"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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Thursday, June 3, 2010

More International Fallout from Obama's Weakness

Yesterday I put up a post about the Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, announcing his resignation. I think that his resignation illustrates a problem America's allies are now facing as Obama preaches an end to unilateral decisions and extends an "open hand" to America's avowed enemies.

While it is true that Hatoyama is closely associated with a political fundraising scandal-- in which two of Hatoyama's aides were somewhat recently convicted of falsifying political contribution reports-- Hatoyama's failure to relocate the major US military base off of Okinawa was a major factor leading to his early resignation.

Aside from the normal bother of living near a foreign military base (can you imagine Americans living beside a German or Russian military base in California? Maybe in San Francisco?), many Japanese look at the US base as a symbol of American dominance following WWII. As Japan grows more powerful and WWII becomes a rapidly fading memory, there has been a growing disenchantment among the Japanese with American troops being stationed in Japan. This shouldn't be much of a surprise. The US has invested vast amounts of money and resources into helping Japan to not merely rebuild, but to flourish. And as Japan has become a greater and greater power in Asia, the Japanese have begun to question American military presence.

This should not be confused as a growing anti-Americanism (although there may be some of that in certain circles-- notably [but not exclusively] among fringe, conservative Japanese circles which occasionally demand an American apology for the fire-bombing of Tokyo, and the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Instead, it's more of a logical result of growing, a product of a sort-of maturation, if you will. A Japanese Naval officer once said, that the Japanese Navy and American Navy used to have a father/son relationship, but now the relationship is more like that of a big brother and little brother. There isn't any anti-Americanism in that statement, but rather a pride at the progress of the Japanese Navy. Likewise, Japan as a whole has gone through a similar process.

What is interesting, and what many Americans do not understand because of media disinterest, is the tremendous pressure and political fallout from North Korea's torpedoing of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship. This attack has placed pretty intense pressure on Japan and South Korea where popular and vocal groups want to divest themselves of American military presence, while the governments' understand that their own military forces are ill-equipped to handle major engagements without US support.

This, among other reasons, is why Obama's apology tour and his audacious show of weakness and lack of resolution is devastating to America's allies, like Japan. Obviously his actions and conciliatory words embolden states like North Korea and Iran. Less obvious, is the effect that we are currently seeing in Japan. While the citizens of many of America's allies aren't particularly happy about a US military presence, they were generally willing to put up with it for the safety and reassurance that the US military offers.
When Obama suddenly declares that America to no longer a super-power and promises to work closely with the UN rather than make quick decisions (in other words unilateral) away from the UN's stifling and often ridiculous politics (remember Iran is a member of the UN's women's rights council), he is essentially declaring that the US military now offers little to no protection to its allies. The US will now not act without the world's approval. This of course brings up the question "why should the US military be here if they offer us nothing?"

While the truth of the situation goes far beyond Obama's silly words (we all know what Obama's declarations are worth) and this simplistic if-a-then-b equation, Obama's silly words and that overly simplified idea possesses a great deal of political weight. That political weight falls heavily onto the backs of allied heads of state as they explain to upset constituents why they should tolerate unpopular military bases of a country that now says they're now just a part of the world community. What protection does that offer them? What reassurances do they gain?

I've written about this result before back in April of 2009. Would North Korea have torpedoed the Cheonan if McCain were president? Most likely. Would Hatoyama have resigned if McCain had been president under these same circumstances? Of course. Yet, I would argue that all these pressures these governments feel are intensified by Obama's arrogant declarations of weakness.

I'd written:

"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 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?"

It's more than a year later, and I find no need to take back these words.


  1. Fantastic, insightful post. I agree that BO is doing great harm not only to our own nation but to our allies, but I'm hopeful that a new administration (an American one, with America's and her allies' interests at heart, not some fantastical "international order") will be able to put us back on solid footing. "The world" may not have liked America acting unilaterally, but as you point out, our doing so was often in our and our allies' best interests. That's gone now, but hopefully not for much longer. Frankly, I'm seeing more clearly than ever that when it comes to foreign policy, it is better to be respected than liked. (not that BO is liked, our enemies think he's an idiot and think he's weak, and his leftist loon buds in Europe are too short-sighted to see that a weakened America leaves them vulnerable to all of our enemies.)

  2. Great input. I'd like to add that the lack of support of Israel has led to even Turkey beginning to move on Israeli dominance in the region. This, with Iran's nuclear program, will make the regional war scenario much more likely. Israel still may work towards accommodation, but that'll just put off the next war against it for only a few years more.

  3. "Incredibly unresponsive." That pretty much sums up the whole of the Obama administration. For my part, the uncertainty implicit in their unresponsiveness is what makes their power and influence so spookily threatening. Is there anything they care about? It almost seems that they have lost their rudder. I am starting to speculate that their financial backers are having second thoughts.

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  5. @ Fuzzy

    My father was a teacher for many years, and he once told me that when you're teaching in a classroom you'll find that not everyone is going to like you. It doesn't matter what you do, nor how you behave for whatever arbitrary reason, there are students who will dislike you. I find my dealing in life in general tend to be the same.

    Trying to ingratiate yourself, as Obama has done throughout his life, is debasing. When Obama tries to ingratiate the US to people who, for whatever reason, just don't like the US, all for the Left's odd and unreasonaed sense of morality, he puts both us and our allies in danger. It's incredibly naive and for no purpose.

    @ Jordan

    I'm not up on Turkey's politics. Do you think Turkey's move away from secularism is also part of its challenge to Israel? I'm curious as to why Turkey is moving toward Islamic fundamentalism. It's a loaded subject right now and it's hard to find good information.

    @ QR

    I think the Left's primary care is about themselves. Obama's apology tour was designed to make the Left look and feel good about themselves. It had no other purpose-- other then a vague attempt at mollifying people who cannot be bought off with empty words from Obama.

    The Left deny it up and down and scream about the greed of the Right, but their own actions frequently appear to mere smug posing in front of the bathroom mirror.