As voters in one country after another rise up, it's almost a civil war across the West: the populists vs. the elites.
Never mind the greener grass just across the fence. How about clear across the ocean? A few days on location in Denmark quantifying the little kingdom's happiness claims made for a rugged assignment, but our intrepid correspondent took it on.
There has been no doubt for weeks now in my mind that President Obama has been planning a retreat from Afghanistan. All the dithering and hand-wringing over the elections, Harmad Karzai and the corrupt Afghan government was just a way to put distance between himself and the "decision" -- or series of decisions -- to create plausible blame on someone else for abandoning the Afghan mission. For those who understand Obama's true goals, this decision was made months ago, and the "high level" discussions within the administration have been nothing but air cover (no pun intended) for the abandonment of the erstwhile war "of necessity". Obama is a craven opportunist, and he sees nothing but messiness in Afghanistan in the years ahead. It will get in the way of his massive goals to restructure America to his liking -- and that's a bridge too far. The reality is that Obama doesn't see the Islamic terrorist threat as particularly significant, in in that vein he has much company among the left-wing intelligentsia (a contradiction in terms, I know.) This is a president who can't bring himself to call the Fort Hood massacre a "terrorist attack". Indeed, this is president who can't bear to even utter the word "terrorism". He doesn't seem to want to deal with the realities of the world we live in, preferring instead to craft a world of platitudes where our words can somehow influence their deeds. Afghanistan, it turns out, is just another "Bush" legacy that threatens to give America a black eye and derail Obama's need to "fix" us in a way that makes us a kinder, fairer place. The redistributionist goals here at home mean we can't really be bothered to fight abroad -- why waste all that energy and money when we can use it to make payments to the Democratic base?
Afghanistan has thus joined Iraq as a "war of choice" and Obama is choosing to bail. According to Jules Crittendon this morning:
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.
In strongly worded classified cables to Washington, Eikenberry said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
So Obama will temporize and pick a "middle ground" that rejects General McChrystal's recommendations in favor of a choice that reduces the American footprint and allows us to "retreat with honor". Of course, we've seen this movie before -- we tried retreat with honor in Vietnam and it failed miserably. But past is never prelude with this president, and in his desire to protect his domestic agenda, Obama will make moves that will forestall the fall of Kabul long enough to make it appear that it is someone else's fault.
The script has been written -- now its just a matter of playing out the act. Lots of serious debate, a sober decision. And a strategic retreat.
Of course, this doesn't change the fact that Afghanistan is the crucible of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and will again become a working base for attacks against the West. Perhaps the president figures he can manage this as a "law enforcement" exercise rather than a war, and send drones and cruise missiles in to try and make life difficult for the enemy. But the reality is that leaving Afghanistan will result in a more dangerous world for America.
And what's the point of health care reform in a nation where 9/11-scale attacks -- perhaps with WMD -- are occuring on a regular basis?
Many of us are still stunned that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize even though he has no accomplishments to this credit beyond his major difference of opinion with his predecessor, if not practically every American president. He is determined to make amends for our nation’s sins by apologizing for them in speeches given abroad, as well as changing public policies to bring the nation in alignment with his thinking. In the text of the Nobel Peace Prize Citation, Obama is lauded for his efforts for promoting nuclear disarmament and combating "global warming," but I was particularly struck by this passage:
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."
Let’s unpack that paragraph. Not for a moment forgetting that our President still has no significant accomplishments to his credit, let us take seriously his current hold on "the world’s attention." Obama is believed to agree with the "values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population." Judging from other statements in the Text, that would be the aspiration for democracy and human rights.
While it may be true that most people either enjoy or seek democracy and human rights, a majority of the world does not enjoy them or is likely to. Democratic republics are to be found mostly in Europe and North America, with a scattering of them in Latin America and Asia. The only reliably democratic regime in the Middle East is Israel, which for its virtues has earned the hatred of Muslim nations, and many others besides.
Russia, China and emphatically the Islamic terrorists are not fond of democracy or human rights, not to mention the rogue regimes in North Korea, Iran and Venezuela; and the Third World generally has had little or no experience with these great human goods.
So what can it mean for the President to share the "values and attitudes" of most of the world? We have already seen what this means in practice as Obama negotiates without preconditions with despots likes Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jung-Il; has appeased the Russians by abandoning missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic; asserts moral equivalence between Israeli settlements and Palestinian massacres; is trying to impose a Chavez clone as President of Honduras; and has even ended the close partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom.
I fear that many Americans’ reluctance to take seriously Obama’s "transformation" rhetoric has blunted the alarming significance of these developments. Remember that Presidential candidate Obama deplored the fact that Americans use more energy than the rest of the world, leaving out of consideration that Americans produce much more than other peoples do.
Somehow it is unjust, according to Obama, that Americans have a higher standard of living than most other nations. Obama is also troubled that some Americans make more money than others. He famously told Joe the Plumber that those who make more than a quarter of a million dollars should "spread the wealth around."
