Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
They Said It:
The individual finds himself already with a stock of ideas. He decides to content himself with them and to consider himself intellectually complete. As he feels the lack of nothing outside himself, he settles down definitely amid his mental furniture. Such is the mechanism of self-obliteration . . . We find ourselves, then, met with the same difference that eternally exists between the fool and the man of sense. The latter is constantly catching himself within an inch of being a fool; hence he makes an effort to escape from the imminent folly, and in that effort lies his intelligence. The fool, on the other hand, does not suspect himself; he thinks himself the most prudent of men, hence the enviable tranquility with which the fool settles down and installs himself in his own folly. Like those insects which it is impossible to extract from the orifice they inhabit, there is no way of dislodging the fool from his folly, to take him away for a while from his blind state and to force him to contrast his own dull vision with other keener forms of sight.
The fool is a fool for life; he is devoid of pores. This is why Anatole France said that the fool is much worse than the knave, for the knave does take a rest sometimes, the fool never. It is not a question of the mass-man being a fool. On the contrary, to-day he is more clever, has more capacity of understanding than his fellow of any previous period. But that capacity is of no use to him; in reality, the vague feeling that he possesses seems only to shut him up more within himself and keep him from using it. Once for all, he accepts the stock of commonplaces, prejudices, fag-ends of ideas or simply empty words which chance has piled up within his mind, and with a boldness only explicable by his ingenuousness, is prepared to impose them everywhere.
Jose Ortega Y Gasset, Revolt of the Masses, 1930.
BARACK OBAMA AND THE WEATHER ON THE PLAINS.
Barack Obama is a very strange man. We know we have said this before, but we think it bears repeating at this perilous point in history. There’s just no way around it. He is weird. A stereotypical sociopath. At present, he is acting like a spoiled child, stomping his feet, screaming at the top of his lungs, trying desperately to get someone, somewhere to give him the praise he believes that he so richly deserves. What makes this interesting, telling, and odd is that he is carrying on thusly not because he’s been snubbed or scorned, but rather because he has been given precisely what he has always claimed he wants, precisely what he has said was necessary and about which he’s always dreamed.
For years now, we’ve argued that Obama wants to disengage the United States from the rest of the world. The theory behind this wish is his belief, passed on to him by various sources, familial and intellectual, that Anglo-American civilization is the source of many of the world’s troubles. This is not only patently false, but dangerous, since the very existence of what we’ve come to call the “global community” hinges on the presence of a powerful, reasonably objective, global arbiter willing to protect and enforce trade routes and commitments; to impede, if not stop geo-political bad actors; to voice commitment to the ideals of fairness, cooperation, and human rights; and to protect Anglo-American interests, thereby safeguarding the wellspring of the global economic order. The Brits did the job up until World War I, and the Americans have done it ever since. The “modern world” as we know it coincides rather nicely and not coincidentally with the rise of the Anglo-American global power and to the presence of the Anglo-American global “policeman.”
Nevertheless, the peacenik Left and the isolationist Right continue to believe that “America, Come Home,” is both a fine slogan and a viable foreign policy. And for the entirety of his presidency, Barack Obama has given this narrow, cynical, ill-informed view both rhetorical and practical support.
Recall that he withdrew American forces from Iraq prematurely, giving rise to ISIS. He refused to support the Iranian revolutionaries as they marched and then were shot in the streets of Tehran. He has left Ukraine to be devoured by Putin. He drew a red line on chemical weapons use in Syria and watched disinterestedly as it was crossed repeatedly. He “led from behind” in Libya, which is now a failed-state and home to murderous ISIS affiliates. And, perhaps most notably, he has given the war against ISIS less thought than he gave this year’s NCAA tournament bracket. All things considered, he has made it quite clear to the rest of the world that it can take a long walk off a short pier. He doesn’t really seem to care what happens to them, as long as he gets to fulfill his lifelong ambition of forcing nuns in Colorado to supply “free” birth control to all their celibate sisters.
The leaders of the various nations of the world have, for whatever reason, taken Obama at his word on this matter. All of which is to say that they have been making plans, rethinking alliances, taking responsibility for their own security, planning for their own futures, precisely as you would expect them to do, given what Obama has told and shown them.
Now that it’s all really happening, though, Obama is downright pissy about it. As we noted above, he is getting what he wants, or at least what he’s always said he wants, and it is driving him to behave like no other president in recent memory, including the priapic adolescent who once roamed the halls of the White House, “hot as a leak and amorous as a goat,” to borrow a famous description of David Lloyd George by his biographer Donald McCormick.
