Victor Davis Hanson: Obama Is Not Incompetent

 

As President Obama’s foreign police seems to be falling apart, many conservative critics and commentators wring their hands and wonder why he seems blind to the horrors that fill the newspapers. National Security Agencies are today analyzing an internet video that appears to show the Jordanian fighter pilot shot down by ISIL being burned alive. Why, Obama’s critics ask, doesn’t Mr. Obama see the dangers in Islamic extremism? Why won’t he call it what is: Islamic terrorism?

For many, Obama seems hapless. They thus attribute his policy to incompetence. We often hear that his lack of experience and accomplishment is coming home to roost. That he is just in over his head.

What these critics seem to miss is that they are making excuses for a president who — despite the feigned incompetence — knows exactly what he is doing. Victor Davis Hanson puts paid to the incompetence argument at National Review Online. This may be the most important analysis of Obama yet written:

While I think the symptomology of an ailing, herky-jerky United States is correct, the cause of such malaise is left unspoken. The Obama team — with its foreign policy formulated by President Obama himself, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, White House consigliere Valerie Jarrett, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and present Secretary of State John Kerry — is not in fact befuddled by the existing world. Instead, it is intent on changing it into something quite different from what it is.

Hanson writes that the Obama foreign policy doctrine is grounded in “four pillars of belief.” Briefly summarized, they are:

  1. That the US, with its history of intervention and (perceived) nation building, has made the world unfair by denying the right of the various nations be as they wish to be.
  2. That nations will be reasonable if the US doesn’t get in the way.
  3. That we should seek equality abroad just as we demand equality at home.
  4. The details don’t matter as long as the goal is ultimately achieved (in other words, a few eggs will have to be broken).

Every conservative pundit and politician must read Hanson’s article. Only when we truly understand Obama’s motivations can we possibly hope to take corrective action. Obama is a radical egalitarian who wants the world to be leveled so that all nations can enjoy equal power to pursue their own goals, regardless of how odious they may be. In this regard, ISIL is nothing more than a movement towards a soon to be realized cultural achievement. Since the future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam, it doesn’t much matter if the future is decapitated.

If Iran succeeds in building a bomb, well, for Obama and his sycophants that is actually a good thing since the balance of power in the Middle East can then be finally equalized. Israel is too powerful, and a counter balance is needed. If that means an Islamic state with the power to destroy Israel so much the better. Israel will then have to curb its (nonexistent) bellicosity and thus take its place among all the nations of the Middle East (that assumes that Israel will still exist, but it’s not at all clear that Obama believes that the destruction of Israel would be bad thing).

Hanson is steely-eyed in his analysis as he puts down the media trope that Obama is flailing around or just kicking back until he is out of office. This is delusional. Here, at home, the president has transformed the nation in ways unthinkable just a few years ago. Obama has forced his agenda on the nation through executive action and strong box secrecy. His highest hope is that he achieve such sweeping success in his foreign policy. And when his opponents let him off as a lazy failure they encourage his deliberate recklessness.

We must get this straight. President Obama is not a bungler. He is an ideologue for who only the goal matters. The means are important only to the degree that they can push the agenda along. Obama has fundamentally changed America, and he is hard at work trying to fundamentally change the world.

Image Credit: Chuck Kennedy (White House) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are 57 comments.

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  1. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    Exactly. Some saw this from the beginning. These are evil people with evil intent. Arguing just gives them time.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    Never mind those crazy war-mongering right-wingers. Those bomb-tossing radicals. What we need here is a glideslope. HOLD ON, brave Jordanian pilot! Burn for just a little while longer. We are still arguing over here.

    • #2
  3. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Seems about right.  Obama thinks he’s done a bang up job.  Just ask him or any of his mafia henchmen and they’ll tell you how awesome it all is.  Shame on our media and shame on the GOP for letting these catastrophes happen without screaming.

    • #3
  4. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    Well, he certainly seems incompetent, what with all the excruciating press conferences of his spokespersons, Psaki, Sharf, et al.  Red lines. . . no strategy yet . . .  the 80s calling, etc.  A normal person would be concerned that things never seem to work out the way he forecasts.  Embarrassing!  And those former and current Secretary of Defense . . .

