The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


As Barack Obama's "coalition" begins its bombing runs in Syria, its worth lightening things up with a retrospective. James Taranto writes:
Sometimes history seems to have a sense of humor. In September 2013 BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski unearthed an old video and reported: "During the presidential election last year Vice President Joe Biden attacked Mitt Romney for being 'ready to go to war' in Syria." Specifically:

"[Romney] said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home. He implies by the speech that he's ready to go to war in Syria and Iran," Biden said Sept. 2, 2012 speaking in York, Pennsylvania.

"He wants to move from cooperation to confrontation with Putin's Russia. And these guys say the president's out of touch? Out of touch? Swiss bank account, untold millions in the Cayman Islands. Who's out of touch, man?"

Romney, you may recall, was not elected.
Looks like Mitt Romney was about as "out of touch" Obama, who has proven repeatedly that Romney's read of the geopolitical landscape in 2012 was significantly more accurate than Barack Obama's. One can only wonder whether the foreign policy disasters of the past two years would have occurred had Romney been elected president. We'll never know.

Bret Stevens looks at all of this and writes:
Serious people feel an obligation to listen whenever Barack Obama speaks. They furrow their brow and hold their chin and parse every word. They assume that most everything a president says is significant, which is true. They assume that what's significant must also be well-informed. Not necessarily.

I've been thinking about this as it becomes clear that, even at an elementary level, Mr. Obama often doesn't know what he's talking about. It isn't so much his analysis of global events that's wrong, though it is. The deeper problem is the foundation of knowledge on which that analysis is built.

Here, for instance, is Mr. Obama answering a question posed in August by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who wanted the president's thoughts on the new global disorder.

"You can't generalize across the globe," the president replied. "Because there are a bunch of places where good news keeps on coming. Asia continues to grow . . . and not only is it growing but you're starting to see democracies in places like Indonesia solidifying."

"The trend lines in Latin America are good," he added. "Overall, there's still cause for optimism."

Here, now, is reality: In Japan, the economy is contracting. China's real-estate market is a bubble waiting to burst. Indonesia's democracy may be solidifying, but so is Islamism and the persecution of religious minorities. Democracy has been overthrown in Thailand. The march toward freedom in Burma—supposedly one of Mr. Obama's (and Hillary Clinton's ) signature diplomatic victories—has stalled. India may do better than before under its new prime minister, Narendra Modi, but gone are the days when serious people think of India as a future superpower. The government of Pakistan is, as ever, on the verge of collapse.

As for Latin America, Argentina just defaulted for the second time in 13 years. Brazil is in recession. Venezuela is a brutal dictatorship. Ecuador is well on its way to becoming one.
It's true that the President of the United States can't be expected to be an expert on every geopolitical area. He can't be expected to have a firm grasp on detailed intelligence matters across the broad spectrum of threats that face us. But he can be expected to hire outstanding people who do have this knowledge, people who brief him daily or weekly or monthly on the things that matter. He can also be expected to have the humility to understand that he he isn't an expert, that he has to adapt his position based on consensus input from his own experts. He has to listen, then decide, and then act ... and not take weeks or months to do so when days matter.

Stevens is brutal in his assessment of this president. The bottom line, he writes, is this: "Every president gets things wrong. What sets Obama apart is his ideological rigidity and fathomless ignorance."