President Obama’s Downsized Foreign Policy – Is It Conservative?


Obama & Abe Review Troops.Speaking ten years after the conclusion of the calamitous Crimean War, Conservative Prime Minister Lord Derby cautioned that foreign policy should avoid “quixotic action – inimical to the welfare of the country.” Six years later, in 1872, Conservative Party leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli spoke, “though so momentous are the consequences of the mismanagement of our foreign relations, no one thinks of them till the mischief occurs, and then it is found how the most vital consequences have been occasioned by the mere inadvertence.” With these statements in mind, one might question whether President Obama may have been channeling conservatives when he allegedly uttered his rule of foreign policy, “Don’t do stupid [expletive].”

Traditionally, conservatism has not valued bellicose talk nor attempted to find the next “Munich” behind every negotiation. All conflict was not seen as equal – and all agreements were not as tough as some may suggest. Instead, conservatives tried to see the bigger picture. Conservative foreign policy acknowledges power is precious and ephemeral and, thus, best applied sparingly, primarily to protect the nation’s sovereignty. Righteous, courageous, humanitarian, or moral crusades might have merit, but outlay must always adhere to dominion.

Prior to the 20th century, American foreign policy was by and large a bipartisan affair centered on nationalism, placing American interests first. It was one of realism; i.e., the belief that all states desire power and expansion for self-preservation. The United States foreign policy focused on preserving itself as it negotiated, intrigued, and fought its way westward. Teddy Roosevelt promoted the idea that national security is enhanced when power is distributed or balanced, and believed America must be a world power to ensure security. In 1919, Woodrow Wilson took a different approach advocating morals are universally valid and democracies quell the instinct for power (war), therefore the promotion of democracy and international conventions were the best tonics for peace. Conservatives looked askance at Wilson’s internationalist approach, claiming it would threaten American sovereignty and interests with entanglement. Realism, not internationalism, was their view.

Congratulations on Your New Job!


departmentseal2So, it’s Wednesday, November 9, 2016.

Perhaps you slept in, after staying up late to watch the results of the elections. The results are okay. They suggest shy grounds for hope among those of us who dearly love our country and pray it will retain those qualities that cause us to love it — or hope, at least, that it will continue to exist, because as you’ve probably noticed, things are getting awfully hairy out there, and we’re all kind of wondering.

The phone rings. You answer groggily, but you pull yourself together fast when you realize, to your surprise, that the voice on the other end of the phone is the president-elect’s. For a second, you’re baffled — is this a hoax? Why me? — but no, the voice quickly persuades you that it’s not a joke at all: He (or she) has been reading you on Ricochet, likes the cut of your jib, and feels you couldn’t possibly make a worse hash of our foreign policy than the last few we’ve had, so why not?

The Libertarian Podcast: “Foreign Policy, Global Warming, and the Pope”


In the first of a two-part series responding to Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States, Professor Epstein looks at the pontiff’s statements regarding the crisis in Syria, climate change, and — that old Epstein chestnut — creating markets for organ donations. Listen in below (or subscribe via iTunes) and come back next week for a full episode on Francis’ views on economics and the poor.

A Rotting Sofa That Seats 193


Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.comYears ago, I asked my father why a ratty old sofa was still in the house. He replied simply: “It’s there because it’s there.” The words had a strange finality about them. Almost metaphysical in their profundity. What we were talking about was a sofa purchased years ago, used and abused by the family, and then unceremonious shunted into an obscure room when the newer model arrived. As I recall. on delivery day there had been talk of carting away the ratty old sofa. The haulers had offered to take it, for a price. My father balked and so it has remained. A dusty old sofa living out its days, slowly crumbling into the parquet.

The philosophy of furnishing a suburban home is important. It reveals something about the human psyche. When we spend a lot of time and effort bringing something into our lives, we become reluctant to dispense with it. When that particular something is a big and bulky item, requiring great effort to remove, lethargy places its death grip upon it. Think of how many things in your life where you can say that “It’s there because it’s there.”

