April 8, 2010

New and Disturbing Under the District Sun

Hatched by Dafydd

During the tenure of President George W. Bush, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, though sometimes prickly, continued to work with the United States and other members of the "Coalition of the Willing" to defeat the Taliban and take back the country. There never was any question which side he was on.

But now, under the increasingly unstable administration of Barack H. Obama, we have come to exactly that terrible pass: As of this moment, we really cannot say for sure whether Karzai is "with us or with the terrorists."

Karzai strongly hinted that he might side with the Taliban if the Obama administration continues accusing him of corruption and rigging the recent elections in Afghanistan; in fact, he has now accused us, or the West generally, of rigging them ourselves! ("This clumsy fool tried to plant that ridiculous camera on me," as Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky says in Dr. Strangelove.)

Both charges are true; but in Oriental cultures in general, and the Moslem cultures in particular, those accusations are about as serious as accusing an American politician of catering to lobbyists and special interests. In general, in what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the "non-integrating gap" (in his book the Pentagon's New Map), one only levels such charges against one's enemies, never against one's friends.

So by accusing Karzai of corruption and vote rigging, Obama sent the message that America no longer considers him an ally... yet another diplomatic gaffe on the part of the One We Have Begun Dreading. Hence the verbal return-fire:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's public accusations of vote-rigging against the West are eroding support among international backers already concerned about rampant corruption in his government and are jeopardizing a major U.S. offensive in the heartland of the Taliban, analysts say....

Marvin Weinbaum, a former Afghanistan analyst at the State Department, said Mr. Karzai's comments will have grave consequences. "It is one thing to play the nationalist card, but quite another when his remarks undermine his relations with his international partners and threaten the military operation," he said.

Mr. Karzai's remarks also can be seen as bolstering the Taliban cause and confirming a belief prevalent among Afghans that Western troops seek to occupy their country, he said. "Looking at his remarks, you'd think the Taliban wrote the script," said Mr. Weinbaum, a scholar in residence at the Middle East Institute.

How could this happen? The more I read about Arab -- and by extension, Moslem -- culture and society, in Lee Smith's excellent book the Strong Horse, the clearer the reason: The utter incompetence of Obama, how he is ignored by our friends and mocked by our enemies, has convinced world leaders that our president is a "weak horse;" that in turn encourages them to seize the opportunity to carve out their own fiefdoms -- at America's expense.

In the present case, Karzai no longer has confidence that we will even continue the current Afganistan offensive to the end; he worries that when we pull out on a date certain, without regard to conditions on the ground, the Taliban will fill the vacuum. He must place a bet on one of the two horses, and he increasingly sees the Taliban as the strong horse.

Under President Bush, he never would have dared. The previous administration would never have announced a withdrawal by a specific date, nor would it have said facts on the ground would not alter its timetable. In fact, if Karzai had started going wobbly, the Bush team could have quietly noted that we already induced one regime change; and with the troops we had in place, it would be as easy as falling off a bicycle to arrange another.

But Obama, caught like a Dear Leader in the headlights, cannot think what to do, beyond talking to Karzai and reassuring him that Afghanistan is the dominant and we the submissive in this relationship. Thus, as Smith writes, we reaffirm that we are the weak horse and Karzai can safely pin horns on us, cheating and flirting with the Taliban and al-Qaeda; like a cowed Moslem wife, we can only hunker down and hope for the best.

The problem here is not one of ideology; whatever Obama's private qualms, he publicly espouses the ideology of fighting and defeating Islamic radicalism (even if his administration is afraid to use that word). Yet he governs in so amateurish and ham-fisted a way, he makes even Jimmy Carter look like an organizational prodigy:

