"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama's International Arrogance: Naive Narcissism

We all know about Obama's macho handshake with Venezuelan President (soon to be president-for-life) Hugo Chavez, the gift of the Marxist-themed book, etc. Almost immediately conservative bloggers that I follow such as William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, Michelle Malkin, and The Commissioner over at The Political Huddle, called him on it.

Jacobson and The Commissioner both point out that this act had far greater repercussions than one might first think. Jacobson writes "Obama greets Chavez with not a polite diplomatic handshake, but a warm clasping of hands as befits two old friends meeting again, and a loving hand placed on Chavez's shoulder. Chavez's press office was so pleased that it is circulating the photos."

The Commissioner adds "Obama lent a burgeoning dictator a great foreign relations victory to help prop up his credibility around the world. This coming after one of our strongest South American allies, Columbia, captured definitive evidence of Chavez's considerable support of the bloody, Marxist, narco, terrorist organization FARC."

Of course, they are both right. Comparing Obama's treatment of Venezuelan dictator Chavez to his shoddy treatment of British PM Gordon Brown and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks volumes as to where Obama's sympathies actually lie.

Listing the brutal excesses Chavez has inflicted upon his country and region is long and trying. For starters, he has jailed or forced into hiding political opposition, has allied himself with Iran, most likely encouraged anti-Semitism within Venezuela, regularly threatened his neighbor Colombia, supported the drug-trafficking terrorist organization FARC, stifled the media, and generally whittled away the rights of Venezuelans. But more over he is not our political ally, he is not our political friend. Whether Obama chooses to acknowledge this reality or not, the world is made up of friends and enemies to varying degrees. To deny this, is naive and foolish.

I've waited to comment on this issue, as I was curious on how Obama would respond to the criticisms. Well, he didn't disappoint. After Gingrich criticized Obama's comparing his foreign policy to Carter, Obama fell back on his "tiny country" defense. In the politico article Obama responds "'Venezuela is a country whose defense budget is probably 1/600th of the United States'. They own Citgo. It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States. I don’t think anybody can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.'"

Ah yes, dredging up the old argument that countries are too small and too under-funded to be much of a worry. During the campaign, he said this about Iran and its efforts to construct an nuclear weapon. Aside from the puerile stupidity of this small country idea (What was the defense budget for Al Qaeda when it ran two planes into the World Trade Center Towers, another into the Pentagon, and a fourth that was only foiled by the actions of American heroes?), the question begs to be asked does Obama honestly believe that we consider Venezuela a conventional threat to America? Does he actually believe that people are worried about Venezuela invading the shores of Texas and that is why they don't like him shaking hands with Chavez? To top it all off, Chavez then insulted Obama (whether Obama will admit or not) and the American public by giving him a Marxist book and advising him to read it. I would suggest giving Chavez a copy of Alexis de Tocqueville's work...

While denouncing American arrogance and running about the world greenly apologizing for it, Obama is, in fact, repeatedly demonstrating his own egoism. But he is also espousing American inaction, making the basis of our reactions the far-Left's transient and self-absorbed sense of moral right.

Obama's personal arrogance is getting to be better and better documented. Mark Steyn has put it best as far as I've seen. On Obama's response to Ortega's diatribe at the Summit of the Americas Steyn said, "What struck me (aside from its unfortunate echoes of his self-absolvement with regard to what William Ayers did when young Barack was eight years old) was the reductive narcissism of the answer. Barack Obama is not a banana-republic coup-leader resetting the calendar to Year Zero. When he travels abroad, he represents two-and-a-third centuries of constitutional continuity. The impression he gives that that's all just some dreary backstory of no real relevance to the Barack Obama biopic he's starring in 24/7 is very unusual in the chief of state of one of the oldest democratic polities on the planet. And not entirely reassuring." (h/t to Pat at So it Goes in Shreveport)

It's not very reassuring because it's just one more instance of Obama's self-obsession. Other presidents have been presumptuous in the past. Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nixon, and Wilson (just to name a few from the 20th century) all possessed very high opinions of themselves. However, unlike Obama, they all also possessed far greater political accomplishments, substantial personal experiences in their past, and world views not directly passed down by a naive academia. This is not to say all were great presidents. Some of these men blundered, made terrible and tragic decisions, some remained arrogant to the end. Yet all of them, in some manner, earned their self-aggrandizing stance (not that this earning arrogance absolves it). Obama's arrogance lacks any experience. It seems borne upon nothing but his own self-love.

Obama's incessant apologizing speaks of America's insincerity more than anything else. Obama's not apologizing for himself (has he ever?), he's apologizing for the mistakes of others. While his narcissism allows him to offer condolences for America, it likewise allows him to shoulder none of it. Most people of the world understand that what Obama is actually offering nothing but conciliatory words devoid of any action. They also recognize the opportunities that exist for aggressive governments when the world's sole superpower is run on the basis of a "white guilt" derivative rather than statecraft.

Yet, Obama's apologies do more than embolden our enemies, they dishearten our allies. Israel, already under fire from the U.N., now sees the US as shrinking away from them. Although the US did not attend Durban II, Obama refused to meet with Israeli PM Netanyahu, an act that has understandably raised concerns in Israel. I also tend to agree with Jacobson's assertion that a "leaked" highly classified Harman tape was a political "shot across Israel's bow." Even overlooking these, and more (see Caroline Glick's series of essays for more) gestures of political antagonism, Obama's apologies are in effect saying that the US will be incredibly unresponsive to all threats to all of our allies as the US debates the political correctness of a given individual situation. After all, we wouldn't want to have to make more apologies, would we?

This does not sit well for Colombia, threatened by Chavez. Nor does this sit well for Japan or South Korea routinely menaced by Kim Jong-il. This does not sit well for Singapore, a few years ago the target of an Al Qaeda-backed plot to overthrow the government. This does not sit well for Thailand, having battled Islamic separatists for years they now are facing forces reinvigorated by Al Qaeda. This does not sit well with the Philippines, fighting Al Qaeda before most Americans had ever heard the name. This does not sit well in Taiwan, routinely menaced by mainland China's navy and air force. This does not sit well with the Liberians, trying to carve together a government (again) after the country's most recent and brutal civil war. Obama's apologies don't make them feel better.

But of course it is not supposed to. It's intended to make Obama and the American Left feel better. Who cares about how our allies feel?

In Obama's mind, there is the world before him and the world with him. It speaks of a dangerous narcissism that Obama possesses. For us, it is good to remember that there will a world after him. Most likely, by the end of his term as president Obama will indeed owe many people an apology himself, around 307 million Americans at the last census, 7.25 million Israelis, 45.6 million Colombians, 4.6 million Singaporeans, 127 million Japanese, 48.5 million South Koreans, 66 million Thais, 3.5 million Liberians, 23 million Taiwanese, almost 98 million Filipinos and undoubtedly more. It is however, one unlikely to ever be offered-- or even acknowledged.


  1. Your wish is my command....Updated.

  2. S.logan-- Thanks. I wasn't accusing you of anything... I've read too many of your posts for that.