Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is American Exceptionalism Dead?

Recall then-vice-presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del) pontificating the likeliness of an “international crisis’ that would “test the mettle of this guy” – referring to then-candidate Barack Obama during the campaign of 2008?

Since the time Biden uttered those remarks at a Seattle campaign fundraiser event, he’s mostly been right. Who’d a thunk it?

Yet, the irony of all of this premonitory soothsaying is that president Obama, along with his administration, still does not have a clear and cogent foreign policy strategy that gives meaning to what the U.S. stands for. Our guiding principle, as portrayed by the White House, is to wet one’s finger and see which way the wind blows.

We all sat back in disbelief as a Green Revolution enveloped the streets and plazas of Tehran during the summer of 2009, only to be trounced by a megalomaniac nicknamed A-Jad and supported by the theocratic mullahs. Where was the U.S.?

Now we are faced with a new crisis. After it took a few days or weeks for the White House and State Department to figure out just who the bad guy was in Cairo, another decades-long authoritarian ruler has one-upped Mr. Mubarak.

Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has gone mad. He’s ordered his own citizens killed, brought in paid mercenaries from other nearby North African nations and believes he will be a martyr in the Bedouin tradition for his actions.

Where’s the official statement from our administration? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made one prosaic statement saying effectively that “this sort of behavior is unacceptable.” Of course it’s 'unacceptable.' He’s killing innocent Libyans, threatening to burn down important oil fields near Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, and has all but caused Israel to soil its collective pants, especially since Egypt’s once-friendly, decades-long policy towards Israel is now in flux.

Meanwhile, news sources report that a radical branch of Al-Qaeda is forming in the eastern portion of Libya and has already made veiled threats against any non-Muslims. Even Iran is breaking with past restrictions and has sent two navy warships through the Suez Canal (something that has not been allowed by Egypt since the 1979 Iranian Revolution). Iranian Defense Ministry officials explain, “It’s only a military training exercise.” It looks more like planned provocation and saber-rattling to me.

Washington Post Op-Ed writer Charles Krauthammer offered this advice a few weeks ago,

We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it - a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:

(1) The United States supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.

(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.

(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.

(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away), it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties - the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists - in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.

It's been at least 72 hours since Qadaffi ordered his henchmen to kill those in opposition to his rule without nary a remark from our president. Apparently Obama has other more important things to worry about such as ordering U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Aside from Obama’s apologetic rhetoric abroad and his insidious attempt to eschew American Exceptionalism in the name of gentlemanliness, Obama is not leading us. He’s often naïve in world affairs and he’s not proactive in foreign policy. Simply being the anti-Bush president is not a policy.

But he's a heckuva community organizer. And that's what dictators like Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, Kim Jong il and Qadaffi hope for.

To be sure, the federal budget crisis, job creation and social issues like the DOMA law are all important things; however, I'd like to hear at least a peep from Obama on the Libya debacle.

And please hold the platitudes.

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