Is American Exceptionalism Dead?

Recall then-vice-presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del) pontificating the likeliness of an “international crisis’ that would “test the mettle of this guy” – referring to then-candidate Barack Obama during the campaign of 2008?

Since the time Biden uttered those remarks at a Seattle campaign fundraiser event, he’s mostly been right. Who’d a thunk it?

Yet, the irony of all of this premonitory soothsaying is that president Obama, along with his administration, still does not have a clear and cogent foreign policy strategy that gives meaning to what the U.S. stands for. Our guiding principle, as portrayed by the White House, is to wet one’s finger and see which way the wind blows.

We all sat back in disbelief as a Green Revolution enveloped the streets and plazas of Tehran during the summer of 2009, only to be trounced by a megalomaniac nicknamed A-Jad and supported by the theocratic mullahs. Where was the U.S.?

Now we are faced with a new crisis. After it took a few days or weeks for the White House and State Department to figure out just who the bad guy was in Cairo, another decades-long authoritarian ruler has one-upped Mr. Mubarak.

Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has gone mad. He’s ordered his own citizens killed, brought in paid mercenaries from other nearby North African nations and believes he will be a martyr in the Bedouin tradition for his actions.

Where’s the official statement from our administration? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made one prosaic statement saying effectively that “this sort of behavior is unacceptable.” Of course it’s 'unacceptable.' He’s killing innocent Libyans, threatening to burn down important oil fields near Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, and has all but caused Israel to soil its collective pants, especially since Egypt’s once-friendly, decades-long policy towards Israel is now in flux.

Meanwhile, news sources report that a radical branch of Al-Qaeda is forming in the eastern portion of Libya and has already made veiled threats against any non-Muslims. Even Iran is breaking with past restrictions and has sent two navy warships through the Suez Canal (something that has not been allowed by Egypt since the 1979 Iranian Revolution). Iranian Defense Ministry officials explain, “It’s only a military training exercise.” It looks more like planned provocation and saber-rattling to me.

Washington Post Op-Ed writer Charles Krauthammer offered this advice a few weeks ago,

We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it - a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:

(1) The United States supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.

(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.

(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.

(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away), it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties - the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists - in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.


It's been at least 72 hours since Qadaffi ordered his henchmen to kill those in opposition to his rule without nary a remark from our president. Apparently Obama has other more important things to worry about such as ordering U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Aside from Obama’s apologetic rhetoric abroad and his insidious attempt to eschew American Exceptionalism in the name of gentlemanliness, Obama is not leading us. He’s often naïve in world affairs and he’s not proactive in foreign policy. Simply being the anti-Bush president is not a policy.

But he's a heckuva community organizer. And that's what dictators like Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, Kim Jong il and Qadaffi hope for.

To be sure, the federal budget crisis, job creation and social issues like the DOMA law are all important things; however, I'd like to hear at least a peep from Obama on the Libya debacle.

And please hold the platitudes.

Posted by Kevin L. Lagola at February 23, 2011 6:57 PM
Comments
Comment #319133

There is a kind of negative selection. We can easily criticize our friends, but find it difficult to say bad things about our enemies.

Qadaffi is one of the worst human beings alive today. He is a leader of terror, a tyrant, a fool and even a bad dresser. Let’s hope he gets his wish for martyrdom sooner rather than later. We don’t know what could come next, but it cannot be worse than that man.

Posted by: C&J at February 23, 2011 8:24 PM
Comment #319134

You seem to advocate a movement for democracy in the Middle East. Dictatorships are falling left and right. Those that aren’t falling are making major reform concessions to their people. It is also occurring thus far with remarkable little anti-Americanism. So, whats the criticism of Obama? He should have started more?

Today, he stated that the US is exploring both unilateral and cooperative actions to stop the violence in Libya. Secretary Clinton stated that “all options are on the table” for quelling the violence in Libya. What else would you like him to publicly state, considering the precarious situation of US citizens in Libya after Qaddafi accused the US of instigating the revolt. What else would you like him to do?

Regarding the Charles Krauthammer article. Don’t you see the glaring inconsistency in his policy points? We should support democratic policies but not if they result in outcomes that we dislike. WTF! Either we support self determination or we don’t. The split in the conservative camp on this issue is entirely understandable. The neocon vision of Krauthammer and others is logically inconsistent.

Posted by: Rich at February 23, 2011 8:36 PM
Comment #319138

Rich

I am glad that Obama has come around to the freedom agenda. But he just is way slow to talk about evil dictators like Qadaffi. I don’t know if it would help much if he did, but I think his reticence to criticize indicates something in his thinking.

As Condi Rice said, for many years we have traded liberty for stability and got neither. Obama didn’t want to be like Bush, so tried a softer approach and now he is a little behind the historical development.

Posted by: C&J at February 23, 2011 9:04 PM
Comment #319144

C&J,

Come on! The Middle East is aflame with democratic revolution. Criticizing Obama for being “behind the historical development” is absurd. It is happening today not yesterday. The expressed wishes of both the Obama and GW Bush administrations are coming to fruition. What is the criticism?

Posted by: Rich at February 23, 2011 9:38 PM
Comment #319145

Oh, good, more complaining towards Obama without any well thought out alternatives.

Look folks, the real question is what do you do? Invasion? Military aid to the rebels, which leaves our fingerprints all over things?

The list of possible interventions is long, and so is the history of such methods backfiring and stirring up anti-American sentiment.

Obama’s more subtle than Bush. People get the message that he supports them, but he keeps his distance so he doesn’t tag dissident groups with the ball and chain of appearing to be foreign-sponsored subversives.

Keep in mind something else: even where the revolutions do not full flower, the anger and fear and resentment will linger on. If we haven’t made it seem like we’re invaders or attackers, if we offer moral support, we can recruit the disaffected to help us win our interests and theirs by undermining the regime. We’ve had a lot of success in stymieing Iran’s Nuclear program as of late, and I wonder whether that in part is due to the fact that some of the people outraged by the outcome of that election are turning around and undermining the regime’s program on our behalf.

