Ricochet member BlueAnt writing last week in response to Peter’s conversation on Egypt asked:
What is Obama’s doctrine for dealing with a hostile world, even if he’s never articulated one well enough to make it a capitalized Doctrine?
I think his general principles can be distilled to a tripartite belief system:
- Global problems started with Bush and did not transcend him; Obama’s non-traditional heritage, postnational beliefs, and singular charisma thus can convince the world that America now runs and thinks like the Harvard lounge and thus perpetual world peace, man’s natural condition without a Bush in power, follows;
- Countries in the past suspicious of the U.S. had good reason to be; those once supportive of us are now suspicious; thus we must lecture former friends on their misdemeanors and ignore the felonies of once enemies;
- Obama thinks his unique profile allows him avenues other presidents did not have (a Putin who believes in diversity apparently); thus, he alone can deal with Iranians, Syrians, Venezuelans, Cubans, etc. as fellow revolutionary progressives. To the degree a country is fully democratic, capitalist, pro-U.S. and Western (e.g. UK, Israel), it is part of a fossilized American diplomatic past. In this calculus an Ahmadinejad is an authentic revolutionary leader, with genuine cultural fides, the protestors in the street are naive in their pro-Western sympathies for secular democracy and a functioning economy, and are not representative of the true Iranian people.
All the above said, the actual implementation reflects somebody with the experience of two years in the Senate, who had never navigated outside of academia and Chicago tit-for-tat politics. So Mubarak is/is not a dictator, must leave now/yesterday/sometime soon as he serves as sort of a figurative leader/a critical transition player/a suspicious counter-revolutionary inasmuch as the U.S. must lay down conditions/advise only/respect Egyptian prerogatives, as private conversations with Egyptians are spilled to the press, Obama suggests the Cairo desire for freedom somehow channels his own support, and Biden, Clinton, and Obama contradict one another hourly.
This is very sad. Obama has not articulated what it was about the Egyptian protests that drew his rabid support—that was found lacking when the Iranians tried the same thing against a much more internationally vicious regime; or why we can be pressing for human rights in Egypt but not with Russia, to whom we just disclosed the serial numbers of British nuclear weapons. Once one goes down the sermonizing path, as we learned from Jimmy Carter’s disasters, there is no end to the number of contradictions that arise. One either then shuts up, or prepares in advance for inconsistencies and how to deal with them.
But then again, Biden, Clinton, and Obama, our policy-makers on Egypt, were the same Senate trio in September 2007 that tried to humiliate Petraeus during the surge hearings and assured the country that the surge had failed, Iraq was lost, and Petraeus was disingenuous (‘suspension of disbelief’). In 2009-10, we have had our 1977 and 1978, and now sadly the reckoning is due and 2011 will be our 1979, when the world had sized Carter up and decided it was time to make ‘adjustments’ in Tehran, Central America, Afghanistan, etc.
It all reminds me of a tough school as a youth I went to in the proverbial barrio; there was a very nice, quite smart kid who used to lecture everyone about being nice to each other, usually under the watchful eye of playground teachers. Finally, the school’s thugs and punks simply took his lunch money away—every day—teachers or not. They let him talk even more as compensation but he had to borrow his lunch money from us to eat. Quite unfair.
More By Victor Davis Hanson: