Which One of Us Is Delusional?

 

I don’t believe that the geopolitical instability we’re seeing now is entirely Obama’s fault. There is a limit to what American power can accomplish. But I found his interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes terrifying. If you haven’t watched it, I don’t quite have the right words to describe it, so I suggest you do.

That the administration doesn’t realize how terrifyingly out-of-touch he sounded — and is promoting the most-ridiculed moment of it — is likewise terrifying: Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.40.39 Chris Christie summed up a few — only a few — of the reasons to feel puzzlement about this comment:

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) assailed the foreign policy of President Obama in an interview Friday, calling the commander in chief “delusional.”

“I mean, Syria is on fire, Iraq is on fire, Egypt is under martial law, Yemen is on fire, Lebanon is on fire with Hezbollah and Hamas shooting rockets into Israel, and he has put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons,” Christie said on Fox News Radio’s “Kilmeade & Friends.”

“That’s leadership?” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate added. “That’s success?”

“If he thinks that’s successful foreign policy then maybe he should do all of us a favor [and] start building his library now and leave office early.”

Christie added that he finds Obama’s repeated defense of his decisions in Syria disheartening, given the deteriorating situation there. “It’s a success that 250,000 people have been murdered at the hands of their own government?” he asked, citing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s fight with rebel factions.

“It’s a success that millions of people are running for their lives to other countries in the Middle East and Europe?” Christie also asked, referencing the ongoing flood of refugees fleeing Syria.

And that’s only a part of it, isn’t it.

“Success” may not be a reasonable way to put things: It’s not at all clear to me that the United States could put all these fires out; it is certainly not the fault of the United States that 250,000 people have been murdered in the Syrian civil war. But Obama’s intimation that none of this is really cause for American alarm — and that we should be glad he’s leading on climate change — really does sound actively delusional.

I’m looking at the news with my hands over my eyes these days. Either I’m out of my mind, or the President of the United States is.

I hope it’s me.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    It’s not you Claire.

    Seawriter

    • #1
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Seawriter: It’s not you Claire.

    That’s an effective video.

    But it would be much better to think it’s me and that I’m over-reacting.

    • #2
  3. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    The Community Organizer in Chief still thinks he can fix all the world’s problems with a few well-phrased speeches amounting to how stupid we all are and how brilliant he is. If only we would listen to him all would be well. He is, has been, and remains delusional. We will survive his maladministration but I don’t envy his successor who will have to work very hard to clean up his messes. It will be expensive in every way.

    • #3
  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    OkieSailor: I don’t envy his successor who will have to work very hard to clean up his messes. It will be expensive in every way.

    His successor? What about us — that will be our money, our lives …

    • #4
  5. Capt. Aubrey Inactive
    Capt. Aubrey
    @CaptAubrey

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-real-obama-doctrine-1444429036
    I don’t know if this Nial Fergusson essay in the WSJ is free but I enjoyed reading it on Friday. The mix of nievte and political expedience will cost us many lives and much treasure after he’s gone.

    • #5
  6. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    Certainly we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can avoid adding to them.  Obama has immeasurably added to them with his weakness abroad and lawlessness at home.

    • #6
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I think Mr. Obama is very capable of taking the long view in certain cases. Two categories of events come to mind.

    1. Things to do with the institutional requirements of American politics. You might believe in the justice or necessity of prosecuting the War on Terror, with or without a clear view of the endgame: What victory, at what cost, would deliver the peace Americans want? You might not. Either way, killing lots of people by drone is going to happen & Guantanamo stays open. Will wars be fought? Well…

    That’s the facts of life. Looking forward to seeing President Sanders field lefty questions about why all these people get killed & the espionage apparatus tells you, it’s the only way?

    2. Things to do with the institutional requirements of foreign policy–the various international organizations & the agreements of the various powers. The Middle East has gone through terrible crises before & it will again. America will be there to mishandle affairs while presidents & diplomats pat each other on the back while the press approves & ignores the various doings & goings on of the various actors of the day…

    Mr. Obama does not seem fanatic or really ideological–he does not want to do things so much as he wants to change institutions. He seems to resemble Wilson in his sleight of hand: There is no way he can start a sentence with the will of the people without ending with institutions runs by experts…

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Do you think he or the administration realize, deep down, that things aren’t going well?

    His face in that interview certainly suggested that at some level, he knows.

    • #8
  9. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    President Obama also said that there were no adverse effects on national security from Hillary’s homebrew email server.

