National Security & Defense

Obama’s Hope-and-Change Foreign Policy

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
President Obama applies the same principles abroad that he does at home.

At home President Obama is well known for his preference for perceived parity over liberty. Most of his domestic agenda — Obamacare, executive-order amnesties, open borders, near-zero interest rates, quantitative easing, the piling up of $9 trillion in new debt, tax hikes, more regulations — is apparently aimed at shifting power and capital away from the upper middle class to the lower classes.

From Obama’s first appearance on the national scene, his rhetoric has been directed against those whom he perceives as the inordinately privileged — much more the supposedly uncouth upper middle class than the tasteful Martha’s Vineyard Wall Streeters or the jeans-and-T-shirt Malibu super-rich.

Americans who did not favor his redistributionist vision were rhetorically reduced to clingers, nativists, the privileged unwilling to spread their wealth, leaches on government who didn’t build their own businesses and who didn’t realize they had already made enough money. Obama once suggested that he was for higher capital-gains taxes even if such tax hikes would discourage profitable activity and thus lead to lower revenues for the Treasury, simply for the sake of “fairness” — reminding us of Tocqueville’s various warnings that many people would prefer parity even if meant less liberty and wealth for themselves.

Obama sees the rest of the world as he does the United States — and thus in need of a redistribution in power that will bring greater fairness to the planet. Accordingly, under current U.S. foreign policy, the desire for supposed equality trumps most considerations of human rights, values, consensual government, and our own national interest.

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Take the current destruction of the Middle East. Most of the influence there for many decades has rested with Israel, a small but powerful nation with nuclear weapons and a vibrant economy, and the so-called moderate, Sunni-based authoritarian regimes — Egypt, Jordan, and the oil-exporting and plutocratic Gulf monarchies. Obama, however, apparently saw this as unfair. He sought as a counterweight to empower other Islamic nations and movements deemed more revolutionary and more deserving of American attention. By any sober measure, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is a fervent Islamist bent on eroding Turkish democracy; but to Obama, he was an avatar of hope and change who would steer Turkey away from its blinkered neo-colonial NATO alignments, even as, within Turkey, Erdogan empowered fundamentalism among the Anatolian underclass against the Westernized Ionian elite. Thus followed our “special relationship” with Erdogan — and unofficial American endorsement of his anti-democratic thuggery, anti-Semitism, and Islamism.

Obama came a day late and a dollar short to the Arab Spring.

Obama came a day late and a dollar short to the Arab Spring. But he got his licks in with the subsequent U.S. destruction of Moammar Qaddafi — a monster in rehab who had surrendered his WMD arsenal after the toppling of Saddam Hussein and was slowly handing off power to a transitional secularized and Westernized second generation of the family mafia. No matter — we bombed without congressional sanction, left the feuding terrorist cliques to wreck the country, and were hit at Benghazi — even as the Obama administration gave us the revealing new “lead from behind” doctrine and Hillary Clinton’s hubristic boast, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Egypt followed a similar script. Obama was romanced by Mohamed Morsi — the erstwhile anti-American president of Egypt, who as a young man had spent several years in California, first as a student at USC and then as an assistant professor at CSU Northridge. Obama apparently envisioned Egypt as soon to be run by somebody schooled in the modern American university’s race/class/gender activism who would appreciate Obama’s own Cairo Speech mythologies. If Egyptian theocracy replaced autocracy, so much the better, given that the former at least had a revolutionary authenticity that the latter lacked. The result, however, was the veritable destruction of Egypt until the unexpected coup by the now-shunned junta of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

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No one is terribly sorry that the Gulf monarchies are being ostracized by Obama. After all, they were the architects of the OPEC oil cartel and past masters at stealthily funding anti-Western terrorists. Their schizophrenic theocracies were sorry spectacles of what happens when high-tech consumerism meshes with seventh-century mores. Nonetheless, the Gulf monarchies remained anti-Communist in the Cold War, largely escaped the violence of much of the Middle East, talked tough about Israel rather than fighting her, and welcomed U.S. military bases. Now they are orphaned, not because they are corrupt, anti-democratic, or theocratic, but because they represent wealth, power, and influence in inordinate fashion in the Middle East.           

