Small America and bin Laden’s Victory: Four Essays for the Weekend

 

AmericanizationLate last night, I came across four insightful essays, all in Tablet magazine. They’re painful to read, but they struck me as worthy of thought and discussion. Reading them all takes about a half hour.

The first is by Lee Smith, who attempts to define the difference between Obama’s and Netanyahu’s view of America. In my view there’s no reason to focus on Netanyahu; many of us find Obama’s view of America’s role in the world puzzling–and it’s not to our credit that the prime minister of Israel has become a better-known and more articulate exponent of the opposing case than any American leader. Smith’s understanding of Obama strikes me as more intuitively plausible than a view of Obama as deeply unpatriotic or actively hostile to America. For Smith, Obama is a Gladstone figure–a proponent of what Smith calls “Small America.”

Rudy Giuliani recently made headlines when he said that Obama doesn’t love America, a formulation that unsurprisingly won him much praise from the far right. It’s an absurd charge, of course—or rather, it’s wrong by omission. Obama loves America very much, but it’s the Small America he loves, not Big America. …

If you’re Netanyahu, your experience as an Israeli tells you that Big America is a very good thing—political and diplomatic support across the board and of course American arms and military aid that helps you protect your country from lunatics intent on slaughtering you. However, if you grew up during the Cold War in one of those distant new countries in Asia and Africa where America played one side and then the other, and where U.S. diplomacy and U.S. weapons were destined to be used by one part of the country or community against the other side, then you’d have to be a sociopath to love Big America.

What Obama loves is the promise that America extends to the world, regardless of color or creed—you’re welcome here, dream big, you can make it, our arms are open, we’ll help you. This is why the Affordable Care Act was so important to the president, to make good on that promise and provide the dreamers with a safety net. It’s also why the Iran deal is so important to Obama. He understands that it means the end of Big America—which, as he sees it, is an albatross around our necks, and hardly a blessing to the rest of the world.

This sounds to me an accurate diagnosis. I think it’s a useful and honest way for conservatives to think about Obama. To say that he hates America is to trivialize the real, underlying debate, which is fundamentally about what America is and should be: Should it be a global and imperial power? Or is the American empire is a failed or untenable project? The undercurrent of what little national debate we have about foreign policy is largely unvoiced, but it shouldn’t be: What we’re debating, ultimately, are the costs of keeping that empire–and the costs of abandoning it.

As for the costs, consider the next essay by Hanin Ghadar. He writes about the message of the pact with Iran to Arab liberals. No one will help you:

Democracy, freedom, self-determination, human and individual rights are values that Arab liberals like myself thought we shared with the United States. That’s what you told us. For years, we’ve received training and attended workshops on democracy and freedom of expression sponsored by international NGOs and NGOs funded by the United States and the Europeans. We’ve been preached to by visiting American diplomats and think-tankers and journalists about the virtues of citizenship and democracy. We took plenty of notes. We’ve been told that if we speak out to defend our rights, we will be supported by America. And now we’ve been betrayed.

For many liberal Arab citizens like me, it looks like the United States is now taking sides in a sectarian conflict and turning a deliberate blind eye to violations of rights and values which are supposedly the core of what the United States represents. The United States is siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis. It is helping Assad, Hezbollah, and other allies of Iran stay in power. The United States has picked the Resistance axis over helping potential democracies to grow. …

Abandoning Arab liberals and civil society to sectarian warfare seems to now be a valid compromise to make to Iran in return for the deal. Is this what the United States wants the region to become? A battleground for mad extremists? Is the nuclear deal worth that much blood? Are we that insignificant?

The next essay, by Paul Berman, is titled The Reign of Terror, Year XX: The state of jihad and counter-jihad, in the middle of a long war:

Back in 1996 the wider world had never heard of Bin Laden. But look at the jihad now—at the sundry Islamist insurgencies around the world, each of them marked by local peculiarities, and all of them emitting the same medieval fragrance of paranoia, millenarianism, and superstition. The jihad in Afghanistan: evidently undefeatable, regardless of NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance. In various provinces of Pakistan: thriving, despite the CIA’s drones, the world’s most sophisticated weapon. In the Caucasus: clinging to life, regardless of Vladimir Putin, the world’s most powerful dictator. In Yemen: a stubborn base for al-Qaida, regardless of still more American drones. And thence to the Gaza Strip (where jihad presides), the Sinai Peninsula, Libya (where the jihad is contending for power), Mali and the Sahel, Somalia, and onward to amazing successes in northern Nigeria and beyond—a geographical sprawl indicating levels of energy astronomically beyond what anyone would have imagined 20 years ago. Or look in Shiite directions, where the news is dismaying from still another standpoint. …

Berman then describes the four phases of the counter-jihad–each, he says, a failure, and I cannot argue. I encourage you to read his whole essay before the final one, the most painful of all.

