Obama’s Failed Experiment

 
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Philip Fuxa/Shutterstock

In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

This theory completely overturned the traditional view of how the world works, which had been held by every post-World War II president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush: namely, that the world depends on American leadership, and on the willingness of American presidents to use our military power to keep the globe relatively stable and under control. The first corollary of this traditional theory is that, while of course we make mistakes from time to time, American power is overall a force for good. The second corollary is that shouldering this global responsibility — and absorbing its horrific costs in terms of money and casualties — is part of what it means to be the United States; we are truly an exceptional country because we do all this to make the world a better, safer place and we never ask for anything in return.

The results of President Obama’s experiment now are pouring in. In Afghanistan, the very-nearly-defeated Taliban is surging. Iraq — which was stable, intact, and at peace when George W. Bush left the White House — is engulfed in violence, breaking apart, and now a proud ally of Iran, whose leaders chant “Death to America” without the slightest fear of retribution. Indeed, the mullahs in Teheran are about to receive a $150 billion windfall from the US itself, for signing onto a meaningless nuclear agreement.

The Terrorists are Coming

Meanwhile, Russia has sent its warplanes to bomb American-supported insurgents in Syria, while shipping anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran to defeat or forestall an Israeli attack on that country’s nuclear bomb factories — which are being built with Russian help. Christianity is being obliterated throughout the Mideast. All this turmoil has triggered the greatest flood of refugees since the end of World War II — a flood that now engulfs Europe and threatens the survival of that continent’s political institutions. Since it’s obvious there are terrorists planted among these waves of refugees, deadly attacks in Europe and perhaps even here in the US, are now likely.

Elsewhere in the world, Ukraine is fighting for its life while its Baltic neighbors brace themselves for Moscow-directed mischief. North Korea keeps building nukes, while China builds military bases across the Pacific and wages cyber-warfare against American citizens and companies at absolutely no cost to itself.

From even this brief and incomplete summary of results from President Obama’s great global experiment, it’s obvious that words like “disaster” and “catastrophe” don’t begin to capture the magnitude of its failure. If our president thought like a scientist, right now he would be sitting quietly in his office and re-thinking his theory. But he’s a politician, and every indication from Washington is that the president means to keep going in the same ghastly direction, maybe even double down and find a hapless scapegoat or two to blame. There is no indication whatsoever that he will learn from experience and change his policy. (Reader, were it not for my legendary good manners and respect for the office of the presidency, this is where I’d remind you of the old adage: You can always tell a Harvard man. However, you cannot tell him very much.)

Making the Best of It

In the short term, there isn’t much we can do to stop the forces our president has set into motion. But as citizens and voters, there is one thing we can do to make the best of a bad situation and, perhaps, avoid this sort of thing from happening again: we can start to import the methodology of science into politics. In other words, we can start to focus less on party and personality, and more on results. This means throwing our support to candidates for public office who propose policies that have been proven to work. And it means rejecting candidates who propose policies that have been tried before, and failed each time.

As the world changes and new policies are proposed to deal with these changes — and this will happen from time to time — let’s undertake each new policy as scientists would undertake an experiment. If it gives us the result we hoped for and expected, great; we’ve added one more piece to the puzzle of politics. If the experiment fails — and this too will happen from time to time, even with the best of intentions and brilliant implimentation — let’s learn from experience by reverting to the old policy or by trying another new approach that seems promising. And let’s keep experimenting and learning until we get it right.

Human nature doesn’t change. Politics will always be a rough game, and power will always be an aphrodisiac to those who play it. But so long as politicians need our votes to get elected, the ultimate power lies with us. If we citizens will give our support, and our votes, to only those candidates who will think and act more like scientists, over time we can change the culture of politics itself. That would be a huge leap forward not only for our country, but for humanity.

Published in Foreign Policy, Military
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  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Well I knew it. Must have been magic.

    • #31
  2. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Al, had you read Alinsky before 2008? Have you read him yet?
    Nobody is keeping secrets except by general consent. This stuff is all in writing — by them. They don’t need a conspiracy. They have an entire body of literature and degree-granting programs in how to destroy America.

