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Change, Weakness, Disaster, Obama: Answers from Victor Davis Hanson

Pajamas Media's VDH dissects the ups and downs — but mostly downs — of Obama's first year.

by
Bernard Chapin

Bio

December 7, 2009 - 12:00 am
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“VDH” are three letters that may appear random to the general public, but for conservatives they have definite meaning. They signify the person of Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. The scholar, professor, and political pundit is especially well known to readers of PJ Media. His blog consistently enriches the homepage and enlightens friend and foe. Dr. Hanson’s latest book, How the Obama Administration Threatens Our National Security, illustrates the peril that America’s leftist, superficial commander-in-chief has produced. Both President Obama’s ignorance and ideology now endanger the nation’s autonomy along with the world’s peace.

BC: Dr. Hanson, first off, let me ask: do you think the president believes in the concept of American exceptionalism?

Dr. Hanson: Well, he answered that already: we Americans are exceptional only to the degree that every other country thinks it is exceptional: e.g., who can say whether Venezuelans, Iranians, or North Koreans are any different, better, or worse than Americans? Not in Obama’s multicultural, morally equivalent, and utopian world. (Privately, of course, Obama assumes that the White House, the big Air Force One jet, the Chicago mansion, and all the Obamas’ perks, past and present, accrue to those who live in an exceptional place, which operates on principles that are a little different from those found in Nigeria, Peru, or Albania.)

BC: Do you regard President Obama as an isolationist?

Dr. Hanson: Yes and no. He is a multicultural internationalist who yearns for the supremacy of the United Nations or its enlightened epigones, who would go around the world fining or arresting miscreant nations that leave too great a carbon footprint, are too profit-minded, or have committed an array of politically incorrect sins.

But in terms of America trying to maintain a global postwar order based on free commerce, consensual government, free markets, and personal freedom, well, yes, he’s opposed to that in theory, and in the concrete certainly would not have supported things like past intervention in Panama, Grenada, the Balkans, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Europe will soon at last get their wish of a truly multilateral America, where we are just one of many NATO partners which may or may not support them in the United Nations. And that should be interesting: they have not had an American president to the left of them since Franklin Roosevelt.

BC: Are we currently sending a message of weakness to our foes and allies? Can anything good result from President Obama’s marked submissiveness before the world?

Dr. Hanson: Obama is one bow and one apology away from a circus. The world can understand a kowtow gaffe to some Saudi royals, but not as part of a deliberate pattern. Ditto the mea culpas. Much of diplomacy rests on public perceptions, however trivial. We are now in a great waiting game, as regional hegemons, wishing to redraw the existing landscape — whether China, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, etc. — are just waiting to see who’s going to be the first to try Obama — and whether Obama really will be as tenuous as they expect. If he slips once, it will be 1979 redux, when we saw the rise of radical Islam, the Iranian hostage mess, the communist inroads in Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, etc.

BC: With what country then — Venezuela, Russia, Iran, etc. — do you believe his global repositioning will cause the most damage?

Dr. Hanson: I think all three. I would expect, in the next three years, Iran to get the bomb and begin to threaten ever so insidiously its Gulf neighborhood; Venezuela will probably cook up some scheme to do a punitive border raid into Colombia to apprise South America that U.S. friendship and values are liabilities; and Russia will continue its energy bullying of Eastern Europe, while insidiously pressuring autonomous former republics to get back in line with some sort of new Russian autocratic commonwealth. There’s an outside shot that North Korea might do something really stupid near the 38th parallel and China will ratchet up the pressure on Taiwan. India’s borders with both Pakistan and China will heat up. I think we got off the back of the tiger and now no one quite knows whom it will bite or when.

BC: Can Obama get any more mileage from his perpetually played “I’m not George W. Bush” card or is that card past its expiration date?

Dr. Hanson: Two considerations: 1) It’s hard (in addition to being shameless), after a year, for any president to keep scapegoating a prior administration. 2) I think he will drop the reset/“Bush did it” throat-clearing soon, as his polls continue to stay below 50 percent. In other words, it seems to be a losing trope, poll-wise. Americans hate whining and blame-gaming.

So the apologies and bows don’t go over well here at home; one more will be really toxic, politically speaking. Most are starting to see that our relations with Britain, Italy, Germany, or France are no better under Obama — and probably worse — than during the Bush administration.

If one were to ignore the media and international elites and the Western youth-obsessed culture, and just empirically ask: Does one-third of the planet in India and China respect the U.S. more or less under Obama? Is the anti-American, radical Islamic world more or less fearful of Obama’s or Bush’s America? Is an Ahmadinejad or Chavez more or less likely to make a risky move? — the answers would be pretty clear.

The world is still in its hope-and-change stupor, but slowly through the fog our allies (Britain, Colombia, Czech Republic, Israel, Poland, etc.) are seeing that they are now mere neutrals, while our enemies sense they are suddenly worthy of deference and attention. Why then be an ally when being an enemy is so much more fun?

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