Victor Davis Hanson on "Obama's Foreign Policy Disasters" (Interview)Historians in the News
FP: Victor Davis Hanson, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
What report card would you give the Obama administration in terms of foreign policy right now? Why?
Hanson: An Incomplete that at the present rate will turn into a D/F if he is not careful.
Obama has confused a number of issues: intractable problems like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Islamic terrorism, etc. both pre- and post-dated George Bush; they present only bad and worse choices, and are predicated on different agendas of authoritarians that hinge on whether the United States can or cannot deter their regional megalomaniac dreams.
In the long-term, Obama's nontraditional heritage and charisma make little difference; on the other hand, serial apologies, "Bush did it", the "reset button" ad nauseam, trumpeting the "I was only (fill in the blank) when that happened" etc. have a brief shelf life, and achieve only a transitory buzz, similar to a Bono-celebrity tour.
He needs to cut out the messianic style, and realize that millions of brave souls, who invest at great danger in democracy, freedom, open markets, etc. around the world, count on an American President for moral support and guidance against a bullying Russia, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Chavez's thugs, Castro jailers, et al.
When they see Obama's moral equivalence, they realize they are on their own and must cut their own deals to survive--understanding that multicultural trendiness is now a cynical cover for moral laxity and 'can't we all get along?' appeasement. So by all means smile and shake hands, but don't confuse that for tough diplomacy or protecting American global interests. Increasing the Bush billion-dollar deficit to $1.7, with another $9 trillion in additional aggregate debt will very soon curtail American options abroad, and our enemies are now waiting for opportune moments for exploitation.
FP: What danger does Putin’s regime pose to the West? What is your recommendation in terms of U.S. policy toward Putin? What mistakes has the new administration made so far in that department? For instance, in terms of the reset button fiasco, it means that the Obama team doesn’t even have a sound translator on hand. This is real grounds for worry, yes?
Hanson: We have three or four broad aims at this juncture: one, to ensure that former Soviet republics, which on their free accord sought integration with the West -- the Baltic Republics, Ukraine, Georgia, etc. -- are not forced back into a Russian Empire against their will; that Eastern European states remain autonomous and free to protect themselves from Iranian nuclear blackmail should they wish anti-ballistic missile protection; that Russia understands that there will be consequences if its technology ensures an Iranian bomb; and that Europe has assurances of support should Russia engage in energy blackmail—or worse.
Putin et al. know that their brinksmanship agendas were not predicated on Bush's smoke 'em out lingo; so to suggest Bush's tough talk, even if gratuitous in the first team, created crises where they otherwise did not exist, is absurd. Ms. Clinton—completely marginalized so far by Obama's obsessive need to bask in the pop-star limelight abroad—should know that. She has competent advisors; I cannot believe they really fall for the campaign mode nonsense that their sensitivity and diplomatic adroitness ipsis factis will translate into either friendship or better Russian behavior.
FP: The Obama administration apparently is set to give 900 million to Hamas. In other words, they want to give money to the Palestinian Nazi Party. What do you make of this? What must Obama do toward Hamas, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, etc? Do you think he will do it and/or is he even capable or cognizant of what is actually going on and what is at stake?
Hanson: I am very worried. Israel I think is alone now. The failed Freeman appointment, the historically puerile al-Arabiya interview (cf. e.g., Obama's praise of the good ole days, some thirty years ago, when Sadat was murdered, Khomeini took over, Saddam was flexing his muscles, Americans were routinely murdered, etc.) the Samantha Power appointment, the 'outreach' to Syria, the video for Iran, the Gaza/Hamas rebuilding, the tough behind-the-scenes lectures to Israel—all this bodes ill.
Does Team Obama really believe that a murderous autocratic cabal like Hamas is merely different from a democratic constitutional republic like Israel? At best we have naiveté at the helm (Obama thinks he can mesmerize misunderstood killers), at worst, a genuine feeling that Israel is an aggressive, Western imperialist power exploiting indigenous people of color who simply wish to be free--in other words, the Rev. Wright-Bill Ayers-Rashid Khalidi view of the Middle East.
FP: What did you make of Obama’s Chavez meeting and his new disposition toward Latin America? Perhaps it is time to try something new?
Hanson: Not really. We stand for open markets, free trade, personal freedom, human rights, and consensual government. Others like Castro, Morales, Chavez, and Ortega simply don't. Why would anyone any more believe these thugs, who justify their lust for power by the age-old mantra of "we suffer for the people", as they try to engineer an equality of result--through any means necessary, with all power and prestige going to themselves?
They will say anything to blame a successful U.S., to rationalize the self-inflicted misery and failure of Latin America. Shaking Chavez's hand is a minor lapse if that; but in aggregate, the continuance of the glad-handing, trashing the US, showcasing his racial solidarity, listening to Ortega's rant, photo-oping with thugs--all that does two things abroad: first, it undercuts brave democrats in places like Columbia and elsewhere in Central America; two, it sends a message to fence-sitters in more important states like Peru, Brazil, Chile, etc. that authoritarian socialism, not free-market democracy, is now the wave of the future, and so they better get with the new neighborhood–or else!
FP: What do you think is the greatest threat right now facing the U.S. , Israel and the West?
Hanson: We have three: one, we have mortgaged our options to the Chinese and other debt holders. By going into $20 trillion in aggregate debt we will cut our military, pull back, dress it up with utopian rhetoric, and cede huge areas of the globe over to regional autocracies.
Second, some are already prepping for the Iranian catastrophe to come, by talking of "containing" Iran, as if we have given up on embargoing, blockading, and other more severe 11th hour measures to stop a Khomeinist nuke. Once that happens the Arab Sunni states will rush to get a bomb, Israel will be periodically blackmailed as Hamas, Hezbollah, etc will be given Iranian nuclear assurance (acting deranged with your finger on the trigger is smart in nuclear poker). Add in al Qaeda that thinks there are now new rules in Washington that can be tested--and you have a recipe for a dangerous world. We seem to think that not being attacked since 9/11 was some sort of natural occurrence, or perhaps yet another government ensured entitlement.
FP: Victor Hanson, thank you for joining us in these tough times.
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Nigel Anthony Sellars - 4/29/2009
Obama has been in office just 100 days. He already has better relations with the rest of the world than did Bush. The remaining problems, N. Korea and Iran, have been problems for a while and frankly it's up to them, not us, to make the first move. It's also about time we were civil to the Castros and to Chavez. They're not a threat to this nation any longer In any case, Obama's hand-shaking and civility is best understood in the context of why John Henry Faulk said he shook the hands of the men who had once slandered and libeled him: "You shake their hands to prove you're a better son of a bitch than they are."
Foreign policy disasters? I think not, but that remains to be seen. But just because you dislike Obama's policies is not reason to call them disasters. Even Bush, whose policies eventually were clearly disastrous, at least received the benefit of the doubt at first.
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