    • #32
  3. Al Kennedy Inactive
    Al Kennedy
    @AlKennedy

    Ball Diamond Ball:Al, had you read Alinsky before 2008?Have you read him yet? Nobody is keeping secrets except by general consent. This stuff is all in writing — by them.They don’t need a conspiracy.They have an entire body of literature and degree-granting programs in how to destroy America.

    BDB, I had read Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals back in the Clinton administration in trying to understand Hillary.  There was also a couple of excellent books in the fall of 2008 on Obama’s background.  So I knew his background, but I didn’t know he planned to substitute Iran for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the Gulf States as America’s “partner” in the Mideast.  This fact was not talked about in either the 2008 or 2012 election.

    • #33
  4. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Well met sir. I couldn’t come up with the specifics, and they don’t matter. The broad strokes were apparent, and defeat is plain defeat.
    A year ago James was downplaying, poo-pooing my contention that ISIS meant Iran would scoop up Iraq. I couldn’t have told you the specifics about this either, but the broad strokes seem obvious. What can I say? I try to work with x, not dx.

    • #34
  5. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    My guess is that perhaps none of those specifics you mention were firm in 2008. Their dominance in the permanent leftist cast of State and affiliated actors give them a few free shots every round. We never much get past Orient, because we are constantly reacting to their actions.
    more precisely, our observations are bunk because we have failed to orient properly. The GOP thinks they can win through ol’ slow and steady. They think that Obama & co are mistaken good guys. They are wrong, and that pops out of the equation as continued failure.
    Rush Limbaugh said he hoped Obama failed, because he thought success for Obama would be a disaster for America. The Democrats didn’t have to lift a finger in outrage — the Republicans did it for them.

    • #35
  6. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    I figured out the broad strokes of Iran (nothing detailed, just the administration’s angle on things) some time after standing gobsmacked in a field in Afghanistan reading updates on Twitter about the June (July?) 2009 revolts in Iran, and our decision to back the Mullahs.

    One of my old LGF pals is a Canadian of Iranian extraction, and I was getting premiere OSINT.

    • #36
  7. Al Kennedy Inactive
    Al Kennedy
    @AlKennedy

    Ball Diamond Ball:I figured out the broad strokes of Iran (nothing detailed, just the administration’s angle on things) some time after standing gobsmacked in a field in Afghanistan reading updates on Twitter about the June (July?) 2009 revolts in Iran, and our decision to back the Mullahs.

    One of my old LGF pals is a Canadian of Iranian extraction, and I was getting premiere OSINT.

    In retrospect, perhaps I should have interpreted President Obama’s failure to support the Iranian rebels in 2009 differently.  I was just extremely upset with his lack of action or verbal support, because I thought regime change was the only viable policy with Iran, and the students seemed to have a better than 50-50 chance of doing that.

    • #37
  8. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Nothing like despair to clear your view.

    • #38
  9. James Madison Member
    James Madison
    @JamesMadison

    Herbert E. Meyer: and absorbing its horrific costs in terms of money and casualties — is part of what it means to be the United States

    Ok, I get it.  Afghanistan to Taliban,  Iraq to Iran, Iran gets a bomb, Syria to Russia and Iran, Crimea was hors d’oeuvers, Russia nibbling on Ukraine, China building resort islands for military, and some refugees are terrorists.  QED, Obama is a bum.

    What is the risk – not the fear, the risk?  Energy? Trade? Resources? Humanitarian? Moral?, Axis of Evil?

    What is the risk to the U.S?

    Is the risk serious, vital or existential?  If not, when will it be?

    If things go wrong for us, what will go wrong for adversaries?

    What should we do – specifically?  Sail carriers up to the missile fortified Chinese coast?  Land two divisions in Estonia?  Send the 82nd Airborne to Donbas?  Let’s get physical – tell me what the goal is, what has to be done, what it costs and how it will end?