You know what? I think when it’s all said and done, Iran’s current regime’s days are numbered. They broke something they cannot unbreak with their crackedown, and I think the consequences of that will be quite visible in the years to come.

Encourage people to free themselves, because it’s one of those things where usually, if you want it done right, you’ve got to do the job yourself.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 23, 2011 9:51 PM
Comment #319146

Oh, and Kevin? You might want to stick the rest of your post in the extended entry portion of the window. It’s kind of long on the front page.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 23, 2011 9:54 PM
Comment #319148

Kevin,
My relatives are immigrants who became American citizens. You should hear them laugh when conservatives use the phrase “American Exceptionalism.” Seriously, a person has to be drop dead stupid to believe such a thing. It’s the epitome of ignorance. Of course, less than 10% of Americans even have a passport, and most have no clue whatsoever about world history.

By jingo.

How does Krauthammer even have a job? The guy is wrong so often, you’d think his talking head license would have been revoked a long time ago. About the only thing I can see going for him is that he can be relied upon to present the Israeli point of view. Is he an American citizen? His first loyalty seems to be to Israel, not the United States.

Obama’s foreign policy has been a smashing success. Period.

Now can we please cut the defense budget by half? It should be painfully obvious by now that the US military is unfit to function in the 21st century.

Posted by: phx8 at February 23, 2011 10:06 PM
Comment #319150

My basic criticism is that the administration (Obama specifically) has a hard time making the difficult decisions (i.e., real budget cuts, afraid to ‘offend’ the Arab or Muslim world because of some liberal conceit as compared to Bush’s democracy-for-all doctrine and a basic wait-and-see approach).

George W.’s foreign policy calculus on the Middle-East looks mighty prescient now - go figure.

Qadaffi is a monster! Thus, given all the myriad of protests throughout the Middle-East and North Africa, our State Department, CIA and National Security Advisor team should be ready for basically anything, not to mention our military.

Again, my basic criticism is that Obama is wishy-washy and is afraid to speak out (with real demands) against people like the Libyan leader. Qaddafi is more fearful of his own people than he is of the U.S. IMHO, we have acquiesced too much too soon since Obama took over for Bush on the global stage.

And the narrative that ‘we waited because we wanted to make sure US citizens got out first’ is a Red Herring and a poor excuse. Obama feared being another Jimmy Carter if some Americans became hostages. And that those images would be played out daily on international tv.

Btw, Qaddafi reminds me of some odd-ball Spiderman villian from the ’70s with his gettups.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 23, 2011 10:16 PM
Comment #319153

Kevin,
Here is the speech of John Quincy Adams, speaking from the Well of the House of Representatives on July 4th, 1821. It is arguably the greatest speech on US foreign policy ever given, and a short yet terrific reminder of who we are, what we should strive to be, and how to go about doing it:

http://www.fff.org/comment/AdamsPolicy.asp

Posted by: phx8 at February 23, 2011 10:33 PM
Comment #319156

Kevin and C&J,

Before getting all wishy washy about the purity of Bush’s “democracy for all” policies, did you forget about the Bush administration’s normalization of relationships with Qaddafi in 2004? Perhaps you forgot about Condi Rice’s historic meeting with Qaddafi in 2008. “The Los Angeles Times’ Paul Richter, traveling with Rice, reports that the Bush administration considers Libya’s reform one of its top foreign policy achievements, and a model for other adversary states, such as Iran. Earlier today, in Portugal, Rice called the meeting “a historic moment.” http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/presidentbush/2008/09/rice-libya.html

Posted by: Rich at February 23, 2011 10:44 PM
Comment #319159

phx8 - comment #148:

Wow. I’m surprised by your assessment of Obama’s foreign policy performance. I think even the most liberal folks think he’s way below standard. He doesn’t even seem to care about FP; and acts like it’s an afront to his job.

As for Krauthammer - most think he’s brilliant. And I am one of those people who agrees.

Indeed, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz can perhaps be called something in between a Hawk and a Jingoist.

American Exceptionalism is an ideal. It has virtually nothing to do with jingoism, imperialism or being a xenophobe. Most Europeans are either jealous, or they don’t understand us; either way, I don’t care what they think.

Remember, Europe and other parts of the world would not exist in its current state if it weren’t for the US, its military and the Marshall Plan!

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 23, 2011 10:53 PM
Comment #319162

Most Europeans are either jealous, or they don’t understand us; either way, I don’t care what they think.”

Of course not. You are exceptional. How could they possibly understand you?

Posted by: Rich at February 23, 2011 11:08 PM
Comment #319168

Kevin,
What we are not and will not see is happaning in the “Dark.” Sure in public president Obama can call for ending the violence; however, to public state that the CIA or other sources are going to directly get involved would be a major problem considering the other facts in the region.

Yes, I think President Obama should be more vocal; however, knowing he and America cannot lose the faith of other Leaders in the region, I would hope the Arab League of Nations would be the first to step up in order to return Peace to their Land. And anything short of that leaves President Obama and Americas’ hands tied. For other than condemming the violence and support the protesters in the “Dark” launching our aircaft to protect the protesters might be seen in the region as an act of war. Something I don’t think America is ready or willing for.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at February 24, 2011 12:16 AM
Comment #319170

“Again, my basic criticism is that Obama is wishy-washy and is afraid to speak out (with real demands) against people like the Libyan leader.”

Kevin, despite all your criticism it seems Obama is at the wheel as one after another middle eastern country rebels and begins the fight for freedom from propped up dictators. Is it the spectacle of Obama shouting to Qaddafi to tear down these “what evers” that you miss? Other than what Obama has already said publicly what more could he say that would not appear to be bluster on the world stage? Should we pull a Bush and send forces to conquer and rebuild the country? Please. Drop some weapons and ammo off for them and send the bill once they make good on their freedom and “make commerce with all and alliances with none” as Thomas would say.

