Sunday, May 10, 2009

What is the President's Problem?

I am starting to wonder about the President. I never pegged him as disciple of the "American Exceptionalism" school of thought. But the more I listen to the way he talks, acts and the way he is planning to act, and the more concerned I get.

Example 1: He bows. To most people, I am sure, bowing is something quaint and anachronistic. Something that you do mockingly or to assuage someone's feelings when you patronize them politely. It is not something that Americans do. Period. We are citizens. We are not subjects of any potentate, foreign or domestic. We have made this clear from the beginning. Ever notice how at the Olympics our flag does not dip? Its part of the point. We will show respect, but we do not bow.

However, President Obama does not seem to get this. In his first 100 days, he bowed not once but twice. President Obama's staff have tried to dance around this, but it is clear that he did in fact bow. One only bows to someone they acknowledge as being superior in some way. At best, on a good day, foreign monarchs (from whatever land), are equals to the President of the United States. To acknowledge them as superior is a symbol, one that we do not want to establish.

Example 2: Obama and Hugo Chavez. Let's not mince words about who Hugo Chavez is. Hugo Chavez is a convicted felon who somehow managed to ride a wave of populism to being elected president of Venezuela. He does not respect the political process unless it benefits him. His felony? That would have been an attempt at violently overthrowing the government while he was a soldier. Once in power, he has worked systematically to undermine democratic institutions, nationalizing the property of those who don't agree with his brand of socialism/marxism, and routinely blames everything on the United States as a way of deflecting his own authoratarian abuses.

Hugo Chavez's abuses of power are many. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have catalogued a number of abuses including attacks on human rights groups and freedom of expression. Other organizations have found that there have been extra-judicial killings (i.e. death squads) composed of members of Venezuelan security forces, election tampering, and neutralized the power of the courts to impartially ensure that justice is done.

So what does President Obama do with the first opportunity to be in the same room with Hugo Chavez? What would you expect someone who criticized the Bush Adminsitration so heavily for its decisions with regards to rights of terrorists or American citizens wanting to be free from arbitrary surveillance?

That's right, our President walked right up to Chavez and shook his hand and talked with him like they were compadres. Let's see, how have we treated other people who shook hands with authoritarians who trample on human rights? Well, how about...Donald Rumsfeld (who at the time was not the President of the United States or even the Secretary of Defense). Because there was never any outrage over that by human rights groups.

Simply put, it was wrong to shake Saddam Hussein's hand. It was wrong to shake Hugo Chavez's hand. Why should we be giving President Obama a pass on this?

Going beyond the real lack of outrage is the message that this sends. It says, violate human rights, work at destroying democratic institutions, and continue to erode at personal freedoms and there will be no response from the United States. It says that our president, the one whom we have elected, is comfortable treating those who perform acts which we as a nation say we abhor the same or better than our long-time allies who do their best to uphold the ideals of liberty.

Yeah, great job at remaking American diplomacy so far.

So what brought all this up? Apparently, Obama's staff has been talking to reporters about what is being bandied about as possibiities for his upcoming visit to Europe in June. Part of that is attending D-Day ceremonies in France. However, there is also word that President Obama is planning on visiting one of the concentration camps in Germany.

That would be fine. However, he also plans to make a visit to Dresden where President Obama, "will also acknowledge how Germany suffered during the Second World War." Acknowledge how Germany suffered?

Let's see. Germany started World War II. They engaged in a warfare with no limits when it came to respecting the distinction between civillians and combatants from the very beginning in Poland. They then went on to continue this policy by specifically targetting civilian populations of Poland in general and certain ethnic groups in particular. Forget the idea that it was just a few nasty apples at the top. These actions were supported, in many cases enthusiastically, by the general population (see Hitler's Willing Executioners by Goldfarb). Most German resistance to the war did not come until well after it was clear that they were losing the war. And what resistance there was came from the classes that stood to lose the most because of Hitler's actions, mainly mismanagement, not because they necessarily disagreed with the underlying purposes.

Apologizing to Germany for their losses in the Second World War would be akin to a rape victim having to apologize to a rapist for testifying at the trial that convicts them. If anything, we should make sure that the Germans never, ever forget what happens when they choose militaristic authoritarianism (something they had done more than once before their final defeat in 1945).

But it seems that President Obama is seeing if people are ready for him to apologize on behalf of the United States for actions we took during the war. In paritcular, it looks like he wants to apologize for Dresden. At the time it was decided to use all available means to bring the war to an end. That meant destroying everything that could support the war effort. Industry, railways, marshalling yards and the like. Dresden was one of the last communication centers supporting the German defense against the Soviet advance from the East.

Anyways, if this is what President Obama wants to do, then I seriously question what his motives are. If he wants to apologize for sins committed by this nation, then he should apologize for ones which we actually have committed. There have been more than a few in the last few administrations. But apologizing for something in the Second World War to the Germans, a war instigated by Germany, is stupid, senseless, and equates the sacrifices of the men who served the Allied cause with those who served the Axis forces.

That is just abhorrent.

So this brings me back to my original question. What is the President's problem? Is he what I call a "Little American", one who wants so badly to believe that this country is evil and sinful that he must hobble it all costs? That he has accepted the idea of moral equivalence, and simply does not believe that there is such a thing as evil or wrong? Does he believe that the key to serving the United States is to make us "popular" with the world, instead of making us an example?

If the answer is yes to these questions, this is very, very disturbing.


Colby said...

Well said. In an overwhelmingly-so politically world, very refreshing.

Colby said...

Um. Yeah. That was supposed to be "politically correct" world.

Nice key point missing. Sorry.

AngryBell said...

It works either way actually.