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Foreign Affairs

The Collapse of (Obama's) Internationalism

The WSJ announces the collapse of internationalism in an editorial which is required reading for anyone interested in American foreign policy:

Not the 28 members of NATO, not the 15-member U.N. Security Council, not the 22 nations of the Arab League could save Libya's rebels from being obliterated by the mad and murderous Moammar Gadhafi. The world has just watched the collapse of internationalism.

The world's self-professed keepers of international order, from Brussels to Turtle Bay, huffed and puffed, talked and threatened. And they failed. Utterly.

But what we've watched is not merely the failure of the gauzy notion of "internationalism." It's more specific than that. What has collapsed here is the modern Democratic Party's new foreign-policy establishment.

The WSJ blames the international community's catastrophic failure in Libya on Obama's "post-American world" foreign-policy. His advisory team consists "entirely of intellectuals" who believe America must always act as an equal member of the global community - we mustn't attempt to lead, but to join.

I was willing to give Obama a momentary benefit of the doubt when our failure to act in Libya was prefaced upon the need to first secure and evacuate American citizens. That pretext for inaction has passed, and the subsequent dallying which most of us anticipated has continued.

Obama's election campaign and presidency in many respects may be reduced to anti-Bush rhetoric and promises. Bush's foreign policy was called the "freedom agenda" - Obama's foreign policy may now justly be called the "anti-freedom agenda."

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Discussions - 30 Comments

Negative Ghost Rider. Internationalism is about as dead as the Neo-con position. See this for amusement: http://www.cato-unbound.org/2011/03/07/c-bradley-thompson/neoconservatism-unmasked/

I could say more but you are a lawyer, figure it out. At the end of history the facts are written by Bloomberg, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal and Janes Defence, then rewritten by lawyers and analysts as the client requires. The facts show a major problem with the finances of the Europeans in particular with already stressed Spanish and Italian Banks, reinsured by Swiss, American and German players, already under stress from policies stemming from nuclear melt down in Japan, and higher oil prices. You really think the system can afford a trillion dollar write down on Lybian assets? CAPITAL writes history, because Capital pays "Internationalism" and "neo-conservatism".

Liberal Democracy still rules in theory and practice under an administrative state that tries to ballance forces seeking "Alpha"(Megalothymia) with forces seeking "Beta" (Isothymia). The end.

The bus driver is the white house is a complete, utter failure. Make all the long-winded excuses that you want. Failed. Failed. Failed.

At a time when we're talking about drastically reducing the federal budget, do you think it's wise to take on another war? The cost of the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan makes Obamacare look like small potatoes, indeed.

John, Libya is a small, flat nation, and with multilateral intervention it would be accomplished pretty quickly. My real worry is what would have replaced the nutjob. There's the rub. I wouldn't want to expend blood and treasure simply to install another Islamic Republic.

The rub, indeed. If Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us nothing else, it is that overthrowing tyrannical regimes is relatively easy. Ensuring that more acceptable ones emerge to replace them is an entirely different matter. Before I back another foreign adventure I want to make damned certain that it it serves the national interest, and doesn't merely satisfy our moral sensibilities.

It's Dan Henninger and not everyone can read it.

It has been pitiful to read of those Libyans trying to overthrow Ghadafi who are waiting and hoping for the US to do for them what it did for the Iraqis. You'd think, given that there is an armed resistance, that one of the old arguments of Democrats would inspire them to action: "If the people wished to overthrow Saddam, they would rise up and haven't. They must like him and we have no right to interfere."

Maybe we have to get used to doing nothing. Maybe the whole world will have to get used to our doing nothing, too.

What's the U.S. security interest in Libya that's worth the cost in treasure, and maybe of blood, in involving ourselves. You guys are the limited government people--what's the limit on U.S. responsibilities to police the internal affairs of another sovereign nation?

Where is Peter Lawler?

I seem to remember him here posting that Obama wasn't that radical, wouldn't be much of a departure from the Clinton model and that Republican fear-mongering during that presidential race was unworthy. That's a paraphrase of course, but that's roughly the gist of his many remarks about Obama. At least what I remember from them.

So where is he?

I want a mea culpa, mea maxima culpa id est.

So, it is about the expense? The Obama admin. is suddenly worried about what something will cost?

Cute. Doesn't answer the question. I can put it two ways-

* What's the compelling interest that justifies the expense in blood and treasure?

* What's the limiting principle that sends us into Libya but not, say, Sudan?