    Which of our allies can help us?  Europe?  Britain?  NATO? Japan?  S. Korea?  Canada?  Denmark, Belgium and Poland?  The 60 nation alliance in Syria?

    How many lives do you want to spend to change this?  5,000 Americans?  50,000?  What is your bid?  Will you volunteer to go in on the first wave?

    How much more will you pay in taxes to pay for this?  20%? 50%?  More?  We will have to pay for this and I assume you are against deficits.

    • #39
  10. Al Kennedy Inactive
    Al Kennedy
    @AlKennedy

    James Madison:

    What are the risks?   They are fivefold: China exerts sovereignty over the South China Sea which allows it to grow in military power until it approaches America’s in the region exerting pressure on India and Southeast Asia; Iran and its proxies exert enough pressure on Israel so that it retaliates against Iran; other Middle East countries decide they need nuclear weapons because of the deal with Iran; Iran has the capability to launch a nuclear weapon against the US on a ICBM and the Democrat party wants to avoid military conflict at any cost which imperils America’s security.

    Pax America was the attempt to use American resources, manpower, and casualties to make the world a more peaceful place.  The risk with China is not existential.  They want respect.  The risk in the Middle East is not existential to America, but existential to Europe.  If Europe goes radical Islam, it is then an existential threat to America.  So you can make an argument for nipping it in the bud and keep radical Islam from destroying Europe.

    What should we do?  In the South China Sea, regularly send aircraft and ships into international waters that indicate we do not respect China’s attempts to violate the Law of the Seas and extend their sovereignty illegally.

    The comment limit requires me to continue in another comment to deal with the Middle East.

    • #40
  11. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Al Kennedy: I think another factor is that Valerie Jarrett, gatekeeper supreme, prevents President Obama from ever having to interact with anyone who disagrees with him.  The entire White House staff, chosen by Jarrett, never advances a contrary position.

    This is exactly—almost word for word—what was said about GWB in the lead-up to the Iraq war, though in those days it was Cheney who restricted GWB’s information, aided by GWB’s own intellectual incuriosity.

    I’m with James Madison on this: what ought we to do? Given that there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs, what precisely should we be willing to sacrifice and for how long? Are we willing to sacrifice for an outcome that will be, by definition, far from assured and less than perfect, perhaps humbly recalling that even in our greatest triumph— winning World War 2—we only liberated half of Europe…

    • #41
  12. Al Kennedy Inactive
    Al Kennedy
    @AlKennedy

    James Madison:

    In the case of the Middle East, we need to recognize and accept that we cannot resolve the schism between Shia and Sunni Islam.  That said, we need to try and achieve regime change in Teheran, and accept that the current country boundaries in Syria and Iraq are not sustainable because of religious and tribal differences.

    The current situation is very complex, and I am not smart enough and do not have enough military intelligence to lay out a detailed plan to defeat ISIS, allow Sunni and Shia Islam to live in peace and accept Israel as a legitimate country in the Middle East.  A strategy doesn’t require America to defend countries that won’t defend themselves.  A Sunni ground force with American support in air support, intelligence, logistics, weapons, and Special Forces could be successful.  But I have concluded that President Obama does not want to try and figure this out, but simply wants to wait out his term until the next president is inaugurated.  He does want to reverse Pax America, he wants to eliminate it.  And this is very dangerous to America’s long term interests.

    If America has to put “boots on the ground” the population should be taxed to cover the additional expense.

    • #42
  13. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    I’m never sure what Obama is up to.  His world view is as you suggest, but his heart is in his domestic transformation.  Foreign policy is a bothersome distraction, only useful when he needs a domestic distraction.   It’s about power.  He is a progressive and were he nationalistic and aggressive abroad, we’d correctly call him a fascist.   But do not hold your breath because the left will discover that militarism is a powerfully useful way to centralize power.   After all the great socialist home land no longer exists so peace and pacifism no longer serves the left as it once did.  You want to see what it looks like, watch Trump.  He’s a harbinger of the future of progressivism and I fear they’ll learn the lesson he’s teaching us.