David Samuels writes what I suspect we all think deep down. Bin Laden won.

The point of September 11 wasn’t to terrorize the West. It was to get the U.S. out of the Muslim world—and it worked:

It is proof of Bin Laden’s mastery of the unexpected logic that animates strategic thought, and of the glaring inability of America’s political leaders to think strategically, that not one but two American presidents have faithfully acted their roles in his geo-political script: George W. Bush, the hawk, with his open-ended and heavy-handed occupation of Iraq; and Barack Obama, the dove, with his precipitous and wholesale withdrawal of American military forces and influence from the Middle East. Both men—and their many advisers—should have known better.

Even more worrying is that Bin Laden easily imagined that they wouldn’t know better—not because of what political party they belonged to, but because they were Americans. While it is generally a blessing to have political leaders who graduate from places like Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, rather than from underground revolutionary organizations or the blood-drenched security structures of authoritarian states, it is also clear that foreign policy is not an area where clever sound-bites or even good intentions count for much. When it comes to strategic thinking, America might have been better off with leaders who lived in mud huts in Afghanistan and spent their spare time reading the Quran: By applying the linear logic of peacetime to a war-time situation that demanded the dialectical approach that animates strategic thought, Messrs. Bush and Obama each did their part to create a disaster whose consequences for both America and the Arab world will continue to unfold in horrifying ways for decades to come.

It’s not cheerful reading, but I think you’ll find it thought-provoking.

I wish I looked forward to a presidential election in which the candidates openly debated these issues and the questions to which they give rise. Unfortunately, I don’t. It would be much healthier if we did–of what use is self-determination if we don’t?–but we allow our politicians to avoid discussing these questions. Probably, I suspect, because we don’t like thinking about them.

There are 64 comments.

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  1. Contributor

    Obama and his ilk look at the social democracies of Europe and are envious. They’re open about it too. When it comes to social welfare programs their argument always begins and ends with, “We’re the only nation in the west that doesn’t do ‘X’.”

    But then Europe can (or could when they still had an industrious population) afford to do ‘X’, whatever X is, because we’ve born their defense burdens since 1945. On these shores he may be Uncle Sam, but everywhere else he’s a sugar daddy.

    All of their plans rest on America being able to keep the dollar as the world’s reserve currency as that allows them to print, print, print. If that goes by the boards, Katie bar the door.

    • #1
    • April 18, 2015 at 6:27 am
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  2. Member

    Whatever his ideological failings, the thing that strikes me about Obama is his contempt. Contempt for everyone. He is contemptuous of Republicans. He is contemptuous of Congress – giving them a role in policy just seems so, like, beneath him. He is contemptuous of his own advisers – who he fires if they are not grovelling “yes-men.” He is contemptuous of the voters (except those who just stand and cheer him), clinging to their guns and bibles. He is contemptuous of our allies and their leaders – especially Bibi, but everyone else too. He believes, honestly believes, that he is so much smarter than everyone else that other people are simply an annoyance. An annoyance that he, in his saint-like patience, has to put up with.

    What makes this especially bad is that Obama, unlike say Clinton or Nixon, is almost never the smartest guy in the room. His IQ is probably above average, but it is almost certainly not in the same league as, say, Romney or Cruz. His average intellect, combined with his refusal to listen to anyone or learn anything, must make him the most “stupid” President ever.

    • #2
    • April 18, 2015 at 7:02 am
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  3. Member

    I question the Gladstone analogy. Did Gladstone express open contempt for the people of Britain in the way that Obama has repeatedly expressed contempt for the people of this country? (“clinging to God and guns” “You didn’t build that”) etc.