These are important questions. I presume you believe the U.S. can't intervene in every conflict abroad, so how do you justify this particular one? Snark about Obama isn't actually an answer.

Kate, intellectual honesty should have led the wayward Lawler back to this website for a forthright acknowledgment of his many errors.

Until such time, he shall remain unforgiven.

He has to present himself before all of us at this blog, and admit that he too was swept up by the many falsehoods swirling about and around Obama.

AND he needs to admit as well that he supported Romney, but didn't have the nerve to be out in the open about it. That was another thing that irritated me.

John raises a serious objection, but what's this Obama rhetoric about "tightening the noose" around the Colonel's neck? Shoot a king, got to kill him.

Dan,
He wasn't the only one hopeful about Obama. Being a prayful person, I am still praying that Obama will be a good president, just what the US needs. If being hopeful is an error, it doesn't seem like one about which we demand apologies.

Joel Mathis -- you're right, we have no compelling interest, except for, perhaps, an interest in global oil prices.

The Sudan seems to have worked itself out, with I-don't-even-know-what pressure from the US.

Libya -- they asked us. The people on the ground rebelling against what we all know was tyranny, they asked us. It could be an easy one and we would not have to stay to rebuild, especially if we had gone in quickly. Well, at the moment, given what I am reading, we might see if it would be easy, etc.

We probably cannot go because the Obama admin. has been reducing the budgets of our military and reducing forces. I know, its one of the few places that can be cut as discretionary spending. And maybe pulling back from the world is simply prudent given the state of our economy. Still, I find it as hard to ignore Libyans suffering as I do watching the Japanese suffer. They both seem to be coping with natural disasters. If we cannot touch Gadhafi, then he is a like a natural disaster.

Dan, I have given you Peter Lawler's blog URL; you can go castigate him over there at your pleasure. I don't think he's written more than a comment or two here in years. I liked arguing with the things he wrote on here.

"We probably cannot go because the Obama admin. has been reducing the budgets of our military and reducing forces. "

Kate, that's simply untrue.

Some weapons programs have been cut, yes, with the hearty approve of SecDef Gates--who, crazily enough, believes we shouldn't spend too much money on items that aren't particularly useful. But the base defense budget continues to grow--at only slightly faster than the rate of inflation, instead of much faster than the rate of inflation as per usual.

And the proposed force strength in FY 2012 is 1.4 million troops—it was 1.32 million in 2007.

http://comptroller.defense.gov/defbudget/fy2012/FY2012_Budget_Request_Overview_Book.pdf

As for the rest of it, I suppose you're right that the U.S. has an interest in global oil prices. I'm not sure that is sufficient to warrant our intervention.

The default, I think, shouldn't be: "Why AREN'T we intervening?" It should be: "Why SHOULD we intervene?" It's the kind of test that conservatives seek to impose on domestic governance; I wish they'd be as vigorous about applying it to questions abroad.

Wait! Hold the Presses! Obama will save the country from finanical meltdown and dependency on the Middle East - He can to back to golfing, drinking beer and smoking:

Jerry Immelt, CEO of GE and recent Obama appointee to the Ecomonic Advisory Board has just announced that GE will buy 50,000 Chevy Volts to use as company cars at GE!!!!! HOORAH! This will save GM and help bring down the deficit and help the taxpayer!! Problem solved. All is well. Hope and Change.!!!

And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona.

Joel Mathis -- I have two sons in the military, two branches of service, one officer, one non-com. and they are being told that promotions will be scarce going forward because forces will be cut. I know that is scuttlebutt, but it is what they are hearing and seeing.

I am happy about defense budget cuts that are pointed at the kind of political pork barrel projects and bases that are the cause of much waste in the defense budget. Unfortunately, once Congress is involved, those become election issues ("I saved the base!") and there is not much to be done. One of my sons writes a bolg about his experiences and a recent one was partly about the problem of cutting the defense budget because of bureaucratic ... I don't know. Call it self-defense on the part of departments, I suppose. He's in the Navy, but as corpsman serves with marines. He sees it in the Navy and not so much in the Marines.

Why should we intervene? People are dying while pursuing freedom. Where is there a Charlie Wilson when you need him?

Peter Lawler is also here
http://bigthink.com/ideas/31639

I notice there's a difference of opinion here on Libya. I think we should intervene, but it's a close call. I agree generally on the criticisms of Obama's internationalism. I have no idea what he's supposed to do about the imminent glowing of Japan.

