Sometimes, I have many thoughts that I’d like to put down in this blog. Other times, I watch in wonder, feeling unable to put thoughts down until a coherent pattern emerges from what’s going on around me. For the past two weeks, I’ve been watching Obama tour the world and reorient American foreign policy. At first, it seemed to be something of a campaign trip marred by obvious gaffes (the DVDs, the iPod, the bow to the Saudi King, etc.). Eventually, however, it became clear that, as Caroline Glick says in a brilliant article, Obama was announcing that America will no longer act as the world’s policeman. Pax Americana is over.
Somewhere between apologizing for American history – both distant and recent; genuflecting before the unelected, bigoted king of Saudi Arabia; announcing that he will slash the US’s nuclear arsenal, scrap much of America’s missile defense programs and emasculate the US Navy; leaving Japan to face North Korea and China alone; telling the Czechs, Poles and their fellow former Soviet colonies, “Don’t worry, be happy,” as he leaves them to Moscow’s tender mercies; humiliating Iraq’s leaders while kowtowing to Iran; preparing for an open confrontation with Israel; and thanking Islam for its great contribution to American history, President Obama made clear to the world’s aggressors that America will not be confronting them for the foreseeable future.
Whether they are aggressors like Russia, proliferators like North Korea, terror exporters like nuclear-armed Pakistan or would-be genocidal-terror-supporting nuclear states like Iran, today, under the new administration, none of them has any reason to fear Washington.
As Glick notes, this is a betrayal of America’s most reliable allies. It is also a betrayal of the United States. Obama responded to North Korea’s missile launch by renouncing not only our pledge to defend Japan but also our plans to install missile defense interceptors in Alaska. He thus made it possible for North Korea to use its nuclear weapons to blackmail Japan and the United States. This is just one example of how Obama made the world a more dangerous place. Dr. Sanity, unfortunately, isn’t exaggerating:
In less than a hundred days of an Obama Administration, we have, in the spirit of hope and change, has enthusiastically embarked on a path that is leading the entire community of nations into a a “global tragedy” of epic proportions.
Consider the profound shift that Obama has initiated. The United States has now effectively switched sides on a wide array of global conflicts:
- Japan –> North Korea
- India –> Pakistan
- Iraq –> Iran
- Israel –> Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians, et al.
- Poland, Czech Republic, the Ukraine, Georgia –> Russia
- Colombia –> Venezuela
Now these conflicts have some interesting things in common. In each case, a democracy faces a threat from a totalitarian regime. In each case, there is a profound moral asymmetry to the conflict. If the totalitarian state were to lay down its arms and back away from the conflict, there would be peace. If the democracy were to lay down its arms and back away from the conflict, it would be overrun. In short, these conflicts really are one side’s fault. So perhaps it’s more insightful to describe the shift in America’s foreign policy in these terms:
- Democracy –> Totalitarianism
- Defenders –> Aggressors
As Glick observes, the left is thrilled with this change in orientation. The United States has announced that it is no longer a defender of human freedom. And the left applauds.
There are several lessons to take away from all this, I think. First, it’s become clear that the left really is fundamentally hostile to human freedom. Leftists talk as if they are the defenders of civil liberties, human rights around the globe, etc. Yet in every global conflict they take the side of those who quash civil liberties and violate human rights. I can only conclude that the talk is either insincere or based on the foolish fantasy that if the United States were friendly to bullies they would stop being bullies and become like us.
Second, the Obama administration is at best naive, operating on the basis of such a fantasy. But it may something much worse than that. Glenn Reynolds famously said about some opponents of the war in Iraq: “they’re not anti-war; they’re just on the other side.” Think about the peace movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Some of those people were naive, thinking that if Britain and the United States disarmed and made enough concessions to Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler, there would be peace. But some were Soviet or Nazi sympathizers. Some were Soviet agents. Is Obama naive enough to think that if America disarms and appeases aggressors they will stop being aggressors? Or does he want the aggressors to win? Is he, in short, on the other side?
These are dark times for those of us who believe in human liberty. And they are going to get a lot darker.
UPDATE: The Other McCain takes issue with me, pointing out that there’s a big gap between announcements and the reality of policies—budgets, alliances, aid, information transfer, military cooperation, etc.—and that Obama’s words have changed any of that. It’s a good point. They haven’t—yet. It’s far too early to tell whether and how extensively they will. I’d like to think that U.S. policy is like a supertanker, hard to shift onto a different course. But the State Department, the CIA, and other relevant agencies fought Bush policies so extensively that I’m concerned that much of the bureaucracy is eager to shift policy in the ways Obama has outlined.