The administration has done well in Afghanistan and not badly in Iraq, and deserves credit for that. But the mollycoddling of the medieval regime in Iran is completely inexplicable. The U.S. failed to engage the government once Ahmadinejad was reestablished, contrary to the clear wishes of the great majority of Iranians, as the ventriloquist’s dummy for the theocracy, racked as they are by capricious pseudo-legal despotism, 30 percent unemployment, and double-digit inflation. And as his Islamo-Ruritanian junk wagon of a government groans toward a nuclear military capability, the U.S. answers with passivity, entreaties for more categories of ineffective sanctions, sober warnings that a military option against Iran would not work (of course it would, though it might have to be repeated every few months), missile defenses for uneasy allies who have already had a promised system snatched away from them and downsized, and a convenient disarmament plan to scale back America’s deterrent military capacity.
No part of this policy has ever made any sense, and to top it off, after a good deal of sanctimonious claptrap about the evils of Qaddafi, the administration is now grimly saying that it would be a real challenge to operate a no-fly zone in Libya, or give useful assistance to the apparent 80 percent of Libyans who want to divest themselves of their leader. Jefferson and Madison, pacifists though they were, managed a better showing on the Shores of Tripoli 200 years ago than the incumbent has. President Obama is allegedly expressing to his entourage his preference for “organic revolutions.” As he observes the unfolding massacre in Libya, he might wish to consider that by that method, the French would have ignored Benjamin Franklin’s masterly diplomacy and left Washington to proceed organically in an endless and indecisive civil war; in such matters, a knowledge of history is more useful than of social science. The one useful development in this dismal affair is that, as Europe is forced to impose some economic disciplines on itself, and as the Islamophobic Mme. Le Pen pulls ahead of President Sarkozy in the French polls, it may be that the combination of the temporary quasi-abdication of the United States as a Great Power, the failure of the stagnant excessive-benefit Euro-state, and the endless provocations of militant Islam are prodding Europe back into some degree of effectiveness. The leadership deficit in this country over the last 15 or more years has created a vacuum that friendly states are still better able to fill than hostile ones, so complete was the American-led victory in the Cold War.
The health-care debacle is too notorious to require being labored again here, but the revelation that the Republican plan to starve Obamacare of funds has been frustrated by a combination of pre-funding $105 billion in the initial 2,900-page bill, and granting the HHS secretary vast discretion to fund it on her own authority, seems to compound the measure’s inherent failings with fiscal indestructibility, a usurpation of what are generally thought to be the rights of the legislature. On this basis, Oliver Cromwell could have extended the Long Parliament to the present time. The excellent Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has brought this to light, and the implications are that the legislative process will henceforth have one window only on new bills and measures, and after that, change will depend on uprooting and disposing of whole governments, legislative and executive, on Election Day. As America is ever more passive abroad, it seems to slide into deeper conflict in its own capitols.
This trend has been well aired in Wisconsin, where the Democratic party has, in camp and nostalgic fashion, returned to the joys of organized labor. In an era when the work force and the management, lenders and shareholders all have effectively the same interest — productivity and quality of work — organized labor has been sliced back to the least efficient, least necessary, least competent sector of the entire labor market: the public-service unions. This is the withered detritus of such great men as Samuel Gompers, George Meany, and Lane Kirkland: Homeland Security people conducting intrusive searches of the innocuous; prison guards topping up their incomes smuggling to the higher-income and -IQ inmates; the teachers’ unions that have propagated ignorance where education long prevailed; and the unindustrious anthills of paper-pushers and issuers of insulting and erroneous ukases on behalf of the agencies of the immense infestation of government riveted on America’s back. In identifying itself wholly with the ethos, work habits, and intellectual effervescence of this group, the Obama Democratic party has engaged in a romantic trek to its sources.
Once again, Mr. Nixon had the right diagnosis, if we conflate two of his famous comments: “No power on earth can defeat or humiliate the United States except the United States,” and America has become “a pitiful helpless giant.” The process is reversible.
— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom and Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full. He can be reached at [email protected].