    • #43
  14. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    I’ve just changed my will to instruct my executors that the words etched on my tombstone shall be:

    Here Lies Herb, Who Once Got Ball Diamond Ball to Agree With Him About Something

    Thanks, BDB, it’s a great achievement and I never thought I’d live to see it….

    So, let me return the compliment by — sort of — picking a fight with you.  Why are you, and so many others commenting here, so opposed to the idea of considering policies as experiments — and of judging them by results?  Wouldn’t it be a good thing to teach young people to think like this?

    Of course I understand that not every politician will like this; that many of them will persist in placing ideology over facts and experience.  Can’t we, as voters, demand that they do better?

    I once wrote a book about this entitled Hard Thinking.  No one in politics liked it, and the total size of my fan club increased by one.  I’m not complaining, since that one was Jonas Salk….

    • #44
  15. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Greetings, Herb! I guess it boils down to this:  the experiments have been run for thousands of years, and the results are ignored, then struck upon by accident, confirmed, and then the whole process is repeated.  I think the US Constitution is still the closest humanity has come to writing those results down, and it’s all we can do to get people to look at the thing.  Your proposal would seem to entail bolting far more restrictive channelization onto major decision processes, and the problem is the same with any control structure — it doesn’t matter what the facts are.  It matters who controls the control structure.

    The progressives from the Frankfurt school right down to today have everybody thinking that they are the voice of science, of reason, and already it’s bad.  Imagine if they had a leg to stand on.  I just have zero confidence that a systematized thing would result in anything other than communism.

    • #45
  16. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    You’re absolutely right — but why should we give up trying?  Centuries ago Western Civilization set aside “magic” and, so to speak, invented “science” — the idea that we can learn from results.  That was possibly the greatest intellectual leap forward ever made by mankind.  Why can’t we make another leap forward by importing the idea of science to politics.

    Back in college I majored in something called Political Science….well, how about actually putting the “science” into politics.  Why can’t we start to teach this?  It won’t be easy, not everyone will accept this, and if we’re successful it’ll take centuries.

    So, let’s get started…..

    As you see, I’m an optimist.

    • #46
  17. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Sorry Herb, but to Thomas Sowell, I believe you are a Progressive.

    • #47
  18. Underwood Inactive
    Underwood
    @Underwood

    Herbert E. Meyer: Why can’t we make another leap forward by importing the idea of science to politics.

    In politics (as in economics, sociology and any other “social science”) there are never any true controls. Any set of facts will have multiple, competing explanations with no objective way to decide which is the best.

    Did the USSR desire to dominate Eastern Europe because of the facts of Russian history (multiple invasions from the west) and the facts of Russian geography (difficult to defend borders) — a common explanation among sophisticates during the Cold War — or was Communist ideology the primary cause of conflict?

    Alas, I suspect facts and observations alone can’t get us the knowledge we want.

    • #48
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Ball Diamond Ball:I just have zero confidence that a systematized thing would result in anything other than communism.

    If you assess approaches based on actual results rather than theoretical consistency I don’t see how that could happen.

    (I also think you wouldn’t get a 100% resounding endorsement of a completely unfettered free market either, but that’s jmho.  Perhaps we are all too attached to our beliefs to really want to put them to the test?)

    • #49
  20. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar, the great murderous tyrannies of the 20th century all claimed to use science to guide the fate of man and to improve the nature of men.
    The results are in.

    • #50
  21. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar:
    “Perhaps we are all too attached to our beliefs to really want to put them to the test?”

    Do you include yourself in that group?

    • #51
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Ball Diamond Ball:Zafar: “Perhaps we are all too attached to our beliefs to really want to put them to the test?” — Do you include yourself in that group?

    Sure thing. I’m human.

    • #52
  23. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar
    Ball Diamond Ball:Zafar: “Perhaps we are all too attached to our beliefs to really want to put them to the test?” — Do you include yourself in that group?

    Sure thing. I’m human.

    Well I don’t. You’ve chained several assertions and I reject the premise. I am not too attached to my beliefs to really want to put them to the test. I assert I am human, too. But I don’t want to repeat the horrors of the 20th century based on the familiar argument that previous attempts to improve humanity were not rigorous enough.