The fact is the people of Egypt did it on their own as they should. Now the people of Libya are doing the same, on their own, as they should.


It is the right wingers who like to use the Jefferson quote “”The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” yet they are the first to blame Obama for not making it American blood in a foreign country, You guys need to remember another Jefferson quote-“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_jefferson_3.html#ixzz1ErGvRw00

” Qaddafi is more fearful of his own people than he is of the U.S.”

And rightfully so Kevin. It will be the people of Libya not “his people” as you say that will fight the battle for their freedom. He should be more scared of them.

The notion it is our business is why we are broke now. Pay off the last 2 before we start any more nation building/war for oil extravaganza’s. And lets quit propping up dictators shall we.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 24, 2011 2:32 AM
Comment #319181

Kevin L. Lagola-
So what you’re saying is that Obama’s policy is wrong because he’s not blustering and blow-drying them with a lot of hot air?

Contrary to what Republicans say, Obama doesn’t do a lot of apologizing for America. He might apologize for the way foreign policy has been carried out, but he is often very firm, very assertive about our nation’s priorities.

As for American Exceptionalism? Me, I think we got to earn that. Being a boastful blowhard doesn’t exactly make us any better than any other big nation that can throw its weight around. We have to make a habit of setting standards of excellence, or else our pride is no more meaningful of any podunk little Republic somewhere.

Also, at the time we were most confident in ourselves, we were also not afraid to invest in our future, in our infrastructure.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 24, 2011 12:22 PM
Comment #319182

Kevin,
Krauthammer supported the war against the people of Nicaragua as part of the Reagan Doctrine. About 50,000 human beings died as a result of that war. Their deaths were unnecessary, and Krauthammer contributed to those deaths. The Nicaraguans died in part because the US supported the Somoza regime. Somoza was an “authoritarian ally” who sold out to American corporations in exchange for power. When a terrible earthquake struck Managua in 1972, $800 million in aid poured into the country. Somoza’s National Guard kept $400 million. This spurred a democratic insurgency, a movement of the people, which rose against the US-backed Somoza dictatorship and eventually won.

Krauthammer, a Neocon, was a prominent supporter of the War in Iraq as well as the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006. The War in Iraq resulted in the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings.

Krauthammer was not only wrong, his support contributed to a great deal of human misery and suffering. He deserves nothing but disrespect for being so terribly wrong, at such a terrible price.

Feel free to fit the history of Central and South America into an essay on “American Exceptionalism.” Or perhaps an article on the experience of Native Americans. Almost every country views itself as somehow “exceptional.” Almost every country has its Krauthammers. When a country is powerful enough and wins its wars or exterminates an indigenous population, the Krauthammers of the world are viewed as “brilliant.” When a country loses, the Krauthammers of the world are hung as war criminals.

Too often, the ‘ideal’ of a country’s Exceptionalsim is used to justify evil actions, or simply ignore them and pretend they did not happen. History is written by the winners, and the winners are usually the ones who can steal the most, the fastest.

Posted by: phx8 at February 24, 2011 12:41 PM
Comment #319183

Since the start of the Cold War and up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former USSR and the many Eastern Bloc countries who eschewed Communism, US policy was to contain the so-called ‘Red Menace.’

At times, this ‘menace’ blossomed in parts of Central America. It wasn’t pretty. It was real ‘grease-ball stuff’ at times. In fact, that was about the time that I felt Reagan had a ‘memory’ problem. At the time, it looked like a convenient excuse (Reagan: ‘I did not know anything,’ regarding Ollie North, the sandinistas, et al).

However, our concerns were real, not imagined. It’s easy to choose a definition of ‘American Exceptionalism’ that fits your own narrative. AE is a broad ideal and means different things to different people.

Again, where would Europe be without the Marshall Plan, our military support, our funding and our generosity with respect to immigration to the US? Likewise, why doesn’t Western Europe ever help with crisises in their own backyard (like the former Yugoslavia debacle) and leave it up to the US to contain evil?

Finally, people change over time and Krauthammer no longer subscribes to the then nacent Neoconservatism. He’s a typical mainstream hawk now.

I’m not sure that he was as you suggest: “Krauthammer, a Neocon, was a prominent supporter of the War in Iraq …”

I know he defended our military broadly once we were there, but I don’t recall him supporting the invasion at the start, only after-the-fact.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 24, 2011 1:12 PM
Comment #319184

Kevin,
Certainly, we can all be proud of many fine moments in our history. We contributed a great deal to victory in WWII, and we faced down the USSR in the Cold War.

I agree that the Marshall Plan provides a good example of living up to American ideals. However, to this day some conservatives believe Marshall was some sort of communist dupe. While most conservatives support continued Defense spending at current levels, they are the first to oppose non-violent government programs such as foreign aid; in other words, they support the violent spread of American ideals, yet oppose non-violent means that use the tool of government.

Remember, having ideals is great, but it does not justify exceptionalism. Exceptionalism means being uniquely and qualitatively exceptional. History is full of examaples of countries full of fervent nationalism, militarism, and imperialism, committing dreadful acts, and all justified by doctines of exceptionalism.

Posted by: phx8 at February 24, 2011 1:48 PM
Comment #319185

Some of the writings above spewed a line or two of what was the apparent total knowledge of an event or area of the world. Like, Nicaragua, or the Middle East or other places.

phx8
Obama is anti-Israel. You say he is tops “to present the Israel point of view”. What are you trying to say truthfully.

Rich
“democratic revolution”? Where did you get that? The goings on in the middle east is replacing old dictators with younger ones. Still the same policies, goals, etc.

SD
telling some one they wrote too long? Your sense of humor is dryer than the AZ summertime.

I cannot remember reading so much wrong about a subject as I have read here.

This administration is going to do what past admins did. Support of the people who get to the top. And we help put them thred. They are all not worthy of the place they reach. From here on out there will never be any peaceful and people oriented governments among the Arab/Islamic states. The hand writting on the wall is not hard to read and you don’t have to press “1” for English. There is enough short sightedness above to go around twice. I guess that is I round for each eye.

