In the final weeks before the election I’ve been thinking long and hard about what the outcome could mean for the future of my country. Regardless of who wins, he will face a China that is bullying its neighbors into American arms, a Middle East that has become more radicalized not less, an Iranian nuke or a war started by Israel or the United States but blamed on the Great Satan regardless of which flag is painted on the bunker busters. The November winner will face a crumbling Europe, a soaring American debt that has become so big no one knows how to tame it, and a catatonic domestic economy. American education spends more than any nation in the world on its students yet they learn less. The weight of the pensions of Baby Boomers threatens to crush public spending, turning cities and states into mob enforcers who shake down the working, relatively poor young and pass the cash to the retiring relatively wealthy elderly.
I will leave the economic issues aside for the moment to focus on foreign policy. In my view with the exception of China, Obama has made all of these problems worse. But looking at these issues over the long-term, say through the remainder of this decade, would an Obama loss be really a victory for those of us who have opposed him every step of his way to the office he now holds?
China stands as perhaps the only issue I agree with the administration on. I’ve studied China and East Asia for decades, and recognize that handling a rising superpower is never easy, especially one with a 4,500 year history and cursed by a long, often twisted, memory. The Obama administration has attempted to encourage the rise of a peaceful, prosperous China that would take its place as an equal partner in the Pacific, but at the same time has worked to support our allies such as Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. It is an art more than a science, and while mistakes have been made by the Obama administration, they are to be expected in such a long-term important endeavor. The Chinese cannot understand why the United States would welcome a peaceful, prosperous and powerful China that is integrated with the rest of the world, and instead sees every American move through paranoid eyes and zero-sum calculations. We can’t do much to change this view of American policy in the Pacific, except by doing what this administration has done, setting policies that reassure our allies while encouraging the Chinese to play nice with others in the Pacific’s playground.
Unfortunately the tact, intelligence and real-politic shown by the Obama administration towards China has not been manifested anywhere else in the world. In the same way the reality of Iraq showed the folly of the neocon dream, the murder of our diplomat in Libya and the virulent anti-American nature of the “Arab Spring” has put paid to the dreams of Obama and his liberal eggheads. Obama believed that he alone could solve the Middle East problem with a grand speech in Cairo and apologies and bows to Arab leaders. He thought he could strong-arm Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, and that the Muslim world would see the wisdom of the Nobel committee’s awarding him his Peace Prize. He believed that once free from Iraq, he would be able to exit Afghanistan gracefully without fear of the Taliban taking it over and turning back the clock to 2000.
Nearly four years later America is even more hated than it was under the Bush administration. Iraq is becoming a satellite of Iran, allowing its Shiite neighbor unrestricted flights over its territory to resupply the Assad regime. Pakistan has degenerated into a pit of vipers that protected a man personally responsible for more American deaths than anyone since Ho Chi Minh and allowed Chinese to test a piece of top secret American gear left behind after its forces aired out his skull. Vast swathes of North Africa have been lost to al-Qaeda affiliated radicals including half of its most populous nation, Nigeria. Women are being secreted behind closed doors in Cairo and Tunis, as Egyptians copts are raped and terrorized out of their homes, putting an end to communities that date almost to the time of Christ. Liberals laughed when a man threw shoes at George W. Bush; they are oddly silent as they see Obama burned in effigy by crowds throughout the Middle East. Americans once were able to visit the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings; today members of the Egyptian government call for the destruction of the Pyramids and the State Dept warns Americans to avoid Egypt.
Hope and change.
The murder of the Libyan ambassador proves the Obama administration has failed to learn the lessons of 9-11. The average rapper has better security in Los Angeles than the Libyan ambassador. Threats against American interests there were ignored just as Bin Laden’s declaration of war against the US was in 1998. Many on the right including myself have given a pass to the Clinton administration for failing to imagine the attacks of 9-11 and stop them; today the Obama administration has no such excuses.
And speaking of silence, where is Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan and the other anti-war Left? Where are the anti-war drums that sounded for every dead Muslim civilian or American soldier arriving at Dover Air Force base in Delaware in the middle of the night? Where is the anger, the spiteful commentary of lost wars, the Vietnam comparisons that flowed thick through every mainstream news outlet during the Bush administration? As Walter Russell Mead notes, “If George W. Bush were president now, and had ordered the surge and was responsible for the strategic decisions taken and not taken in Afghanistan over the last four years, the mainstream press would be rubbing our noses in his miserable failures and inexcusable blunders 24/7. The New York Times and the Washington Post would be treating us to pictures of every fallen soldier. The PBS Newshour would feature nightly post-mortems on “America’s failed strategies in the Afghan War” and every arm-chair strategist in America would be filling the op-ed pages with the brilliant 20/20 hindsight ideas that our pathetic, clueless, failed president was too dumb and too cocky to have had.”
After his election I feared that Obama would weaken the position of the United States in the world. I envisioned Obama to be a pacifist who would gut our military, anger our friends and embolden our enemies. I was wrong about Obama’s pacifism; he may be a pacifist at heart but he has shown a willingness to kill America’s enemies that would make Dick Cheney offer him a high-five. Unfortunately he has succeeded in doing what I feared. Our alliances with our closest friends Australia, Canada and Great Britain are ignored. Our long-standing friendship with Israel rebuffed. A deep relationship with Egypt lost. Meanwhile Iran, North Korea and the socialist states in South America continue on as before, confident that the US lacks the resources to challenge them. As Machiavelli wrote “if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved.” Obama should play less golf and read more because he has failed to do either.
The only solace I can take is that the Obama administration has shown a willingness to kill our enemies. Bin Laden is crab food, and drone strikes and special operations continue worldwide. The administration avoids calling it by its name, but the Global War on Terrorism continues using the same methods and tactics that the Bush administration developed and supported. What Obama has not done is use his speech giving abilities to provide an explanation to the American people why the war continues, and show that he and his administration understand the existential threat posed by radical Islam. It is a shame because it is possible that a liberal like Obama could do more to protect and advance freedom in the world for the same reason that a cold warrior like President Nixon could open up to China: his base trusts him.
And this is what concerns me about a Romney victory. If Romney wins I would expect that the Democrats would stoke the flames of their anti-war brothers at a critical time in our history. War is Not the Answer bumperstickers would sprout on foreign cars. Colleges would be wracked by anti-war protests. We need a coherent strategy explained to the American people while continuing the fight against terrorists around the world. There is the potential for Obama to do that, and for his allies to keep their anti-war instincts at bay. Likewise I suppose it’s possible that Obama, having achieved his goal of reelection would simply allow his own pacifist instincts to rule the day, putting American in even more danger. But I would hope that four years of at least occasional Angry Birds free Intelligence Briefings would have convinced Obama the threat to our nation is real.
So it is possible that the best outcome is an Obama victory for those of us who believe in the primacy of the war against radical Islam. The continued media silence at dead terrorists may be worth the price of four more years of Obama. This of course will not change my vote in November, but it has given me something to think about.