Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 23, 2013

Five ways in which Obama doesn’t represent the American people

It is obligatory to start this one out with the point that not everything on earth is Barack Obama’s fault.  Not everything is even the fault of the ideology he embraces.  The affairs of men are more complicated than that.  Obama, like every U.S. president, has to respond to a number of things that didn’t necessarily happen because of his policies, just as he has to shoulder the responsibility for things that have happened because of his policies.

The complexity of human affairs means, moreover, that it is simplistic to view such concepts as negotiating or using force in a single, all-purpose framework.  “Negotiating” isn’t always weak, nor is it always wise, benign, or the only “peaceful” course.  “Using force” can be stupid or smart, depending.  Sometimes it’s just the least atrocious option.  Other times, it’s the most atrocious, and not using force is still atrocious.  Life is like that.  It can even be obvious what’s the “right” thing to do, without that course being appealing or politically acceptable.

So we can keep these caveats in mind as we go through this short (and by no means exhaustive) list of topics on which the current president is unrepresentative of how the American people have traditionally seen things.

1.  Whom we negotiate with.  A Daniel Henninger column was one among several communications which highlighted this past week – by implication, at least – that President Obama is apparently willing to negotiate with everyone on earth except John Boehner.  The Iranian mullahs, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood – everyone, except the leader of the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That form of intransigence is, actually, a standard feature of Bolshevism, as well as a banana-republic-type approach to domestic politics.  It’s the opposite of what Americans expect from our chief executive.

Note that this criticism doesn’t mean we shouldn’t negotiate with anyone who opposes us.  (Or, for that matter, that we should.)  Sometimes negotiation can be a fruitful approach.  I have considered negotiation to be a serious and preferable option from the beginning for the crisis in Syria, for example – if it’s handled properly.  Likewise, I believe we could handle the Iran nuclear problem through negotiation – if the negotiation took a form different from, and more urgent and stringent than, the one we have been using over the last decade.

What we mustn’t lose sight of, however, is the incongruity of the Obama posture, which embraces negotiation with declared foreign enemies and anti-American radicals, but not with Obama’s duly elected, mainstream domestic political opposition.  Let us refine that by pointing out that the Obama posture is incongruous in the context of consensual republicanism.  In the context of Alinskyism or Bolshevism, it is perfectly in order.

2.  How we treat our allies.  Regrettably, how Obama proposes to treat Republicans in Congress is emblematic of how he has approached America’s formal allies and longtime friends abroad.  Whether he is too exhausted to have a proper diplomatic event with the prime minister of Great Britain, long America’s closest ally; whether he is surprising a Polish ally who has gone out on a limb for us with a unilateral concession to Russia on ballistic-missile defense; whether his secretary of state is delivering heated ultimatums to Japan, one of our closest and most reliable allies and the linchpin of American security in the Far East; whether his representative in Honduras is rebuking and failing to back a longtime friend for following its own constitution to defend the Honduran republic against an anti-democratic power grab; whether his federal agencies are deliberately flooding our neighbor Mexico with small arms – without prior consultation with the Mexican government; or whether his administration is demanding unilateral security-policy concessions from Israel: in each case, he is doing something unrepresentative of how Americans assume we should treat our allies and friends.

3.  How and why we respect “democratic” outcomes.  Obama may not distinguish between sustainably consensual political arrangements and the “one man, one vote, one time” model of electoral despotism.  But the American people do.

In Honduras, in 2009, we understood that Hondurans had not elected Mel Zelaya (in 2006) for the purpose of having their constitution trampled in an unconstitutional back-alley process.  In Iran, in that same year, we recognized that the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who thronged the streets, at peril of their lives, had legitimate grievances about the premises and integrity of their national election.

In Egypt in 2013, we recognize that the millions of protesting Egyptians did not sign on, via the 2012 election, to the brutal and inhumane agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood.  An “election” is not a suicide pact.  Governments and ruling coalitions must keep their end of the civil contract – and a government is not doing that when it encourages the burning of churches, silences the independent media, ignores the constitution, or stands by while the people’s livelihoods are mowed under in factional shoot-outs.

An election is not a magic wand that legitimizes despotism, nor do people knowingly vote for despotism in categorical or definitive numbers.  Despots who get elected always do so through a combination of deceptive and underhanded tactics – and then labor to destroy their opposition, along with destroying political speech, and declining when necessary to submit to the voters again at all.  Americans know that perfectly well, even if our president doesn’t operate from the same perspective.

4.  Who is a radical, and should be treated as one.  The Muslim Brotherhood is a radical organization, which seeks to impose Sunni Islamism across the globe.  Since the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood’s focus has been on transforming Middle Eastern governments into ministries of sharia radicalism.  Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations do not become moderate by incorporating as 501(c)(3)s or 501(c)(4)s in the United States.