Israel is our only friend in the middle east and our government is casting them aside and “dictating” what they can and cannot do thru the UN. The curse will be upon them for doing so. Not from me, tho.

Posted by: tom humes at February 24, 2011 2:23 PM
Comment #319188


“As for Krauthammer - most think he’s brilliant.”

Only a hand full of exceptional people think he is brilliant. An equally small hand full of people think he is not. The vast majority don’t know him from Adam and could care less about what he has to say.

I am not a great fan of Obama, but compared to the Bush Administration, Obama’s has to be considered exceptional. Bush left him two wars and a trashed economy.

What makes America exceptional is that 2% of our population owns nearly all of it, and in that regard, we are comparable to some particularly nasty regimes.

Conservatives love to talk about Iran, Libya, and certain other regimes, but seldom do you hear a word about the Saudi Royal Family. No Regime has supported right-wing Islam more.

I guess hanging out with the Saudi ROYAL family makes the Bush family feel ROYAL and EXCEPTIONAL.

‘How would you feel if a thief broke into your home and declared that from now on one of your rooms belonged to him?’

Posted by: jlw at February 24, 2011 2:52 PM
Comment #319189

Tom Humes,
President Obama is doing what America needs to do. For we are not the World Cops. We are not the Middle East Parents, and we certianly don’t own the people. So why you might think America should be telling other nations how to solve their problems brought on by racing to the bottom. The Conservatives and Republicans have proved they don’t know how to handle Americas’ problems since we have millions in the street protesting what our government is doing.

In fact, the less President Obama says about what is happening around the world the better he looks IMHO. For at least it seems he is waiting for the right moment to speak about why winning the Race to the Top will require increasing the income of the citizens. To bad Walker and others can’t see they need to increase the wages of private sector jobs to match that of the union instead of lowering the income of public workers. For who is going to be able to buy gas when it goes to $5.00 a gallon? Wonder how he plans on fixing a 6.6 billion dollar shortfall when the Market once again goes below 10,000.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at February 24, 2011 2:57 PM
Comment #319190


Tom humes, I agree, Obama will follow the basic foreign policy of other Administrations. And yes, that means supporting the new right wing regimes that will be replacing the old ones.

“Israel is our only friend in the middle east”

Did this Administration just veto a U.N. proposal critical of Israel?

Israel is the reason we have no other friends in the Middle East.

According to many on the right, anything short of the U.S. bending over and kissing Israeli ass is considered no support for Israel at all.

Posted by: jlw at February 24, 2011 3:09 PM
Comment #319192


Halliburton and other American corporations want the Administration to lift sanctions on Iran.

If we are going to discuss our involvement with regimes like Gaddafi’s or Mubarak’s, we must discuss our corporations involvement in those decisions.

How much of our foreign policy is dictated by our multinational corporations desires and how much of our military budget is also dictated by those desires?

Posted by: jlw at February 24, 2011 3:26 PM
Comment #319194

Henry

“So why you might think America should be telling other nations how to solve their problems brought on by racing to the bottom.”

What did I write that gives you that impression? You are reading something I did not write.

I have never advocated that America tell other nations how to run their business or as you said how to solve their problems. We should do things by example and the exceptionalism will follow. People at one time wanted to be like the USA, because we did a better job projecting freedom and liberty. We have never done it to the degree that I believe is proper. We have always used the carrot and stick to get other countries to do what we wanted to do. The result is that for decades, dictators around the world have been put in power at our behest. The people making those decisions were usually State Department people. Those decisions are the reason we call the State Department “Foggy Bottom”.

You can say and think what you want about Obama. I also will say and think what I want about Obama. He is a narcissitic, efite, elitist, snob. He does not know anything about finances except what a neighborhood organizer needs to know. He had no experience coming to this job and it has been expensive for OJT.

The main problem with unions and public employees is that there is no bargaining going on. The union says we want this and the government says ok. The dues collected goes to politicians who continue to be beck and call for big labor. It is a crooked scheme and far too many should be sharing a cell downstairs from Bernie.

Posted by: tom humes at February 24, 2011 4:48 PM
Comment #319196

Kevin L. Lagola-
The geopolitical theory I’ve heard is that with the hegemonic approach, Europe’s doing exactly what we want them to do: relying on us for defense, instead of becoming a world power themselves capable of threatening American security if it turns against us.

There are always tradeoffs. A Stronger Europe, militarily, is one we can’t order around as easily.

tom humes-
I was not referring to the length of his essay.

When an author like myself writes up a story, the part that appears on the front page gets put in a box called “Entry Body”. The rest, what you click through to when you follow the link after “continue reading”, gets put in the “Extended Entry” box. I was advising him that he had put all his entry in the first box, and as a result, all the other entries were getting pushed down by the oversized frontpage teaser.

He fixed it, sure enough, and everything is back to normal. I was simply advising him of the problem.

On the subject of what you said? Good grief, man, what makes you think you’re psychic? If you look at my latest entry, I pose a principle out there, and it’s pretty simple: just because you take away the supply of whatever satisfies a groups need, doesn’t mean you take away the demand for it.

Dictatorships can take away the supply of responsive government, but that doesn’t mean they take away the demand for responsive government. Smart dicatorships play well to the people, get them to want what the leaders want, but even the smartest dictatorship doesn’t get it right forever, or perfectly so.

Democracies are more manageable, if we’re willing to have a more mature relationship.

I think you’re just too invested in having folks being sat upon by aggressive governments, rather than actually having to deal with those people as equals, and equals with frustratingly different cultures to boot.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 24, 2011 5:38 PM
Comment #319197

Tom Humes,
The main problem is not the unions and public employees if America still wants to remain the shining light. For with lower and lower wages and fewer and fewer benefits how soon before the average American can’t afford to live in the state the Elite want them to work?