The comments about me and Obama here are an exaggeration. I remember when I spoke at Ashland in Oct. 08 Peter Shramm was ticked off at me in the afternoon for explaining why Obama's campaign was fairly skillful and so he was going to win the election. And then in the evening he was ticked off at me again for going over several ways Obama might ruin the country--and so scaring the crowd.

I wasn't for Romney, in fact. The record showed I opposed the NR Romney' crowd's exaggerated dissing of Huckabee. I really wan't for anyone. No candidate, unfortunately, really caught on. McCain's victory was mighty lucky and semi-unearned.

I wish I had been for Romney. He would have been a better candidate than McCain, especially after the economic meltdown.

I meant to start blogging again here after a break. But it turns out my entry thing stopped working, which I took as a sign from God. I wouldn't mind starting again, but Pete S. usually says what I would say but with greater attention to detail.

I would write a comment now and again, but I have trouble typing the two magic words correcly on the big C thing.

Kate, it would be bad form to dredge up Lawler's quasi-support of Obama over there at the other website. And Kate, you were never taken in by anything Obama ever said or anything that others said about him.

So the Prodigal returns!

Peter, I cannot comment on your speeches in as much as I wasn't present for any of them.

But your blog entries here made for painful reading, and your support of Romney was passive, but support nonetheless, because you endlessly regaled us all with the faults and failings of the other candidates, but never here really went after Romney, certainly not like you went after Rudy for instance.

But just admit that Obama has been much worse than you ever imagined, and what's more, that an even cursory review of Obama's record indicated that he wasn't remotely equal to the responsibilities that inexorably descend on the President of the United States.

And Lawler, nobody here is saying you went off like David Brooks, and waxed rhapsodic about creased pants, {that twit is STILL defending him, ... unbelievable!} But when others here went off after Obama with criticisms that have proved positively prophetic, you said such criticisms were exaggerated, that he wouldn't be that bad.

Well now Obama's record is there for all to see, his appointments, his policies, his banal utterances away from the teleprompter. He's a disaster, and he isn't done yet!

You're lucky I'm not of a mind like Scanlon, he'd have gone off and dredged up some of your comments and posted them in a blogging equivalent to providing chapter and verse.

But I've a date later, some chick in her early 20s has been pursuing me for over a year, so I might as well let her have me tonight.

I in fact did not support Obama and attacked Obamacons quite routinely "on the other website." I also regularly offered advice to anyone I could on how to improve McCain's campaign. I stuck with McCain to the end, and even knocked myself out playing the divided government card. And everyone remembers I hope my efforts to defend our Sarah.

I didn't make Rudy G a lame candidate. He was one. He was tonedeaf to the social conservatives in a way that made his primary campaign doomed before it began. As hugely influential as I am, I couldn't have turned that around.

I'm for Mitch Daniels in 2012.

I agree with Pistol Pete above on Libya etc. and really thinking about what this war would entail.

Hello, Peter Lawler. It was nice of you to turn up. Other people ask about you from time to time in a more positive way. As noted above, I have missed your posts. You might consider cross-posting. Steve Hayward does that these days. It is interesting to see the different directions the comments go in the different blogs.

You probably lost your entry thing when NLT went through the last technical change. In some ways it was an improvement and in many ways, not. This view of the loss of your entry thing is not as elegant or satisfying or ultimate as a sign from God, but maybe more likely. I wonder if that is what happened to all of the other people in the list of author who author no posts here anymore.

As to commenting here, yes, it does more effort than before and the Captcha can be incomprehensible, but the swirly icon above the little speaker will give you a new choice of nonsense words. The little speaker itself is useless.

Dan, you are probably correct about not bringing up NLT matters on another blog, but I always think it is silly to rant at a person who is not really there and cannot hear you. That's why I don't watch TV news.

However, Peter Lawler turned up and that's good enough.

I cannot remember exactly what I said about Obama, and am worse about remembering what anyone else specifically said years back. Yes, about dredging the past, Craig Scanlon is a wonder, except for his anti-contextual readings of comments. But I don't think anyone who wrote for the blog was pro-Obama and everyone was uncomfortable about the Republican candidates in the last presidential election. We all went on about that at length although we did try to be comforting about who we did have as candidates. There was a rah-rah about Romney at NR, but not here.

We all did our best about McCain and many on NLT were very enthusiastic about Palin. Being supportive in the circumstances is the right thing to do, and being hopeful when the person you did not want for president becomes president is simply -- civility.

Tips for judging the O-man:

1) yes, he was a stealth democratic socialist for a good portion of his political career--the evidence in S. Kurtz's book is not deniable, nor has the WH or any surrogates even tried.