    • #9
  10. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    The following is a script from “President Obama” which aired on October 11, 2015. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. L. Franklin Devine, Michael Karzis and Maria Gavrilovic, producers.

    Not “transcript”?

    • #10
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Do you think he or the administration realize, deep down, that things aren’t going well?

    His face in that interview certainly suggested that at some level, he knows.

    I think these people are neither malevolent nor stupid. They can tell things are going really, really badly. But what can they say about it? They act in a political environment that is really constrained, both in the domestic arena, what with the weird partisanship on view right now, & in the international arena, where there are fewer & fewer opportunities to act or speak without trouble.

    I believe Mr. Obama has been far too much of a gentleman & is reaping the consequences. At some level, I think he knows that–look at this statement about leadership, but also his usual speeches. Presupposing good intentions worldwide & a benevolent reasonableness is the way he talks to people & about issues of concern. It’s as if the world were run by educated people who need to be stirred to action & to self-improvement by a man who does not want to meddle too much, but feels forced, by circumstances & his position, to speak in the manner of an exhortation.

    Mr. Obama is a moralist, like most people who rise high in American politics. The right is now–as the left was before–blinding all of us to the almost uniquely American ability to summon people to high office who really want to improve things & justify them, somehow, mostly by good intentions & rationality…

    • #11
  12. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Here’s my favorite part of the interview:

    Steve Kroft: Well, he’s moved troops into Syria, for one. He’s got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II.

    President Barack Obama: So that’s– so that’s —

    Steve Kroft: bombing the people– that we are supporting.

    President Barack Obama: So that’s leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office– Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin.

    Steve Kroft: Right, right, right.

    President Barack Obama: Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time. Mr. Putin now is devoting- his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine–

    Steve Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership-

    President Barack Obama: Well– Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership.

    So, Ukraine has now lost Crimea ( despite explicit American promises) and has a major war in the East with Russia and it’s proxies.  Meanwhile in the Middle East, Yemen is a disaster, Iraq and Syria are disasters, Iran and Russia are allied and pushing us out of the region etc etc.  Yeah I think Putin is a little better at leadership then our own Dear Leader who thinks Great Power Politics suddenly vaporized because the calendar turned over a new century.

    • #12
  13. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I was listening to a PBS interview with Gary Kasparov and some former Obama State Department guy (Sorry I don’t recall his name). Kasparov had through out the show maintained that Obama’s foreign policy actions have been disastrous and have only encouraged Putin’s aggression and meddling. The State Department guy then gave what I considered to be the most insane summation of the geopolitical situation I have ever heard. I will paraphrase it for you all.

    President Obama has been a great strategic thinker, just look at the world. Russia is weak, we have tricked them into invading and annexing the Crimea and Easter Ukraine (this is bad for them). Now Obama has let them invade Syria, which is a brilliant thing because it proves they are desperate to hold on to their empire. They pose no challenge because now they are locked into two war that will be unpopular in Russia and drain their economic resources. We don’t need to do anything differently we are already wining.

    This guy is no longer part of the Administration, but he was part of it and if he is remotely representative of who is left, they are in full denial mode over there. They are trying to spin this all as some kind of master plan. We have another year of this to endure. I don’t know what the next president will even be able to do.

    • #13
  14. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Kozak:Here’s my favorite part of the interview:

    Steve Kroft: Well, he’s moved troops into Syria, for one. He’s got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II.

    President Barack Obama: So that’s– so that’s –

    Steve Kroft: bombing the people– that we are supporting.

    President Barack Obama: So that’s leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office– Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin.

    Steve Kroft: Right, right, right.

    President Barack Obama: Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time. Mr. Putin now is devoting- his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine–

    Steve Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership-

    President Barack Obama: Well– Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership.

    So, Ukraine has now lost Crimea ( despite explicit American promises) and has a major war in the East with Russia and it’s proxies. Meanwhile in the Middle East, Yemen is a disaster, Iraq and Syria are disasters, Iran and Russia are allied and pushing us out of the region etc etc. Yeah I think Putin is a little better at leadership then our own Dear Leader who thinks Great Power Politics suddenly vaporized because the calendar turned over a new century.

    Iran is a closer Russian ally than before. Lebanon is now closer to Russia. Egypt and the UAE are closer to Russia. Iraq is becoming an Iranian satellite. Libya has gone from relative neutrality to anarchy at best.

    And on the other hand, it’s not as if Syria has abandoned Russia.

    • #14
  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak: Yeah I think Putin is a little better at leadership then our own Dear Leader who thinks Great Power Politics suddenly vaporized because the calendar turned over a new century.