    • #3
    • April 18, 2015 at 7:54 am
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  4. Member

    david foster:I question the Gladstone analogy. Did Gladstone express open contempt for the people of Britain in the way that Obama has repeatedly expressed contempt for the people of this country? (“clinging to God and guns” “You didn’t build that”) etc.

    Is there any appropriate historical analogy? Seriously, has any Great Power freely chosen a man who holds his nation in contempt as its leader?

    ( And please spare me the protestations that Obama is just misguided and deep down really loves this country. He doesn’t, and it is obvious. Just admit it already)

    The Global War on Terror, ridiculed as it was as a Quixotic exercise of imperial over-reach, has been lost. Bin Laden may be dead, but he triumphed.

    A martyr for his cause.

    • #4
    • April 18, 2015 at 8:08 am
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  5. Member

    Big America may make Small America possible ( arguable) but Big America also destroys Small America. Paradox (maybe).

    • #5
    • April 18, 2015 at 8:12 am
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  6. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    david foster:I question the Gladstone analogy. Did Gladstone express open contempt for the people of Britain in the way that Obama has repeatedly expressed contempt for the people of this country? (“clinging to God and guns” “You didn’t build that”) etc.

    No one would ever imagine Obama an orator of Gladstone’s caliber, but if you read the speeches of the Midlothian campaign, you’ll see a similar sensibility at work.

    • #6
    • April 18, 2015 at 8:14 am
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  7. Member

    Ooohhh no, no, no, no. No. Wrong.

    Obama most certainly does not love America.

    It’s more than eminently possible for Obama to detest this country — in the form devised by the Founding Fathers — while for instance doing things a 21st-century POTUS might do to protect the American populace (or perhaps more accurately, those sectors of the populace that he views with favor) such as drawing up drone-strike lists.

    Physically protecting others politically protects himself and his ability to proceed with his larger vision, after all.

    It’s more than eminently possible for Obama to have uses for the power vested in the Executive Branch and, due to this, to have designs on the adroit application of this power for larger purposes the realization of which requires some patience and guile, and the grounding of which is in a sense of revulsion with the America whose Constitution furnishes him with that power.

    Sure, Obama might enthusiastically favor a so-called Small America, but he can locate his enthusiasm for such a project not in any sincere and abiding love for such a country but rather in a fervent wish to rectify what he views as fundamental flaws in its animating principles (not just in its operating methodologies).

    As Jonah Goldberg illuminated in one of his weekly emails quite recently, in human relations, we don’t deem it love when one person wants a relationship in order to and on condition that he be allowed to change fundamental attributes of the other person, we deem that to be lust — definitionally having your way with another.

    Look, I think it was in Dave Marraniss’s account that it emerged that Obama made a pronounced (if not 100 percent explicit) determination during his second year at Occidental to define himself as an American — where he heretofore had quite showily not — because he had also arrived at the determination that he had a long-term political mission requiring plausible American identity (in psychosocial “makeup” terms, not in any “birtherist” sense) for general public consumption.

    Marraniss quotes a contemporary of Obama’s from this period — a Pakistani classmate and confidant who co-identified with Obama as a soi-disant sophisticate standing outside the American paradigm and detached from American sociopolitical discourse.

    (In this quoted source’s case, the pose at least had some connection with reality given that he was/is an actual non-American.)

    This contemporary related to Marraniss that he had never before or since encountered someone who so deliberately and consciously fashioned and refashioned his persona in the manner and for the kind of purpose that Obama did.

    What’s love of country got to do with it?

    • #7
    • April 18, 2015 at 8:18 am
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  8. Inactive

    Mr Obama loves America in the same way that Mr Alinsky did and Mr Ayers does (not to mention the Pastor whose sermons he slept through).

    He doesn’t love America the way it was or is, but the way he would like it to be – a Mar…err, Socialist paradise. When it becomes so, for the first time in his life he will be proud of America.

    So I think Rudy and Ricochet members are right, and Claire is being far too generous.

    • #8
    • April 18, 2015 at 8:50 am
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  9. Member

    Regarding the attitude toward America of Obama and his core supporters, there is a fascinating essay by C S Lewis discussing some rather parallel attitudes in Britain in the late 1930s. I excerpted some of it here: Repent Now

    • #9
    • April 18, 2015 at 9:10 am
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  10. Member

    I think that some of these analyses give Obama way too much credit for strategic vision rather than a mere reactive posture strongly shaped by banal leftist tropes. The Cold War crystallized a view of Our Way of Life — freedom, democracy, limited government etc in a struggle for survival against totalitarianism and extremism of all kinds. We allied with thugs to defeat communists with the expectation the thugs would give way to democrats once communism was defeated.