Gingerly moving from the life of individuals to the life of nations we run into the same problem. Things that are there because no one has bothered to get rid of them. In the dim and distant recesses of the national memory a purpose was once understood. That purpose is long done and gone. Habit and lethargy defend the otherwise indefensible. This brings us to the ratty old sofa of geopolitics: the United Nations.

Czar Wars


King-World-News-Paul-Craig-Roberts-Putins-Ultimate-Move-To-Crush-The-EU-And-NATO1-1728x800_c-840x420I don’t mean to ruin anyone’s morale, but I’m going to, anyway. I understand that some of you may be thinking, “Why not let Putin fight ISIS? Better him than us, wouldn’t you say? Especially since all we seem to be able to do is make more of them. Right?”

Well, sure, if that’s what he were doing. But it’s not.

MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor fighter jets, Su-30 fighters, Su-25 attack planes, Su-24 bombers, Su-34 bombers, Su-27 Flanker interceptor fighter jets, an Il-20 spy plane, armored vehicles, and SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles? As David Axe puts it (understatedly) that’s “not really optimal for attacking lightly armed insurgent fighters.” And as he further notes, correctly, “Surface-to-air missiles are only good for destroying enemy aircraft, which Syrian rebels do not possess. And the Su-30s are best suited for tangling with other high-tech forces.”

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review are encouraged by some of the conservative names being considered for House majority leader.  They also shudder as Vladimir Putin swoops in as leader on the world stage as Obama retreats.  And they shake their heads as Obama warns Iran that shouting “Death to America” doesn’t create jobs.

Investigators, State Department Release New Hillary Emails


Hillary-Clinton-angry3Reach deep into the darkest recesses of your memories — way back in the distant past of August 8. A film called Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was in the theaters, there was a war going on in Syria, and Donald Trump was making rude comments about reporters and Republicans.

Back in that sepia-toned era, Hillary Clinton issued a sworn declaration that she had turned over all her work-related emails to the State Department. Yes, she might have wiped her server free of Groupons from Chipotle and Bikram Yoga, but under threat of perjury she promised to have been completely forthcoming in her official communications.

Yeah, about that:

In Afghanistan, Do the Wrong Thing, They Command


KANDAHAR: ISAF Forces talk to children on the side of the road on May 14, 2010 in Kandahar Province Afghanistan. Nate Derrick /

On September 20, the New York Times published a story titled “U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies.”  In it, writer Joseph Goldstein details the sickening culture in Afghanistan of child rape by members of the Afghan military:

The Death of the Dream of a United Europe


End of EUOn Tuesday afternoon, EU Interior ministers forced through a plan, by majority vote, to relocate 120,000 refugees now in Greece, Italy, and Hungary among the rest of the EU nations. Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic voted against mandatory quotas, and Finland abstained. I say “forced,” because this deal was surrounded by an unusual amount of EU-infighting and controversy.

Earlier this month, Germany unexpectedly reintroduced temporary controls on its border with Austria, and suspended all train travel between the countries for a full day, citing the consistently high inflow of refugees into the country. The member states saw this as a clear signal from Germany that it would not stand alone in bearing the burden of the crisis. The decision followed widespread criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s handling of the crisis from within her own ranks, with former ministers calling the Chancellor  “starry eyed,” and warning that opening the borders to uncontrolled and unregistered immigrants would have devastating long-term consequences. According to the German Press Agency, the German vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, wrote to SPD party members announcing that Germany may now expect up to one million refugees instead of the 800,000 formerly forecasted by the Interior Ministry.

The EU’s interior ministers have been meeting for the past weeks in an attempt to break the deadlock, with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia against the proposed mandatory burden-sharing. European Council President Donald Tusk said that if a consensus couldn’t be reached, countries that support the Commission’s proposals ought to force those who oppose to comply through qualified majority voting and by withholding funds and benefits.

Europe, the Refugee Crisis, and Conservatives


web-refugee-crisis-5-epaI noticed yesterday on the Member Feed that Ricochet member F-18 was wondering why we hadn’t been discussing the refugee crisis on Ricochet. In fact, we have — quite a bit — but he’s right that some of the most interesting discussions have been coming up in the comment threads, and thus aren’t so easy to find.

