By Robert Wallace
It looks as though all that globetrotting bowing and apologizing has been for naught. I guess Obama figured that if only he apologized for Bush enough people would love us again. Or, let’s be honest, that they would love him. It never occurred to the man who could do no wrong in the eyes of an adoring media that people might actually find reason to dislike him for who he is and not just for who he replaced.
And yet that is precisely the rude awakening that we’re seeing right now. Consider this opinion piece for Der Spiegel in which by Christian Schwägerl takes Obama to task with nothing like the velvet glove treatment he expects from everyone except Fox News. Schwägerl doesn’t mince words. He states flatly (and in bold, no less!):
Obama Lied to the Europeans
Barack Obama cast himself as a “citizen of the world” when he delivered his well-received campaign speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008. But the US president has now betrayed this claim. In his Berlin speech, he was dishonest with Europe. Since then, Obama has neglected the single most important issue for an American president who likes to imagine himself as a world citizen, namely his country’s addiction to fossil fuels and the risks of unchecked climate change. Health care reform and other domestic issues were more important to him than global environmental threats.
Of course I don’t actually agree with Schwägerl’s criticisms. I’m skeptical that there is any feasible way to limit carbon emissions, skeptical of the link between man-originated carbon emissions and global warming, and skeptical of global warming itself as an ongoing phenomena. It certainly hasn’t been around much over the last decade. So I take issue with the entire premise that it is the job of the United States to take one for the team, fall on our swords, jump on the grenade (pick your favorite euphemism) and fix this alleged global crisis by committing economic suicide and hoping our “allies” will follow us off the cliff. Keep in mind that most of our closest allies can’t even be bothered to send significant troop levels to Afghanistan – the one war everyone is supposed to be in support of. And as for China, India and Russia slitting their wrists just to be team players…. yeah, right.
Meanwhile I disagree with Obama’s domestic policies, but I agree that American problems should be the American president’s top priority. Imagine that! For better or for much, much worse we elected Barack Obama as President of the United States of America. Not President of the Concerned Environmentalists of Western Europe. (Believe me, we’d give him to you if we could, but for the time being we’re stuck with him.)
But none of these things speak to the two points that stand out from this article.
Point 1 – You can’t blame this on Bush.
Life on the campaign was so much easier for Obama. Whenever things get really bad he tries to go back to what worked way back in 2008. And above all that means dragging out the straw man of George W. Bush to beat up on again. Unfortunately that won’t work now that Obama has plenty of screw-ups of his own, and Schwägerl makes it clear that Obama owns the impending climate change delay:
The folder labeled “climate change” that George W. Bush left behind for his successor on the desk of the Oval Office in January likely wasn’t a thick one. Although Bush once said that America is overly-dependent on oil, he never got beyond that insight. He was too busy waging war on Iraq and searching for a legal basis for extraordinary renditions to pay much attention to the real threat facing humanity. “Forget the climate” seems to have been Bush’s unofficial motto.
But few people expected that the Barack Obama, of all people, would continue his predecessor’s climate change plan.
Got that? They hate Bush and you. It’s not an either-or proposition. So blaming Bush isn’t going to deflect these criticisms.
Point 2 – You can never concede enough.
If you’ve ever done any haggling in your life you know more about negotiations than President Obama ever will. In my life I’ve learned the same basic lessons apply whether I’m picking out a custom engagement ring in my hometown, bartering for crafts Eastern European marketplaces, or bickering with vendors, customers and business partners in my own businesses. These are the kinds of things that a sheltered adult life in academia may prevent you from learning.
And that’s why Obama doesn’t understand that running around and apologizing doesn’t work. All it does is broadcast to everyone else that here is a target ripe for the plucking. If you show weakness in a negotiation the price you pay doesn’t go down. It goes up.
That’s what we see happening here. Obama thought if only he bowed deeply enough and apologized profusely enough that people would forgive and forget the old grievances. But most complaints about US behavior have never been sincere. They’ve been posturing to try and extort more aid money, more concessions, more support, more whatever from the US. So when you concede to those demands you may think you’re addressing historical mistakes, but what you’re actually doing is acquiescing to the demands of the guy your haggling with. And how are they going to respond?
They are going to press for an even better deal.
This is what we get from a man whose only real-world experiences come from within the sheltered confines of either from the Ivory Tower or the Daley Machine. A man who thinks sitting down for a chit-chat with Kim Jung Il or Ahmadinejad without preconditions is a man who has no idea what the rules of the game are. He doesn’t even know that a game is being played.
He’s learning the hard way that the more concede the more people want, and so there is no such thing as conceding enough.
I knew Obama would need on-the-job training, but even I’m shocked that this far into his presidency he is still making such rookie mistakes. He truly is the worst of both worlds. He is perfectly acclimatized to the kinds of favor-trading, elbow-twisting hardball domestic politics that make his radical domestic agenda a serious threat, but on the international scene – when a little bit of level-headed hardball would go a long way to protecting our interests – we suddenly find ourselves depending on a man whose chief talent appears to be finding and identifying royalty and then bowing to them.
Robert Wallace is classical liberal studying economics in graduate school. He and his wife work as business analysis consultants, and they live as undercover conservatives with their two small children in a socialist bastion of a college town. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.