    Obama is still fighting the liberal intellectual battle against the Cold War. He is still in pursuit of the illusive, consequence-free transcendent position where one gets to pass judgment on both sides. The Cold Warriors have long since moved on to opposing jihadism as the principal threat. Obama is still seeking to oppose and transcend tiresome realities like national interests, history or conflict. During the 2012 debates, Romney correctly saw Putin as a threat to peace and the West. Obama sneered that this was Cold War thinking, a moment in which both his narcissism and his frozen-in-Amber world view were on display, all made worse by the fact that he thinks this aged on-campus banality is innovative thought.

    One lesson we continue not to learn is that if we use military force then we have to win even if escalation is required. Bin Laden correctly saw in Reagan’s fight from Beirut and Clinton’s run from Somalia a sustained flaw in American political leaders, a failure to follow through, a failure to understand that military adventures almost never unfold as planned. There should never be a symbolic or “measured” use of soldiers’ lives. Rather than rhetoric that vaguely echoes Our Way of Life, these adventures require clear objectives and a ruthless commitment to victory. Don’t go if we are not willing to do that. Don’t vote to authorize and then think you can repudiate that vote when it becomes expedient. If we approached the use of the military in that way, then the threat of American involvement will carry exceptional diplomatic weight (now at a weight of near-zero under Obama) and a lot of misadventure would be avoided.

    Obama is also hostile to core elements of Our Way of Life which is both our strength and that which shapes our goals and foreign policies. “You did not build that” is consistent with the relentless push by Obama’s side to exterminate the religion-shaped Ango-Saxon bourgeois family values that also shape our spirit of innovation and the wellspring of our economic success. The goodness of America lies in the fact that one need not be a white Ango-Saxon Protestant to fully join the successful society built on those values. Racial balkanism is the opposite of that goodness. I question whether Obama loves even Small America. He seems to have always been detached and rootless.

    • #10
    • April 18, 2015 at 9:27 am
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  11. Member

    It’s not a question of whether to maintain an American empire. It never was that question. It is, and always was, a question of keeping America safe from attack. And the only way to do that is to have a large, powerful military – and a demonsrated willingness to use it when necessary. One of the by-products of doing that is the creation, not directly intended, of an American empire. When we put down the Nazi regime, and then pivoted to face the next totalitarian horror from the east, we necessarily had to leave troops in Germany. Similarly we maintain a military presence in several places around the globe. And we provide arms to local forces all over the world to whichever side whose success would tend to increase our security. “Empire” is the consequence of self-defense, for us.

    As for Obama’s attitude towards America, it probably does not differ significantly from that of Michelle Obama, when she said she was proud of the country “for the first time in my life” during the 2008 campaign. His view of the United States harmonizes perfectly with the that of the Harvard faculty lounge. He is their president. Not ours.

    It is not about empire per se, but if we don’t maintain what amounts to an empire, we will lose not just that empire, but our homes and freedom. And Obama probably thinks, as did the Rosenbergs when they gave atomic secrets to Stalin, that it’s good to have balance in the world, because otherwise you have bullies.

    • #11
    • April 18, 2015 at 9:49 am
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  12. Thatcher

    Barack Obama loves America except for everything it has actually done up until the day it elected him; an historic event which has given America a chance for a New Beginning and a chance to correct the fundamental errors in its Founding through His efforts.

    Your point, summarizing Smith’s article (which is quite good):

    To say that he hates America is to trivialize the real, underlying debate, which is fundamentally about what America is and should be: Should it be a global and imperial power? Or is the American empire is a failed or untenable project?

    would be adequate if we were considering Obama solely from the perspective of foreign policy. But it is very clear that for Obama foreign policy is only of subsidiary importance to domestic policy. Downgrading America’s role in the world is, in his view, an essential step in refocusing our resources and attention on what is, to him, of primary importance – transforming America into a society worthy of His vision.

