Monday, May 30, 2011

The Key to Obama’s Foreign Policy: The World Turned Upside Down

Barry Rubin

“If buttercups buzz’d after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse….
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down.”

–“The World Turned Upside Down,” English ballad, 1643

I think I’ve made a breakthrough in understanding President Barack Obama’s foreign policy of punishing friends, rewarding enemies, and taking risks toward empowering enemies by bashing friends. It isn’t that Obama is a Muslim or a Marxist; it’s that … he is America’s first (and hopefully last) 1960s New Left president.

Think of how the American left looked at the Cold War. For them, the phrase “Free World” was a joke. America’s allies were often repressive dictators. In Europe, even democratic states like Britain and France were, or until recently were, colonial powers.

Vietnam: America supported South Vietnam (boo) and fought North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (LBJ, how many kids have you killed today; Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win).ALatin America: In Chile, America supported the army (boo!) and fought President Salvador Allende and the Communists (yeah!). Not to mention those military dictatorships who murdered peasants in South America and killed Che Guevara. And how about those Sandinistas. They wanted land reform and to help the poor and the United States plundered them for United Fruit and other greedy capitalists.

Great Britain: America supported Britain and thought Winston Churchill was a hero, but what about colonialism (get his bust out of the White House!)? Say, in a country like Kenya? Mau-Maus (possibly Obama’s grandfather) who were called “terrorists,” good guys; British, bad guys.

Middle East: America supported the bad guys (Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) against the good guys (PLO, Egypt, Syria, Iraq).

The Communists: They had their shortcomings but at least they wanted to help people, right? And if the USSR was old-fashioned and degenerate, at least there were a lot of cool new revolutionaries.

Africa: Obama’s own father opposed a generally U.S.-backed Kenyan regime. In theory, he was a leftist and a man of the people. In reality, he was a womanizing, alcoholic, and corrupt politician, just the kind of “progressive” Third World politician who pretends to represent the voice of the masses.

And so on.

So the leftist view has been that American allies were bad guys. And since America was also the bad guy, American allies were doubly bad guys.

In contrast, those opposing U.S. policy or allies — notably, Latin American guerrillas; Fidel Castro; the Viet Cong (or National Liberation Front if you wish); Mao Zedong; Che Guevara (remember that Che Guevara poster in the Obama election headquarters in Arizona, was it?); Patrice Lumumba; and so on and so forth were heroes.

Pakistan has it both ways. On one hand, it is an American “ally,” but since it just takes money, hides al-Qaeda leaders, and sponsors cross-border terrorism against India, it is enough of an enemy to receive favored treatment.

So the bad guys to America were the good guys and the good guys to America were the bad guys.

I’m putting this in slangy language, but I’m very serious.

And for someone raised personally and politically the way Obama was (hat tip to Stanley Kurtz and Dinesh D’Souza) this was taken for granted.

Thus, be it England or Egypt or Israel or Colombia, if you are partnered with the United States it proves you are bad. And for Venezuela, Syria, or the Palestinian Authority, the more hostile you are to America the better you are.

Hence, the business of American policy should be to win over the heroic guerrillas who fight on behalf of the wretched of the earth (reference: Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, the Communist “Internationale”). These are the people who — as they say in Hollywood — we’d like to be in business with.

Consider Obama’s profound disrespect for realpolitik as evidenced in his State Department speech:

“For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.”

He says that the United States will continue to do these things. But listen to the subtle differences in that list:

“We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.”

For decades, the United States wanted mainly to keep hostile countries from getting nuclear weapons, while Obama’s policy is to put the priority on eliminating nuclear weapons (including those of the United States) entirely. “Countering terrorism” becomes stopping al-Qaeda! How about stopping Hamas and Hizballah or the Muslim Brotherhood? Nope. Not part of the policy. “Standing up for Israel’s security” becomes the generic “we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.”

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