08 April 2014

Considering Presidential Strengths and Weaknesses Through the Lens of Worldly Wisdom

Over the past few weeks I've received numerous emails and 'shares' related to the 'weakness' of Obama especially vis-a-vis Russia's Vladimir Putin.

While it cannot be doubted that Obama has proven to be a weak president, I think a few things ought to be mentioned.

First, I think as Christians we ought to be thinking in very different categories when it comes to issues like national prestige and American power.

As I've said before nationalism and even patriotism are values incompatible with the ethical mandates of New Testament Christianity. There's really no negotiation on this point. I am more than happy to engage anyone on this matter.

Our allegiance is to the Kingdom of Christ. The kingdoms of the world are self-serving and violent and will perish in the fires of Judgment. Our status is that of pilgrims and exiles.

Those who would ally themselves to states and their causes need to be cautioned. Allegiance to one nation is likely treason to the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.

So much of this criticism regarding 'strong' and 'weak' presidents has nothing to do with what can be called a Christian Worldview.

Secondly, I am not a fan of president Obama. I think he's proven treacherous. He has actually betrayed most of the people who worked to elect them. And I say that as one who did not vote for him. I have never voted for either of the major parties in a presidential election and never will. Despite the arguments to the contrary his agenda has largely been continuous with that of his predecessor.

However when I see the level of criticism levied against him, especially by those who praised and venerated Bush, it does make me want to speak out.

While it may seem like Obama has played a weak hand in the whole Ukraine episode, it must be pointed out that the US sponsored the Orange Revolution in 2004 which led to the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko government. This was terribly embarrassing to Russian interests and was part of a nearly fifteen year pattern of humiliation on their part.

The US allies largely failed and were voted out and replaced by the Russian backed Yanukovych who had been part of the previous Kuchma government. That alone was a slap in the face and rejection of US interests and a sign of Russian resurgence.

However Yanukovych began to rise in 2006 and at that point the American allies of the Orange Revolution were already in the process of being undermined. The 'weak' hand of the United States was already beginning to show in the waning days of the Bush administration. The Iraq War had undermined the administration's ability to act on the international stage and Putin was beginning to move. This did not begin under Obama who didn't take office until 2009.

I've already written about the US agenda in the region since the fall of the Soviet Union as well as their activities within Russia, Central Asia, and the withdrawal from the ABM treaty etc...

These things are not controversial. Read the literature associated with the Neo-Conservative project. The PNAC and the writings of people like Brzezinski make it very clear regarding what the agenda was in Eurasia. A weak Russia was necessary.

All these things considered the fact that Putin has in recent years stood up to the United States is hardly a sign of American weakness. Rather it is more a statement regarding the resurgence of Russia as a Eurasian power. They've been on their knees and are finally climbing back onto their feet and attaining a very modest degree of parity...and that only on the borders of their own land.

It is very ironic that if any president in recent years has weakened the US hand it's not Obama. It's George Bush. His actions and those of the cabal that ran his White House utterly destroyed American prestige and any sense of unity that came out of the 1990's and the 9/11 episode.

Obama proved unable to act with regard to Syria for a couple of reasons. First, more than a decade of war in the Islamic world made the prospect of US intervention pretty shaky and secondly the world in the form of a coalition wasn't interested in backing such a project.

Bush's unilateralism shook world confidence in the United States. The defining moment was when the British Parliament turned down David Cameron's proposal to join with the United States in acting against Assad. The legacy of George Bush and Tony Blair loomed large over that vote. It had little to do with Obama. No president in history harmed American prestige more than George W. Bush.

His disastrous presidency created a situation that allowed the first African-American president to be elected, but when Obama didn't 'change' anything, the world took a step back.

All of the programmes associated with surveillance and spying all began in the 1990's under Clinton or under Bush in the post-2001 era. Obama is not the initiator. He's simply continuing these programmes, which in itself is shameful enough. This is one of the reasons why the Left has turned against him. These people thought he was going to put a stop to all of these activities and do away with the treasonous Patriot Act.

Listening to the reports on Ukraine while riding in the car, my kids are asking why Obama and Kerry are making these declarations about Ukraine? What does it have to do with the United States? How is it any of our business?

A valid question.

But again one that demonstrates American power... even under Obama.

Of course the United States has a long history of involving itself in the affairs of Latin America. In fact you'll be hard pressed to find a single country in Latin America that hasn't suffered a US sponsored coup, dictatorship or invasion.

Do we hear about post-Soviet Russia intervening in Latin American politics? When the United States sponsored a coup in Honduras in 2009, did China or Russia intervene or speak out?

They wouldn't dream of it. And would world opinion have listened to them?

No one here even knows about any of it. Our media won't report it.

Wow, if the media was really 'liberal' and anti-American they sure miss a lot of chances to criticize the American regime!

The very fact that Russia is forced to meet with American diplomats and interact with the United States over the issue of Ukraine is a testimony to America's hegemonic power and prestige.

But according to his critics, Obama has failed to properly wield America's power.

What about George Bush in 2008? Have we already forgotten South Ossetia? I already mentioned the tide was turning in Ukraine by 2006. Did Bush do anything about these issues?

Have we already forgotten about the bid to bring Georgia into NATO which sparked the Ossetia conflict and put Georgia back into its place? Russia was not going to allow NATO to move into the Caucasus let alone plant ABM stations there. They've put up with American weapons in Turkey for many years and there's little they can do about America's post-Soviet relationship with Azerbaijan. Taking Georgia was a bit too much and Putin decided to make a stand.

