Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barack Obama and the National Interest

One of my students e-mailed me to express his fascination at how President Obama's recent speeches conform to the "liberal international" model in international relations - my student noted that Obama "seems to negate that a realist political theory can even apply to our modern 21st century international relations." That's a sharp observation. Obama's talk of mutual collaboration and shared interests in the world diverge from the power-politics paradigm of world politics. Yet, watching this video below, and then thinking about Jennifer Rubin's comments at her post, "Wanted: Defender of American Interests," it's clear that Obama rejects the notion of states as key actors in international politics, and hence the assumption that national interests drive state decision-making. Here's Rubin:

Obama plainly embodies that mindset of liberal elites. America is flawed. America has no distinct message or values, and its interests are entitled to no more weight than Belgium’s or Cuba’s. It’s wrongheaded to assert our national interests. We should be seeking consensus and righting the great wrongs that America has done to other nations—both its stinginess in redistributing wealth and its failure to cater to other nations’ geopolitical and psychological concerns. Russia needs reassuring. The Arabs need validation. And it’s the president’s job to lower America’s profile so as to not incur the wrath of hostile powers.

Average Americans don’t buy into any of this. They have the notion—ridiculed by Obama and his supporters—that America is unique, both in its attributes and in its role in the world. They might grow weary of the burdens and prefer shorter and less costly wars (what democratic people do not?), but the notion that we should simply go along with the crowd, avoid hurting Russian sensibilities, or contradict false historical narratives of Arab nations in contravention to our own interests and those of our allies are alien and off-putting to them. If Iran is a threat to the world, ordinary Americans expect their president to do something about it, not merely call another meeting to talk with thugs spouting genocidal nonsense.

I think that's extremely perceptive, and interestingly, I think the observation about average Americans may become increasingly germane to the debates heading into the 2010 and 2012 elections. While leftists continue to excoriate grassroots activists as "teabaggers" and 'racists," the fact is that more and more political independents are turning against this administration. And if lots of folks who aren't particularly partisan realize this administration's making Neville Chamberlain look like Genghis Kahn, well, "The One" may well soon become shorthand for "The One-Term" Obama presidency.

Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit, "
Obama On Nuclear Conflict With Iran: "I'm Not Interested In Victory" (Video), and HotAir Pundit, "Obama At The G-20 On Iran: “I'm Not Interested In Victory”." More at Memeorandum.


Kenneth Davenport said...

What a pity that an American president rejects the notion of "American exceptionalism" -- which, of course, is really about the uniqueness of the American system that protects individual rights, free speech and enables anyone -- of any class, race and from any walk of life -- to find their individual success in life. There is no other place like it in the world, and for Obama to minimize it is really sickening.

Your student is right -- Obama has returned us to an idealist model that puts "human interests" above American interests. He sees himself as "President of the world". In this model, our national interests are but a bargaining chip for some greater, multilateral benefit, and we can't be certain that he won't do things that create irreperable harm in pursuit of this agenda.

Very scary -- let's hope in 2012 we can get rid of Obama in favor of a true "American" president!

The Griper said...

a one term presidency is exactly what any president deserves when they declare that they are not interested in "victory". that is the primary role of the position of the office of the president in our federal system of government, to lead our troops to victory in times of war. it is also his constitutional duty too.

a president who does not have the mindset of victory is a president who will lose the respect and trust of both, our allies and enemies.

jill citizen said...

I watched the video and read both of your comments-- and I have some questions for both of you: did you consider context (of the President's comments), and what do you think "victory" looks like, in terms of counter-proliferation?

I agree that the US is unique, but really, we are a young country and a young culture-- is it so wrong to subtly acknowledge such on the international stage (this was a G20 conference, where the US was asking others to share more of the financial burden...)?