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Circling Sharks Smell American Blood
America should keep quieter abroad — and try finding a bigger stick.


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Victor Davis Hanson

On his recent trip to Asia, President Obama found China, Japan, and South Korea — like many nations these days — in no mood to hear more American lectures.

Beijing is worried about owning so much American debt. Tokyo is tiring of an American military base in Okinawa, and wants to redefine its relationship with us. Seoul is starting to doubt American commitment to keep it safe from North Korea.

Why all the sudden pushback to our charismatic president?

Our dollar is crashing, while the price of gold is soaring. The budget deficit has never been worse — and the president wants to float even more debt for health-care and energy initiatives.

By the end of this presidential term, we may add another $9 trillion to our already astronomical $11 trillion debt. Unemployment has already topped 10 percent. This quarter’s trade deficit reached a near-historic high. Our debtors and oil exporters talk of scrapping the dollar as the common international currency.

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American hesitation abroad reflects the shaky economic news. In Afghanistan, we can’t decide whether to seek victory or admit defeat — or simply vote present by keeping the status quo. President Obama reached out to enemies such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. But so far they remain unimpressed, despite his apologizing for an assortment of supposed past American sins.

The Chinese don’t listen all that much anymore to our sermons on their human-rights, coal-burning, and free-trade abuses — not when they hold $1.5 trillion in U.S. assets. The president took a lot of flak for bowing to Saudi royals and the Japanese emperor. But why wouldn’t he show deference — given America’s huge dependence on foreign oil and Japanese imports?

France, of all nations, is now warning us to get a backbone with the Iranians. So far the theocracy has snubbed our new outreach efforts aimed at stopping its nuclear proliferation. Iran’s Russian patrons now talk more nicely to us — but mostly because we caved on land-based missile defense in Eastern Europe, and got nothing really in return.

The Norwegians gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year in office and without any real accomplishments. They must suspect that such global recognition will flatter Obama to push a now-unexceptional America toward a more multilateral perspective in tune with the thinking at the United Nations.

The Obama administration announced a kinder, gentler approach to the War on Terror. It serially promised to the world to shut down Guantanamo and loudly derided much of the Bush-era anti-terrorism protocols. We may put on trial former CIA interrogators, while we give civil trials and full American legal protection to the terrorist detainees who planned the 9/11 attacks.



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