    • #12
    • April 18, 2015 at 9:57 am
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  13. Inactive

    When I hear O’Reilly or any of the other pundits question the motives of Obama, I tune them out. After watching a YouTube video where Obama’s Malignant Narcissism is explored, I no longer question his motives. Even today there is an article on American Thinker concerning Psychopaths, while not naming Obama, I think the implication is clear.

    And to think he has his finger on the BUTTON….

    • #13
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:06 am
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  14. Inactive

    I have to agree with Dave–America has never been about empire. I’m also suspicious of the big and small America thing. Obama doesn’t love small America except on his terms. He doesn’t love communities that reject his world view for example. He wants to remake America on an Acorn model. Yeah. That’s going to work. He’s still just a petty community organizer seeking, as Victor Davis Hansen recently pointed out, to foment a “revolution”. He’s not entirely sure against what and toward what, except that it will be a lot better for “his people” and he’s in favor of any “revolutionary” regime out there, even murderous ones like Iran. He has no love for the American system per se–freedom and democracy mean little to him. Basically, he’s just a petty, shallow and narcissistic tyrant way out of his depth. These kinds of essays give him way too much credit.

    • #14
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:10 am
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  15. Member

    Claire,

    I am only on page 53 of your book Menace in Europe. It is also hard to read. If controlling factions of Islam, Communism, etc. have been permeating Western society, taking root and flourishing, are there any winners, and what is the hope that all civil and decent societies will “win”? I just read the story about all the exiles from the Libyan region that are landing on the coast of Italy by the 10’s of thousands, refugees fleeing radical Islam – being put up in old military housing. You wrote it is “a sickness of the soul”, what is happening in our world, and the youth in all areas are buying into these sick regimes in every country because there is a sense of hopelessness, no purpose, no moral reason for doing anything decent. We want to help those fleeing persecution – that is what America has always been about. What worries me are the terrorists that are floating in thru borders, looking innocent enough – but you know better.

    ISIS is after Rome, anything Christian or Jewish in the world, freedom itself. Yet you write about the “free” countries like the Netherlands promoting & paying for “tolerance” to these sick people and their hate speech. In the article in CNN, it said the Muslims threw the Christians overboard that made their way to Italy – – this is the world that every country, including the US, is now facing. Then you have Russia? What is the answer? The right politicians? To some extent – but a sickness of the soul – your words – is a bigger problem. On another note, speaking of spiritual sickness, they can’t address the problem of evil getting a bigger foothold faster in the churches – it is gaining by leaps and bounds – is anyone surprised? Here is a quote from the church:

    “It’s becoming a pastoral emergency,” Cascioli told CNA. “At the moment the number of disturbances of extraordinary demonic activity is on the rise.”

    Whatever your personal opinion or belief, or lack of, we can all agree things are not going well – what to do? Again, your book is hard to read, but you spelled it out how many years ago?? And so here we are.

    One more note: You also wrote about Thatcher – like her or hate her, she called evil by name – so did Reagan – and it worked for a time – you cannot fight against something you cannot identify by name – political correctness continues to allow a soft approach to the battle.

    • #15
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:14 am
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  16. Member

    The first is certainly plausible. More plausible than a comic book villain antipathy to the US as it was and as it is.

    The second is damning. And true. And unnecessary. It didn’t have to be that way. Whatever your views of President Bush and Iraq or Afghanistan, we were in a strong position when President Obama took the reigns. At the very least we had a strategic position in a volatile and important region of the world, but more importantly we had a real chance to help a democratic ally grow in the region (what better way to capture the energy of the Arab Spring?) and help to really change the bad old dynamic for the better. As the author says: “The United States has picked the Resistance axis over helping potential democracies to grow.” Disgusting.

    • #16
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:24 am
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  17. Member

    The third, I don’t know. Failures, or refusal to follow through? Failures, or inconsistency at the highest strategic levels?

    The fourth: I don’t agree. We lost more than they won. I know this is often used by the losers to rationalize and soothe the ego a bit, but I think it’s absolutely true here. This has nothing to do with bin laden being a master while Bush and Obama are fools in comparison. I think President Bush understood the position exceedingly well and concluded that we’ll never get to the end of the long road unless someone decides to start walking it – he wasn’t going to keep stalling especially since stalling was becoming more difficult to do. President Obama, on the other hand, I’m not sure yet why he’s doing what he’s doing. I do know that he simply discarded the hard won achievements and then went in the opposite direction.