The latest and most obvious evidence of Obama’s child-like petulance comes in the form of his response to the Israeli elections. By all accounts – even those from sources normally sympathetic to him – the American president has behaved with stunning immaturity in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory last week. Obama was furious that Netanyahu won. And he didn’t care who knew it or how that reflected on him or on his country. The New York Times – perhaps the Obama-friendliest media source in the country – noted that Obama used the occasion of Netanyahu’s reelection to deliver an “unusually forceful and public condemnation” to the Israeli Prime Minister. It described his reaction to Netanyahu’s victory as follows:
President Obama said he has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Israeli leader’s remarks in the closing days of his re-election campaign had upended the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and ran counter to the very nature of Israeli democracy, an unusually forceful and public condemnation of the top official of a vital United States ally. . . .
“I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible,” Mr. Obama said in a videotaped interview with The Huffington Post conducted on Friday and released on Saturday. . . .
Recounting the traditional congratulatory call on Thursday that Mr. Obama waited two full days to place, the president also described a strongly worded lecture that he gave Mr. Netanyahu about an Election Day Facebook posting in which the Israeli leader warned that Arab voters were going to the polls “in droves,” an assertion widely interpreted as an attempt to suppress the Arab vote.
“We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel‘s traditions — that although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly,” Mr. Obama said. “If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also, I think, starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.”
There are several things that jump out at one from this brief depiction. First, you’ll note that Obama pouted for two whole days – and made a public display of pouting for two whole days – before he called Netanyahu. He called Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan right away upon his reelection. He (proudly and happily) called Muslim Brotherhood thug Mohammed Morsi in a matter of “hours” after his triumphant election. He even phoned Iran nearly immediately to congratulate newly elected President Hassan Rouhani – thereby breaking more than THREE DECADES of official silence between the two countries. In short, he hastens to call the Islamists, all of whom think “Death to America” is a nice motto by which to live. But the . . . ummm . . . well . . . ahhh . . . the Jew? He can wait for his damned phone call!
It is worth remembering here, we think, that Obama so despises Netanyahu that while sitting in the Oval Office whining about how Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was a breech in protocol, he was simultaneously attempting to affect the outcome of the Israeli election. Consider, for example, the following from The Hill:
President Obama’s role during the Israeli elections was larger than reported, according to a pollster for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. “What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu,” John McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, said in an interview on John Catsimatidis’s “The Cats Roundtable” radio show broadcast Sunday on AM 970 in New York.
“There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu,” McLaughlin said.
He noted an effort to oust Netanyahu was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and that V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. McLaughlin said the Israeli leader rebounded after delivering a speech to Congress early this month, prompting more critical ads.
V15 was viewed as part of a broader campaign to oust Netanyahu. The group was linked to Washington-based nonprofit OneVoice Movement, which reportedly received $350,000 in State Department grants.
Despite all of this, Obama actually had the gall to phone Netanyahu and to bitch at him. We’re not sure if we’d call that ballsy or psychotic. Either way, it was juvenile and way beyond the bounds of appropriate behavior by an American president. And he did it because Netanyahu was so uncouth as to do what Obama had told him to do, which was not to count on U.S. support in the future; to go it alone, so to speak.
In keeping with Obama’s broad theme of global self-sufficiency, Netanyahu hastened to make it clear that he does not believe that a Palestinian state is likely to materialize during his term in office. That’s a simple and blunt assessment based on near-term Israeli security concerns. He didn’t say there’d never be a Palestinian state. He didn’t say there shouldn’t be one. He said only that one is unlikely over the course of the next four years.
Now, given that the Palestinian Authority is still governed by a Holocaust-denying petty tyrant who has shown no indication of wanting to peacefully coexist with the Jewish state and no interest in standing again for reelection; and given that this mini-despot – i.e. Mahmoud Abbas – represents, by far, the more moderate of the two parties that govern the Palestinian territories – the other, of course, being the war-mongering Islamists of Hamas – Netanyahu’s statement seems to us to be perfectly reasonable. It is both uncontroversial and specifically in keeping with Obama’s rhetoric and behavior.
Nevertheless, Obama lost his mind – and his composure – as a result.
And that brings us to the third and perhaps most important bit of information contained in the New York Times story about the source of Obama’s displeasure in his post-election call to Netanyahu. Look again at what Obama says (admits!) that he told Netanyahu: “We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel‘s traditions . . . If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also, I think, starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.” Obama is saying, clearly and unambiguously, that he knows better what is in Israel’s interests than Netanyahu does. Netanyahu may think that he knows his own country, but Obama is pretty certain that he knows it better.