  • His inexplicable breeches of protocol and comity among our allies, such as Great Britain and Canada, have stumped veteran foreign-policy watchers.
  • His single-minded animus against our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel, calls into question either Obama's basic competence at good governance -- or perhaps his sanity. Even if he wants to improve relations with the Arabs (which clearly he does), even if he is a raging antisemite (which clearly, judging by his appointments and actions, he is), Israel is nevertheless a very, very strong horse in the region. Why go to such great pains to turn it into our enemy? It's bizarre -- and nerve-wracking.
  • The president seems to have no policy, no plan, not even a clue how to respond to the economic woes of the European Union, despite the fact that our interconnected, interdependent world economy guarantees that if Greece brings down the EU, America will be severely hurt as well. In fact, I don't recall him even mentioning the subject. Is he even aware that a crisis looms across the Atlantic Ocean?
  • Nor has he any notion how to deal with emerging threats, such as Venezuela, or allies drifting away from us, such as India, Pakistan, as the Eastern European countries. I'm not sure he's even noticed.
  • In negotiations, Obama was rolled by the Russians, chewed up by the Chinese, irradiated by the Iranians, and deposed by the DPRK. Even excluding the wars, I cannot think of a single foreign policy victory of which this administration can boast. Not one!
  • Not once has he taken a firm stand against our enemies; even Carter stood up to the Soviets (belatedly, but better than be-neverly) and maintained our nuclear deterrant. By contrast, Barack Obama has just announced our new nuclear policy is -- not to develop any improved nuclear weapons, even as our enemies frantically upgrade every system they have, and in particular upgrade their air defenses. Our nuclear posture can be changed on a dime; but not developing new systems means we won't have the capability to believably threaten retaliation even for nuclear attack, let alone chemical or biological warfare.

Obama's incompetence extends to his signature domestic agenda as well:

  • His clumsy efforts to nationalize health care have turned plurality support for his "reform" into majority opposition.
  • He talks of massive tax increases on business when we have 9.7% unemployment and 17.5% real unemployment (that's unemployment plus underemployment plus discouraged workers opting out of the labor pool). (Hat tip to Wolf Howling.)
  • He pushes "cap and tax" energy legislation and identical EPA regulation to stop global warming, seemingly oblivious to revelations that the science is much shakier than we have been led to believe -- and in complete defiance of a mounting consensus that we should not cripple our energy production in the midst of the deepest and longest economic dislocation since the Great Depression.
  • Despite having an overwhelming majority of Democratic supporters in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Obamacle was unable to enact most of his agenda. Only ObamaCare, and even the implementation of that is delayed far enough into the future that Republicans can probably kill it before it even begins.
  • In just a little over a year, he has turned huge approval ratings into dismal, anemic numbers that in most polls -- even Gallup! -- sulk in negative territory. (To be fair to Obama, however, while it's true his own reelection numbers are bad, at least his party is about to get shellacked in the midterms.)

My catchphrase is "Never attribute to stupidity what can adequately be explained by malice." I assume that those who hold high positions of much power are generally intelligent and competent, and therefore they intend the obvious (or odious) consequences of their policies.

For example, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) are almost certainly aware that ObamaCare will result in the destruction of the private-insurance model of American health care, forcing us into a completely government-controlled, single-payer model instead; they're not stupid, they're venal.

But in the case of Barack Hussein Obama, I honestly believe he really is as foolish and incompetent as he seems. He may also be venal; but his naïveté, fecklessness, paralogia, obtuseness, and rank incompetence at the simplest presidential tasks -- how difficult it is to let the Japanese Prime Minister stay at Blair House, rather than force his team to scramble to find rooms at Howard Johnson's? -- poses a much greater threat to the nation than mere corruption or honest "liberal fascist" tendencies.

I can't speak for the nineteeth century, whose presidential politics I know little about; but I believe it's safe to say that Obama is the most incompetent president since the turn of the twentieth. He really seems to believe that being president consists of touring the country in a four-year victory lap, giving the same speeches he gave during the campaign, and basking in the glow of success, like the last panel of a motivational cartoon tract: a beaming Barack upon a pedestal, arms akimbo, with rays of light shining out from behind him.

Sadly, this is what happens when the electorate decides to "punish" one party -- without regard to the likely consequences to the nation, or even to its own best interests. When we throw out the Democrats, and later Barack Obama himself, I sincerely hope it's not merely because we're "angry" at them. I want us to vote the scoundrels out coldly and rationally, because we have seen their national-socialist program and we want no part of it.

Otherwise, when the Republicans fail to produce paradise on planet Earth, we may whipsaw back and forth between freedom lovers and totalitarian tenderfeet. And that could be even worse for America than Obama and the Democrats themselves have been.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 8, 2010, at the time of 6:25 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Geoman

What a staggeringly incompetent guy this is. And his arrogance is preventing him from improving.

Take the bowing thing. Once, twice...it doesn't bug me as much as others. What I can't get is that he won't stop doing it. In front of the cameras no less. And he continues to deny what everyone can plainly see.

Recessions are as much about psychology as economics. Uncertainty is the killer - people won't invest unless they have a certain level of comfort with the outcome. All of Obama's deficit spending, tax talk, health care - Obama injects more fear and uncertainty into the conversation at every opportunity.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 13, 2010 10:32 AM

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