    • #17
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:24 am
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  18. Member

    I certainly think Obama loves America, just not the one I love.

    He was steeped in revolutionary, Progressivism right from the cradle.

    His mom with her penchant for foreign, radical men.

    Grandpa with his choice of a Black revolutionary as his mentor.

    Off to college and law school and his Marxist professors.

    When he set out to “organize”, his allies were the Chicago Proressives, headed by Ayers and Dohrn and “New Party” Socialists. Knowing to fit in with Chicago’s mainstream Black community he knew he would have to “Churchify”, so he found the Reverend Wright’s Liberation Theology Church.

    And we put, what amounts to the Perfect Manchurian candidate into the White House. Twice. He told us he would “Fundamentally tranform America”. He meant it.

    • #18
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:28 am
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  19. Member

    A small America means that Latvia has nukes. Or doesn’t exist. Make a list of countries in a similar place, and argue that the world would be a better place.

    Obama is typical of a large slice of elite thinkers who believe that people can get along peacefully all the while conducting campaigns of personal destruction as they go about their business. They actually believe that people do well due to ‘ privilege’ as opposed to hard work and application of skill, so they think the well can never be overdrawn. They hate the postwar security apparatus.

    So they tear down these structures, viciously attack those who object and then scramble to justify and spin the ensuring chaos.

    Life is nasty, brutish and short except for the generations of effort to make it not so. Guess what happens places that Obama and his ilk have their way?

    • #19
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:30 am
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  20. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Front Seat Cat:Whatever your personal opinion or belief, or lack of, we can all agree things are not going well – what to do?

    I wish I knew. When I wrote about Europe, I really didn’t anticipate how much America would change in the coming decade.

    And when I see things like this–and yes, I know how easy it is to find people on the street and edit the footage selectively to suggest that everyone’s an idiot, but I suspect this is not too far from the truth–I just feel dread. And shame.

    • #20
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:32 am
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  21. Member

    Claire Berlinski:David Samuels writes what I suspect we all think deep down. Bin Laden won.

    The point of September 11 wasn’t to terrorize the West. It was to get the U.S. out of the Muslim world—and it worked:

    The evening of Sept 11, I was writing that I feared the US had been attacked from a direction that was a complete blind spot for us, and we would have great difficulty dealing with an attack from a religion that was also a political system. Our history of separation of church and state made this almost impossible to formulate a rational strategy. To this day we still can’t come to grips with the facts, witness the current govenment not even being able to utter the words “Islamic terrorists”. We will call it workplace violence, or random acts of terror. We will attribute it to poverty and lack of opportunity. But we won’t face the fact that a large chunk of the worlds Muslims want to destroy us and our allies and base that on their sincere interpertation of the Koran, despite what that noted Islamic scolar, Mr Obama might say.

    • #21
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:38 am
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  22. Inactive

    On whether Obama loves America, my take has been that he (and the far left generally) love America the way a rebellious teenager loves their parent.

    Sure they love it (it’s the only home they’ve ever had), but they are embarrassed by it and don’t want to be seen with it in public, and wonder why it has to be so stupid, and why it can’t be cool like France or Sweden.

    • #22
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:38 am
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  23. Member

    Claire, I wish you would re-issue Menace in Europe (under a new title) with a concluding chapter on to what extent the situation in the US is different from / similar to that in Europe. Maybe a discussion thread here on that topic, if that would help.

    • #23
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:44 am
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  24. Thatcher

    Claire Berlinski:

    Front Seat Cat:Whatever your personal opinion or belief, or lack of, we can all agree things are not going well – what to do?

    I wish I knew. When I wrote about Europe, I really didn’t anticipate how much America would change in the coming decade.

    And when I see things like this–and yes, I know how easy it is to find people on the street and edit the footage selectively to suggest that everyone’s an idiot, but I suspect this is not too far from the truth–I just feel dread. And shame.

    Claire – this is what I was trying to get at in my comment above. Foreign policy cannot be discussed without its domestic context. The important thing for all of us is this ongoing transformation of America. The cause is not Obama alone, but his election let tendencies that have been building over a period of decades to finally break into the open (perhaps the better term is “the poisons hatched”). Like it or not our main struggle is domestic, not foreign. Whatever changes in foreign policy might take place under a new administration will, in reality, come to naught if America continues to be hollowed out and that vacuum filled with different values.

