“Détente through the looking glass” — Obama’s foreign policy
I’ll spell out my premise and then see if I can sell you on it: In the dystopian world Obama is creating, his foreign policy is the “looking glass” version of Kissinger’s détente. Obama sees himself creating a balance between the Middle East and the West that will lead to stability without war and eventually bring the Muslim nations closer in line with Western values, something he believes is a historic inevitability. In fact, his core Leftist ideology, coupled with his calamitous ignorance means that, rather than providing the West with breathing space to gather its resources even as our enemy’s inherent instability weakens it, Obama is pushing the West headlong into an Islamist-inspired Apocalypse.
Let’s start at the beginning.
By 1969, the Cold War had been going on for twenty-one years. The highlights of that twenty-one year period were as follows:
East Germany’s complete closure in 1949, withdrawing it from the West and enveloping it completely in the Soviet bloc.
The Korean “police action” from 1950 through 1953, during which 200,000 anti-communist troops died or vanished and an estimated 2.5 million Korean civilians (mostly in the north) had died. The communists lost an estimated 360,000 to 750,000 troops. It was no World War II, but it was a blood bath.
The Vietnam War, which began in 1955 and essentially took up where the Korean War left off — with the communists, both Soviet and Chinese, again making a play for control of East Asia, this time in Vietnam. U.S. involvement began under President Kennedy (Democrat) and escalated under President Johnson (Democrat). Although Kissinger and Nixon couldn’t know it at the time, the war would eventually cost almost 60,000 American lives, as well as the lives of another 480,000 to 800,000 anti-communist troops. On the Communist side, losses would total around 460,000 to 1,170,000 troops. Along the way, an unknown number of civilians would die, with the numbers ranging from 1,500,000 to 3,800,000 dead civilians. At the end of it all, Vietnam would fall, Cambodia would fall and, in a way, America would fall too. Again, not a World War II, but definitely a blood bath.
The Hungarian Revolution of 1956, during which Hungarians failed to shake off Soviet control. The result was that the Soviet Union clamped down even tighter on Central Europe.
The Cuban Missile Crisis, which saw a game of nuclear chicken between Kennedy and Khrushchev escalate to a point just short of nuclear war. The bloodbath was avoided, but Americans were desperately afraid. Remember: Duck and cover!!
The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which saw 250,000 troops from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland sneak into Czechoslovakia, stopping the nascent Prague Spring and ensuring that Czechoslovakia remained yet another nation firmly in the Soviet bloc.
In addition to the above events, the following other countries fell within the Soviet or Chinese communist sphere during that twenty-year period: Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. Half of Europe was locked behind the Iron Curtain, the pressure was on in East Asia and, although this wasn’t apparent at the start of détente, large sections of Africa and Latin America would come under Soviet control in the 1970s.
Offsetting the continued post-WWII rise of communism was the fact that America was booming, thanks in part to her resources (both human and natural) and to the fact that after WWII, she was one of the few intact nations in the world. These resources meant that, during the Cold War years, America fought on every front: she funded the free Western nations so that they could overcome the devastation wrought by war, she paid defense costs for these same countries, and she threw her own troops into the battles in the Far East. With America’s power, money, and anti-communist commitment, this was truly the era of the Pax Americana.
But after twenty-one years, things were stagnant. In the late 1960s, Henry Kissinger took a good hard look at the Cold War situation. He concluded that the Soviet Union had become a superpower and that America and the rest of the Western nations were near the limits of both their financial and military abilities. The West could maintain a standoff, but it could not win definitively against the communist hydra. Moreover, given the Soviet Union’s and America’s nuclear arsenals, total war was a very bad idea.
Kissinger was an anti-communist to the bone, so he wasn’t going to end containment (hence the decision to continue the fight in Vietnam), but he decided it was time to pursue the policy known as détente, or “relaxation.” Détente’s goal was to thaw out the Cold War a bit, lest escalation led to Armageddon. What supported this approach was the Nixon administration’s belief that, despite saber rattling, the Soviet Union and other communist nations were no more anxious for Armageddon than America was.
It was, if you will, a balancing act. A little war here; a little friendliness there. Each side both ready to fight and desperate to avoid the fight.
It’s unclear, at the end of the day, whether détente was a successful foreign policy or not. As I noted above, the Vietnam war continued for years (bringing in poor Cambodia), and the Soviet Union was able to bring substantial numbers of African and Latin American states into the communist fold.
