Yesterday, I got around to reading Michael Crowley’s ‘We Caved’ : What happened when Barack Obama’s idealistic rhetoric collided with the cold realities of war and dictatorship in the Middle East and beyond. I recommend it. It’s a depressing look at what happens when the Progressive Ivory Tower meets the real world. Or if you don’t have time to read it, I can sum it up in one sentence: The Ivory Tower loses every time.
The article is filled with statements reflecting the fatal combination of cluelessness, hardcore ideology, and arrogance characterizing the Obama administration from its first day in office, and from the top man down. Even those who weren’t blinded by seeing their own glorious brilliance reflected back from the Ivory Tower’s windows were too damaged in other ways to change the horrible Obama dynamic.
The article begins with Obama’s many missteps in Egypt: First telling Mubarak, a long-time American and Israeli friend to leave because, despite his fair dealings abroad, he was a horrible man at home. Then inviting in Morsi, who was an enemy to America and Israel, and a horrible man at home. And finally trying to kneecap Sisi, despite the fact that he was once again a friend to America and Israel (although, as with all Egyptian leaders, a horrible man at home), as well as one of the few prominent Muslims to speak in favor of Islamic reform. Get a gander of this paragraph:
But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.
The above discussion actually makes John Kerry sound marginally intelligent. Any small outcroppings of intelligence and common sense emerging from Kerry’s fogged brain, however, were subordinated to his out-sized ego:
Kerry had an ally in Hagel, who had developed a relationship with Egypt’s top general. Both men believed they could moderate Sisi’s behavior. “Kerry thinks he can get guys to do things because they trust him, even if it’s not necessarily in their interest,” says one former State Department official. Hagel sent Sisi Ron Chernow’s 904-page biography of George Washington, urging him to read a chapter about Washington peacefully relinquishing the presidency.
Where in the world did Kerry get the idea that he’s charming and persuasive? That paragraph does, however, explain why Kerry thought that, after the Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Cache massacres, it would be a good idea to have James Taylor flown to Paris to sing “You’ve Got a Friend.” After all, that’s exactly the kind of thing a charming and trustworthy politician would do, right?
Hagel doesn’t come out of that paragraph smelling so good either. He really thought Sisi would be converted to Washington’s Enlightenment attitude — something that was the result of Washington’s lifetime commitment to higher principles and his deep understanding of political philosophy — by reading a chapter in a big book? And he actually thought that Sisi, dealing with cementing a political coup, would even take the time to sit and read it? There must be some serious dumb juice in Washington water.
The missteps, idiocies, cultural ignorance, political fear, ideological blindness, and other Obama-era madness go on and on in Crowley’s five page article. There’s a reason that, as we near the end of Obama’s presidency, we all feel as if the world is going to Hell in a hand basket — it is, and it’s due to a combination of Obama’s Ivory-Tower, ego-driven, rigid way of thinking. It’s American Leftist ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision writ large on the world stage.
For those who know history, this is a familiar pattern. Immediately after WWI, America also had a Leftist Ivory Tower president who was convinced that his moral righteousness and advanced intelligence would result in America being on the right side of history. What actually happened, though, was that the world ended up on the wrong side of WWII.
This is an obvious comparison for any history major, but it’s especially obvious to me because I’ve been reading Frederick Lews Allen’s delightful Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s, which he wrote in 1931, while the post-WWI era was still very fresh in his memory. The chapter on Wilson’s post-war machinations, all of which reflected Wilson’s belief that he was morally superior to and much more intelligent than any other world leader, is like deja vu all over again. “Yesterday” could as easily be 2009 as 1919. Here are a few choice quotations:
Since April, 1917, his will had been irresistible. In the United States open opposition to his leadership had been virtually stifled: it was unpatriotic to differ with the President. His message and speeches had set the tone of popular thought about American war aims and the terms of eventual peace. In Europe his eloquence had proved so effective that statesmen had followed his lead perforce and allowed the Armistice to be made upon his terms. All over the world there were millions upon millions of men and women to whom his words were as those of a Messiah. Now that he envisioned a new world order based upon a League of Nations, it seemed inevitable to him that he himself should go to Paris, exert this vast and beneficent power, and make the vision a reality.
(Allen, Frederick Lewis, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s, Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, pp. 19-20.)
The events of the next few weeks only confirmed him in this feeling. He toured France and England and Italy in incredible triumph. Never had such crowds greeted a foreigner on British soil. His progress through the streets of London could be likened only to a Coronation procession. In Italy the streets were black with people come to do him honor. “No one has ever had such cheers,” wrote William Bolitho; “I, who heard them in the streets of Paris, can never forget them in my life. I saw Foch pass, Clemenceau pass, Lloyd George, generals, returning troops, banners, but Wilson heard from his carriage something different, inhuman— or superhuman.” Seeing those overwhelming crowds and hearing their shouts of acclaim, how could Woodrow Wilson doubt that he was still invincible? If, when the Conference met, he could only speak so that they might hear, no diplomatists of the old order could withstand him. Destiny was taking him, and the whole world with him, toward a future bright with promise.
(Id. at pp. 20-21.)
Now that the Germans were beaten, a score of jealous European politicians were wondering what they could get out of the settlement at Paris for their own national ends and their own personal glory. They wanted to bring home the spoils of war. They heard the mob applaud Wilson, but they knew that mobs are fickle and would applaud annexations and punitive reparations with equal fervor. They went to Paris determined to make a peace which would give them plunder to take home.
