were rescinded. Lincoln was furious over this. When he was elected, he made it clear to the south (see his inaugural address) that he would go to war to collect the tariff. And, he also made it clear he intended to strengthen the slavery catch & return laws and in no way end slavery.

        He forced the south into a situation whereas they had to fire on Ft Sumter …none were injured. The war was on in the same deceptive manner later employed by Hitler and the other 2-bit tyrants of the world and for the same purpose. Long-to-short, Lincoln wanted to centralize power in a strong central government. This meant destroying the notion of states rights. He justified the war with the lie of saving the union. In fact he destroyed the union of agreed and willing nations and created the State of the coerced.

        In his day while he was alive, Lincoln was seen as a hated tyrant. He became the model for the dictators that followed. Yet, after his assassination, the notion of ‘make the martyr your own’ replaced the hatred as all fought to seize power in the centralized State. The propaganda began: there never were separate colonies..only the nation existed which then created the states.

        As the end of the century approached, socialism grew. Marxism, Fabians and other collectivist movements, including churches, grew in popularity. Socialism requires a strong central government…the more dictatorial the better. A hardcore christian socialist Francis Bellamy authored the pledge. Fostering patriotism toward the central State…the word indivisible was included in the pledge. It is anti-founder and anti-constitutional. The United States ARE…Not IS.

        From the book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning” by Jonah Goldberg:

        “Religion was the glue that held this American national socialism together. Bellamy believed that his brand of socialist nationalism was the true application of Jesus’ teachings. His cousin Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, was similarly devoted. A founding member of the first Nationalist Club of Boston and co-founder of the Society of Christian Socialists, Francis wrote a Sermon, “Jesus, the Socialist,” that electrified parishes across the country. In an expression of his “military socialism,” the Pledge of Allegiance was accompanied by a [stiff-arm] salute to the flag in American public schools. Indeed, some contend that the Nazis got the idea for their salute from America.”

        So, the pledge written by a socialist, intended to strengthen the State by promoting the lie of indivisibility is un-American. It is scam played on the American people to their detriment. It was instituted in socialistic compulsory schooling in the late 1890s and has corrupted the minds of nearly all. And, as I said…it’s ironic that we fought, and still fight, socialism while simultaneously pledging to its essential requirement…
        coerced centralized planning

        So, Luther, I hope that provides some insight.

        • Luther

          Don, my apologies for not seeing your reply sooner. You write very well and are quite informed – thanks for the information. I will read the books on Lincoln you recommended. Luther

          • Luther: Don L is post-surgery and will be away from our pages for a while. I’ll draw his attention to this reply of yours when he is back with us.

            • Don L

              Thanks for covering!

            • We really did miss you.

            • Don L

              Aw, shucks lady…Me thinks yer cheese dun slipped off yer cracker!

          • Don L

            Luther:

            Thanks for the kind words. It was my pleasure to respond to your inquiry about the “Pledge”. The best compliment, however, is that you were inspired to explore further.

            Perhaps the most egrigious intent of the progressive compulsory schooling system is its secondary intent to quash curiosity and the desire to learn: “I’ll never read another book…yeah, school is finally over…etcetras”. Ask yourself, how many years have you been saying the pledge and never ever even thought about who authored it; or why? I was into my mid-fifties before any real questioning of what i was taught began.

            A thought, even before you read the two Lincoln books, by their same author, you might start with ” Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution–and What It Means for Americans Today”. Since the founding, the fight has been between the Jeffersonians and the Hamiltonians.

            It would be good to undesrtand Hamilton first; whereas Lincoln snapped the backbone of the Jeffersonian principle of government by consent of the governed and through force of arms he firmly secured Hamilton’s ruling-class managed omniscent, indivisible, centralized state. The Founder’s primary check and balance against tyranny, States’ Rights, was destroyed. A few decades later, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson administrations acted to removed the remaining checks and balances against totalitarianism: the 16th and 17 Amendments and the Federal Reserve Act. For all intents and purposes, the Constitution was made a feckless document. As Obama has shown, today, there is actually no barrier to outright dictatorship other than ‘optics”. Congres or the judiciary a blocking force? LOL.

            Also recommend:

            “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom” by Andrew P. Napolitano (Note: the Judge’s presentation about Teddy and Woodrow is very good, but scewed whereas he has consumed the Lincoln Myth Coolaid. Just keep in mind that these progressive actors could not have succeeded without a founded Statist system already in place.)

            “The Roosevelt Myth: 50th Anniversary ” by John T. Flynn (this is an eye opener for sure!!!)

            “The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve” by G. Edward Griffin (This book will put it all together.)

            Finally, I post this list of free reading material about economics. Should you read these pamphlets, booklets and books (not that many) you will never again be lulled, gulled or dulled by the ruling-class and its cadre of corrupted professionals and stooges. Immediately you will discover that this is not economics as it has been presented by compulsory schooling. Indeed, it is what comnpulsory schooling does not want you to know.

            So, END the FED!!! and enjoy!

            “Why Austrian Economics Matters” by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr http://mises.org/sites/default/files/why_ae.pdf

            “What is Austrian Economics?” –http://mises.org/sites/default/files/what%20is%20austrian%20economics.pdf

            “Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow” by Ludwig von Mises — http://mises.org/library/economic-policy-thoughts-today-and-tomorrow

            “Liberty and Property” by Ludwig von Mises — http://mises.org/library/liberty-and-property

            (Chapter 38 excerpted from “Human Action”) “The Place of Economics in Learning” by Ludwig von Mises — http://mises.org/pdf/humanaction/Chapter_XXXVIII.pdf

            “Recovering Economics” by Harry C. Veryser — http://www.mmisi.org/IR/46_02/veryser.pdf

            “How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn’t” by Irwin A. Schiff — http://freedom-school.com/money/how-an-economy-grows.pdf (his son’s updated version is available at Amazon) “How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes” by Peter D. Schiff — http://www.amazon.com/dp/047052670X/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=3486592773&ref=pd_sl_3i744vwis9_p

            “Essentials of Economics: A Brief Survey of Principles and Policies” by Faustino Ballvé — http://mises.org/document/3446/Essentials-of-Economics

            “Economics In One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt — http://mises.org/document/6785/Economics-in-One-Lesson

            “Not a Zero Sum Game: The Paradox of Exchange” by Manuel F. Ayau — http://mises.org/document/3583/Not-a-ZeroSum-Game-The-Paradox-of-Exchange

            “Profit and Loss” by Ludwig von Mises — http://mises.org/document/3736/Profit-and-Loss

            “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality” by Ludwig von Mises — http://mises.org/document/1164/The-AntiCapitalistic-Mentality

            “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat — http://mises.org/document/2731/The-Law

            “Anatomy of the State” by Murray N. Rothbard — http://mises.org/document/1011/Anatomy-of-the-State

            “Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government” by Thomas DiLorenzo — http://mises.org/document/6985/Organized-Crime-The-Unvarnished-Truth-About-Government

            “Keynes The Man” by Murray N. Rothbard — http://mises.org/document/5223/Keynes-the-Man

            Economic Depressions: Their Cause and Cure” by Murray N.Rothbard — http://mises.org/library/economic-depressions-their-cause-and-cure-0

            “The Origins of the Federal Reserve” by Murray N. Rothbard — http://mises.org/library/origins-federal-reserve-1

            “The Case Against the Fed” by Murray N. Rothbard –http://mises.org/library/case-against-fed-0

            • Good to have you back, Don L.

              Glad you saw Luther’s comment here.