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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The education of Walter Russell Mead

Walter Russell Mead has some useful things to say from time to time.  Today is not one of them.  

He writes an essay that is almost a parody of a NY Times editorial: Dissing: The Sincerest Form Of Flattery in which he tries to prove that the world's contempt is a sign of our importance.  Perhaps the next article will be designed to show that Jihadists attack us because they love us.

He provides a list of leaders around the world who are publicly challenging the United States, but concludes that this is business as usual.

“While administration missteps, most notably on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, have contributed to the current atmosphere, there is nothing new about some of these problems. It has been decades since Europeans welcomed US advice about their economic problems. German chancellors since Konrad Adenauer have regularly roasted the US for what they see as our national addiction to budget deficits and fecklessly loose monetary policy. China has never liked our support for Taiwan, and the current brouhaha is mild by historical standards and looks more pro-forma than in-depth. A newly democratic and assertive Turkey is running through the eastern Mediterranean like a bull in a china shop, but this has less to do with anything President Obama has done than with long term trends in Turkey itself.”

So we’re not seeing the US being treated any differently than before? The Konrad Adenauer I remember may not have liked American fiscal policy (the memory of hyperinflation haunts Germany to this day), but it's inconceivable that he would have deviated from American policy.  He was the leader of a country we recently defeated and currently occupied.  His political focus was staying on the right side of the US.

China is now lecturing the US about how to run a country, and NY Times columnists prefer their political system to ours. And who thinks that if China bothers to invade Taiwan Obama will do anything but give a speech at the UN?

Turkey is turning Islamist and challenging Israel in the knowledge that the Obama administration is only paying lip service to that country, not because of any genuine commitment to the Jewish state, because they don’t want to lose the Jewish vote. If Obama wins re-election in 2012 and Holocaust II occurs, it will be greeted with crocodile tears by the Left and Obama, but I repeat myself.

No, Walter, there is a real and not-so-subtle difference between the way the world views the US since Obama entered office. Bush, and the Presidents that preceded him believed in American exceptionalism and translated that belief into policies which, if not always successful, resulted in either respect, or fear even in the case of our enemies.  Hitler, the Japanese and even Osama may have viewed the US as a morally weak, mongrel nation, a "weak horse."  But that view was not shared by Americn leaders or its people.  Obama, a genuine product of the 60’s Left counterculture does not believe that America is anything special. Worse, he sees the US as the cause of much of the world’s woes. That is the meaning of Obama’s “apology tour.” It’s the reason that the US now inspires contempt.  If our leaders don't believe in our basic goodness, what are others supposed to think?   

Pakistan, which trembled - and cooperated - when Bush gave them an ultimatum to side with us against the Taliban or face destruction now gives us the middle finger by inviting the Chinese Vice Prime Minister to discuss regional security after sending surrogates to attack the American embassy in Afghanistan.

Walter deludes himself and tries to put lipstick on this pig by saying that:
“That leaders around the world find President Obama and the country he leads such a useful target for insults and such a useful scapegoat when things go wrong is, in a perverse — and from a US point of view, somewhat unpleasant — way, a form of flattery. The United States is being so widely attacked because it matters so much. Germany does not attack Indian leaders who criticize its economic policies; Netanyahu does not spend a lot of time thinking up new ways to demonstrate his independence from Brazil.”

Unfortunately a simple Google search shows that Germany criticizes just about every country and vice versa. We simply don’t hear about it much because, let’s face it, we’re really not used to caring about what other countries squabble about behind our backs. It’s why NPR re-broadcasts BBC World News programs, to give us a flavor for things that simply don’t appear in the American national press.

Walter concludes:
“The real challenge the United States faces is to develop a new kind of strategy for a more fluid and tumultuous world.”
The question must be asked why the world is more fluid and tumultuous.  Was the US on vacation, coming back to find the house trashed by teen age party goers left behind? Walter says America “matters so much.” If so, it's inescapable that we contributed by our actions or inactions to a tumultuous world. I maintain that the one factor that added substantially to the world’s fluidity and tumultuousness is an American president who focused his attention on shedding American global leadership because he believed that that leadership was essentially evil.    A president who believes that the UN - a collection of despots an kleptocrats - is the proper vehicle for global leadership.

This belief is reflected in the way America is viewed and treated. It’s completely natural and totally expected. I’m surprised that anyone should think anything else. Especially someone as erudite as Walter Russell Mead.

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