On the other hand, perhaps it was a necessary pause, allowing America to gather her resources. When the USSR went into the black hole that is Afghanistan, at a time when the Soviet economy had definitively run out of other people’s money, America was perfectly situated under Ronald Reagan to strike. The arms race broke the Soviet economy and the Soviets, with both their troops and their national morale vanishing in Afghanistan, were ill-situated to carry out the proxy wars that dominated the Cold War era.
Whether détente was a necessary breather or a fool’s paradise, it was a completely rational decision at the time. Kissinger was never allowed ideological beliefs to blind him to facts. He was the ultimate realpolitik intellectual — irritatingly so for those who longed for a more robust response to Soviet expansionism. They saw détente as making a deal with the devil; Kissinger saw it as a necessary reprieve from endless wars against an equally matched enemy. (As the unbalanced fatalities listed above show — that is, always more communist troop deaths than Western troop deaths — what the communists lacked in money and weapons, they were more than willing to make up in bodies thrown in front of enemy fire.)
Before I get to Obama’s looking-glass twist on détente, let me reiterate what motivated Kissinger: A realistic look at the facts on the ground in the late 1960s and early 1970s showed that America and the Soviet Union were fairly equally matched. Kissinger, therefore, opted for a strategic thawing to stave off a possible war of attrition, similar to that seen in World War I, where two fairly equally matched sides could neither win nor stop fighting. (It’s reasonable to believe that, given enough time, Germany would have won, but that outcome was not certain. What was certain was that the U.S. functioned in some ways as the Deus ex Machina, stepping in and striking a necessary definitive blow in a war that had expended hundreds of thousands of lives over the same few square miles of ground.)
Obama, like the ill-educated and Leftist-educated man he is, has only the most superficial understanding of what constitutes détente: His foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and with Iran proves that, to him, it simply consists of reaching parity with the enemy, followed by a thawing, followed by the arc of justice and historic inevitability. A + B + C, plus a little bit of that ol’ Obama magic, and you’ve got the lion sleeping with the lamb around the world.
Armed with this “magic” formula, Obama managed to miss or misunderstand all of the really important stuff. Most significantly, he completely misunderstood that the parity with the enemy had to precede détente; indeed, had to be the driving force behind détente.
Because of this misperception, Obama made the deliberate (and insanely stupid) decision to weaken America and strengthen her enemies. He reduced the number of our troops, called down our weapons, and turned the military’s focus to climate change and gender equality. At the same time, he invested billions of dollars in Iran, while making no demands in exchange; bolstered the Muslim brotherhood; and allowed Syria to turn into an Islamic terrorist breeding ground.
Voila! Parity, Obama style. It takes a truly terrible leader to so thoroughly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Obama also missed entirely that we’re dealing with a different enemy than the one America faced in the Cold War. By the late 1960s, Kissinger had realized that the Cold War leaders were pragmatists. They wanted power, but not at the cost of their own lives.
Détente’s mutually assured destruction and thawing both worked because there were lines — nuclear lines — that neither the Soviet nor the American leaders ever wanted to cross. It’s one thing to carry on an old-fashioned ground war in some godforsaken jungle, even if a whole bunch of grunts and civilians die; it’s another thing for Moscow to be immolated. In a nuclear age, even the Soviets understood that all victories would be Pyrrhic ones.
Obama, being cut from the communist cloth, understands how the Soviet politburo thought. He too wants power, not death (at least not his own death). What Obama cannot comprehend, because faith is alien to him, is that religious faith, with its promise of an afterlife, is a much more potent motivator than here-and-now communism can ever be.
As we’ve seen repeatedly over the last few decades, Islam is generally a religion that rejoices in death, not just of the enemy, but of any Muslim fighting in Dar-al-Harb (the House of War). Islam is so overwhelmingly powerful that it sucks out of its most ardent followers what we in the West think is an intrinsic aspect of all sentient life on earth — the will to live. It’s different with fundamentalist Muslims. With the brainwashing starting in the cradle, and teaching a range of thought and action running from violence to total submission to Allah’s will, Islamic fanatics embrace death.
In addition to the generic Islamist death wish, the Shia branch of Islam, which controls Iran (the country to which Obama has given the gift of a nuclear future) is apocalyptic in nature. And again, because Obama is a singularly ill-informed man who resists any efforts to enlighten him with actual knowledge, he fails to understand the unique nature of Islamic apocalyptic doctrine.
Devout Christians know the Apocalypse is coming, but they do not believe that it is incumbent upon them to be the engines of the Apocalypse. Contrast this with fanatic Shia Muslims (i.e., those in charge of Iran’s soon-to-be nuclear arsenal). They believe that it is their responsibility to bring about the Apocalypse.