I’m in Europe now, and was living in Turkey as the Syrian war began and the refugees began streaming across the border. So I thought I’d open this thread to anyone who wants to ask questions about what exactly happened and what’s happening now in Europe.

Before that, though, I thought I’d put up links to some of the posts I wrote here on Ricochet as the crisis began. It would take you a few hours to read them all and watch all of the video interviews, but if you have them to spare, you might find them useful: You can see from them how absolutely clear it was, even in 2011, that a disaster of this scale was inevitable.

The Sun Rises in the East?


640px-Flag_of_Japan.svgSince its defeat in the Second World War and the adoption of its 1947 Constitution, Japan — the World’s third (formerly, second) largest economy, and a country with one of the longest and proudest warrior cultures in history — has essentially adopted the military policy of Switzerland. Apparently, no more:

[Prime Minister Shinzō] Abe’s coalition pushed through the legislation a day and a half after a wrestling match in a parliamentary committee, where burly ruling-coalition lawmakers warded off opposition members who swarmed around the committee chairman in an attempt to block passage. For the first time in the 70 years since World War II, the new laws will give the government power to use the military in overseas conflicts even if Japan itself isn’t under attack. Mr. Abe said that will make possible a closer alliance with the U.S. in cases such as a war on the Korean peninsula or a blockage of sea lanes that threatened Japan’s security.

A few things of note:

Trump National Security Speech


I finally got around to watching Trump’s speech last night on the deck of the USS Iowa, and I thought he knocked it out of the park. It was billed as a speech on national security issues, so I was expecting something with depth and gravitas about the myriad issues facing our country, and a few essential details about how we can bring things around in the Middle East, Ukraine, China, and other national security issues. I was not disappointed. I took down pretty much every point Trump made, and I was impressed. The man is in command of the issues.

Here are the points that he made in his first important national security speech:

The Libertarian Podcast, with Richard Epstein: “US Global Leadership and the Refugee Crisis”


How much of the responsibility for the refugee crisis currently roiling Europe falls on the United States? What kind of legal and moral obligations do we have to international populations that have suffered as a result of decisions we have (or haven’t) made? And what lessons ought we to take for American foreign policy from the present chaos in the Middle East? Those are some of the questions I take up with Professor Epstein on this week’s installment of The Libertarian, which you can listen to below or by subscribing to the series via iTunes.

The Axis of Obama


Kim Jong-Un: “Ready to strike the West at any time”. Picture courtesy of – Getty Images

Kim Jong-Un claims his country now has full nuclear capabilities. How much of this saber rattling is due to the pusillanimous Iran Deal?

The Shortcomings of Obama’s Foreign Policy


ObamaPodiumAs refugees from the Middle East continue to pour into Europe, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that this is all a predictable consequence of President Obama’s foreign policy (or lack thereof). As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas:

Though few predicted the rapidity with which the situation would degenerate, it was easy to see that some disaster would soon strike. Why? Because the President does not believe in Pax Americana, the foreign policy approach that states that world peace can only be obtained if the United States is prepared to use force to crush—not just degrade—those that pose a threat to the lives of millions of people across the globe. Make the United States a bystander, and evil nations will wreak havoc on the international scene.

It does not really matter how or why the President came to think that he could secure world peace on the cheap. But the key point is that whenever he is faced with major foreign policy problems, his first move is to take a pot shot at the United States in particular and Western civilization in general. It was not just a verbal slip, but a planned speech, when the President at the National Prayer Meeting breakfast in February 2015 uttered this flip but fatal remark: “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

The Classicist Podcast, with Victor Davis Hanson: “9/11: Then and Now”


On a special installment of The Classicist podcast from the Hoover Institution, I lead VDH in a reflection on 9/11 and the 14 years that have passed in the interim. Why did America get blindsided in 2001? How have we managed to remain relatively safe over a decade-and-a-half where we’ve had two presidents with dramatically different approaches to foreign affairs? Is the threat from radical Islam more or less acute than it was in the aftermath of the attacks? All that and more below or when you subscribe to The Classicist via iTunes.