    Putin is terrifying me more than any of the other crises. I suspect being drowned in Russian propaganda feels like a joke in the US, but in Europe — it feels different. I know this stuff is working. His strategy is working.

    I don’t want to go on about how I’m losing it with anxiety — not helpful, not stoic — but it would be nice to feel that my President, and by extension, the solid majority of my country, understands that these are very unstable times.

    • #15
  16. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    All this is serious, but I am of the opinion that the crisis at home is more important than anything going on the the Middle East or Ukraine.  When the bubble pops here, any thought of foreign policy will simply be a distant memory.

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Valiuth: I was listening to a PBS interview with Gary Kasparov

    I’ve been reading the introduction to his book on the same subject. He’s unfortunately very persuasive.

     I don’t know what the next president will even be able to do.

    I don’t either.

    • #17
  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    David Knights:All this is serious, but I am of the opinion that the crisis at home is more important than anything going on the the Middle East or Ukraine. When the bubble pops here, any thought of foreign policy will simply be a distant memory.

    “Foreign policy” sounds too abstract to people, I think. If this is as bad as I fear it could be, no one will have the luxury of it being a distant memory.

    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    In defense of Mr. Obama, he is right about the weakness of the Russian economy & about the risks Mr. Putin is taking. He is a gangster with various abilities, but he is not much of a leader. Anger at Mr. Obama should not transform into this kind of fatalism–as of yet, Mr. Putin has made no solid conquests. I believe we are agreed that if Mr. Putin has any strategy, it is long term with short shocks now & then. That is, to say the least, a vulnerable kind of strategy. A future president with determination & skill could undo the gains of recent years without going to war.

    Mr. Obama is not a leader either, but he has a country behind him, because he is for the most part a decent man & a lawful politician. These advantages matters especially because American public opinion has not turned on him as it did on Mr. W. Bush. That makes a significant difference. The next president of America seems likely to enter office without a crisis or great tumults among the people he will have been elected to lead. There will be serious tumults, lots of them to do with Russia, & the next president will have to face them, but there is no cause for despair.

    Hopefully, your countrymen will elect a better leader–but I look at the GOP field & I am not sure how. If Sen. Rubio is Mr. Foreign Policy, you have party troubles you are not facing squarely…

    • #19
  20. Steven Jones Inactive
    Steven Jones
    @StevenJones

    Leftists have long stated their belief that western, particularly US, meddling is the root of all global trouble. I see no reason to doubt that President Obama is intentionally weakening the US, in the mistaken belief that it will eventually lead to global stability.

    • #20
  21. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Interesting you used the word terrifying. When Putin’s new leadership was put in front of Obama, and he pivoted to his leadership on climate change, I reacted on social media by telling everyone to run for their lives.

    Truly terrifying.

    It’s as if foreign policy is of no import to him. He’s he’s chasing the unicorn of climate change and thinks he’s close to a lasso.

    Remember in ’08 when his supporters insisted his international aesthetic (he was better than us for once living somewhere else) would make him better informed than others, and that the world would love him more than Bush and act accordingly?

    This is truly terrifying-his failure to see the world. Isn’t there an emergency protocol if the President loses his mind where we came remove him expeditiously? I don’t think even Biden is this bad.

    • #21
  22. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Steven Jones:Leftists have long stated their belief that western, particularly US, meddling is the root of all global trouble. I see no reason to doubt that President Obama is intentionally weakening the US, in the mistaken belief that it will eventually lead to global stability.

    I’ve found the analysis of Lee Smith (The Weekly Standard) persuasive. His thesis is that Obama’s goal is to withdraw the US from the world stage. In the long run, he seeks regional realignments to provide stability (e.g. Iran as the regional power in the Middle East). In the short run, he needs a power like Russia to step in and provide stability in the transition.

    • #22
  23. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Titus Techera: I believe Mr. Obama has been far too much of a gentleman

    Whaaaaaat?????   He is a small, petty, vindictive man.  When has he ever acted like a gentleman? Dealing with Bibi, the Dalai Lama?  It’s not that he doesn’t want to meddle Titus, he wants the US to be diminished world wide not matter how many people are going to die.

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Tommy De Seno: Truly terrifying. It’s as if foreign policy is of no import to him. He’s he’s chasing the unicorn of climate change and thinks he’s close to a lasso.

    I don’t know whether to be comforted to know that there was indeed something deeply unnerving about that moment, and that I’m not just imagining it … or more terrified.

