Monday, August 05, 2013
Whatever the opposite of a charm offensive is, President Obama is on it.In Chicago on July 24, Obama delivered an hour-long speech in which he complained that “with this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.” The mother of one of the four Americans murdered at the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi immediately objected. “He’s wrong. My son is dead. How could that be phony?”A short while later, Obama was at it again.Describing an Oval Office visit with the Vietnamese president Truong Tan Song, Mr. Obama reported: “We discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.”That assertion registered pretty high on the gaffe meter. Noted the editorial team at Investor’s Business Daily, “Few comparisons have been as odious as the one offered by the president linking one of the great mass murderers of history to one of America's Founding Fathers and authors of our liberty.”It’s alarming when presidents engage in the practice of sloppy history—especially sloppy war history.While Ho quoted the Declaration and Jefferson in his 1945 Declaration of Independence from the French, no reputable scholar of the Vietnam War would ever claim that he aimed to adopt American notions of a democratic civil society. Quite the contrary. His goal was to prevent the French from reestablishing their hold to Indochina once the Japanese were expelled. To that end, he did everything possible to ingratiate himself with the in-country American military advisors—and that included salting his declaration with cherished phrases from the American founding.The advisors fell for it. Their “failure to identify Ho Chi Minh as Soviet-trained and a Communist ideologue,” Claude Berube wrote in a study of OSS operations, “was a major American intelligence shortcoming that smoothed the way for Ho’s emergence as a national leader and in the end, an enemy of the United States.”
The author, James Jay Carafano, recounts how Obama is trying to avoid the mistakes that Johnson made in Viet Nam without understanding the read mistakes Johnson made.
I was going to say that Obama's problem is ... but Obama is America's problem, so let me start that sentence again: America's problem is that Obama is an ideologue, and a stupid one. The combination can cause incalculable damage.Assuming that Johnson’s problem was fighting a long war is lazy history. Some long wars must be fought. Johnson’s problem was he fought a stupid war.A less superficial history of the Vietnam conflict suggests that the progressive way of war is anything but the practice “smart” power. Johnson actually started out acting much like Obama, trying to do just enough to avoid being accused of doing nothing. This approach—doing as little as possible to get by—is called the “incrementalist” strategy.The problem with an incrementalist approach is that the enemy pretty quickly figures out your strategy—and responds by incrementally and repeatedly upping the ante. Johnson got sucked into doing more and more until he was in too deep. Then he lacked the judgment to fight the war in a manner that would lead to a responsible conclusion. ...When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s sloppy history is feeding his penchant for failing often and early.