And meanwhile in the Senate Chamber at Washington opposition to Wilson’s League and Wilson’s Fourteen Points increased in volume. As early as December 21, 1918, Henry Cabot Lodge, intellectual leader of the Republicans in the Senate, announced that the Senate had equal power with the President in treaty-making and should make its wishes known in advance of the negotiations.
(Id. at p. 21.)
The tide of events, had Wilson but known it, was turning against him. Human nature, the world over, was beginning to show a new side, as it has shown it at the end of every war in history. The compulsion for unity was gone, and division was taking its place. The compulsion for idealism was gone, and realism was in the ascendant.
(Id. at p. 22.)
[Destiny] worked also through the peculiar limitations in the mind and character of Woodrow Wilson himself. The very singleness of purpose, the very uncompromising quality of mind that had made him a great prophet, forced him to take upon his own shoulders at Paris an impossible burden of responsible negotiation. It prevented him from properly acquainting his colleagues with what he himself was doing at the sessions of the Council of Ten or the Council of Four, and from getting the full benefit of their suggestions and objections. It prevented him from taking the American correspondents at Paris into his confidence and thus gaining valuable support at home. It made him play a lone hand. Again, his intelligence was visual rather than oral. As Ray Stannard Baker has well put it, Wilson was “accustomed to getting his information, not from people, but out of books, documents, letters— the written word,” and consequently “underestimated the value of … human contacts.” At written negotiations he was a past master, but in the oral give and take about a small conference table he was at a disadvantage.
(Id. at p. 22.)
And on and on it goes. Page after page, it’s so easy to substitute Obama for Wilson. Obama is our era’s rigid Leftist academic idealist, incapable of understanding real people, natural dynamics, or cultures other than his own Ivory Tower purity. That kind of rigidity, of course, has horrific consequences. Had Wilson been a more flexible leader, he might have tempered the vengeful greed driving those European countries that won the enormously costly and destructive “Great War,” thereby enabling Germany to recover. A German recovery in the 1920s, of course, would almost certainly have prevented a Hitler.
Of course, Obama is no Wilson. He is, if anything, worse than Wilson. Despite his Leftism, Wilson loved America. He didn’t think it was an evil country that needed to be purged and purified. He thought it was a good country that could be even better. His problem after WWI was that he was so certain of his genius that he was unable to adapt to the shades of grey in the real world.
Obama on the other hand, genuinely hates America, and what it stands for. He’s repeatedly stated, both at home and abroad, that it’s a failed country, one that needs to have its wings clipped and be otherwise punished. Moreover, the sin is not limited to America. Her allies, especially Israel (that gosh-darned Bible-based nation), need to be brought down too.
Even as Obama works to diminish America and her allies, he has also taken it upon himself to heal the damaged psyches of totalitarian rogue notions — the kind that routinely kill and torture their own citizens and constantly look for new lands to conquer. If the Messiah improves their self-esteem, he believes, these now proud totalitarian lions will place themselves peacefully alongside the newly-created lamb-like nations, the ones that Obama has shorn of all defenses.
And yes, I recognize that I stretched that analogy a little too far, but you know what I mean.
Meanwhile, to take hold of another analogy, a much better one than mine, let’s talk for a minute about Obama’s willful blindness about the danger to the West from the simultaneously collapsing and expanding Muslim World. (It’s like the Muslim version of the Big Bang, complete with lots of Muslim-created explosions.)
To prevent scrutiny and action when it comes to Islamic terrorism, every time there’s an “Allahu Akbar” slaughter anywhere in the world, Obama hides behind the phrase “lone wolves.” In this way, his administration and its media enablers ignore the Islamic contend behind the thousands of Islam-inspired attacks the world over since 9/11. Gee, it’s funny how all those lone wolves march to the beat of the same Muslim drummer. The best description I’ve read to describe this bizarre phenomenon comes from a comment at this blog:
I think ISIS is less like a franchise, more like Uber. They provide the guidance, overall strategy, detailed instructions for various types of attack via social media and leave it to their followers to participate at their discretion. No pesky hierarchy and structured planning/management from afar. A vast army of “lone wolves.
Exactly. But Obama and his ilk won’t acknowledge branding here. They’ll continue to insist upon a thousand, ten thousand, coincidences. Because, like Wilson, they are blind. They have eyes, but cannot see, because their brains are tightly shut.
Because it’s an election year, 2016 is a pivot point in American and world history. And because the world has gone crazy, this is one of those pivot points that doesn’t pivot between binary choices, but instead offers multiple futures. Usually, the candidates on both sides are ideologically pretty close, although they’ll strain to point out differences between them and their fellow party members. In this election, though, the choices couldn’t be starker. The Democrats offer a hard-core, greedy, crazy man Communist or a hard-core, greedy, criminal woman fascist (she’s a crony capitalist and that is fascism).
The Republicans, meanwhile, offer Donald Trump, who knows little about the national and international world he wants to take on (although he promises to learn on the job, something that worked so well with Obama), but who has utterly destroyed the media’s PC stranglehold on honest discourse (which is why I both fear and respect Trump); Ted Cruz, a super smart, true constitutionalist, strong national security, who is hated by his fellow Senators, both because of his principles of his sometimes Machiavellian machinations, and who has to work hard (which he does) to attract the common man; and Marco Rubio, who is either a GOP hack with solid foreign policy credentials or a true conservative who screwed up once on immigration (I waffle on this).
Each of these candidates, if elected, promises a very different trajectory for America’s future. They are not different shades of the same color. They are different colors entirely. I understand that, even under the expanded executive office that Obama created, none of these candidates will have unlimited, dictatorial power. However, the candidate who wins because the majority of Americans voted for him (or her) will reflect the vision Americans have of themselves and their country at the end of the Obama era.