2) yes, he has employed more deception (i.e. lied more often) than most any other presidents in our history. He has not gone into Nixon territory of illegal means, but he is both the "rhetorical presidency" on steroids, and he simply doesn't respond to the serious charges of deception laid against month by month by month. And he can't. His war-room strategy is to ignore more than it is to deny.

3) but it does not follow that he has a grand socialist plan for ruining (or temporarily reviving) America's economy so as to make it dependent on statism; or for ruining America's wld standing so as to make us all more dependent on intl organizations. That kind of conservative talk has never been helpful.

4) a far more likely scenario is that he got caught, with his very limited legislative/policy experience and total lack of executive experience, committed to a set of policies that simply have not worked and which he never really heartily believed in nor understood himself. The health-care bill, for example, is one giant example of America-must-must-must-be-able-to do-better "thinking." In other words, "progressivism" for Obama means something between standard contemporary liberalism and the stealth democratic socialism he probably let go sometime around 2002-2006 as he more seriously tried to think about how he would function as a politician on the national stage. The man out-stealthed his own convictions, so to speak. He began to doubt the overall DSA or Acorn view of the solutions necessary, he saw that as a politician he had to make stands openly opposed to those solutions, and he began to redefine himself in this vagueness--unfortunately, his own rhetoric, composed in a mainly negative mode of opposing Republicans-in-power, actually began to itself seem to himself like a policy and a stance.

5) the Democratic denial/echo chamber has been particularly strong of late, say, 2004-2010. Obama's is not the only mind that got caught in it.

6) there was a short period from late 2008 to perhaps the first two months of his administration, where there were some signs that indicated a more pragmatic and compromising and smart Obama would emerge. This in fact terrified those like myself who already knew from the Wright episode or books like Shelby Steele's A Bound Man how fundamentally dishonest and anti-conservative he was, b/c it suggested he would get away with it, pull a Clinton II and w/o genuine New Dem beliefs. But it was basically illusory, and the O-man could not keep the illusion maintained.

P.S. I'd say there's a 40% chance he does not run in 2012. Something is seriously wrong with him, and at some level he knows it.

Public opinion is what is wrong with him. He misjudged the ideology or interest of those in the center of America's political spectrum. He seems to have misjudged or misunderstood reality in a number of ways, not just that one. His idea of the pragmatic -- I loved the period (and I forget the time of it in the last couple of years) when the word was that he just not communicated his vision enough. In fact, he had never shut up about it and it was the vision that was making the public squeamish. That hasn't gotten any better and we have not all come around to his way of thinking.

The lies -- are they lies or are those product of an isolating office? I ask because of having tried to read George Bush's apologia. I kept thinking he would reveal truth, but he didn't. He lauded the baloney and waved it about as if it was explanation enough. It was not nearly explanation enough. If he believed in its integrity; I hoped he would at least admit it was baloney. The Rumsfeld book was the same sort of thing. Of course, I probably won't bother reading the book like that Obama will write. Why bother? Well, maybe just to see if he believes himself. That's becoming a point I wonder about.

The last presidential election was depressing. I hope people are right about Mitch Daniels. The speculation about H. Clinton leaving the State Dept. to rest up for a presidential run is interesting, if only to see how the race issue plays out this time around.

Carl, I selfishly wish you would write more. I often wonder what you think on the questions of the day. To some of your points,

3. I think the error that you rightly diagnose in point #3 is what William F. Buckley described as the error of deducing a person's subjective intentions from the objective consequences (or predicted - by their opponents - consequences) of their proposals. Bad things might result from Obama's policies, but it doesn't follow that Obama WANTS bad things to happen. President Bush 43 did not WANT thousands of American soldiers to die in Iraq.

I think President Obama has a fairly clear view of where he wants American politics to go in the medium-term. He is aiming to move American policy in a higher government spending, greater government control over the distribution of resources (especially in the health care sector), more corporatist (especially on energy) direction. I also think that he thinks that this would be a good thing for most Americans.