    But so what?  Children still love him.  And he disarms much of the Right by appearing incompetent.  A large portion of the formerly internationalist, responsibility bearing Right does not want him to take any action internationally, certain that he would make matters worse.  Save the jet fuel and bombs and hope the future brings a competent commander in chief.  And to pollsters these people of the Right would now seem to have moved over to the peace side.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @CalvinCoolidg

    I read that article and listened to him on Levin’s show last week. All of us crazy right wing nut jobs have been banging the pots and pans and screaming at the top of our lungs about his true intentions for 6, going on 7 years now.

    Obama is a very dangerous man. His ideology has consumed any level of common sense that may have existed. The really scary thing is that Obama has the inside scoop on all of these factions going on all over the World. He doesn’t have to wait for the news to tell him, as he claims. It makes it very hard to believe that he can always be on the wrong side of our allies and America’s best interest at the same time in all of these different situations.

    I’m curious to see what kind of information comes out after he leaves office. His goose steppers will split and some will spill the beans to save their own hides.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    They’re already starting, and the GOP is letting them. We should make these cretins go down with their ship instead of welcoming them to ours where they will resume their hull-holing hobbies.

    • #6
  7. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    I agree, he is not incompetent.  He is evil.  So are his minions. He has a worldview that differs greatly from reality.  All anybody has to do is read his books to understand how he thinks.

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    Yes. This is what we ‘whackos’ see, plain as day, while the moderates can’t understand how he can be so “incompetent”.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    Well, that’s true but I see it a little differently.  He is both incompetent and misguided.  In fact they are interrelated.  His misguided notions lead to his incompetence.

    • #9
  10. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    My concern with the analysis above is that point 2 is blatantly and obviously untrue at this point.  (Point 2 being the one that predicts an actual outcome.)

    If he thinks other countries are behaving reasonably, I would agree that he is evil.  If he thinks they’ll still come around, he’s incompetent.

    Hard to judge based on what he says since his words have no relationship to reality.

    • #10
  11. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    If what VDH says is even remotely true, then we have a singularly evil person at the head of the nation.

    Inherently I don’t want to believe this of any American (although I might have to make exception for Michelle Obama). Yet overall it has a certain ring to it ….

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Mike Rapkoch: What these critics seem to miss is that they are making excuses for a president who — despite the feigned incompetence — knows exactly what he is doing. Victor Davis Hanson puts paid to the incompetence argument…

    I’m not sold.

    Take a look at Obama’s intervention in Libya*, his red-line blustering over Syria, as well as our bombing of the Islamic State, none of which Hanson even mentions.

    Say what you want of these policies — I’ve got plenty and it’s not complimentary — but these simply do not fit into the thesis that Obama is primarily interested in American retreat. Something else must be motivating him (for what it’s worth, I think it’s typical lefty under-dog rooting).

    * I confess to being utterly perplexed by our sides’ obsession with the Benghazi attack to the exclusion of any discussion of our bombing campaign against Gaddafi that preceded it.

    • #12
  13. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    From the VDH piece:

    Human nature is not tragic but is better understood from a therapeutic perspective. Most nations, in fact, interpret outreach as magnanimity leading to reciprocity, not as weakness deserving of contempt. Evil is not inherent in the world because of human failings such as timeless envy, jealousy, narcissism, greed, and vanity.

    This, however, I think is spot-on.

    Progressive leftists — like, unfortunately, a good many libertarians — really don’t quite get that some people cannot be dealt with in a civilized fashion. They don’t want to get along and we endanger ourselves by pretending that we simply haven’t hit upon the right offer or gesture.

    • #13
  14. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Hmm.

    Mike, if I am reading you and VDH correctly, you both are suggesting that Obama is not just a good man who is in over his head.

    Hmm. Interesting…

    • #14
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Agreed.

    “Radical egalitarian” is just another way of saying anti-American leftist. For an anti-American leftist, he’s incredibly competent.

    That’s not saying much though, as demotion and destruction are relatively effortless. For evil to rise, the good must only stay silent.

