Obama’s Failed Experiment

 
image

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
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 70 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    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.

    Here’s what strikes me as the ultimate willingness to put my beliefs to the test, as well as the most scientific approach:

    I am unwilling to sign on to a program of intentionally exterminating the poor and the weak because that’s simply monstrous.  Instead, I believe that either something better will happen which is beyond my ability to predict or that the trends identified so far will hold me in good stead.

    Don’t get me wrong — I am all for liquidating direct threats as such.  But merely being unfortunate should not be a death sentencce.  Since I am powerless to affect who lives and dies in most cases, the least I can do is not support a program of attempting to pick and choose except where justified by apparent hostile intent, as opposed to merit as measured “scientifically”.

    Zafar, I assume you are provocateur enough to be baiting me a little in this.  I say roll the dice fair.

    • #61
  2. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Hey – I’m not suggesting exterminating the poor and the weak.  I’m just not okay with pretending that approaches which keep them poor and weak are other than they are because the poor and weak perceive them as meaningful or important.

    (Which is also how I feel about people who support abstinence focused sex ed – I’m not about to do anything bad to them, but I’m not going to pretend that they make any sort of sense in the real world either.  They’ll live with the consequences of their beliefs, and I think that’s harsh enough.)

    This is a more complicated approach when it’s something we ‘do together’ – like foreign policy, say – but again, there’s no point pretending something makes sense when it doesn’t.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to try and physically gut people with whom I disagree because they’re wrong.  Just argue vociferously and not let the negative outcomes slide because ‘well their intentions were good’.

    • #62
  3. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Herbert E. Meyer: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.

    Herb,

    Why be an optimist. Why extend yourself to an epistemological level that is unnecessary. Your analysis is correct. “If Obama’s policy was a scientific experiment, then it would be a failed experiment.” This is completely true. Even if it remains, forever, only a thought experiment then it is still obviously true.

    Why not be a realist. Obama’s foreign policy is a complete failure. The rejection of the principles upon which it is based is in order.

    You’ve done an excellent job. Why quibble. Just stand pat.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #63
  4. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    Gee, I can remember a time when I didn’t have to choose between being an optimist and being a realist.

    I can even remember — sort of, vaguely — a president who combined these qualities and led us to victory in the Cold War.  (Cannot quite remember his name, but he was a cheerful guy from California who kept telling jokes while he changed the world….)

    One of the most striking features of so many comments about my essay is the pessimism, even hopelessness, of so many of you about the prospects of making things better in the future.

    Ever the optimist, I think you’ll all eventually come around to my side….

    • #64
  5. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Herbert E. Meyer:Gee, I can remember a time when I didn’t have to choose between being an optimist and being a realist.

    I can even remember — sort of, vaguely — a president who combined these qualities and led us to victory in the Cold War. (Cannot quite remember his name, but he was a cheerful guy from California who kept telling jokes while he changed the world….)

    One of the most striking features of so many comments about my essay is the pessimism, even hopelessness, of so many of you about the prospects of making things better in the future.

    Ever the optimist, I think you’ll all eventually come around to my side….

    Herb,

    I am only an epistemological pessimist. This is a Kantian’s duty. There is a limit to what man can know. However, when it comes to America and her potential I see no inherent limits. Rather I see tremendous potential for resurgence.

    Your essay is important because the only way we can come back is to completely renounce Obama and Obamism. Here is an example of the realism that I like.

    JOHN BOLTON CALLS ON JOHN KERRY TO RESIGN IN YAF SPEECH

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #65
  6. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    Hi, Jim,

    So, you’re an epistemological pessimist because it’s your Kantian duty to be one.

    Um, for those of us who barely squeaked through college what on Earth are you talking about?

    You’re impressed because John Bolton has called on John Kerry to resign?  Bolton has called for the resignation of every Secretary of State since Dean Acheson….

    • #66
  7. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Herbert E. Meyer:Hi, Jim,

    So, you’re an epistemological pessimist because it’s your Kantian duty to be one.

    Um, for those of us who barely squeaked through college what on Earth are you talking about?

    You’re impressed because John Bolton has called on John Kerry to resign? Bolton has called for the resignation of every Secretary of State since Dean Acheson….

    Herb,

    Please listen to the speech itself. The comment about Kerry only happens in a question after his talk. His main theme is the particulars which brace up your main thesis. He reviews the general situation and the Obama responsibility for it.

    As for epistomology, unfortunately, social science is often very late with very inconclusive results. This tempts the left to massage the data (normal people call this lying). Also, unfortunately, the right if it insists upon a purely empirical approach is much more honest and it therefore is paralyzed by the lack of clarity.

    If you remember the gentleman from California you were referring to, he could use empirical data quite well but was never limited to it. He always talked about the “shining city on the hill” and a “rendezvous with destiny” both references to ethical objectives. A Kantian considers ethics above the material-empirical. I think our Californian thought of it in that way too. In fact he specifically frames it ethically in this speech.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #67
  8. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    Hi, Jim,

    Yes, I see your point.  And that’s (yet another) great speech by President Reagan.

    By the way, when Reagan met with Gorbachev at their first summit, in Geneva, the president and the Soviet leader held a long conversation that covered a lot of topics.  But at one point along the way, Reagan simply couldn’t help himself….he was, after all, Reagan.  He said to Gorby:

    Mr. President, what’s the difference between a scientist and a communist?

    Gorbachev shrugged his shoulders and replied: Ya nye znayo (I don’t know.)

    Reagan smiled and said:

    A scientist would have tried it out on rats, first.

    I’ve always thought that this was the moment when Gorbachev first realized who he was up against…and that he didn’t stand a chance.

    • #68
  9. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Herb,

    I’ve always thought that this was the moment when Gorbachev first realized who he was up against…and that he didn’t stand a chance.

    halleluyah!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #69
  10. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    A compelling argument Herb but I’d be surprised if 5% of Americans had much knowledge of any of this.  And I don’t know if Obama is proud of what he has “accomplished” or not but I’m certain he’ll never admit to any mistakes.

    • #70
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.