Another Day, Another Speech, Another History Trashed

Claudia Rossett’s “The Bear Scare” analyzes Obama’s rather weak grasp of history on display in Moscow as it was in Cairo. But it is not just the confused focus, the generalizations at odds with history. It is also an attitude. She speaks of the real blood and treasure with which we have defended freedom; more importantly, “Americans kept brilliantly alive a philosophy of democratic government and free markets, which offered a beacon to oppressed people of the world, and exported both ideas and inventions that have vastly enriched mankind.” Were Russians surprised a U.S. President interpreted their history as he did?

In Obama’s version of history, Soviet communism (which he referred to not by name but as “old political and economic restrictions”) came to an end through some sort of brotherly mass movement: “The change did not come from any one nation,” he told an audience of Russian students. “The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.”

I assume he sees little wrong with “new political and economic restrictions” as part of the hope and change he projects in our future. It is understandable he would prefer not to see a disastrous economic system as reason for the fall, since it seems to be that system he intends to graft on ours. Nor would it be helpful to consider Reagan’s approach as cause, since not only is he a Republican but clearly Obama intends to abandon that race. So he is left with the weakness that always accompanies an unwillingness to speak the truth.

A century ago we might have taken solace in the totalitarian’s hypocrisy, seeing it as compliment to virtuous democracy. However, Rosett has seen enough of its consequences:

The legitimacy of genuine democracy is hijacked via concepts such as “sovereign democracy” in Russia, “people’s democracy” in China and “religious democracy” in Iran–all homes to state-controlled mass media, especially via the outlet of television. This report notes that the notion of democracy, in this murky landscape, becomes “a semantic shell for each authoritarian ruler to fill as he pleases.” Is this what America now proposes to converge and collaborate with?

Of course, when a leader once elected installs himself for life or when the vote is determined not by the count but the counter, “The Vote”, too, becomes a “semantic shell.”

Categorizing this post, “Anti-Americanism” seemed right. But, can a president himself be Anti-American? What do we mean by America? I’m sentimental, perhaps, but feel one defining characteristic, in Rosett’s words, is as a “bulwark of freedom.” Our history isn’t perfect – we are fallible – but its steady goal has been not only to free ourselves but others as well.

10 thoughts on “Another Day, Another Speech, Another History Trashed”

  1. “Americans kept brilliantly alive a philosophy of democratic government and free markets, which offered a beacon to oppressed people of the world, and exported both ideas and inventions that have vastly enriched mankind.”

    Unfortunately, the legislators of mankind, be they poets, philosophers, statesmen, intellectuals, have been virulently anti-democratic for over 100 years. (That the Fabians, who lived in a very free democracy praised Mussolini and Stalin…, well.) America and democracy cannot long survive in a world culture that is relentlessly anti-democratic. Only about every other president is in favor of democracy, here or abroad. Obama certainly favor tyranny.


  2. The anti-democratic arguments of the mid-twentieth century, used by the Fabians and others, had to do with their perception of democracy being inefficient and, consequently, unjust. It does not make much sense but we have to understand how they thought. Obama’s thought processes seem to me to be completely incomprehensible. Does he think democracy is inefficient and unjust? Or does he simply not want to be judgemental? Does he automatically favour tyranny, as some people say or does he find it impossible to say good things about his country?

  3. Helen,

    Does he think democracy is inefficient and unjust?

    Well, yes his does. Obama believes that the highest good is not freedom but material equality. In his mind, democracy is only useful to the degree it produces material equality. If it doesn’t, then he feels justified in using authoritarian means to create his desired outcome. Leftism can be boiled down to the idea that the state has a duty to use it violence monopoly to reduce the freedom of choice of various members of society for the material benefit of other members of society.

    Look at how Obama regards democracy promotion. He basically said that democracy was great and all but people first had to have material security before they could start thinking about democracy. He clearly sees no link between freedom and material security and he clearly views political freedom as less important that material security.

    He believes this because he views most people has something akin to children or livestock i.e. beings that he has a responsibility to care for but whose decision-making he cannot respect. He believes he has a moral responsibility to impose his superior judgment on less intellectually capable people.

    Non-leftist by contrast believe that freedom is more important that material welfare and much more important than material equality. For the non-leftist, democracy becomes the highest political good because it is the best (not the perfect) real-world mechanism for defending freedom. We seek democracy and freedom first and worry about material matters second. Given history, it is clear that prosperity follows freedom.

    Obama also has a pragmatic reason for cuddling up to dictators. He doesn’t want any distraction from his socialization of America. Letting dictators run wild means he doesn’t have to expend political capital dealing with them.

  4. It is very hard for someone who is intelligent to imagine understand the thinking of someone stupid, and this man behind the superficial smoothness, is astonishingly stupid. Well from a public welfare view, anyway. But looked at another way, he and the political class have done quite well enriching themselves, so maybe they aren’t so stupid after all.

  5. Obama wants to devote all his attention to domestic policy. He has announced that all the former parts of the Soviet Empire lie within the Russian sphere of influence, just as they always have. The US will not defend them nor will the US interfere. He has announced that the Middle East belongs to Islam and we will not interfere with Islam. He has recognized China and North Korea as the two nations that will guarantee peace in Asia and we will not interfere in Asia. He says Africa is for the Africans and we will not interfere in Africa. He supports the Bolivar movement in South America and we will not interfere South America.

    We can expect Putin to rebuild the Russian Empire but this time he will leave out Communism. We can expect turmoil in South and Central America and Africa. We can expect the return of the Mahdi and the rise of the Caliphate. We can expect reunification of Korea and recovery of Chinese lands lost to colonialism.

    If you plan to travel to any of these places do it now while they are still there. If you have investments in these areas, get insurance.

  6. Non-leftist by contrast believe that freedom is more important that material welfare and much more important than material equality.

    I myself believe that freedom is a precondition to the best possibility of improved material welfare, and that material equality doesn’t matter a-tall, for many reasons. One: my neighbor’s idea of “material welfare” is different from mine. Why would I want her version? Why would she want mine? How does she quantify the fact that she lives close to her family (at a premium, since she could live in a cheaper market if she didn’t want to be close to her parents), and how does her calculus compare with the way I quantify my choice to live in a four-season climate, in contrast to the MAYBE-two-season climate MY parents have chosen?

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