Higher gas prices broke the Market just a few years ago and now facing gas at $5.00 a gallon do you expect the American Consumer is going to buy more products and services?

No, unions and public employees have over the last 30 years been paid what the private sector should have been paying their employees. In fact, increase the average worker pay by $5,000.00/yr and most states would see an increase in their revenue. Because as gas prices go up, the Market will go down. Just think what happens to state budgets if gas hits $6.00 a gallon by next summer?

And with no more bailouts, Wall Street and the Banks might not be able to deal with the mess. For I wonder what $200.00 a barrel for oil will do to their bottom line.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at February 24, 2011 6:01 PM
Comment #319198

“democratic revolution”? Where did you get that? The goings on in the middle east is replacing old dictators with younger ones. Still the same policies, goals, etc.

Tom,

That is not true and you know it. The people have toppled autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. It now appears that they will also do so in Libya. The Jordan monarchy has moved to increase political rights. Bahrain is in turmoil from populist demonstrations demanding political rights.

There is no doubt that the Middle East is experiencing a strong popular movement for liberal rights and democratic representation. Dismissing the revolutions as coups by alternative autocratic rulers is to deny the reality of the movements.

You may be ultimately correct. The populist movements may indeed end up compromised by autocrats. However, that hasn’t yet.

Posted by: Rich at February 24, 2011 6:28 PM
Comment #319199

I will defend Stephen. He was merely pointing out that I erroneously put my entire post in the ‘preview’ window. I appreciate the head’s up.

None of us will ever agree 100% on foreign policy, on Keynesian versus Supply-side economics, whether public sector union should be allowed to ‘collectively bargain’ like their private sector cousins, etc.

What I do know, is that our president wants to keep us safe, allow us to prosper and dreams of a better-educated society. I disagree on many of the positions taken by Obama; however I try my best to respect the office of the president.

I write op-eds because I’m very concerned about many of Obama’s and the Democrats’ decisionmaking. I would like a crystal clear foreign policy (including on Israel), for him to get tough with terrorists without ‘walking on eggshells’ and allowing more free-market ideals to stand.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 24, 2011 6:29 PM
Comment #319200

“Likewise, why doesn’t Western Europe ever help with crisises in their own backyard (like the former Yugoslavia debacle) and leave it up to the US to contain evil?”

Well, they did. The 1999 military operations was a NATO operation in which European forces participated.

Posted by: Rich at February 24, 2011 6:34 PM
Comment #319207

To all my leftist friends welcoming the changes of government, I say welcome back to the freedom agenda. I was there long before. In fact, most of us never left.

I do worry that bad guys will be replaced by other bad guys, but let’s see. Nothing could be worse than Qadaffi, so that one cannot be worse.

As of this writing, our president was the only Western leader who still has not called for regime change in Libya. Usually leadership means leading, but I understand that my esteemed leftist colleagues sometimes have alternative definitions of things like courage and leadership.


Rich

Our NATO allies provide supporting roles, as they did in 1999. We do all the heavy lifting.

Posted by: C&J at February 24, 2011 8:32 PM
Comment #319210

SD and Kevin
I misunderstood. My apologies. And it is easy to say I was wrong.

Posted by: tom humes at February 24, 2011 9:00 PM
Comment #319212

C&J,
I do not understand what you or other conservatives expect of Obama in situations such as Tunisia & Libya. Those countries do not belong to us. We should continue doing exactly what we are doing, exactly what Obama is doing- encourage non-violence, condemn violence, and encourage the development of democracy.

Tom,
As far as Israel goes, it is an excellent example of Exceptionalism. Often, American Exceptionalism or Israeli Exceptionalism or… well, pick a country; many, many nations claim to be exceptional… It’s like a world of Lake Wobegones, where every nation is above average… anyway, Exceptionalism usually includes a religious component. Does the United States have exceptional ideals? Perhaps. And I think most of us would agree that we should stand for those exceptional and secular ideals, ideals such as freedom, liberty, and so on. Does God favor the United States above all other nations? Or does God favor His chosen people in Israel? Or is it Allah, with a preference for a Shia country? Sunni? What I’m trying to say is that it is entirely appropriate for Americans to support our ideals, but it is not appropriate to give those ideals a religious overtone. For that reason, we have no business embracing a Jewish State or an Islamic State. A civil relationship is all that is necessary, no more, no less.

Posted by: phx8 at February 24, 2011 9:25 PM
Comment #319215

j2t2

Every other leader of a great democracy has called for Qadaffi to leave power. We are behind the curve on this one. During the days of Reagan, we were leaders in advocating freedom.

I don’t understand. Obama jumped quickly on Mubarak, who was nothing compared to Qadaffi There is a good chance Qadaffi will be dead soon (let’s hope) and will America been seen on the right side?

You complain that Reagan got too much credit for the fall of communism. Maybe he did. But wasn’t it his “Tear down this wall” speech that associated him with the subsequent fall of the wall? Obama will be associated with … what? Something like, “mistakes were made; steps were taken.”

Posted by: C&J at February 24, 2011 10:04 PM
Comment #319219

American Exceptionalism dead?

With stellar examples of the pinnacle of human and intellectual superiority around like Sarah Palin, Bristol Palin, Christine O’Donnell and Glenn Beck around, how can you possibly think that?

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at February 24, 2011 10:41 PM
Comment #319229

“Every other leader of a great democracy has called for Qadaffi to leave power.”
Despitye the fact that it is nice to see you admit there atre other great democracies I have to wonder,”How’s that working for them”,C&J? Is Qadaffi more afraid of them or “his people”? If he doesn’t listen to them why on earth would you expect Obama to demand he leaves power? DO you honestly think it would convince Qadaffi to pack his bags and leave the country. Do you really think we should allow him the chance to tell our leader “go to hell”. Then you extremist on the right would be insisting we attack the country and spend another trillion on rebuilding it.

