Gee, where have I heard those words before?
It’s more than a passing resemblance.
via Steven Hayward.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)
So argues Thomas Ricks, a lifelong Massachusetts Democrat, in a short article at Foreign Policy:
“As I studied the Vietnam war over the last 14 months, I began to think that John F. Kennedy probably was the worst American president of the previous century.
In retrospect, he spent his 35 months in the White House stumbling from crisis to fiasco. He came into office and okayed the Bay of Pigs invasion. Then he went to a Vienna summit conference and got his clock cleaned by Khrushchev. That led to, among other things, the Cuban missile crisis and a whiff of nuclear apocalypse.
Looming over it all is the American descent into Vietnam. The assassination of Vietnam’s President Diem on Kennedy’s watch may have been one of the two biggest mistakes of the war there. (The other was the decision to wage a war of attrition on the unexamined assumption that Hanoi would buckle under the pain.) I don’t buy the theory promulgated by Robert McNamara and others that Kennedy would have kept U.S. troops out. Sure, Kennedy wanted out of Vietnam — just like Lyndon Johnson wanted out a few years later: “We’ll scale down our presence after victory is secure.” And much more than Johnson, Kennedy was influenced by General Maxwell Taylor, who I suspect had been looking for a “small war” mission for the Army for several years. Indochina looked like a peachy place for that — warmer than Korea, and farther from Russia.”
It’s an interesting argument. Clearly Kennedy has been overrated to the point of canonization by Democrats who see a Golden Age in his administration that was lost to assassination. Along with the foreign policy problems Ricks mentions, many of Kennedy’s major domestic initiatives were stalled in Congress, only to be pushed through because of LBJ’s skillful politics in the wake of Kennedy’s murder.
On the other hand, JFK’s reputation has had a bit of a revival on the Right, at least by comparison with those Democrats who came after him: he did set us on the course to the Moon; he was a Cold Warrior vis-a-vis the Soviet Union (albeit an inept one); and he pushed through major tax cuts that lead to the early 60s boom.
But the worst of the 20th century? It think Ricks is using a bit of hyperbole to to force a reconsideration of Kennedy, for I can posit a few candidates for “worst:”
So, while Ricks has a point about Kennedy’s weaknesses, there are others arguably as bad or worse. If forced to make a choice, for now I’d choose LBJ; Carter was weaker, but Johnson’s entitlement binge is doing us much greater long-term damage. And while FDR expanded the government and mishandled the Depression badly, he at least won his war.
Whom would you choose?
LINK: Doug Mataconis votes for Woodrow Wilson.
via Big Peace
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)
The reliably liberal New Yorker magazine isn’t usually in the habit of presenting gifts to the Republican Party, but it has just published three little words that may prove central to the GOP effort to defeat President Obama next year. Those words are “leading from behind,” and they appear at the end of a Ryan Lizza article on Obama’s foreign policy.
Lizza didn’t coin the phrase. “Leading from behind” is a direct quote from of “one of [Obama’s] advisers,” who is describing his boss’ policy on Libya. That same adviser goes on to say that the effort to lead from behind is “so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world. But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”
And there you have it: the 2012 campaign against Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell. By the time Election Day rolls around, if the GOP knows what’s good for it, the phrase “leading from behind” will be the “yes, we can” of 2012.
The reason the phrase is so devastating is that “leading from behind” wasn’t intended as criticism but rather as a sympathetic, even proud, defense of the administration’s approach and goals.
Lizza describes it thus: “It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the US is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the US is reviled in many parts of the world.“
Wow. EU-style “soft power” in all its spineless glory. It’s the perfect implementation of a worldview that sees American power as the problem and seeks its deliberate weakening. Only you don’t let on that that’s your plan; rather, you couch it in terms of “inevitable decline” versus the latest threat(1) and the need to make ourselves more liked in the international community (all bow).
The article is right: if Republicans don’t use this like a club to whack Obama at every opportunity in the coming campaign, they don’t deserve to win.
LINKS: A British view — Obama looks “weak and confused.”
(1)Now it’s China. Remember the 1980s when Japan was going to eat our lunch?
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)
A zinger of a political cartoon from Michael Ramirez:
(via Power Line)
The Telegraph’s Nile Gardiner give ten reasons why he believes Barack Obama surpasses even Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson as the most naive American president, ever. Here’s the first:
1. Obama believes unilateral disarmament will achieve a nuclear-free world
The Obama administration may dream of a day when the world is free of nuclear weapons, but its lofty vision bears no relation to the realities of the modern world. Even the president of France believes that President Obama needs to live in the real world, not a virtual one, which is a rather damning indictment of US leadership. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Washington’s decision to cut its nuclear arsenal will encourage the likes of Iran and North Korea to disarm, and history has shown that a unilateral policy of disarmament will not prompt tyrannical regimes to change their behaviour.
Far from it. Self-abasement will only encourage international thugs.
Have a look at the rest. I find it hard to disagree with any of them.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States. From across the Atlantic, Nile Gardiner considers Obama’s record so far as a world leader and gives us 10 reasons why he’s no George W. Bush:
When it took office a year ago, the Obama administration boasted of a new strategy of “smart power”, designed to restore America’s “standing” in the world. In essence this new approach to foreign policy was designed to distance the new US government in every way possible from the Bush administration, supposedly hated in every corner of the earth, from Berlin to Buenos Aires.
Hence, the hallmarks of Obama’s foreign policy have been the naive engagement of an array of odious dictatorial regimes, grovelling apologies before foreign audiences, lamb-like timidity in the face of intimidation, the ending of the War on Terror, and the trashing of traditional alliances. But has this liberal foreign affairs revolution succeeded in advancing American interests and security across the globe? Hardly. Under Obama’s leadership the United States now appears significantly weaker and far more vulnerable, faced with an array of deadly threats that grow more menacing by the day.
When President Bush was in power he may not have been hugely popular abroad, but the United States was widely feared on the world stage, her enemies were hunted to the ends of the earth, and her real allies were treated with respect. As Barack Obama is discovering to his cost, the world stage is not an extension of the set of American Idol, and global leadership is not about winning popularity contests. The doctrine of “smart power” looks increasingly like an empty shell, a naive approach that has reaped no dividends and threatens to usher in an era of American decline, unless it is reversed.
But what do you really think, Nile?
I’ll let you read his list; suffice it to say I agree with them all to one degree or another. Put simply, Barack Obama has so far been the weakest American president on the international stage since Jimmy Carter, and I fear his administration’s ineptitude has left this nation one crisis away from a disaster. Some even argue that Obama and the left-liberals have chosen a policy of deliberate American decline. I’m inclined to agree. (Behind that link is a brilliant article by Charles Krauthammer, by the way. Read it.)
Back to Mr. Gardiner’s list, I’ll leave you with one that especially struck me as true:
5. Bush believed in the Special Relationship
I don’t recall George W Bush ever throwing a bust of Churchill out of the Oval Office or giving the British Prime Minister an insulting pack of DVDs. President Bush recognized Great Britain as America’s closest friend and ally, and placed the Special Relationship at the very heart of US foreign policy. Under Obama, the Anglo-American alliance has reached its lowest point since the Suez Crisis of 1956, a damning indictment of his world leadership. Bush possessed a genuine affection for the British people, their great heritage and their role in the world. Barack Obama cannot even bring himself to mention Britain in a major policy address or acknowledge the sacrifice of British forces in Afghanistan.
Britain isn’t the only ally to get a cold shoulder from Obama: Israel, the Czech Republic, and Poland, among others, all have sad tales to tell. But his treatment of the UK seems especially petty and personal, a sign of immaturity. The guiding principle of his foreign policy is a perverse form of appeasement: “hug your enemies, slap your friends.”
For all his faults, President Bush at least never made that mistake.
Remember when the incoming administration promised us a new era of “smart power,” of foreign policy done right? President Obama, inexperienced but with superior judgment. Vice-President Joe Biden, the wise sage of the Senate with a firm grip on reality. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who braved danger while accumulating vast experience in foreign affairs as First Lady. Enemies would become friends, our friends would respect us again, and all the world’s ills would be solved by engagement without preconditions. It was a foreign policy straight out of the Hundred Acre Wood.
(I think Tigger is played by Joe Biden…)
We’ve now had nearly a year of enlightened direction of our foreign relations. What have we to show for it? Plenty, if you’re into farce. Nile Gardiner of the Telegraph reviews the last year and presents a list of the Team Obama’s biggest foreign policy follies:
This has hardly been a stellar year for the projection of American global power. Weakness, rather than strength, has been the hallmark of US foreign policy under Barack Obama, from the Iranian nuclear crisis to dithering over the war in Afghanistan. Instead of strong American leadership, the White House has all too often offered humiliating apologies for America’s past and embarrassing gaffes.
Here is a list of the ten biggest foreign policy follies of Barack Obama’s first year in office. I’ve tried to make the list inclusive of all corners of the world, ranging from Tehran to Tokyo to Khartoum, and frankly could easily have expanded it to a top 20 or even top 30 list. There are plenty to choose from, including some of the most cringe worthy moments in modern American history.
I’ve talked about some of Obama’s notable gaffes before: for example stabbing Poland and the Czech Republic in the back over missile defense; backing a stooge of Venezuelan dictator Chavez against the constitutional government of Honduras; and a general policy based on appeasement. Gardiner’s list includes some I’ve overlooked, notably:
9. Embracing Genocidal Killers in Sudan
I’ve included this in the list because it illustrates the extraordinary lengths to which the Obama administration will go to appease the most evil tyrannies on the face of the earth. In October Obama extended the hand of friendship to the brutal regime in Khartoum led by Omar Hassan al-Bashir, responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands in Darfur, offering to lift sanctions if there were “concrete steps in a new direction”. The moral bankruptcy of this approach was summed up by Obama’s hugely controversial special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration:
“We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”
Read the whole thing, while I go find a brick wall to bang my head against. In just his first year, President Barack Obama has succeeded in something I thought impossible: making Jimmy Carter look like a tower of strength.
Is it 2012 yet?
(hat tip: Power Line)