Obama’s Undiplomacy
Community-organizing skills don’t cut it on the world stage.

President Obama delivers remarks in Cartagena, Colombia.


Victor Davis Hanson

In theory, 1,500 to 2,000 instantly deployable nuclear weapons might seem overkill; in fact, their numbers assure our allies that we have ample power to allot a strategic deterrent to each of their needs, even at times of simultaneous regional crises. Draw down to a level of 300 to 500 nuclear weapons, and the comparative profile of a Pakistan or an Iran will rise, our allies will eventually ponder going nuclear, and the global influence of the U.S. will wane. Such disarmament pipedreams are no longer the stuff of college essays, but a life-and-death matter affecting billions of people around the globe.

The administration has also quite publicly announced a shift in U.S. strategic attention to the Pacific, apparently on the premise of a rising China and a quiescent Europe and Mediterranean. Aside from the fact that Europe’s southern coast lies at the intersection of three continents, and is critical for operations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, now is not the time for our first “Pacific” president to announce a drawdown in our European forces.

Historical pressures, well apart from Putinism in Russia, are coming to the fore on the continent — pressures that were long suppressed by the aberrations of World War II, the Cold War, the division of Germany, and the rise of the EU. The so-called “German problem” — the tendency of Germany quite naturally at some point to translate its innate dynamic economic prowess into political, cultural, and above all military superiority — did not vanish simply because a postmodern EU announced that it had transcended human nature and its membership would no longer be susceptible to ancient Thucydidean nationalist passions like honor, fear, or self-interest.

If you have doubts on that, just review current German and southern-European newspapers, where commentary sounds more likely to belong in 1938 than in 2012. The catastrophe of the EU has not been avoided by ad hoc bandaging — it is still on the near horizon. Now is the time to reassure Germany that a strong American-led NATO eliminates any need for German rearmament, and that historical oddities (why is France nuclear, while a far stronger Germany is not?) are not odd at all. In short, as the EU unravels, and anti-Germany hysteria waxes among its debtors, while ancient German resentments build, it would be insane to abdicate the postwar transatlantic leadership we have provided for nearly 70 years.

There is a pattern here in all these recent missteps, one of hesitancy, moral confusion, and naïveté. To the extent that Obama knows history, it is a boilerplate one of European and American culpability. To the extent that he is interested in human nature, he holds a therapeutic belief that rhetoric and good intentions, not preparedness, resolve, and deterrence, impress rivals. To the extent that he understands geopolitics, it is of the juvenile multicultural sort, in which hostile nuclear powers, traditional enemies, and troublesome neutrals are either not much worse than or morally equivalent to long-standing allies and friends.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.