The Strategika Podcast: Walter Russell Mead on the Feasibility of the Iran Deal


In this final installment of the new series of Strategika podcasts from the Hoover Institution, I talk with the great Walter Russell Mead — Bard College professor, Distinguished Scholar at the Hudson Institute, and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest. What ensues is a wide-ranging discussion over the Iran deal. What’s the strategic calculus for the leadership in Tehran? What’s President Obama’s theory of the case? And how likely is it that this agreement gets us closer to war rather than further away? Find out below or by subscribing to Strategika via iTunes.

Remembering 9/11 and 9/10


Nuke-deal-negotiators2ipad_635x250_1436869560.gifI really don’t give a damn what Donald Trump said about Carly Fiorina’s face. Nor do I much care about what he might have said before about Dr. Carson. Those, and a few other tidbits, seem to be what the media consider important and feed us. The only importance they seem to attach to dissent about the administration’s collaboration (and yes, that is what it is) with Iran is to discredit it.

Today we remember the impact of the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001. Those attacks were an important turning point. The impact of those events seems, to some, to have only lasted only a brief historical moment. Perhaps.

But make no mistake: On September 10, 2015 — yesterday — the world really did change forever.

Remembering 9/11: Glen Cove Ferry


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was 22 years old and living in my first apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. My parents just moved down to North Carolina that June and my sister lived in Colorado; my brother was living in Rockland, so I wasn’t completely alone, but I kind of felt that way. On September 10, I started a new job as a deck hand on a ferry that went from Glen Cove on Long Island to downtown Manhattan. It was an amazing job, and super easy. We left Glen Cove at around 7:30 AM and got to the downtown dock an hour later so the high-end customers could get to their desks before the morning bell rang at the stock exchange. To reduce fuel costs, we docked at Liberty Landing in New Jersey instead of shelping back to Long Island and waited until the evening run at 5:30 PM. Like I said, super easy, and I got paid for that entire time. It was a great job, on a great day. A friend of mine from school who helped me land the job and I watched the buzzing downtown of Manhattan with the Twin Towers as an amazing backdrop on a beautiful, cloudless day, very similar to the one that followed it when all hell would break loose. September 10, 2001 was a day of promises and new beginnings for me.

I was not scheduled to work the next day, so I slept-in. I was woken up by my phone ringing, several times. Finally I picked the phone up around 10:00 AM. It was my boyfriend — now, my husband — calling me. “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling and calling. Your mom even called me.” It takes me a bit to get my faculties together when I wake up so it was a while before I could say more than “Huh, what?” He went on to explain what happened. I know it may seem unbelievable that someone could be unaware that that all hell was breaking loose a mere five miles south of her, but all was peace in my neck of the woods until I heard the military jets flying overhead. When I finally got my TV to work and found the news, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. What do you mean planes flew into the Twin Towers and they collapsed? How is that possible? That doesn’t happen in real life.

I checked my answering machine and saw I had 67 messages. They were from my mom, freaking out and trying to find out where I am. From my sister, my brother, aunts, uncles, and friends, all trying to find me. Friends asking if any of their family members had contacted me. The frantic note in everyone’s voice made it all the more real that wow, this is really happening. I finally dressed, called the ferry office, and told the dispatcher that I could come in if I was needed. She didn’t hesitate: “Come in,” she said. So I threw on some clothes, packed a bag (because I didn’t know how long this would be) and headed out the door.

Where Should They Go?


Last night on Fox News, Republican frontrunner (!) Donald Trump seemed to contradict his earlier position on the Syrian Civil War refugees now flooding through Europe. Just a week ago, he had suggested — vaguely — that the United States should take some of them in.

Last night, he was more emphatically against it, reiterating, among other things, that the richest states in the region — the Arab Gulf states — have yet to take in a single refugee. In this respect, at least, Trump is right in line with Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch: