Aw gee, everybody’s piling on to the poor guy. Excerpts from four essays make it clear we’re in the best of hands:
Michael Ledeen illustrates what our idiot in the White House doesn’t understand about the Middle East.
It could not be otherwise, since our government, our universities, our news organizations and our think tanks are all primarily organized to deal with countries, and our analysts, policy makers and military strategists inevitably think inside those boxes. …
So there’s a global war, we’re the main target of the aggressors, and our leaders don’t see it and therefore have no idea how to win it.
Any serious attempt to understand what’s going on has to begin by banning the word “stability,” much beloved of diplomats and self-proclaimed strategists. If anything is fairly certain about our world, it’s that there is no stability, and there isn’t going to be any. Right now, the driving forces are those aimed at destroying the old order, and their targets (the old regimes, very much including the United States) have until recently showed little taste to engage as if their survival depended on it. But things are changing, as always.
War is foggy, and alliances are often very unstable, especially at moments when the whole world is up for grabs. Look at Egypt, for example. At one level, it’s a sectarian fight: the “secular” military vs. the “Islamist” Muslim Brotherhood. So nobody should be surprised when the Brothers burn churches and murder Christians. But the top military dog, General Sisi, has some pretty impressive Islamist credentials. Indeed, his elevation at the time of the Brothers’ purge of Mubarak’s generals was frequently attributed to his close ties to the Brotherhood.
[Geography and history] are the building blocks of learning. Without awareness of natural and human geography, we are reduced to a self-contained void without accurate awareness of the space around us. An ignorance of history creates the same sort of self-imposed exile, leaving us ignorant of both what came before us and what is likely to follow.
In the case of geography, Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama recently lectured, “If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina; or Savannah, Georgia; or Jacksonville, Florida . . . ” The problem is that all the examples he cited are cities on the East Coast, not the Gulf of Mexico. If Obama does not know where these ports are, how can he deepen them?
Obama’s geographical confusion has become habitual. He once claimed that he had been to all “57 states.” He also assumed that Kentucky was closer to Arkansas than it was to his adjacent home state of Illinois.
In reference to the Falkland Islands, President Obama called them the Maldives — islands southwest of India — apparently in a botched effort to use the Argentine-preferred “Malvinas.” The two island groups may sound somewhat alike, but they are continents apart. Again, without basic geographical knowledge, the president’s commentary on the Falklands is rendered superficial.
When in the state of Hawaii, Obama announced that he was in “Asia.” He lamented that the U.S. Army’s Arabic-language translators assigned to Iraq could better be used in Afghanistan, failing to recognize that Arabic isn’t the language of Afghanistan. And he also apparently thought Austrians speak a language other than German.
A degree from our most prestigious American university is no guarantee a graduate holding such a credential will know the number of states or the location of Savannah. If we wonder why the Ivy League–trained Obama seems confused about where cities, countries, and continents are, we might remember that all but one Ivy League university eliminated their geography departments years ago.
As a rule now, when our leaders allude to a place or an event in the past, just assume their references are dead wrong.
There are many ways to learn about the bleaker aspects of human nature. One would be to run a pizza shop or have to clean regularly a public restroom. Perhaps close attention to the text of Thucydides might give a more abstract lesson of what people are capable. The Old and New Testaments offer plenty of examples of the fallen state of man.
Obama apparently did not get the message. What is the common denominator to his failed foreign policy initiatives — reset with Russia, a new, kinder gentler Middle East, supposed breakthroughs with China, outreach to Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela — and his domestic catastrophes: Obamacare, deficits, huge debts, or chronic unemployment?
In a word, he does not seem to know much about human nature, whether in the concrete or abstract sense. Obama either never held a menial job or ran a business. In lieu of education in the school of hard knocks, he read the wrong, if any seminal, texts at all.
The problem with a thug like Vladimir Putin is not just that he does not respond to “outreach” and “reset,” but rather that he interprets such loud magnanimity as weakness. And when sermonizing and lectures are added to perceptions of America impotence, the impression of timidity leads further to contempt — and ultimately to a devilishly desire to humiliate and disabuse a naïf Obama of his moral pretensions. And what of the world watching all this? Unfortunately, it is more likely to enjoy viewing a strong rebuff of utopian idealism than a weak embrace of it.
In his Al Arabiya interview and Cairo Speech, Obama sought to reach out to the Middle East on the unlikely premise that his own affinities with Islam — a Muslim father, a Muslim middle name, Muslim relatives — his mixed racial heritage, and his multicultural sympathies for Islamic world would turn stand-offish moderates into friends, and prior enemies into moderates.
But why so? All the silly euphemisms in the world — man-caused disasters, overseas contingency operations, workplace violence — would not make jihadists suddenly like the U.S. just because the new president was not a white, Christian Texan.
Such superficial affinities are as unlikely to promote diplomatic break-throughs as they are likely to appear insulting. Does Obama have any experience with a particularly disturbing human characteristic — learned both from literature and the experience, say, of going to a dangerous public school — that forced efforts to fit in, to accommodate, to ingratiate, to seek affinities where they don’t exist are not interpreted as outreach as much as condescension?
The almost eerie hatred for Obama seen in Egypt — among the military, the Islamists, the Egyptian Street, even the secular pro-Western reformists — in part derives from a sense that Obama tried to cajole them all with cheap commonalities and mytho-histories rather than negotiate often conflicting national interests through tough transparent talks.
The Obama administration announced last month via blog post that the president was unilaterally suspending ObamaCare’s employer mandate—notwithstanding the clear command of the law. President Obama’s comments about it on Aug. 9—claiming that “the normal thing [he] would prefer to do” is seek a “change to the law”—then added insult to constitutional injury.
…. The Constitution has a provision for suspending habeas. It has no general provision for executive suspension of laws. English kings used to suspend laws, but the Framers rejected that practice: The president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.
…. As for Republican congressmen who had the temerity to question his authority, Mr. Obama said only: “I’m not concerned about their opinions—very few of them, by the way, are lawyers, much less constitutional lawyers.” Mr. Obama made no mention of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin—a Democrat, a lawyer and one of the authors of ObamaCare—who said: “This was the law. How can they change the law?”