    • #53
  24. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I was thinking more along the lines of:

    Does my having a Muslim family get in the way of me realistically assessing the likelihood of an Islamic reformation/renaissance? (Probably.)

    Does me being gay get in the way of me realistically assessing the possible harms of SSM to society? (Probably.)

    Would some religious beliefs similarly get in the way of some people realistically assessing the possible harms of SSM to society? 

    Would religious beliefs get in the way of many Indians realistically assessing the country’s beef/dairy industry policy? (Almost certainly.)

    Would religious beliefs get in the way of some people realistically assessing the outcomes of abstinence education?

    Would political commitment get in the way of a Marxist realistically assessing the outcomes of Communism? (Absolutely.)

    Would a belief in the free market’s absolute superiority get in the way of people realistically assessing different mechanisms for health insurance and health care provision?

    Would a commitment to American Exceptionalism in foreign policy (whose definition I still do not quite get, btw) get in the way of some Americans assessing the results of their foreign policy realistically?

    We all have biases, was my point, often from really deeply held beliefs or feelings.

    • #54
  25. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar, while I appreciate the multiple concerns you are sharing, the point is pretty simple.  There’s a popular pastime on Ricochet of using true facts to vault topics and then defend the facts as true.  I don’t dispute your facts.  I just wonder why you bring them up.

    I confess I do not follow your meaning here.  I see this as an issue of belling the cat.  Sounds great in concept — who’s going to certify the results when it turns out that somebody’s project is going to get gored.

    You know, science tells us that periodic die-off disasters are actually beneficial to the strength of a species.  It’s a kind of Tansley effect.

    Who first?

    • #55
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Ball Diamond Ball:I don’t dispute your facts. I just wonder why you bring them up.

    Just putting up examples of where people may be reluctant to look at the facts because the facts (rigorously examined) do not support current beliefs or feelings.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t look at the facts, just saying that these are examples of when we might be inclined to avoid them.

    I confess I do not follow your meaning here. I see this as an issue of belling the cat. Sounds great in concept — who’s going to certify the results when it turns out that somebody’s project is going to get gored.

    I guess the point is to try and be honest and gore my own project if the facts fall that way.  If everyone taking part in the ‘national conversation’ took that on it would be a good thing, don’t you think? (Oh we could still gore other people’s projects too, facts permitting.)

    You know, science tells us that periodic die-off disasters are actually beneficial to the strength of a species. It’s a kind of Tansley effect.

    Who first?

    The least competitive.  The ones with demonstrably worse outcomes.

    Basically it would be great to talk about outcomes rather than argue about underlying beliefs.

    (Also: I’m personally an evolutionary dead end, so it might as well be.. )

    • #56
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    BDB:  You know, science tells us that periodic die-off disasters are actually beneficial to the strength of a species. It’s a kind of Tansley effect. Who first?

    Zafar: The least competitive.  The ones with demonstrably worse outcomes.

    This would not go well for the poorest, most miserable, lowest life-expectancy areas of the world.  I won’t be coy here.  I’m against it.

    • #57
  28. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar: Basically it would be great to talk about outcomes rather than argue about underlying beliefs.

    There is much wisdom here, and much risk.  I realize you don;t mean it this way, but this is not far from”might makes right”.

    I don’t think you’re being shallow or glib, so please pardon my short responses. Trying to just address the nub.

    • #58
  29. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Measurable outcomes are the only common ground people with different beliefs have.

    Otherwise we tend to talk past each other.

    • #59
  30. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    BDB: You know, science tells us that periodic die-off disasters are actually beneficial to the strength of a species. It’s a kind of Tansley effect. Who first?

    Zafar: The least competitive. The ones with demonstrably worse outcomes.

    This would not go well for the poorest, most miserable, lowest life-expectancy areas of the world. I won’t be coy here. I’m against it.

    But that’s why they’re miserable and dying.  Refusing to acknowledge it won’t change that.

    • #60
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