Specifically, Iran’s leaders anticipate the return of the twelfth or hidden iman in the form of the Imam al-Mahdi, meaning “the [divinely] guided one.” This belief is the core of the Twelvers’ belief — and Iranian leaders are Twelvers.
The Imam’s return, the Twelvers claim, will establish Islam as the world’s only religion. That’s bad enough but, unfortunately for those in the West, a subset of this belief is the Twelvers’ further belief that it is their responsibility to initiate the chaos out of which both the imam, as well as an Islamized Jesus Christ, will emerge.
What this Apocalyptic doctrine means, and what Obama cannot comprehend, is that, unlike the old Soviets, Twelvers don’t worry about the fact that, should they fire a nuclear weapon at Israel or Europe or the U.S., their own country will swiftly receive like treatment. Not only don’t they fear it, it’s want they want. Just think about what’s going on in the Middle East today and compare it to the portents the Twelvers advance as the signs of the coming Apocalypse:
- The vast majority of people who profess to be Muslim will be so only in name despite their practice of Islamic rites and it will be they who make war with the Mahdi.
- Before his coming will come the red death and the white death, killing two thirds of the world’s population. The red death signifies violence and the white death is plague. One third of the world’s population will die from the red death and the other third from the white death.
- Several figures will appear: the Al-Harth, Al-Mansur, Shuaib bin Saleh and the Sufyani.
- There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria, until it is destroyed.
- Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.
Syria is imploding, ISIS’s depredations are causing death and fear in Baghdad, Muslim hordes around the world are dealing out death and destruction, and Obama is helping Iran fund their red death. That’s exciting stuff for someone dreaming of imminent Armageddon. To the extent that Obama thinks that by making nice with the Iranians he can bring them into the American sphere of influence, he shows a profound inability to understand belief systems other than his own.
Obama also fails to grasp that Kissinger during the détente years could rely on an American sphere of influence. Back in the day, we truly supported our allies in every way. We funded them (no wonder they could afford to play around with their cozy European socialism) and we had their back.
Obama, in his anxiousness to decrease America’s power, has alienated our allies. He’s insulted them, broken promises to them, and left them believing that America isn’t just a weak reed, but an utterly unreliable reed that must be shunned. Putin is taking advantage of this dismay about American perfidy and is quickly reshaping allegiances the world over.
Comparing the two policy approaches side-by-side, one quickly sees the defining differences: Kissinger’s détente was built on the back of hard-headed pragmatism about the real world situation. Obama’s détente is built on a combination of ignorance and fantasy.
At best, Kissinger’s détente may have bought America time within which to strengthen her resources, even as the Soviet bloc, through a combination of hubris and the economic instabilities built into a centralized economy, fatally weakened. What started out as a military parity that Kissinger had no option but to address ended with America’s enemy in substantially worse shape than before. At worst, Kissinger’s détente allowed two pragmatic enemies, both of which were all right with killing each other but neither of which wanted to commit suicide, a chance to walk away from the precipice of all-out war.
Obama’s détente is the terrifying “looking glass” opposite of Kissinger’s. At the beginning of Obama’s administration, America, although tired from war was still at the top of her game: She had the biggest, best-equipped military in the world. Her economy, though badly shaken, still had the ability to recover. The Europeans, despite their endless condescending snideness, still looked to America for leadership. America’s allies outside of Western Europe (allies such as Poland or Israel) knew that they could count on America to protect them from the dangers just outside their borders. Iran had no nuclear weapons and the remainder of the Middle East was maintaining its usual messy stability.
Fast forward to today, when had seven years to create that parity he so badly wanted as a prerequisite for his version of détente: Our military is weakened; our economy staggers under the weight of endless unemployment and almost incalculable debt; our allies cannot trust us; Europe is witnessing a slo-mo invasion by America’s (and Europe’s) existential enemies; our borders are open to, and the Obama government is shipping in, those same enemies; our core civil rights are on the verge of being erased; the Middle East has gone from ugly but stable to hideous and completely unstable; and we are funding our enemies in their war against both us and our values throughout the world.
If directly challenged about his foreign policy (something Obama will never allow anyone to do), Obama could very well offer as his defense the fact that he’s doing nothing more than Nixon and Kissinger did back when Obama was a child — creating a window within which peace can develop — and that his political enemies didn’t complain then, and are only doing so now because they’re racists. He would find incomprehensible the charge that, when it comes to détente, Obama got everything wrong except the most simplistic definition of the term. Sadly, the price for Obama’s hubristic ignorance is one that America and the rest of the world may pay in decades of blood, pain, poverty, and death.