Iran’s ruling “Islamic revolutionaries” began as and remain Shia radicals.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has, likewise, his own form of radicalism (Sunni, in his case).  The Taliban is a radical organization.  So are al-Qaeda and all its affiliates.  Hezbollah and Hamas are radical.  None of these groups has moderation, consent, or the good of the people – as the people would see it – in mind.

The FMLN in El Salvador is a radical organization.  It didn’t become moderate by gaining political power in an election, any more than Daniel Ortega or Evo Morales or the late Hugo Chavez did.  It’s always a good indicator of radicalism, when a politician or faction proposes to keep power by demonizing and incarcerating the opposition, packing the courts, and rewriting the constitution.

The American people tend to dislike foreign aid programs anyway, but they especially reject the concept of sending aid to, or otherwise legitimating, foreign governments which have been taken over by radical – invariably anti-American – ideologues.  Americans oppose “engaging with” these radicals on a basis of falsely conferred legitimacy.  When the U.S. president does it, Americans are disgusted.

5.  When we use military force.  Americans do not universally agree that the only legitimate use of force involves a formal declaration of war.  What they consistently agree on is that using force should be done only when there is a clear and tangible national-security interest at stake.  (When reminded of it, Americans tend to give a big thumbs-up to the “Weinberger Doctrine” for the use of force, or, in its more recent incarnation, the “Powell Doctrine.”)

The use of force should then have a concrete relation to the national-security interest in question.  It should have in view the achievement of a measurable goal: that is, an end-state, and not merely a set of conditions, in which the bad situation may continue, but Western niche constituencies can feel better about themselves.  Americans will tolerate the pursuit of a goal they are dubious about (e.g., in Kosovo in 1998; in Iraq from 2003-2011) much better than they tolerate the absence from our force calculations of a rationally identifiable goal (e.g., in Lebanon from 1982-84; in Somalia in 1993).

From Afghanistan to Libya to Yemen, Uganda, and Syria, the sensibility displayed by Obama and his administration has basically been the opposite of this more traditional pattern of American thinking.  It takes a lot for the people to lose faith in the president as our national-security leader.  But because his pattern of using force and making other kinds of foreign policy has entailed just that “lot,” the people have lost faith in Obama – as evidenced by the extraordinarily negative recent polling on a Syria intervention.

The American people don’t think the world is stupid and recalcitrant for resisting the kind of “leadership” Obama offers.  We’re not even sure, amongst ourselves, how to characterize that “leadership”: whether it’s deliberate radicalism, for example, or simple incompetence, or ideological purity untethered to reality.

Even the lower-information voters among us are increasingly sure, however, that Obama’s form of international “leadership” doesn’t represent American interests or the beliefs and preferences of the American people.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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Responses

  1. Given all of the above and given that we *still* find ourselves, after 5 years, trying to decipher the motivations of Obama’s actions, doesn’t it point to a man who wishes to diminish America rather than enhance it? I find uncontroversial the idea that Obama is by far the least “pro-American” president in our history. But is he “anti-American” as a majority of Americans would define the term – and just very adept (with a big assist from the media and other influential sectors) at hiding it? I have an increasingly hard time giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    • I appreciate your trying to be measured in your response, but it is now very obvious that Obama’s view of what America is and could/should be is at odds with most people’s view — even most Democrats (although they are so infatuated with Obama or have accepted his divisive hatred of Republicans that they are unable to see, for now, how warped/perverse Obama’s view is).

  2. I’m in a pessimistic mood these days. Thankfully I don’t have the difficult responsibility of making FP decisions, just the pleasure of responding to Optcon’s good posts.

    So, from a heretic gone curmudgeon. here’s my two cents.

    American unilateralism, in the guise of, or the self/misperception of, American leadership (dare I say “exceptionalism” in the post-Putin op-ed era) and furthering American “values” is no longer a viable option, let alone a effective formula in the conduct of our foreign policy, regardless of who the CinC is. That era is over, for now. If against all prudence, it is stubbornly still pursued, it amounts to falling into the trap of dealing with today’s/tomorrow’s FP issues, and defense of our interests, using yesterday’s mind set. It’s a common error of empires, either in a temporary, or permanent, state of decline..

    The US today, is not perceived in the same favorable way worldwide as it was, up to, and as late as, the 1990’s.

    We’d better get used to that fact if we wish to chart a profitable course on furthering our national interests abroad from now on. Of course, it would help if the competing/contradictory narrow special interests that tend to dominate the formulation of foreign policy could agreed as to what exactly that path should be…

    IMHO the best thing we can do right now to further our interests abroad is to set in motion a reversal of the decline and decadence at home…first. A Herculean task, without doubt. In other words, consolidate, regroup.

    The world will still be there tomorrow, in as sorry a state as it is in today. There will be no dramatic changes, for us at least, whether we happen to miss out on intervening in this or that particular gruesome act of the ongoing tragicomedy of nation states and humanity on the global stage.