All of this, sadly, is perfectly consistent with what we know of Obama and what we know of his beliefs about Israel. Obama has, throughout his term in office, resented the fact that the Israelis don’t understand as well as he does what is best for them, which is to say that he resents the fact that they won’t do as he tells them to do. Just over two years ago, in fact, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg – a conflicted supporter of both Israel and Barack Obama – reported that Obama was wandering around the White House telling anyone who would listen that he, and he alone, understood what was best for Israel. To wit:
Shortly after the United Nations General Assembly voted in late November to upgrade the status of the Palestinians, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it would advance plans to establish a settlement in an area of the West Bank known as E-1, and that it would build 3,000 additional housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
A large settlement in E-1, an empty zone between Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement city of Maaleh Adumim, would make the goal of politically moderate Palestinians — the creation of a geographically contiguous state — much harder to achieve.
The world reacted to the E-1 announcement in the usual manner: It condemned the plans as a provocation and an injustice. President Barack Obama’s administration, too, criticized it. “We believe these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
But what didn’t happen in the White House after the announcement is actually more interesting than what did.
When informed about the Israeli decision, Obama, who has a famously contentious relationship with the prime minister, didn’t even bother getting angry. He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.
In the weeks after the UN vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”
This is critical, we think, in explaining Obama’s current angst and, more to the point, trying to figure out what his foreign policy will be over the remainder of his presidency. Obama talks and acts as if he wants all the sovereign nations of the world to just mind their own business and allow the United States to do the same. But what he really means by that is that he insists that they do only what he wants them to do; not what they want to, not what the United States wants, not what the Brits, the French, or anyone else wants. He wants them to do what he wants, what he thinks is best for each of them. And nothing else. He is utterly convinced that no one understands the world quite as well as he does.
Consider for a minute what’s going on right now in Asia. For more than a year, the Obama administration has claimed to be making a “pivot to Asia.” What that means officially, no one can say. What it means unofficially is that Obama wants what Obama wants and couldn’t care about the rest.
In practice, what this has meant is that Obama administration has decided to engage Asia only on matters that it has determined matter, based on seemingly random criteria. On the one hand, for example, Japan is rearming, rebuilding its military capacity, and considering establishing a national-security-minded intelligence service. Or as the inimitable Bill Gertz reported last week in the Washington Free Beacon.
Japan is building up its military forces and strengthening alliances to counter threats from China as the country emerges from decades of isolationism following its defeat in World War II.
Japanese Vice Defense Minister Kenji Harada characterized the security situation in East Asia as increasingly “severe” and warned that tensions with China over control of Japan’s Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea have reached menacing proportions. . . .
The Japanese military buildup is a centerpiece of the policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a conservative who was reelected to a second term in December based on growing fears here of Chinese military threats. . . .
Japan’s military, known as the Japan Self-Defense Forces, is making modest force improvements. They include purchases of 46 U.S. F-35 jet fighters, the addition of two Aegis-equipped destroyers, the modernization and growth of the underwater force from 16 to 22 submarines, and the upgrade of missile defenses. The Japanese military also will field the long-range Global Hawk spy drones in the next two years.
Japan’s government also created a high-level policy unit called the National Security Secretariat made up of senior officials and a staff to better coordinate defense and security policies. The government also is considering establishing a foreign intelligence service modeled after the CIA or Britain’s MI-6.
The response from the Obama administration on this matter has been the proverbial deafening silence. They’ve done nothing to discourage this incipient arms race in East, nothing to assure the Japanese that rearming is unnecessary in light of American commitments, nothing whatsoever to prevent the escalation of tensions in the region. All of this, apparently, meets with the administration’s approval as an appropriate pursuit in preparation for a post-American world.
At the same time, however, the Obama administration has been struggling to come to terms with a new Chinese-sponsored infrastructure bank intended to provide funds for growth and development throughout Asia. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, sponsored and funded primarily by Beijing, has been a sore spot for the Obama administration, which claims that the new venture will undermine existing global arrangements and organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. As a result, Obama and his diplomatic core have spent months trying desperately to dissuade American allies from investing and participating in the Chinese bank.
Understandably, American allies rejected the Obama administration’s pleas and decided that they needed to pursue their own interests, regardless of American objections. Part of the reason for this, of course, is the fact that Obama has encouraged them to take care of themselves, although apparently not on this matter. In any case, the Obama administration was “humiliated” last week when its purported allies – starting with Great Britain, Germany, and Australia – decided to discount Washington’s objections and throw their lots in with China. The Washington Times reported as follows:
The battle of wills between Beijing and Washington over a China-sponsored development bank for Asia is turning into a rout, and the Obama administration has found itself isolated and embarrassed as its top allies lined up this week to join the proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
In what one analyst dubbed a “diplomatic disaster” for the U.S., Britain became the first major European ally to sign on as a founding member of the Shanghai-based investment bank, joined quickly by France, Germany and Italy, which dismissed public and private warnings from the U.S. about the bank’s potential impact on global lending standards and the competition it could provide to existing institutions such as the U.S.-dominated World Bank.