Ditto Israel. The Obama administration does not seem to care much that Israel is democratic and pro-Western and that it created a successful economy ex nihilo. Instead, it represents Westernism at the expense of revolutionary entities like the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and perhaps now even Hezbollah. Thus, from the beginning of the Obama administration, its Middle East invective was aimed not at Iran, Hamas, or the Muslim Brotherhood, but at Israel in general and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in particular. Like the Kurds, whom Obama has largely neglected, Israel is simply too successful, too unlike the failures elsewhere in the Middle East, and too patently pro-American.

#share#Note that in June 2009 Obama forbore to support the one million Iranian reformers who hit the streets to protest the corrupt election engineering of the theocracy. Obama stayed mum throughout the year-long protests. In February 2009, in his first formal interview as president (with Al Arabiya, no less), he had hinted that he alone possessed the bona fides to connect with Islam’s authentic leaders. Obama apparently saw the Iranian reformers as retrograde neo-cons rather than legitimate revolutionaries who would appreciate his own unique radical credentials. Certainly Iran’s minister of foreign affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif — a Westernized dandy who sounds like the chairman of a Middle East Studies program on an American campus — seems to have appeared right out of central casting to charm Obama with his Anti-America-Lite obfuscations. The result is the Iranian nuke deal, a treaty that is apparently not a treaty, an accord that violates all the prerequisites that Obama himself set out prior to the talks, and a blueprint for any other Middle East nation to obtain nuclear weapons under the guise of promising not to obtain them.

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This approach to the Middle East is sort of like the art of community organizing in a large blue-state American city — constant turmoil punctuated by occasional equilibrium brought about by concessions from the more powerful. Iran’s nuclear status, its newfound freedom from sanctions, its expanding revenue, and its recharged terrorist appendages will offer it parity in the Middle East. Sunni regimes and Israel will react, tensions will rise, and out of the turmoil will come some greater sense of social justice, in a new Middle East that is more authentic and therefore less pro-Western and especially less pro-American than the old one. The playing field is being leveled, and the Russian–Syrian–Iranian–Hezbollah–Hamas Axis has finally achieved some parity in the region.

Obama tried the same with the Russian reset, until he grasped that Putin is a thug of the first order — an unapologetic neo-Tsarist reactionary who despises Obama as much for his weakness as for his social-justice sermonizing.

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In Europe, Obama has tried his best to undermine the old Churchillian U.S.–U.K. special relationship. He has preferred the EU to NATO, and sees the present migration crisis as either nemesis for colonialism or a chance for Europe to look more like the world. The European leftist dream of enforced mass transit for populations living in apartment buildings surrounded by government-owned greenbelts, punctuated by solar and wind farms, in countries with their foreign policy subject to the U.N. — all overseen by a few elite grandees — is Obama’s own.

#related#For a while Obama toyed with the idea that Communist China also was a revolutionary presence that for too long had been stereotyped as an aggressive and thuggish disrupter, pitted against one-dimensional and rather boring U.S. Cold War allies like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. But after China’s cyber-attacks and regional bullying, Obama sort of left the scene, baffled by what exactly he had helped to conjure up — as Japan rearmed, South Korea adopted a new muscular policy toward North Korea, and our Pacific allies began to understand that there might no longer be a U.S. nuclear umbrella.

In Latin America, chaos was likewise good. Hundreds of thousands trekked to El Norte once Obama rendered U.S. immigration law null and void and began issuing amnesties — the ingredients of a future political reordering of the American Southwest. Communist Cuba is courted, while the ongoing destruction of Venezuela is ignored, as are the democratic efforts of the handful of Latin American countries that still cling to a belief in consensual government rather than a dictator’s notions of revolutionary mob justice. The hope of the first decade of this century that the stability and prosperity of a consensually governed Chile might spread throughout the continent is mostly defunct.

In sum, U.S. foreign policy has become something like Obamacare, immigration law, or the deficit. Obama stirs things up, speaks truth to power, champions the dispossessed, seems bewildered at the ensuing mess, then gradually disconnects from the growing chaos, but seems smug nonetheless over the fact that something — what exactly he doesn’t know or care — is at last in play. Forward we go to the next injustice, ripe for chaos and thus hope and change.


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