Not the Hope or Change anyone was expecting

Every since he first captured the national media spotlight, Mr. Obama’s true perspective on America’s role in the world has been somewhat fuzzy, obscured by gauzy, meaningless rhetoric.  But now that a track record is emerging—the standoffish behaviour to traditional and statutory allies; the deliberate retrenchment of military capabilities and “hard power”; the embracing of sometimes unpalatable regional powers and autocratic strongmen—the outline of his foreign policy vision is thrown into sharper relief.  In combination with those preceding events, the administration’s most recent actions (cancellation of BMD deployment to eastern Europe, and the delivery of a veiled ultimatum to Israel) appear to fit an emerging theme: Pax Americana is over; the Republic’s occasionally annoying paternalistic concern is giving way to something akin to indifference.  One senses Mr. Obama is (rightly or wrongly) trying to encourage the development of a multipolar world; signalling to allies and enemies alike that America’s beat patrolman days are through.  That’s fine and good if your second-string regional lawman is hardworking and honest; if he’s an unstable autocrat with nukes, state-run media and secret police, well, that’s your problem—not America’s.

Such a radical retooling of the Republic’s foreign policy ought, at the very least, to be announced and discussed in its corridors of power (and those of its allies).  But this change is proceeding by stealth.  For all his naïve trust in the promises of a dictator, the Hon. Neville Chamberlain still tried to rearm Britain as fast as possible should the worst come to pass.  Mr. Obama on the other hand talks as if the worst might come to pass, but is moving speedily to disarm.  In Poland’s case specifically, we are being told one thing while the reality is the opposite—America’s ballistic missile defence posture has supposedly been improved by not deploying defensive systems.  A short four months ago, this same president pronounced that the Polish BMD and Czech radar sites were necessary as long as Iran remained a threat.  The threat has presumably dissipated then.

If Mr. Obama wishes to realign the United States, he ought to be doing it with oratory and public debate, not by budget line-item and diplomatic slights to allies who deserve better.  He is teaching outside observers to heed not what his administration says, but what it does; and what it has been doing—consistently—is shrinking American power and influence wherever and whenever it can.  As Professor Glenn Reynolds once remarked, “If Obama were trying to wreck America as a superpower, what would he be doing differently?”  Nothing, I’m afraid.

Indeed the very prospect of a more insular America—despite being touted by Europeans as the antidote for the interventionist Bush years—is so unthinkabke as to be hard to credit; yet here it is, happening before our eyes.  Mr. Obama has bought some credibility on the defence file by continuing to marshal resources for embattled Afghanistan, but what will it profit America to win Afghanistan when it is busy trying to divest itself of every other vestige of Great Power responsibility?  The Afghan fight is, in the Obama formulation, a fig leaf to provide the appearance of seriousness on national defence, while in every other objective measure the military capabilities of the United States are sharply reined in.

It should be noted that America’s initial experiment with isolationism was possible because Great Britain devoted an enormous amount of blood and treasure over two centuries to keeping the sea lanes open, and a lid on various regional boiling pots.  When Britain’s economy and imperial will expired following the Second World War, the United States was able to assume a great deal of its security mantle.  Now that America is preparing to give up its preeminence quietly and without fanfare, who is waiting in the wings?

RELATED: (Via Instapundit)  The Hon. Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State during the Clinton Administration, tells a Russian media and entrepreneurship symposium America intends to yield its place in the sun:

Madeleine Albright said during the meeting that America no longer had the intention of being the first nation of the world.
Ms. Albright started her speech in Russian. “Hello and thank you! It’s a pleasure for me to be here,” she said in Russian. Albright wrote in her autobiography that she was trying to learn some Russian during the 1960s.
The former US Secretary of State surprised the audience with her speech. She particularly said that democracy was not the perfect system. “It can be contradictory, corrupt and may have security problems,” Albright said.
America has been having hard times recently, Albright said.
“We have been talking about our exceptionalism during the recent eight years. Now, an average American wants to stay at home – they do not need any overseas adventures. We do not need new enemies,” Albright said adding that Beijing, London and Delhi became a serious competition for Washington and New York.
“My generation has made many mistakes. We give the future into the hands of the young. Your prime goal is to overcome the gap between the poor and the rich,’ the former head of the US foreign political department said.

Madeleine Albright said during the meeting that America no longer had the intention of being the first nation of the world.

Ms. Albright started her speech in Russian. “Hello and thank you! It’s a pleasure for me to be here,” she said in Russian. Albright wrote in her autobiography that she was trying to learn some Russian during the 1960s.

The former US Secretary of State surprised the audience with her speech. She particularly said that democracy was not the perfect system. “It can be contradictory, corrupt and may have security problems,” Albright said.

America has been having hard times recently, Albright said.

“We have been talking about our exceptionalism during the recent eight years. Now, an average American wants to stay at home – they do not need any overseas adventures. We do not need new enemies,” Albright said adding that Beijing, London and Delhi became a serious competition for Washington and New York.

“My generation has made many mistakes. We give the future into the hands of the young. Your prime goal is to overcome the gap between the poor and the rich,’ the former head of the US foreign political department said.

— “Madeleine Albright: USA No Longer Intends To Be World’s No.1 State.” Pravda, 18 September 2009.

Take it with a certain grain of salt (this is Pravda after all, credulous reporter of conspiracy theories by the dozen).  One wonders whether former SecState Albright will have to moderate or clarify her remarks for the folks back home.

MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR THEOCRACY: (Via Ghost of a flea)  Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Administrator to the Carter Administration and foreign policy advisor to then-candidate Barack Obama, suggests the United States take up arms against Israel, should the latter try to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities.

DB: How aggressive can Obama be in insisting to the Israelis that a military strike might be in America’s worst interest?

Brzezinski: We are not exactly impotent little babies. They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?

DB: What if they fly over anyway?

Brzezinski: Well, we have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.

— Goldfarb, Michael.  “Brezinski Calls for Obama to Shoot Down Israeli Jets; “A Liberty in Reverse”.” Weekly Standard blog, 19 September 2009.

The Liberty being referred to, of course, is the ELINT ship USS Liberty, attacked in error by Israeli forces in the Six-Day War.

The idea of a democracy taking up arms against another to preserve the hardware and strategic imperatives of a repressive, misogynist theocracy kind of beggars the imagination.  This is not a sane mind at work.

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