Obama does not seem to understand that when some people succeed in their businesses, they are making jobs for others, not to mention that America is an upwardly mobile society in which those who make relatively small incomes in time work their way up to higher levels. More, he has difficulty distinguishing between disparate incomes in countries that encourage free competition and those which repress it. Class distinctions are not permanent in America as they are in our largely undemocratic world.
For Obama, I believe, just as the lower incomes of some Americans justify a claim on those in higher income brackets, so does the lower standing of most of the world have a claim on the United States.
Given the "values and aspirations" of most the world, it has no difficulty with international income redistribution. It seeks to transfer our wealth to other nations that lack our productivity and, more important, our freedom. Obama obliges by imposing unsustainable social welfare spending on our people, abandoning proven oil production for costly "soft" energy, and refusing to develop nuclear energy.
Whether Obama or not succeeds in "transforming" America from a prosperous nation into a succor (pun intended) for the rest of the world, he is laying the groundwork by catering to the world’s "values and aspirations." Be prepared to be fleeced.
The Nobel Peace Prize has always been a reflection of the political inclinations of the Norwegian Nobel Committee – a group of five former lawmakers and politicians from one of Europe’s most liberal countries. The list of winners over the past two decades include Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Anan and Yasser Arafat, and reads more like a political commitment to left-wing causes than a sober award for promoting real peace in the world. This year’s award to Barack Obama is all that – and more. In fact, for the first time the Nobel Committee has managed a twofer: it has rewarded someone who shares its goal of diplomacy “first, last and always”, while at the same time placing a substantial set of symbolic handcuffs around the U.S. president’s ability to use force in the defense of American interests – including the war in Afghanistan. In bestowing the Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said this about Barack Obama:
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.
For Europe, Obama thus represents a real breakthrough: an American president who fancies himself as a “citizen of the world”, who has spent his first nine months rejecting the notion of “American exceptionalism”, and who seems to truly believe in the transformative potential for talking through even the most intractable problems. After eight years of a Bush Administration that was committed body and soul to American interests and security, Barack Obama represents a leader more interested in compromise than conflict, and who believes that American national interests are largely indistinguishable from those of the international community.
It would be a mistake, however, to view the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama as simply a rejection of the Bush years – or as just a pat on the back to America for electing such a cosmopolitan “man of the world”. The decision of the Nobel Committee to make award Obama was influenced heavily by the President’s commitment to a core value of the European peacenik movement – nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The elimination of all nuclear weapons is an idealism based on the utility of diplomacy – even with rogue states such as North Korea and Iran – and is the logical extension of Europe’s multilateral engagement strategy. As Agot Valle, a Norwegian politician and member of the Nobel Committee said in a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal after the announcement,"…this was primarily an award on his work on, and commitment to, nuclear disarmament -- and his dialogue.”
But it is really more than just about Obama’s willingness to talk. Rather, there is something more strategic involved: an attempt to restrict Obama’s range of decisions in the critical reassessment of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. According to Valle, the Nobel Committee reached its decision on the Obama award at their final meeting on October 5. It was thus no secret that the Obama Administration was in the midst of a full scale review of General Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 additional U.S. soldiers in an expansion of the U.S. mission. Nor was it a secret that Vice President Joe Biden and others in the Administration were openly lobbying for a change in U.S. strategy that would dramatically reduce the American footprint in Afghanistan in favor of a targeted “offshore” force that would be used for surgical strikes against terrorist targets. The Nobel Committee clearly also knows that in the wake of an all-out focus on health care reform, the Obama Administration has let public support for the Afghan war drift; the latest polling shows that less than half of America supports the war that Obama himself once called “necessary” for America’s long-term security. The Norwegians know that Obama is wavering on Afghanistan, and that the Peace Prize could be an effective leverage point in convincing him to radically reduce – or even end – the U.S. war there.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee understands that awarding Obama the Peace Prize will appeal to the President’s own image as a transformational figure, and will serve to heighten the already stratospheric confidence he has in his ability to alter the status quo ante. Obama’s own belief in the power of his words is well known. Now, with the Nobel Prize in hand, he has a validation that Europe also sees him as The One. The net effect of this will put Obama in a tough position as he addresses America’s security concerns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere. With little more than a press release, the Nobel Committee has achieved what Europe has been trying to do for a generation: it has handcuffed the American president with the imprimatur of “Peacemaker”, narrowing the options for unilateral action in the process. For the peaceniks of Europe, awarding Obama the Nobel was a true masterstroke of preventive medicine.
The Nobel Committee has thus given the world's most prestigious award for peace to the American commander-in-chief in a time of war. Can the Nobel Peace Prize winner really escalate the war in Afghanistan? Or, for that matter, order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the event that the current round of diplomacy fails? Even before the Prize, there was obviously much doubt as to whether Obama would make such tough choices. Now, it seems even more unlikely.