    He’ll divert our attention to “fighting” invisible (life-giving) gasses (CO2) and abstractions like “inequality,” while he remains passive in the face of real evil in the form of ISIS and Boko Haram.

    I keep wondering if Europeans have any remorse over their slobbering love affair with Obama. Maybe they’d like an American cowboy better now, or are they too far gone? If so, it seems about half of Americans have caught up to them.

    • #15
  16. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Quinn the Eskimo: #10 “Hard to judge based on what he says since his words have no relationship to reality.”

    He is trying to create a new reality and is using whatever methods he deems necessary to arrive at his goal.  He won’t out and out tell you what he is trying to do because if he did, one might assume that even among the Democrats there would be enough sanity to resist, but barring his openly telling them, they won’t admit what they are seeing.  It is easier to blame someone or something else than to admit that they were wrong to promote Barry to his current level.

    To be sure, Barry is good about parsing the blame elsewhere; and having his media sycophants deliver it with the evening news, where any lie will do.

    • #16
  17. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:From the VDH piece:

    This, however, I think is spot-on.

    Progressive leftists — like, unfortunately, a good many libertarians — really don’t quite get that some people cannot be dealt with in a civilized fashion. They don’t want to get along and we endanger ourselves by pretending that we simply haven’t hit upon the right offer or gesture.

    This becomes true only if such people extend their influence and sphere of activity outside their borders. Within their borders it’s their business.

    The argument of old is that we shouldn’t be getting into other people’s business. The argument of today is that through technology our business stretches around the globe.

    • #17
  18. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    I agree with the notion that Obama’s program is to weaken America’s standing in the world. He’s said as much on many occasions. And competent or not a president can do much to make that happen. Still, Obama would not have accomplished even half of his radical agenda, foreign or domestic, if the lickspittle press did not support him with all their hearts.

    Nevertheless, I see him as grossly incompetent, and the evidence is overwhelming. He simply isn’t very smart, although he is extremely devious and dishonest. He is a really good liar, in that he can get poorly informed and shallow people to believe him.

    He is a constitutional scholar (with no publications) who never, and I mean never, has made one utterance about a Supreme Court case that is even close to being accurate. He not only mischaracterized Citizens United a few days after it was decided, leading to the famous Alito head shake, he also mischaracterized Lochner, a case every 1st year law student could analyze.

    He has so severely misjudged the US electorate that he has lost majorities in both houses of congress as well as almost all the state houses.

    He actually thought that Cash for Clunkers, the stimulus, the ACA were all good ideas that would improve our material well-being.

    He chose Joe Biden to be his vice-president, twice, because he values Joe’s sage counsel.

    He thought he could get Iran to make nice with him. He really did. He misjudged them. He thought he could get Putin to make nice. He misjudged him. Now, he looks like a shmuck. He thought he could get the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to his peace plan. Wrong. He thought deposing Ghaddafi and leaving a power vacuum was somehow different from deposing Saddam and leaving a power vacuum. Currently, he thinks that making nice with the Castro brothers (and I don’t mean Julian and Joaquin) is good policy for the Cuban people.

    On top of all this, and there is so much more, he doesn’t know what an ass he looks like when he chews gum at formal meetings with foreign leaders.

    • #18
  19. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    Mike Rapkoch:

    • That the US, with its history of intervention and (perceived) nation building, has made the world unfair by denying the right of the various nations be as they wish to be.
    • That nations will be reasonable if the US doesn’t get in the way.
    • That we should seek equality abroad just as we demand equality at home.
    • The details don’t matter as long as the goal is ultimately achieved (in other words, a few eggs will have to be broken).

    Mike–Rarely do I disagree with VDH but in these 4 points, I do. First off, Obama is a Socialist. His parents and grandparents were socialists. All his friends and associates are socialists. The socialist can’t achieve utopia with a strong country, like the US (especially a Free Market based Democracy), leading the world in nearly every category considered virtuous by man. The US can’t be special, can’t be the world police, can’t be the boy scout of nations, can’t be, well, the United States. So it has to change, i.e. torn down. He’s forcing us into a socialist state both from the inside (ObamaCare and welfare) and from the outside by kicking our status down to just an ordinary country. Then elevating other countries, like Iran. The only thing that isn’t right with my theory is Obama’s treatment of the U.N.  Usually the Liberal drools all over the U.N. but Obama rarely pimps for it. Although, I think when he leaves office, he’ll use his Nobel Peace Prize and advocate for running the U.N.

