Saturday, December 17, 2016

Response to The Limits of Cool

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Limits of Cool)

I can think of nothing that gets me more annoyed than someone telling me that Barrack Obama is just too nice.

For example, there was, a week ago, in the New York Times, from Mark Moyar, director of the Center for Military and Diplomatic History at the Foreign Policy Initiative, an op-ed entitled "The World Fears Trump’s America — That’s a Good Thing”. Here he is, speaking to the idea that Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan’s leader scaring the whole world is the way things ought to be: 
During the last eight years, President Obama showed what happens when the world’s greatest power tries strenuously to avoid giving fright. He began his presidency with lofty vows to conciliate adversaries, defer to the opinions of other countries and reduce America’s military commitments. 
Consequently, he received rapturous applause in European capitals and a Nobel Peace Prize. In the real world of geopolitics, however, the results have been catastrophic. … 
Mr. Obama’s passivity in the face of provocations and his failure to enforce the “red line” in Syria led Russia, China and other adversaries to seek new gains at America’s expense. … 
The Obama presidency is but the latest chapter in a post-1945 saga that has been dominated by international fear of the United States, or lack thereof. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea because Harry S. Truman’s exclusion of South Korea from America’s “defense perimeter” removed fears of intervention. 
By contrast, Dwight D. Eisenhower employed rhetorical threats and high military spending to fill the Communist powers with fear of nuclear Armageddon, an approach that kept the Communists from launching further invasions. 
Lyndon B. Johnson tried to avert a major war in Vietnam by showing restraint, in expectation of North Vietnamese reciprocation. Hanoi responded by pouring troops into South Vietnam. Richard M. Nixon revived fears of the United States with his “madman theory,” whereby he took seemingly reckless actions to convince America’s enemies that he just might be crazy enough to do it. 
Those fears, and the caution they instilled in the Communist powers, dissipated when the Watergate Congress kicked the legs out from under South Vietnam. The world continued to live without fear of a strong America under Jimmy Carter, whose timidity caused nations to fall to Communism and the United States Embassy in Iran to fall to anti-American extremists.
And before we return from the world of make-believe, let’s have one more quote: 
In 1980, as in 2016, Americans elected someone who made clear his intent to put fear back in the nation’s enemies. Nowadays, even liberal Democrats applaud Reagan for bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. Back in 1980, however, Reagan’s tough, nationalist stances on foreign policy aroused the same condemnation of “fearmongering” currently emanating from the world’s enlightened critics of Mr. Trump.
In fact, the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, without any assistance from Ronald Reagan, who not only did not bring it down, he didn't see it coming, barely noticed once it arrived, and finally, along with all the other Republicans, immediately tried to take credit for it.

If anything, Reagan’s ratcheting up our military spending, causing the Russians to do the same, was less likely to hurt them as to help their arms sales, which was then (and continues today to be) one of the only sectors of their economy that other countries are interested in engaging with.

I’m not saying there isn't some liberal Democrat somewhere who “applauds” Reagan for “bringing the Soviet Union to its knees”, I’m just saying that, as a liberal Democrat who doesn’t, I’ve never met a fellow liberal Democrat who did. 

I see from Mark Moyar’s Wikipedia entry that he’s an expert on the Vietnam War, a conflict that ended just about the time he was being born in the 1970s. Had he been old enough to be aware of what was going on at that time, he'd know that the loss of that war had nothing to do with Watergate and everything to do with Americans tiring of fighting someone else's civil war. Richard Nixon's so-called "madman theory" certainly earned him no respect on the world stage, although it probably helped his own country decide he was just nutty enough to earn a one-way ticket back to San Clemente.

Then again, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, Mark Moyar was nine years old. Something that annoys me almost as much as someone preaching to me that our president is too darn nice is hearing it from someone who's a virtual toddler.

And as obvious as this may sound, I would much rather live in a country run by Barrack Obama than by Trump's pals, Putin or Assad (the guys who, right now, are murdering all those innocents in Aleppo), or that jerk Duterte in the Philippines, or Donald Trump himself, or any of his fellow warlords who think the way they all do.

But it's not just from the right that we hear suggestions that Obama hasn't been crazy or scary enough, we also heard something like it from Michele Goldberg, in Slate, who didn't hear what she wanted in his final news conference:
Most of the time, Barack Obama’s near-supernatural calm and dispassion are among his best qualities. Occasionally, as at Friday’s pallid press conference, they are his worst ones. 
Obama spoke to journalists at what should be a moment of acute political emergency. It’s increasingly clear that Donald Trump won the election with the deliberate aid of Vladimir Putin, and the president-elect seems intent on rewarding his benefactor with a friendly state department. Russia also appears to have intervened on behalf of Republicans in congressional races. 
If the situation were reversed – if the CIA concluded that Hillary Clinton won the election (but lost the popular vote) with an assist from a hostile foreign power – pitchfork-waving Republicans would be demanding that she resign for the good of the nation. Stunned Democrats, by contrast, have been leaderless, marching toward the post-inauguration abyss without a fight. Obama might have rallied them by laying out the alarming political implications of the CIA’s findings. Instead, he minimized them. 
It was not a reassuring performance. His refusal to acknowledge the intense alarm felt by his supporters only exacerbates it.
First, it should be noted there’s no reason to believe that Hillary lost the election because of the hacks. Outside of the primaries and the convention, can you remember any significant leak that might have hurt her campaign in the general election? I can’t.

In fact, you’d think the hacking should have hurt Trump more than Hillary, since it was his group, if anyone's, who seemed to be working with unfriendly foreign invaders, trying to disrupt our elections.

Second, had the situation been reversed, the Republicans would grab pitchforks. That's one of the things I like about us: We're not jerks. If we were just like them, I would probably not be on our side, and nor would many others. What would be the point of both sides being jerks?

I’m not sure what she expected President Obama to do more than he did during the campaign, but had he done anything more, he would himself have been intruding in the process, and to say anything more than he did during his final press conference would have been to betray his role as chief executive of our country — which needed his reassurances that we, as a nation, can continue to be as great as we are in the face of what’s about to happen to us in January, as long as we don’t abandon our values.

Obama has a much more important job than Democratic party standard bearer and that's president of the United States, and sending that message to America is a lot more important than anything he might have thought to say to his party in their time of need, if indeed there was anything he could say, other than “Good luck in your future endeavors! I've done what I can, but from now on, you’re on your own."

So yes, when it comes to handling crises as they arise, Omaha can walk on thin ice — and do it better than just about anyone alive — but no, he still can’t walk on water.

No comments:

Post a Comment

(No trolls, please! As a rule of thumb, don't get any nastier in your comments than I do in my posts. Thanks.)