4. I think he thinks his health care bill makes a lot of sense from his perspective. From his perspective, the bill moves policy in a better direction in several ways. It expands the numbers on government-provided health care and gives HHS the discretion to mandate that those new government health care recipients are put into a fee for service-style program. It makes the private health care insurance into even more of a form of comprehensive health care prepayment (which I think he wants but within a government-run single-payer model.) Now I'm sure he knows (because everyone can see - and if I can see it anyone can) that his plan will raise premiums and cause some employers to drop coverage. I think he sees those kinds of institutional changes as producing more political pressure for a single-payer system down the line. Like Reihan Salam said, he created a dynamic of win now or win later. Same thing with entitlements. If the Republicans come crawling to him with a deal that leans strongly left, then he will deal. If they don't then he will demagogue their proposals and assume that he can mostly win a policy showdown that occurs under the shadow of a government finance crisis. Of course this only works IF he gets reelected, so the 2012 election is high stakes indeed. On the other hand we shouldn't surrender even if Obama gets a second term. There is nothing wrong with thinking through how to advance a reformist conservative politics in a second Obama administration.

I hope you are right about Obama, but I think that if his health holds up, he is not caught in a nightmare scandal and his job approval ratings are above 35%, he is going to run. He is an uncommonly ideologically dedicated and tactically flexible politician.

Pete, you saw the story (there's a Powerline link) about the Chevy Volt not selling in its first two months, and not working very well either, right?

That's a good symbol for the health care law. Yes, it was supposed to push us into single-payer, that was Obama's intention all along, but by gradually forcing/nudging tough choices towards that while remaining a semi-plausible fix itself for some time, NOT by becoming a bloody mess within a couples years of launch, whose provisions contradict one another, whose immediate outcomes immediately falsify the claims used to pass it, etc. They didn't even think about how write it so as to defend its constitutionality, and for a while wound up trying to claim the mandate-fine was some kind of tax, contrary to the law's own wording! The thing was apparently crafted by a seething hydra of heads.

Conservatives and liberals could have a good political philosophy debate or long-term outcomes debate about whether having a Green-Subsidy Government Motors is a good thing, IF the motors it made were marketable (they aren't even with their 7500$ tax credit!). But the motors aren't selling. The Green Energy isn't arriving. The man-made global warming isn't as convincing anymore. Gitmo is open for business. Obama turns out to be very much for gay marriage, and okay with Iranian nukes, both against his express word. The stimulus doesn't seem to have worked and the seriousness of debt-threat becomes more undeniable by the day. The short-term stuff, so much of it built on echo-chamber-think and MSM-unchallenged lies, is collapsing for Obama. We have good reason, I think, to expect many more such collapses vis-a-vis the health-care law, ones obvious even to those for whom health-care issues are dry and obtuse.

Carl, on health care I think the echo chamber effect you describe hurt Obama the most in the construction of the individual insurance purchase mandate. They really don't seem to have considered that there might be a serious (in the sense of have a serious chance of succeeding) challenge to its constitutionality. I was listening to NPR and the bewilderment that anyone thought this way was hilarious. There was this sense that all of the experts (the people they talked to) agreed that the mandate must obviously be constitutional and that any other view was some combination of ignorance or honesty (they tried to be more polite - or maybe more weasely - in how they put it.) It never seemed to have occurred to them that none of the experts they talked to shared the legal outlook of a Scalia or John Roberts and that this left them unprepared to think through either the legal arguments or the law's chances before the courts. Just the same, I'm not betting on Anthony Kennedy to rescue my policy preferences on a case where he will earn the most bitter denunciation (think Americans United + Heller X 1 million) from virtually the whole left-of-center if he votes down Obamacare.

I think a more free market-oriented energy policy is a winner. It would have to include themes of lower prices, higher growth and less corporate welfare (hear that Newt Gingrich!?!).

I'm not sure Obama's political problems are as big as I would like. I don't think the stimulus was well constructed, but if unemployment is in the 7s next year he will have a plausible case. Public opinion on Obamacare is ambiguous. I think the political case against Obamacare is stronger than Ezra Klein suggests by looking at the poll data http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/how-the-affordable-care-act-is-polling-on-its-first-birthday/2011/03/10/ABH8eRp_blog.html The questions on replacement are worded so as to guarantee a no answer. But it does indicate how difficult it will be for Republicans (either next year or later) to craft an explicable and persuasive rhetoric on health care policy.

The biggest problems with Obamacare won't show up until after November 2012 and the experience of Massachusetts (not perfect for reasons of political culture, but the best real world analogy we have) is that how blame for rising premiums and dropped coverage will be apportioned will at best be a jump ball between those blaming Obamacare and those blaming the mean old insurance companies It won't help that the Romneycare/Obamacare setup includes incentives that both tend to corrupt insurers and health care providers (by tending to reduce competition) and then having scandals or pseudo-scandals used to demonize what elements of private provision remain within the system.

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