    • #19
  20. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mike Rapkoch: What these critics seem to miss is that they are making excuses for a president who — despite the feigned incompetence — knows exactly what he is doing. Victor Davis Hanson puts paid to the incompetence argument…

    I’m not sold.

    Take a look at Obama’s intervention in Libya*, his red-line blustering over Syria, as well as our bombing of the Islamic State, none of which Hanson even mentions.

    Say what you want of these policies — I’ve got plenty and it’s not complimentary — but these simply do not fit into the thesis that Obama is primarily interested in American retreat. Something else must be motivating him (for what it’s worth, I think it’s typical lefty under-dog rooting).

    * I confess to being utterly perplexed by our sides’ obsession with the Benghazi attack to the exclusion of any discussion of our bombing campaign against Gaddafi that preceded it.

    My obsession with the Benghazi stems from the fact that we had an opportunity to save the Ambassador and others but Obama and Clinton “left them behind”. It goes against everything our military stands for.  I don’t see how a debate over bombing Libya changes the decision to ignore calls for help in Benghazi.  It also bothers me that Obama continues to lie about what happened.

    • #20
  21. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Man With the Axe:I agree with the notion that Obama’s program is to weaken America’s standing in the world. He’s said as much on many occasions. And competent or not a president can do much to make that happen. Still, Obama would not have accomplished even half of his radical agenda, foreign or domestic, if the lickspittle press did not support him with all their hearts.

    Nevertheless, I see him as grossly incompetent, and the evidence is overwhelming. He simply isn’t very smart, although he is extremely devious and dishonest. He is a really good liar, in that he can get poorly informed and shallow people to believe him.

    While I LoVe the tone and much of the content of this comment, I think you’re looking at Obama through the wrong lens when you judge him “grossly incompetent.”

    He’s only grossly incompetent if his goal is the well-being of the United States and her allies.

    He takes advantage of the ignorance of American voters when he comments (stupidly) on Constitutional matters. Very few of them are 1st year law students. He doesn’t need Congress or the state houses when he’s perfectly capable of using his phone and pen (and the left has already stacked the bureaucracies and courts). What if his goal in the Middle East isn’t peace and prosperity, but a cultural “leveling” of power and influence — a “one-state” solution, which isn’t the “usurper” Israel?

    What if wants the US (and by extension the West) to be weaker, poorer, and demoralized? All under the guise of what’s “fair.” How’s that working out for him? Pretty well, I’d say.

    • #21
  22. user_333118 Inactive
    user_333118
    @BarbaraKidder

    Quinn the Eskimo:My concern with the analysis above is that point 2 is blatantly and obviously untrue at this point. (Point 2 being the one that predicts an actual outcome.)

    If he thinks other countries are behaving reasonably, I would agree that he is evil. If he thinks they’ll still come around, he’s incompetent.

    Hard to judge based on what he says since his words have no relationship to reality.

    People were taken in by Charles Taylor in Liberia, too!

    • #22
  23. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Western Chauvinist:

    He’s only grossly incompetent if his goal is the well-being of the United States and her allies.

    What if wants the US (and by extension the West) to be weaker, poorer, and demoralized? All under the guise of what’s “fair.” How’s that working out for him? Pretty well, I’d say.

    Good points, but I still think he’s incompetent even at the goals you identify.

    If he were smarter, he would have done a better job of arrogating power to the Democrats while working on making America less powerful. As it is, he will not be able to get anything passed or anyone confirmed if the Republicans don’t like it or him.

    He would have attacked ISIS when it was just getting started so he could have finished it off with a mild use of force, instead of the exponentially larger use of force it’s going to take now.

    He would have taken an approach with Iran that might have led to a better deal than the one we’re going to get, with Iran having the bomb, because that outcome cannot be fudged or explained away as a good result for America; even Rachel Maddow will be forced to admit that this is a poor outcome.