    Over the past forty odd years, we have morphed into a multilingual (without being polyglot), multi-ethnic quasi-imperial state…most importantly, with no real remaining dominant culture (hiphop, gangsta rap, is a sign of an ascending culture?) and a declining percentage of assimilation into whatever healthy societal structures remain. Keep in mind, no such entity has ever held together, at least not in the form of a republic…. We need to do more, much more, at home.

    I dare say, when we speak of the “American People”, we are actually referring to little more than half of the total population that believes they are “American”, at least in the context of previous generations’ definition of the term.

    In our current circumstances, charity, and foreign policy, begin at home. If we don’t increase the process of assimilation soon, we will need ambassadors, or troops, to deal with certain areas of the country.

  3. I generally agree with your assessment: since Obama isn’t going to do anything abroad that is truly in American’s interests and since our military is suffering from these futile forays, it’s time to make an orderly retreat. BTW, I also agree that our post-911 approach has been mistaken. We should retaliate with overwhelming force; create significant damage to those who are, or who harbor, our enemies; and then immediately leave, with the warning that “if you didn’t like what we did just now, cross us again and we’ll be back with even worse.”

    I also agree that it would be prudent to repair things at home. But, sadly, that ain’t gonna happen. I’d suggest that a more likely outcome (not one I’d prefer but a political one that our cultural disarray will dictate) is the break-up of America into two or more countries. It seems unthinkable now. But so, not long ago, did all the garbage that we now witness each day.

    • I meant the above-posting to be a reply to Jgets.

    • “We should retaliate with overwhelming force; create significant damage to those who are, or who harbor, our enemies; and then immediately leave, with the warning that “if you didn’t like what we did just now, cross us again and we’ll be back with even worse.””

      DaN, As much as I’d hate to be on the trigger end of causing so much death and destruction to what would be regarded as innocent people, I think I’ve probably come around to this morbid point of view myself. Since WWII, we’ve stopped winning wars. We’re now at the point where we have a CinC who can’t even get himself to utter the words “win” or “victory.” It’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that the best way to victory shouldn’t come from the lessons of Dresden or Hiroshima. As bad as the scorched earth policy is, it ultimately benefits us and the vanquished – at least if you take Japan and Germany (or Atlanta) as examples.

  4. Simply look at his mentors as he was growing up.
    Note the people near to him in Chicago.
    Left Wing street organizer turned sleazy politician.
    He knows the right people that have helped him make money on the backs of the poor, un-educated, low info folks.
    He could have been Adam Clayton Powell, but he doesn’t have the brains or ability.
    A cheap and in-effective Demi-God. Congressman Powell, despite his glaring flaws, was a somewhat knowledgeable legislator.

  5. Off topic: Lois Lerner resigns. ARB found she “neglected”.
    Please read Sander Levin’s remarks in full. LOL!!!!!!!!!
    He always wanted her fired, BUT finds no proof of political bias.
    Sounds a lot like the Targeting Rule in college football.
    Upon instant replay, there was no targeting, the player is not ejected, but the 15 yard penalty stands. So there.

  6. OptCon: your thoughts, please, on the Islamic jihadist massacre in Kenya.

    Specifically: (1) Are the Kenya and Mumbai attacks precursors to an attack in the US?: (2) What is the likeliest mall to be attacked — doesn’t The Mall of America in Minneapolis, with its many Somali “immigrants” fit the bill?; and (3) will Barry be able to once again avoid calling an Islamic jihadist and Islamic jihadist if and when they wreak carnage in one of our malls? Or will such an attack be the straw that breaks Barry’s Pied-Piper hold on the MSM and the Libs?

  7. Iranians to Barry “just kidding”. O should electrify his Kick Me shirt.
    There might be someone in the world that hasn’t seen it.

  8. Darkness — It’s certainly possible that al-Shabaab will try to attack a target in the US.

    Karen Zimmerman at WSJ had a good summary of al-Shabaab’s evolving direction a couple of days ago:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304213904579094961529497766.html

    In the past year, the “transnational jihad” element of al-Shabaab has won out over the “power in Somalia” faction, which (latter) was the thread tying al-Shabaab back to the old Islamic Courts Union (ICU) of the early 2000s. Al-Shabaab appears indeed to be going transnational, and to be affiliated now, at least loosely, with al-Qaeda.

    As you suggest, al-Shabaab is recruiting intensively in the upper Midwest of the United States. Minnesota’s big Somali population makes a prime target.

    One more point on the transition from the old ICU days. The ICU had serious ties to Iran (although, in its various incarnations, it has always been a Sunni organization. That never stops either Iran or Sunni jihadists). Transitioning from the ICU/Iran/political power in Somalia model to the al-Shabaab/al-Qaeda/transnational jihad model is an important shift, one that makes it more likely al-Shabaab will prioritize attacking the US.

    Of course, Obama will decline to call it Islamist jihad if/when there is an attack on another US target. If the attack is launched with firearms, he will call it gun violence. It bombs are used, and especially if the perps are, conveniently, American citizens, he will call it domestic terrorism.


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