By 2008, Putin was no longer willing to tolerate American aggression and the Bush administration was slapped down and humiliated. After the 2006 mid-terms Bush was all but a lame duck president. His policies and projects and failed. Have we already forgotten how weak he was by the time his term ended? It could be argued the election of Obama was little more than a backlash and rejection of his policies. Obama was made into an international messiah simply because he was perceived as the Anti-George Bush.


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The war criminal John McCain was furious about Bush's wimpy response to Putin, and if he had become president he would have most certainly provoked a war both in the Trans-Caucasus and certainly in Ukraine.

Even Sarah Palin criticized the Bush administration over South Ossetia. She didn't know where it was but she knew that Putin was rearing his head.

But I don't seem to recall seeing little pictures and cartoons of Bush the wimp. Was this because he started two unnecessary wars that both ended in failure?

He failed to get Bin Laden. Of course I don't think the Afghanistan invasion was ever about Al Qaeda to begin with. It was quite obvious in 1999 and 2000 the United States was moving toward an invasion.

As of 2014 the Taliban have not been defeated. In fact they've grown into a multi-pronged movement.

In Iraq, the United States bought off the Sunni tribal leaders long enough to get out. And when that country erupts into another civil war, what then did US soldiers die for, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?

It was all for nothing. It was all part of some sick Neo-Conservative plan to wage endless war and coerce the American public and the world into going along with it. As Wesley Clark revealed they had big plans. They thought they were going to get out of Iraq in a year or two and move onto the next regime change.

They were dangerous and clueless and Mr. "Bring 'em on" looked like a fool as thousands of American soldiers died.

What was his robust response, his inspiring plan to deal with the Insurgency?

Stay the course.

Of course if we want to think in worldly terms and talk about 'wimpy' presidents, maybe we could stretch our memories a bit and recall Reagan in 1983. An early version of Hezbollah hit the Marine barracks in Beirut and killed over two hundred American soldiers.

And how did Reagan respond? He packed up and left. I've thought of that numerous times in recent years. What would the reaction be if Obama pulled a stunt like that?

I guess the shadow of Vietnam was still on the horizon and Lebanon was certainly a potential quagmire.

Instead we remember Reagan's other activities in 1983, when his rhetoric and actions pushed the Cold War to the most dangerous point it had been at since 1973. The USSR might have come down after Brezhnev, but the Politburo was terrified of this new American president that was acting like John Wayne.

The comments coming in about Obama are not accurate and not Christian in either perspective or in their wisdom.

He's certainly worthy of a vigorous critique, but so was his predecessor who will certainly go down as one of the worst presidents in American history. And if we want to talk in 'worldly' terms a strong case can be made that George W. Bush was a criminal and one who betrayed the Constitution and his country.

In Christian terms, the leaders of Babylon come and go. Criticize Obama if you wish, but don't do it in a framework of lies and self-deception.

Russia may look ascendant right now and the Europe/US relationship looks weak and divided. The world is trying to revert to a Multipolar framework... which is the historical model. The US is doing everything it can to prevent that and maintain Unipolarity. In doing so, some of the rising nations are going to be provoked and when they can they will challenge US dominance.

Either we're going to have some subsequent US presidents who 'back down' or the world is going to be increasingly pushed toward conflict. The only way the US can maintain hegemony is to start using force but in a world as complicated as ours there are many more ways to attack and hurt the United States. The Empire can be fought with means other than military force.

If the world ever turns away from the dollar or loses trust in the US economy America can be defeated without ever firing a shot. Like Rome, America may burn itself out and in the end implode.


Cal P said...

I recall a comment made by a kid I went to school with. In regards to a criticism about America's world-police role, he metaphorically shrugged his shoulders and embraced it. Someone has to do it, we're the force of order and equity, we have to keep the world chugging along. Now he wasn't really doing any sort of intellectual heavy lifting here, but the assumptions were staggering. America had taken on the role of providence, a paternal hand over the world. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the..United States?


Another anecdote, and one you'll enjoy: as apart of a class we had to read Smedley Butler's War is a Racket. Wow. Great stuff, I was underlining like a mad-man. We had to discuss it in a group setting. The first response, again, was this sort of arrogant hand-wave. America has to do what she does. The country makes mistake, but is on the side of good and has to keep the world going.

I'm pretty sure my face went flush and I almost popped a blood-vessel. I stayed composed, but I went on for 5 min and rehash the dozens of wars Butler was apart of which was essentially a gangster enterprise. Of course, from the blank looks, none of them really had a clue about all of such invasions. But of course, if they don't get it a century later, how are they supposed to see how the US has never ceased to do the same thing.

World War 2 was the "Good War"? By accident. There was hardly concern to stop the bloodbath in China, the holocaust of the Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, or to end the ascendant empirical religion of Nation in Germany or Italy (not that you can kill an idea in such a way). In fact, as some might say, Nazi Germany, in spirit, won that war. The Sennacheribian spirit passed right onto the Americans and Russians as they carved and raped the world.

Militarism is a demon from the pit of hell, yet to most, it's just the way the world should be. To quoteth the poet, put a boot up their ass, it's the American way.

I hope for the people caught in the chess-game of nations. The Great Game never ended in Central Asia, it's merely taken an infinitely larger and complexer scope, one that the deceived Arthur Connolly could hardly imagine.

Being Americans as we are, I suppose our only response is to lay down at the rivers of Babylon and weep.


Eliyahu BenYsrael said...

These folks are just shooting off at the mouth on Obama because they hate him, and his performance is just a convenient excuse for the right to blast him, again. Not a single critic has a cohesive, intelligent or existing plan to deal with Russia's annexation of Ukraine; but the brainless Fox bluster plays well with the base, especially in an election year.

Your commentary was/is thoughtful and concise, which is why it is not likely to reach it's intended Christian audience. They're busy watching Fox.