BTW he has blamed Bil Laden for the revolt, do you think that is enough reason to go to war there? If so which side do we take, Bin Laden or Qadaffi? I stick with my previous comment, send some arms and ammo to the people of Libya when they win pay us back and go from there.

As far as this attempt to blame Obama for whatever he does, you guys have been doing it for so long no one takes you seriously anymore, sorta like the boys who cried wolf.

We seen GWB in action and for all the bluster where did it get us?

“To all my leftist friends welcoming the changes of government, I say welcome back to the freedom agenda. I was there long before. In fact, most of us never left.”

What exactly are you trying to say C&J? What freedom movement are you talking about? Since when has those on the right been against propping up dictators as long as it benefited our corporations? Is this about freeing up the oil supplies or something?

Posted by: j2t2 at February 25, 2011 5:36 AM
Comment #319230

C&J,

Claiming that conservatives were ahead of the curve on condemning dictatorships in the Middle East and encouraging democratic revolutions is somewhat ironic when it comes to Libya and Qadaffi.

It was the Bush administration that normalized diplomatic relations with the Qadaffi dictatorship and lifted sanctions in 2004. One of the last major diplomatic acts of the Bush administration was a state visit by Condi Rice to Libya in 2008. It was the first visit by a US Secretary of State in over 55 years to Libya. Qadaffi was all sweetness and light (I love my “darling Leeza..”. Rice gushed about letting bygones be bygones.

Posted by: Rich at February 25, 2011 7:57 AM
Comment #319235


Every American that died in Korea and Vietnam did far more to secure the fall of Communism than Reagan.

Harry Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, each of which did as much and most did more to secure the fall of Communism.

Hell, little kids doing the duck and cover did more to galvanize the country against communism than any politicians speech.

This country suffered a great loss as a result of Reagan policy, Beirut. And a great victory, Granada.

He got more than 200 hundred of our marines killed in Beirut then tucked his tail and ran all the way to Granada in time for the next news cycle.

Ronald Reagan actually did more harm to American workers and our country than he did to any communist.

Reagan’s war was the war against the American worker and every president since has been engaged in that war. The growing gap between the workers and wealth is a tribute to the success of that war.

Posted by: jlw at February 25, 2011 3:31 PM
Comment #319241

j2t2

I don’t understand how or why these kinds of things break out any more than anybody else. I understood Eastern Europe better than most, but even that one was unexpected in its rapidity and its success. I take a realistic-optimist stance. We have to live with the world we have. We know that the China is run by an oppressive regime, for example, but it doesn’t do much good to constantly make trouble and we cannot shun them.

As much as I hate communism in the 1980s, especially how they were oppressing my beloved Poland, I understood we had to deal with the bad guys. On the other time, if the bad guys start to falter, give them a kick in the groin if you can. Trip them if you can get away with it. I make it a general policy to support freedom where I see it, but I understand the limitations.

Freedom requires strong institutions and habits of the heart that develop over time. Just throwing out the tyrant or having an election is not enough.

It is a paradoxical policy to some, but it works for me.

Posted by: C&J at February 25, 2011 5:50 PM
Comment #319246

C&J

“Freedom requires strong institutions and habits of the heart that develop over time. Just throwing out the tyrant or having an election is not enough.”

Thank you for that statement. It shows one does not need an essay to say something profound and yet so simple.

Posted by: tom humes at February 25, 2011 8:00 PM
Comment #319250

C&J-
Welcome back to the Freedom Agenda? That’s a rather self-serving sort of thing to say.

I’ve long been a supporter of efforts to free people abroad. But looking at the situations, at historic events, I couldn’t help but note that there’s more to freeing people, and people freeing themselves, than just the overthrow of despots.

I was driving around on my days errands, listening to my local public radio (yes, sometimes I do fit the stereotypes) and an item came on with people talking about the rebellion against Muammar Qadaffi. The feeling I had listening to them talk about being free? It was good to feel that. Just as it was good to see Saddam Hussein’s statue pulled down. Just as it was good, long ago, back in my Childhood, to see Communism fall.

I doubt many Democrats mourn the passing of all those leaders from the stage. They were just as excited for and supportive of the good fortunes of the protests in Iran, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as anybody.

Where we might differ is in our conception of how America should use its influence.

For my part, walking on eggshells, as frustrating as it is, seems the rational way to conduct diplomacy. It’s a rare instance in diplomacy when discretion isn’t the better part of valor. International relations isn’t simple, especially now that the Cold War is over. I get the feeling that Republicans keep on trying to drum up these big enemies to oppose so foreign policy can make a simple sort of sense.

But the reality is, the Cold War has ended, and in economic and political terms, even with a War on Terrorism going on, things are nowhere near as simple as they once seemed.

Note I say “seemed”. My opinion is, regardless of how we thought our conflicts with the Russians defined things, in many cases, the world did not behave in a neatly bipolar way. Many of today’s complications in foreign relations were born of the things we did under a Cold War foreign policy. Iran’s a great example.

As much as it might be satisfying to people to have America throw its weight around, we got to consider the physics of what happens on a count of that momentum we impart. Sometimes we just got to be clever.

I think Obama’s playing it cool, as he always does, supporting in behind the scenes policy what Bush might have used a speech to force the issue with. By not co-opting the “freedom agenda” of the protestors and rebels out there, he paradoxically maintains the good graces of the protestors by not getting them tarred as American-backed subversives. He takes our long, and often contentious relationship with the Middle East and North Africa out of the equation.

I’d say, understand where people are going, and given just enough of a push on their vector to get them going where it’s in our interests for them to go.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 25, 2011 8:27 PM
Comment #319252

Stephen

I really don’t think Obama has really figured out how to do it. He is not interested in it. He likes the talking and the domestic stuff. He is playing it cool the same way a cat plays it cool - by not being involved or really knowing what is going on.

Re Iran - he played it cool in Iran. It didn’t work out for the protesters there.

In Egypt, he managed to be on all three sides, and there were only two.

