Friday, February 5, 2010

Tyranny at Home, Naivete Abroad

Here are two of the wisest and most observant students of politics in our day commenting on President Obama's first year in office: Harvey Mansfield and Charles Krauthammer, a professor of government and a columnist.

In "What Obama Isn't Saying: The Apolitical Politics of Progressivism" (The Weekly Standard, Feb. 8, 2010), Professor Mansfield unpacks the President's progressive-tyrannical ambitions from his seemingly innocent statement, "I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last."

Obama is not our king. But he uses the monarchical branch of our republic without embarrassment to project the nonpartisan image of a monarch. He has not been a strong president; he has deferred to Congress, perhaps to his cost. But he likes the aura of monarchy and uses it skillfully to transcend partisan argument.

What every progressive wants is to put the particular issue he espouses beyond political dispute. ... Next to liberty of the mind, there is no more important liberty than political liberty. This means that no partisan victory is permanent and that we shall always return to different versions of the same questions. Progress can never make political liberty obsolete by solving the problems that we contend over. Those who want to put an issue like health care “beyond politics” simply want an imposed political solution to their liking.

Charles Krauthammer delivered the Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture at the Heritage Foundation on January 19, 2010. It is published as "The Age of Obama: Anno Domini 2." Pulling together the most stunning pronouncements from the the President's leading foreign policy statements leaves one with little more to say than, "God help us!" Krauthammer is not gentle in his responses.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo (Dec. 10, 2009), Obama defended the use of war and noted the existence of evil in the world:

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Krauthammer takes no comfort from this.

Indeed, when a President's recognition of evil or rejection of pacifism jumps out at us as something startling and novel, that tells us much--none of it good--about the baseline from which he is operating: the woolly internationalism Obama has been operating under during his first year in office.

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2009, President Obama told the world on our behalf:

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

I does not take a gifted political analyst to see the problems here. Nonetheless, here he is.

Where does one begin? Power is no longer a zero-sum game? Tell that to the demonstrators in the streets of Tehran. Tell that to the Tamil Tigers or to the newly liberated Baltic states.

No nation should try to dominate another? Perhaps, but that's merely adolescent utopianism. The world is a Hobbesian state of nature in which the struggle for domination is the very essence of international life.

No nation can dominate another? This is simple nonsense. How can a man of such intelligence-- and a president of the United States--even allow himself to utter these words?

But most disturbing is the notion that what he called "the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War" are obsolete and senseless. These cleavages were actually the dividing line between free and unfree, between democratic and Communist, between the West and an Evil Empire that had stamped out the face of freedom in half of Europe and in an archipelago of far-flung colonies from Vietnam to Cuba to Nicaragua.

This was no accidental dividing line. Yet in place of this so-called cleavage, Obama wants to bring about a new 21st-century world of universal understanding and accommodation. And for that, the U.S. is to be the facilitator, the healer, the interlocutor, the moral example--led, of course, by the man floating above it all, "a fellow citizen of the world," as he called himself in Berlin.

While we hoped that this was the height of the President's naivete, he has actually continued to climb. When you take a state senator and elevate him in short order to the White House you get community organizing as a model for international relations. Yes, literally. Read on.

And because good things come in three, go on to read Fouad Ajami's "The Spell is Broken" (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 2, 2010). "Mr. Obama himself authored the tale of his own political crisis. He had won an election, but he took it as a plebiscite granting him a writ to remake the basic political compact of this republic." He is following up on the essay he published just before the election, "Obama and the Politics of Crowds" (Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2008). Ajami knows a Third World demagogue when he sees one, but this one is finding himself out of place in this constitutional republic.

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