    That was the line that made me wonder if they’re telling the President what’s going on at all — or whether maybe he’s just instructed his staff not to disturb his wa with these annoying, urgent briefings.

    • #24
  25. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Tommy De Seno: This is truly terrifying-his failure to see the world. Isn’t there an emergency protocol if the President loses his mind where we came remove him expeditiously? I don’t think even Biden is this bad.

    Agreed.  His 60 mins interview was a glimpse at how delusional someone surrounded by sycophants can truly be.

    • #25
  26. Bill Walsh Member
    Bill Walsh
    @BillWalsh

    In re the next president, he’s going to be dealt a relatively weaker hand than any president maybe in the post-war era, but at least since the 1970s (the previous and one hopes still-champeen nadir of U.S. influence). And that even if he took over tomorrow. What the world will look like after another year or so of a shamelessly swaggering Russia and more cautious emboldened China—not to mention the second-tier players like Iran and North Korea—taking advantage of what must look like a window of unusually self-abnegating American policy…I’m not exactly sanguine.

    Moreover, I’m not sold on the strategic thought on offer from any of the presidential candidates. Marco Rubio probably talks the best game, but anyone who doesn’t worry about his becoming a second JFK rather than an HST or Reagan should consider the possibility. On the other side of the aisle, Hillary certainly has a Machiavellian lack of principle which one hopes could be extended to a ruthless foreign policy, but her record doesn’t suggest much reason for hope. Biden certainly spent decades in the Senate working on foreign policy, even if he seemed to enjoy being a smiling hatchet man rather more, so he’s probably he best one could hope for from Team Donkey.

    Still, as Bismarck said, God looks after fools, drunkards, and the United States of America. Which is probably less a matter of Providence than the unusually accessible and cultivated resourcefulness of the populace. Get the big picture right, martial the resources, and I suspect (hope!) we’ll muddle through as ever—doing the right thing after trying everything else, as Churchill probably never said.

    • #26
  27. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    ‘The president is intentionally weakening the US’ should be the campaign of whichever ambitious guy who wants to make sure he loses the next election.

    As for an argument, I think you would have to distinguish weakening by omission & by comission. The former is probably arguable publicly, but have you heard any GOP hopeful who has anything serious to say? He would have to say, let’s do this or let’s do that & it not turn out to mean war-

    • #27
  28. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: or whether maybe he’s just instructed his staff not to disturb his wa with these annoying, urgent briefings.

    We already know he is happy to skip security briefings in order to fundraise…plus there is this jewel of a quote:

     “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

    • #28
  29. Bill Walsh Member
    Bill Walsh
    @BillWalsh

    And in general, I agree with those above that to a significant degree Obama’s curtailing of U.S. influence—which unfortunately means the Pax Americana with it—is strategic. It’s long been an article of faith on the academic left (which seems to be Obama’s intellectual milieu from his mother’s work, through Occidental, Columbia, Hyde Park, etc.) that on balance, American influence abroad has been overweening and has caused more problems than it’s solved. Leaving decisions to indigenous, authentic authorities is the morally superior alternative to “neo-colonialism,” which is to say, pursuing American interests abroad. (A related article of faith [the higher simplisme!] is that American interests, conventionally expressed—as black propaganda—in terms of global peace, prosperity through trade, and democratic self-governance, are inherently immoral and rapacious power- and profit-seeking.)

    • #29
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Concretevol:

    Titus Techera: I believe Mr. Obama has been far too much of a gentleman

    Whaaaaaat????? He is a small, petty, vindictive man. When has he ever acted like a gentleman? Dealing with Bibi, the Dalai Lama? It’s not that he doesn’t want to meddle Titus, he wants the US to be diminished world wide not matter how many people are going to die.

    1. I do not think it is reasonable, respectable, or clever to speak publicly about the president not caring about people dying. Fantasies of grand strategies coolly plotted with no care for the hundreds of thousands of dead in Middle Eastern bloodbaths might work in a thriller, but not in public discourse.

    2. Lots of Americans now feel like the US should be doing less, which is the weak argument for diminution or weakening or whatever one could call it. It is not my preferred policy, but it seems pretty American to me. Call it Clinton redux, Carter redux or what have you. What did Eisenhower do in Hungary or Egypt?

    3. I dislike the way Tibet is treated, but what is anyone proposing to do? I thought we were all –except fool me– proud of Nixon opening China. Was there a be-nice-to-Tibet ride on that deal?

    4. PM Netanyah has done nothing of which I am apprised to earn or call on unearned friendship for Mr. Obama. I do not say that he should or needed have done anything…

    • #30
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