Daniel Hannan has a great piece in the WSJ today in which he clarifies Barack Obama's ideology quite nicely (and maybe too politely):
Obama would verbalize his ideology using the same vocabulary that Eurocrats do. He would say he wants a fairer America, a more tolerant America, a less arrogant America, a more engaged America. When you prize away the cliché, what these phrases amount to are higher taxes, less patriotism, a bigger role for state bureaucracies, and a transfer of sovereignty to global institutions.
He is not pursuing a set of random initiatives but a program of comprehensive Europeanization: European health care, European welfare, European carbon taxes, European day care, European college education, even a European foreign policy, based on engagement with supranational technocracies, nuclear disarmament and a reluctance to deploy forces overseas.
And maybe this is why Obama seems genuinely surprised when people call him a socialist. He sees his goal as "Europe-izing" the United States, as he sees the overseas version of government as superior to ours (due in no small part to the ever-increasing lack of accountability the EU owes to its population). Of course, most Americans see Europe as "socialism-lite", and don't want to be Brussels' junior partner...
But it is Hannan's last line - "the reluctance to deploy forces overseas" - which makes me think Hannan may be on to something. As the Middle East roils with turmoil, Obama has reacted in the same way Europe has for decades - sending diplomats scurrying about releasing statements about "unacceptable actions", tut-tutting civilian slaughter, and eventually getting back to the business at hand: blaming Israel for the all the world's ills.
How is our inaction playing in Libya? The Dignified Rant gives us a clue:
Sadly, rebels in Benghazi don't understand our new foreign policy approach:
"Help us to become a democratic country," said one banner strung between lampposts and written in English and Arabic.
What are they thinking? It doesn't even matter if the demonstrators want or understand what "democracy" means other than the downfall of Khaddafi (a good short-term goal, to be sure). The point is that democracy promotion is no longer an American goal (most old European states couldn't care less and never did believe Arabs were "ready" for it). Don't they know that we can't impose democracy? Don't they appreciate the benefits of doing it all on their own?
And did they not listen to Obama's Cairo speech, aka the Greatest Speech Even Given? The New Yorker quotes the relevant portion:
“The fourth issue that I will address is democracy,” he said, and continued, “I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.” Then the President paused, apparently expecting this sensible recognition to prompt a round of applause, but there was silence, and he seemed to stumble.
But there is more in this New Yorker article, almost a year old, that is profoundly relevant:
Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch, who had been an informal adviser to the Obama campaign, said, “I don’t think he was aware that the audience both despised George W. Bush and desperately wanted Bush’s help in their cause.”
Better to be despised today and be worshipped for generations, than to be loved for the moment and despised throughout history. Look at George Bush's legacy today, how brightly will he shine in a decade?
One more tidbit from George Packer's New Yorker piece:
Obama, in his Cairo speech and throughout his first year in office, has rightly felt the need to cleanse the air of the arrogance and the folly of his predecessor. There is no more American moralizing or hectoring about freedom, no simplistic division of the world into good and evil. Instead of “with us or against us,” the key phrase in Obama’s foreign policy has been “mutual interest and mutual respect.”
Barely two years after the Cairo speech, and a year after the New Yorker gloated about Obama's new direction, what do the dispossessed of the world cry out for?
An America who will hector about freedom, and America which will call out evil when they see it, and an America who will help those who are willing to fight and die for the very freedoms we hold so dear.
But instead, we have a president who has forfeited that honored, albeit difficult, role in the world, for being part of the "in-crowd" who prefer to do nothing about the globe's problems save patting themselves on the back for their multilateral agreements to do nothing, which, while letting aspiring democracies die, does not risk their popularity. For the moment.
We are Europe now, and the Free Libya forces are dying because of that. How does the rest of the world feel about the role we have abdicated now?
More importantly....how do we feel about it?
UPDATE: Gay Patriot catches the New York Times cheering for Obama's policies here, re-branding his cowardice as "pragmatic-ism". And the feel-good Euro-style circle-jerk goes on...