Luxembourg, a major global financial center, revealed this week that it would sign up. China also is also wooing Australia and South Korea, two of America’s closest Asian allies, to join before the March 31 deadline. A South Korean wire service reported Wednesday that Seoul was “seriously considering” the offer. . . .
Fred Bergsten, a senior fellow at theWashington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, wrote this week that theObama administration made a huge mistake by trying to undermine the bank, not only failing to persuade allies to stay out but also strengthening the voices in Beijing who argue that the U.S. is trying to keep China down.
And so how has the Obama administration reacted to this “diplomatic disaster,” you ask? Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, Obama et al. have simply decided that they really didn’t care all that much in the first place and it doesn’t make any difference to them what the rest of the world does. They used to be against the bank, but now . . . well . . . meh. Or as the Journal put it:
The Obama administration, facing defiance by allies that have signed up to support a new Chinese-led infrastructure fund, is proposing that the bank work in a partnership with Washington-backed development institutions, such as the World Bank. . . .
“The U.S. would welcome new multilateral institutions that strengthen the international financial architecture,” said Nathan Sheets, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs. “Co-financing projects with existing institutions like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank will help ensure that high quality, time-tested standards are maintained.”
Mr. Sheets argues that co-financed projects would ensure the bank complements rather than competes with existing institutions. If the new bank were to adopt the same governance and operational standards, he said, it could both bolster the international financial system and help meet major infrastructure-investment gaps.
Now, we’re just two country boys who grew up on the Great Plains, so the intricacies of global relations may escape us. Still, it strikes us that the lesson in all of this is that the Obama foreign policy is, in a word, random. He says he wants the world to manage its own affairs, but when it does, he becomes irate. He says that he wants the United States to “come home” and mind its own business, but he still insists that there are some things – known to him alone – that the United States should manage uncompromisingly. One day he’s for the this; the next day he’s against that; and on the third, he can’t be bothered to pull himself away from SportsCenter long enough to care about much of anything. His foreign policy reminds us of a phrase common among the plains folks: If you don’t like the weather in Nebraska/Iowa, wait ten minutes; it’ll change. Likewise the Obama foreign policy. If you don’t like what he’s doing, give it a few minutes and he might change his mind.
The consequences of our present national condition are, we think, largely unpredictable but potentially dire. In a recent column, Caroline Glick argued that the next 22 months will be among the most important periods in Israeli history, that the potential damage done by an erratic and electorally unencumbered Barack Obama could be both devastating and irreparable. We’d argue that Glick, while right, is too narrow in her focus. The next 22 months – now through the inauguration of the next president on January 20, 2017 – will constitute and incredibly important and unpredictable period in American and global history as well.
At present, the most powerful man in the world is an ill-informed, spoiled, stubborn, petulant child who bases his policy and decisions not on principles or precedents, but on whims and feelings. There are some in the political analysis community who think that Obama is and always has been biased against Israel and the Jews. That’s possible, we suppose, but it’s just as likely, we think, that Obama’s reaction to Israel and his pursuit of questionable policies toward the Jewish state are the result of his hurt feelings. He thinks ol’ Bibi was mean and now he’s going to be mean back. As frightening as it may be, we actually do think it might really be that simple.
The next nearly two years will indeed be challenging for Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel. But they are hardly alone. The most powerful man in the world is, in truth, the most powerful man-child in the world. And trying to predict what this man-child will want in ten minutes is far less of an exact science than trying to predict what the weather will be like in Omaha tomorrow. And as might be expected of such a man, he has no advisers who are able or willing to tell him that he is mad as a hatter. As best we can tell, the only adviser whose opinion matters to him is Valerie Jarret, and she’s just as emotionally unstable as he is.
What that means going forward is . . . well . . . anyone’s guess. He might decide tomorrow that ISIS has snubbed him one too many times and thus must be destroyed. He might also decide tomorrow that Chancellor Merkel and Germany are too bossy and that he therefore wants Putin and the Russians to show them a thing or two. He might wake up tomorrow wanting to depose Bashar Assad in Syria; he might want Assad to stay in power and dominate the ISIS rebels. The problem is that no one knows what he will want or why he will want it. And this includes the American people, who, unfortunately, also have a lot at stake in the outcome of this farce.
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