Victor Davis Hanson: Presidential Purpose?





[Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College.]

Whom is Barack Obama Afraid of? — Another Barack Obama

One of the reasons why President Obama may be hesitating to commit fully to a renewed Afghan front is that he is worried that political opportunists might seek to gain advantage by loud rhetoric that unfairly simplifies the bad and worse choices, that he, like all other presidents in time of war, are confronted with.

In other words, he fears someone very much like an on-the-rise Barack Obama himself — who in 2007 in loud fashion demanded that all combat brigades leave Iraq by March 2008 and then flat-out declared to the nation that "the surge is not working" (a mantra for months posted on his website until Trotskyized in summer 2008). Ditto all that with Guantanamo, elements of homeland security, and Iran — and one can see that Obama knows first-hand the opportunities for demagogic and unprincipled political ankle-biting that a decisive wartime president invites. After all, what president, after making a tough decision to surge into Afghanistan, wants a young charismatic rival barnstorming the nation, without evidence assuring the public that "the surge is not working!"

On Being Liked . . .

In one sense, we should all be happy that Obama — it is undeniable — has improved America's standing in the polls taken abroad.

But what might account for such a radical turn-about in America's image in such a short time, other than the fact that a young, charismatic, and eloquent African-American is now the titular head of the U.S. instead of an older, white, Christian guy with a Texas accent who says "nucular"? Not being George Bush helped, but there is clearly something more going on to account for such markedly improved attitudes about America.

I think the answer is pretty clear: The world likes us when we admit that it was a mistake to take out Saddam Hussein; it likes us when confess to two centuries of systematic sinning and agree that we are no longer all that exceptional; it likes us when we at least verbally agree to sign on to the mass transfers of wealth in cap-and-trade European-style environmentalism; it likes us when we talk up the U.N. and rejoin the Human Rights Commission; it likes us when we distance ourselves from the hated Zionist entity; the world also likes us when we reach out to Ahmadinejad, Assad, the Castros, Chavez, Putin, and other dictators and totalitarians that are the norms in much of the world; and it likes us when it feels that we are adopting more statist policies akin to many states abroad. In other words, the more we resemble at least some of the popular attitudes of those in Asia, Africa, South America, and in Europe, the more we are liked.

Do all that, and it doesn't much matter whether you support democratic movements, or give billions in AIDS relief to Africa, or help tens of thousands suffering from natural disasters, or have the most open and non-discriminatory immigration policy in the world.

The real key to being a popular America seems to be to empathize with non-Western totalitarians, to move away from Israel, and to suggest that criticism of the U.S. is right on — and, in other words, to end the two-centuries-long notion that what made the United States utterly unique and an oasis on the world scene was its often lonely antithesis to what went on almost everywhere else. Being popular is being like most others.

In the late nineteenth century, we were written off as a simmering cauldron of the world's unwanted by both Left and Right; by the 1930s we were odd man out in comparison to the strong-man wave that swept over Europe and much of Asia; in the 1940s–'80s, we were thought to be on the wrong side of the socialist euphoria of the Soviet- and Chinese-inspired Third World.

In each case, a singular constitution and tradition of freedom made us suspect in the eyes of others, and in turn wary of them as well. I guess now that "exceptionalism" has officially passed, we have become one with the world in spirit and attitude — and so have become liked as never before...

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Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 11/24/2009

Holbrooke said today they are going to triple the State Department civilians in Afghanistan by January, so it looks like Obama probably has decided to send 30,000 or 40,000 troops, despite his procrastination. And, yes, his enemies on the right and left will continue to show the faces of our dead troops on television every night and grind down his popularity, using the techniques invented by CBS 40 years ago, and used more recently to sustain Bush opposition and give courage to the enemy--for the purpose of electing an extreme leftist like Barack Obama!

He's probably a one term president, anyway. America cannot live with a guy who throws his arms around Hugo Chavez and the crackpots in Iran and North Korea, and who tries to restore the pink outlaw in Honduras.

His "cap and trade" hoax is now blown wide open, as are ACORN and the pro-union "stimumus" money. Banking, insurance and auto take-overs are decidedly unpopular. Enormous tax increases are looming. The health care take-over plan is a monstrosity which may just go away, or crash like a 5-year plan in the Soviet Union. Even Saturday Night Live is laughing at him, so the jury doesn't seem to be out any longer.

Why shouldn't he strike a blow for the Afghans, the Pakistanis, the safety of Americans and the world, by continuing to drain the swamp in the Middle East, a job which is now quite far and nobly advanced?

With Petraeus he already has his Gen. Grant, and the strategy to win. Obama might leave the White House in early 2013 with an Afghan success behind him--on what does not appear likely to be a long list.

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