    He would not have made it so clear to American Jewish voters that he hates Israel.

    He would have had the ACA written so that subsidies were available on both state and federal exchanges. He would have gotten some Republican buy-in for it in the first place, so that the current congress would not be so antagonistic to it.

    Now, these might seem like small potatoes compared to the excessive harm he has caused to American interests abroad and domestically, but it goes to show that he is not the evil genius that some would make him out to be.

    • #23
  24. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Michael Doran’s analysis of Obama’s Iran strategy is excellent. He points out its consistency throughout Obama’s presidency, notes that it has been deliberately kept secret, and concludes:

    …the seasoned thugs in Tehran whom the president has appointed as his strategic partners in a new world order grow stronger and bolder: ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity, ever more confident in their hegemonic objectives. On condition that they forgo their nuclear ambitions, the president has offered them “a path to break through [their] isolation” and become “a very successful regional power.” They, for their part, at minuscule and temporary inconvenience to themselves, have not only reaped the economic and diplomatic rewards pursuant to participation in the JPOA but also fully preserved those nuclear ambitions and the means of achieving them. Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, they have good reason to be confident.

    • #24
  25. user_348375 Inactive
    user_348375
    @TrinityWaters

    I fully realize the import of my next sentence, and use the word advisedly as an educated Catholic.  Obama is a manifestation of Satan.  He and his message must be repudiated.  Many citizens smelled the sulfur in 2007.  Thankfully, we have many new Christian soldiers joining us, as well as just plain good people, no matter their religious affinity.

    • #25
  26. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Man With the Axe:

    He is a constitutional scholar (with no publications) who never, and I mean never, has made one utterance about a Supreme Court case that is even close to being accurate. He not only mischaracterized Citizens United a few days after it was decided, leading to the famous Alito head shake, he also mischaracterized Lochner, a case every 1st year law student could analyze.

    He has so severely misjudged the US electorate that he has lost majorities in both houses of congress as well as almost all the state houses.

    s.

    I don’t know.  I think leftists intentionally mischaracterize issues because it helps them.  When leftists don’t acknowledge that raising capital gains taxes reduce revenue, or don’t acknowledge that there is a difference between making people buy someone contraception and banning contraception, I don’t think they are being stupid or obtuse.  I think they are deliberately avoiding facts that don’t advance their cause.   I don’t think Obama is different from a typical college left-winger in this regard, he just happens to be President.

    As far as the Democrats losing the House, Senate, state legislatures etc., I think that’s a price Obama was willing to pay to get Obamacare passed, release Gitmo detainees, withdraw US support for Israel, etc.  Think about it from our perspective.  If we could, say, abolish the IRS or completely repeal Obamacare after 2016, but then lose the White House and both houses of Congress in 2020, wouldn’t that be an attractive trade?  Republicans would get back in control again after a few elections, but abolishing a bad government program would last indefinitely.

    • #26
  27. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Pelayo: I don’t see how a debate over bombing Libya changes the decision to ignore calls for help in Benghazi.

    They don’t; they’re separate and (important) issues.

    What gets me is that our discussions about them are so heavily weighted toward the latter, as exemplified by VDH’s piece. I’m not saying that the piece shouldn’t have mentioned Benghazi — again, important! — but I can’t understand similtaneously not mentioning the Libya bombing campaign at all.

    • #27
  28. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Hanson’s 2 on the list of Obama’s core beliefs:

    “That nations will be reasonable if the US doesn’t get in the way.”

    This belief – truly – is insane.  No sane person can believe it. As Dr. Hanson has stated:  Human nature is flawed.   Tragically.  Utopia will never exist for that reason.  So we’re back to David Horowitz’s “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”

    • #28
  29. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    The Left widely shares VDH’s “four pillars of belief”; it’s not just Obama.  As president, Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren would likely have very similar policies and would likely implement them with a similar level of incompetence.

    • #29
  30. user_259843 Inactive
    user_259843
    @JefferyShepherd

    I prefer to think of Obama this way.  Yes, he is a smart guy.  But, he is also a product of when almost every thing one knows is wrong as in up is not down, gravity attracts it does not repel, etc.

    • #30

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