On the plus side - Obama behaves a lot like Calvin Coolidge. He just lets things happen. But Coolidge understood that he was not getting involved. Obama pretends to be on top of it.

Posted by: C&J at February 25, 2011 8:40 PM
Comment #319264

“We know that the China is run by an oppressive regime, for example, but it doesn’t do much good to constantly make trouble and we cannot shun them.”

Is that because it is in the best interests of corporate America even though it is not in the best interest of America? We can speak of freedom but when we support oppressive regimes we speak with a forked tongue. Allowing American corporations to send technology and jobs to China strengthens their institution and habits, while weakening ours.

” As much as I hate communism in the 1980s, especially how they were oppressing my beloved Poland, I understood we had to deal with the bad guys…. I make it a general policy to support freedom where I see it, but I understand the limitations.”

Yet as a country we have propped up the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussien, Bin Laden, about all the South American dictatorships over the years, the only ones we missed propping up off the top of my head was Pol Pot and Idi Amin. To me we have a lot to learn about freedom if our actions don’t match our words.
You conservatives are quick to put limitations on freedoms, it seems, well on the freedom of others but it does tarnish the image enough so that when you tell me “welcome back to the Freedom Agenda” I have to wonder if it is arrogance, propaganda, drugs, delusions or denial of the facts. What on earth were you thinking, I am at a loss to understand it.

“Freedom requires strong institutions and habits of the heart that develop over time.”
How is our track record over time when it comes to freedom for others? It seems we have some bad habits to overcome. I still like Jefferson’s advice “alliance with none commerce with all”. If we stay out of their affairs then we have a right to expect the same from them. We prop up dictators for oil and corporate profits and we end up paying the price. Our habits have been bad, with the exception of Obama so far and Carter. Freedom ain’t easy.

” Just throwing out the tyrant or having an election is not enough.”

Same thing I said about Iraq. As a far as the rest of these countries seeking relief from the dictators send them weapons and ammo. They have to earn freedom before they can develop the habits and institutions to keep it going. Pick the side of the people not the dictator and let them decide where it goes from there. It’s their freedom not ours, after all.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 25, 2011 10:42 PM
Comment #319273

C&J writes: “I really don’t think Obama has really figured out how to do it. He is not interested in it. He likes the talking and the domestic stuff. He is playing it cool the same way a cat plays it cool - by not being involved or really knowing what is going on.

Re Iran - he played it cool in Iran. It didn’t work out for the protesters there.

In Egypt, he managed to be on all three sides, and there were only two.

On the plus side - Obama behaves a lot like Calvin Coolidge. He just lets things happen. But Coolidge understood that he was not getting involved. Obama pretends to be on top of it.”


I’ve been saying the same things for nearly 2 years now regarding our president. It’s almost like the old adage: “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.” Obama believed so much in his own hype and the fan base that he had that when he actually gained access to the Oval Office, he has slowly and introspectively said to himself: “WTF did I get myself into!”

Seriously, he doesn’t even seem to like foreign policy challenges, save for platitudinal speeches. I mean, have you heard any of Gov Mitch Daniels’ speeches? Holy S*^$ Batman! His speechwriter is phenomenal, and he has the street cred (read: experience and accomplishments to back up his claims) even though he’s a very modest person. Look for an blog article about Daniels soon.

To be sure, saying and doing the correct thing during a crisis such as in Libya is no easy task, and I don’t profess to have an answer - it’s far beyond my payscale. However, it would be nice to at least see Obama not equivocate so much, to not take so much time in his decision-making and to just do what a leader of the world’s foremost superpower should do - which is get out in front, not wait and see. Let the rest of the world leaders do that. This isn’t some Global G-7 Commission. Call out this maniacle nut-job! Obama didn’t even mention Muammar Qaddafi by name in his initial remarks regarding the Libyan situation - shameless!

Somehow I think even Sec. of State Hillary Clinton wants to kick a little Qaddafi ass, but her boss wants her to instead go to Geneva and pick out what color body bags the Pentagon should order given the time-lapse since the first innocent anti-government protester was shot by lawless mercenaries at Qadaffi’s behest.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 26, 2011 1:13 AM
Comment #319275

“…to just do what a leader of the world’s foremost superpower should do - which is get out in front, not wait and see.”

Kevin,

Those wanting Obama to take a more interventionist, unilateral role in Libya and other Middle East countries should take more seriously the consequences of such actions. Secretary Gates’ recent remarks at West Point come to mind: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. MacArthur so delicately put it,”

It is also seems clear that Obama’s reticence for more aggressive verbal condemnation of Gaddafi was motivated by concern about safety of US citizens trapped in Libya. As soon as the Americans left Libya, Obama announced that the US would unilaterally re-impose sanctions lifted by the Bush administration. The US is also working with European allies to bring coordinated action against the Libyan regime.

The criticisms of Obama regarding the Middle East revolts seem oddly hollow to me. If you wanted popular revolutions. You have got them. So, is it that Obama has not imposed a US signature on them? Has not led them? What exactly do critics want Obama to do?

Posted by: Rich at February 26, 2011 6:46 AM
Comment #319353

Rich:

What exactly do critics want Obama to do? In a word — lead.

Obama is even more passive in foreign policy than Carter, and I am afraid that the results of this passivity will be pretty much the same — a return to the good old days of high inflation due to high gas prices (while Obama refuses to allow drilling in the Gulf, Alaska, and the West and East coasts); the emasculation of American strategic policies and the reduction of American influence throughout the world; and the rise of new and even more dangerous oligarchies in what are now called “democratic” movements.

Granted, it was a good idea of Obama to keep his trap shut while Americans were still in Libya; but while the UK brought in warships to get their nationals out of Libya, Obama rented a ferry. Please tell me what that was all about. An attempt to cut the deficit or a ploy not to look too aggressive. Now we could have positioned U.S. aircraft carriers off the Libyan coast to enforce no-fly zones and no-tank zones to protect the rebels from Gaddafi’s insanity; but no … let’s not do anything and wait for our so-called European allies to coordinate actions. Yeah right. Better yet, let’s just sit back and let the UN send Gaddafi a letter of condemnation. Boy, that will really do the trick!