    • #24
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:44 am
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  25. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Mark: Claire – this is what I was trying to get at in my comment above. Foreign policy cannot be discussed without its domestic context.

    I see what you mean now, and I agree.

    The important thing for all of us is this ongoing transformation of America. The cause is not Obama alone, but his election let tendencies that have been building over a period of decades to finally break into the open (perhaps the better term is “the poisons hatched”).

    Yes. I wouldn’t discount the effect of the recession, either. It seems to have caused a tremendous collapse in cultural confidence.

    Like it or not our main struggle is domestic, not foreign. Whatever changes in foreign policy might take place under a new administration will, in reality, come to naught if America continues to be hollowed out and that vacuum filled with different values.

    • #25
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:48 am
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  26. Inactive

    I do think that bin Laden was right in one sense. America doesn’t have the stomach for a long or a dirty fight.

    You might think that’s a reflection of the Left, what with their hippy anti-war history. But I think it’s much more a reflection of the Reagan Defense establishment. It was Colin Powell who is now famous for demanding that we use overwhelming force and have a clear exit strategy, but I remember it being it the working philosophy of Caspar Weinberger. Especially after the first Gulf War, America’s defense policy was to fight only if we could win in three weeks with minimal casualties. We would only fight if the fight was easy.

    Guess what? The enemy adjusted. Now they want to make the fight dirty, and make it long, and make it hard.

    I think the Obama plan is based on the idea that a long dirty fight is too expensive, and he doubts we should we fight on behalf of the rest of the world, spending all our dollars that could be going to domestic problems, and getting our soldiers killed, when the rest of the world sits on the sideline and is happy to let us pay the price. So, he wants us out. Let them fight for themselves.

    My rebuttal is that the reason the rest of the world lets America do all the fighting is that, since the end of WW2, we were the ones who wanted it that way. We disarmed the West, essentially, in exchange for letting us carry the burden of defense. That strategy has essentially kept the West unified and peaceful, and kept a unified front against communism, so it basically worked. But the enemy adjusted, and we have to adjust to it, not pretend we don’t habve that responsibility. We can’t turn around now and abandon that responsibility just because the fighting gets dirty.

    • #26
    • April 18, 2015 at 10:51 am
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  27. Member

    After having read the third piece in full, it too sounds like an accurate retelling.

    • #27
    • April 18, 2015 at 11:06 am
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  28. Member

    Guy Incognito:On whether Obama loves America, my take has been that he (and the far left generally) love America the way a rebellious teenager loves their parent.

    Sure they love it (it’s the only home they’ve ever had), but they are embarrassed by it and don’t want to be seen with it in public, and wonder why it has to be so stupid, and why it can’t be cool like France or Sweden.

    Honestly, I think you are wrong on this. The Left does hate America.

    Comedian/political pundit Evan Sayet had a great analogy: Suppose you had a friend named Sal. Sal is always complaining about his wife- she spends too much, she’s always nagging, etc. But you figure, deep down Sal really loves his wife even if he is always complaining about her.

    Then one day, you two are in a diner having lunch and you see Sal’s wife being attacked across the street.

    “Sal!” you say, “Your wife is being attacked! We have to help her, she could be killed.”

    And Sal just says “Screw her,” and finishes his lunch.

    Then you know that, deep down, Sal really hates his wife.

    Deep down, the Left really hates America.

    • #28
    • April 18, 2015 at 11:24 am
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  29. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    billy:

    Deep down, the Left really hates America.

    It seems to me the Left is now America.

    Does that mean we deep down hate it, now?

    • #29
    • April 18, 2015 at 11:31 am
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  30. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski:

    Front Seat Cat:Whatever your personal opinion or belief, or lack of, we can all agree things are not going well – what to do?

    I wish I knew. When I wrote about Europe, I really didn’t anticipate how much America would change in the coming decade.

    And when I see things like this–and yes, I know how easy it is to find people on the street and edit the footage selectively to suggest that everyone’s an idiot, but I suspect this is not too far from the truth–I just feel dread. And shame.

    Claire,

    I am embarrassed, but not surprised that this video was filmed at my alma mater. Young empty minds getting filled with mush.

    • #30
    • April 18, 2015 at 11:39 am
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