There is no discussion of sending a U.S. Army into Libya (I don’t know where you pulled that one out of). That is a genuine red herring if I ever smelled one.

The problem for America is the reality of Obama the president. He is now and never has been a true leader. Faced with hard choices he dithers and vacilates. He wants to bring about a concensus with our allies before taking any kind of meaningful action — which means that he basically doesn’t do anything but allow a crisis to play out its course; such as allowing the Green movement in Iran to be wiped out in 2009 instead of even giving them lip service.

One more thing … there is a reason the U.S. is not a democracy but a republic. Democracies do not work or last and are not a form of government. Republics incorporate democratic principles, but are not democracies. History has demonstrated repeatedly from the French Revolution to the Russian Revolution and the revolution in Iran in the late 1970s that the best organized party with the most power achieves control in the long run. By staying out of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, that group that will likely seize control will be the Muslim Brotherhood. Then God help us.

Posted by: Craig C. at February 28, 2011 12:28 PM
Comment #319356

Don’t expect a republics or Democracies out of any Arab country revolting today.Their revolutions to day are not complete. Expect an “Islamic” flavour in what ever they will do. Some will remain anti-American and definitely anti Semitic and anti Israel. This is still the after shocks of 1919. Believe me oil kingdoms, oyster kingdoms and their “marxist” successors. The revolution of Iran was led by a marxist interpreter of Islam, as are the muslim brotherhood.

Posted by: k at February 28, 2011 2:40 PM
Comment #319361

I would not describe the theocratic oligarchy of Iran marxist in any way. It’s basis is Sharia law, which does not view people as part of a collective but rather as either believers or infidels. There is nothing resembling equality among workers — women are subservient and second-class citizens with virtually no rights. The leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, was a religious fanatic who hated the materialism and culture of the West and I do not think he had a communist bone in his body.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, that organization is close to the same ideology as Iran for the most part. The Muslim Brotherhood is the basis of Hamas and Hezbollah, and probably the Taliban and al-Qaida as well. This organization seems likely to establish a strong foothold in Egypt (it’s country of origin) and probably in Tunisia, using “free” elections to gain a majority. Once in control, we will watch as the Mideast plays with oil exports, threatens war with Israel, and continues nuclear pursuits throughout the region.

Because we lack a president with the vision to anticipate this and the cajones to do anything about it, we can only watch from the sideline as our influence in the region diminishes while our oil prices skyrocket and our economy tanks.

Happy Days are Here Again …

Posted by: Craig C. at February 28, 2011 3:59 PM
Comment #319362

I did not say communist I said marxist.
Do you know the difference?
What books or speeches of Khomeini have you read?
What is Wahhabism? What 2 countries suscribe to Wahhabism?
what are the teachings of Sayyid Qutb Have you read?
Do you even know his place in Islamic thought of this century?
What language have you read these leaders?
In reality it is your gut not facts on the ground or knowledge gained by talking with people who know the “ropes” and write the books.
Our president is a uneducated politition with no eggs and a stupid staff.

Posted by: k at February 28, 2011 4:38 PM
Comment #319364

k

With all due respect, I would not consider his staff stupid. I would call them un-wise and narcistic. The reason is that they know exactly where their decisions are taking the country.

Craig C
There are some interesting things that are playing into the US becoming an Islamic state. We have at the present time just enough births to sustain our way of living. With the Islamic peoples replicating at an 18 times more than the rest of the world, a generation will produce enough Islamic people to make it a threat. To further complicate this pix is the effort of some people to legalize same gender marriage. This will further reduce our rate of replication. As long as we have people in government making decisions that lean toward bringing sharia law to this country, it is a danger.

Posted by: tom humes at February 28, 2011 5:04 PM
Comment #319367

“Because we lack a president with the vision to anticipate this [radical islamists gaining power through free elections] and the cajones to do anything about it, we can only watch from the sideline as our influence in the region diminishes while our oil prices skyrocket and our economy tanks.”

Craig C.,

OK, so I guess free elections are out as an option for the Middle East. So, what then are the options that Obama doesn’t have the cajones to implement? Magically reinstall friendly dictatorships throughout the region? Thwart any attempt at free elections? Short of occupying the whole Middle East, what do you seriously propose?

Posted by: Rich at February 28, 2011 5:24 PM
Comment #319368

Let me start with the “Brothers,” founded by Hasan al-Banna, but whose intellectual roots are Sayyad Qutb - his works are “Muhimmat al-Sha’ar fi ‘l-Hayah; al-Adalat al Ijtima’ Iyyah fi ‘l-Islam; Fi Zilal al-Kor’an; and Ma’alim fi “l-tariq and several pamphlets.He has two others I am reading now.Mubarak, like Saadat and Nasr are Political [Modern) Islamists secularists.
In fact this is where most analyst fail. There is no one Arab view, there is no one Islamic people - There is no one Sharia law. It is differentiated by National origin, Sunni, Shai, secular and schools of Islamic thought. Wahhabism although founded in Saudi, it has adherence even Pakistan as far back as 1860.
When Khomeini was in Paris he wrote his doctoral thesis on Marx and was well known to have interpreted Islam in accordance with Marxist ideas. When he came to power he used a thesis called Islam and revolution to place his ideas before the public.It was actually called Governance of the Faqih. Faqih is “a religious decree”

Posted by: k at February 28, 2011 5:27 PM
Comment #319387

No comments. How sad!! Will we see elections - we have, it has been there before and dictators were chosen - why not the Brotherhood. The spring revolutions are not over wait a few months and see. Meanwhile read a bit - Know your opposition.

Posted by: k at March 1, 2011 3:06 AM
Comment #319389

I’m not commenting until all this is over and we see what emerges from the rubble. I’m hoping for the best to come out of North Africa & Middle East, but I know not to be too optimistic.

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