Obama’s Historical Ignorance Exposed

Our much-esteemed reader “Penny” directs your attention to the following critique of Obama’s sojourn in Moscow, from the pages of Forbes:

Watching President Obama hit the “reset” button in Moscow this week, I was reminded of one of my own New Age encounters in Russia, about 14 years ago. Then, working as bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal in Moscow, I was on the receiving end of a shipment of new computers for the office. After much wrangling, delay and expense, they finally arrived. But the first one we unpacked would not boot up. The Russian customs service, in its own version of “reset,” had stripped out the hard drive before turning over to us the hollow shell.

On a far grander scale, it’s a good bet that a similar experience lies ahead for Obama, whose White House Web site, in the wake of his two-day visit to Moscow, has been headlining “Reset in Russia.” Ironically, the most promising moment of the trip was Obama’s slip of the tongue in which he referred to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by Putin’s previous title of “president”–the most powerful post in Russia. That at least suggests that, while sloppy with protocol, Obama is not entirely oblivious to the steely realities of backroom Russia.
But the bulk of Obama’s visit was a mix of visionary kitsch, caviar and feckless horse-trading. He met with President Dmitry Medvedev, brought along Michelle and the kids for a look inside the Kremlin and breakfasted on beluga with Putin. Obama emerged with such prizes as a short-sighted strategic arms reduction “commitment,” for America to scrap real capabilities in tandem with Russia retiring some of its rusting junk. In a smart move, he met with some members of the political opposition. But he also managed to effectively sell them out, not only by praising authoritarian Putin for his “extraordinary work on behalf of the Russian people,” but also by delivering to a graduating class of students a Russian variation on his June 4 speech in Cairo.

In his Moscow speech, Obama delivered what is by now familiar as his trademark mix of historical omissions and revisions, sweeping statements about the “arc of history” and phrases of hope, change and moral equivalency. He brought up, yet again, America’s “imperfections,” dismissed as outdated the brand of American moral certitude and leadership that brought victory in World War II and called for collaboration, convergence and partnerships forged on common ground and progress toward a shared future. Call it Brotherhood 2.0.

Were it not for such obstacles as history, vast vested interests and human nature, it’s a vision that just might work. But in the real world, as a basis for state policy, this is a time-tested recipe for disaster. There may be no venue better suited to underscore that lesson than Russia, home during most of the last century to a colossal and devastating experiment that began with fraternal ideals of communism and led to the gulag, mass deprivation and aggressive expansion. To this day, the ruinous inheritance of Soviet communism lingers on, from Cuba to China to North Korea, to the Soviet-tutored terrorist incubators of the Middle East, to the despotic currents running deep within Russia itself.

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.”

Apart from such details as Soviet killings in the Baltics, violent upheaval in Georgia, the slaughter in Romania that preceded the overthrow of President Nicolae Ceausescu, the early stirrings of war in Chechnya, the genocide amid the breakup of Yugoslavia, and what not, Obama is broadly correct. The Cold War ended without the feared exchange of nuclear weapons and all-out global conflagration. And, yes, it ended thanks in significant part to the courage and determination of a great many people in places such as Prague, Warsaw and Moscow itself.

But missing from Obama’s philosophy is the immense role played by the U.S. America stood for decades as a bulwark of freedom. Americans fought real wars in such places as Korea and Vietnam. 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. Following the fiascoes of Jimmy Carter–on whose watch the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Iran had its Islamic revolution–Americans elected Ronald Reagan. His version of “reset” was to stop the appeasing and apologizing, and to reassert America’s system as one of virtue and America’s global role as one of both moral and military strength.

In the excitement over Obama’s packaging and marketing skills, it is easy to forget that there are many variations on this business of revising the terms of engagement–for which the current White House metaphor is that reset button. A terrific account of this phenomenon can be found in a report released last month on “Undermining Democracy,” produced jointly by New York-based Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. This 81-page report documents and explains the rise since the end of the Cold War of what the authors call the “21st-Century Authoritarians.”

In case studies focusing on China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela, the authors warn of the rise of “a new form of authoritarianism, with methods of control that are significantly more sophisticated than the classic totalitarian techniques of the Soviet Union.” These include not only huge strides in high-tech surveillance, along with the exploitation of international institutions and foreign aid to advance the interests of tyrannical regimes, but the bastardization of the idea of democracy itself.

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?

There is a great deal more illuminating detail in these case studies, but they boil down to a warning that despots of the modern world are already quite busy with their own reset of the global system: “Authoritarian regimes are eroding the international rules and standards built up by the democratic world over the past several decades, threatening to export the instability and abuses that their systems engender.” In this setting, what the world needs from America is not a reset button, but a rudder.

9 responses to “Obama’s Historical Ignorance Exposed

  1. Obama is proving to be, all that his early astute critics have warned us about: incompetent to be our President, and an extreme leftist-socialist who seeks to turn America’s economy upside down.
    He simply knows too little about too many subjects, for him to make wise international decisions. He will surrender to Putler, whatever the Kremlin demands, and apologize for not yielding quicker. He will sell out our allies and betray former-satelite nations. Right now, he is punishing Hondurus, for kicking out their leftist-president, just before, he could take more power and wreck their democracy.The vast majority of Hondurans support his ouster.Obama supports that leftist, as he does every other leftist head of state., he andcommunist- Chavez are two peas in the same pod. And why? Because HE HIMSELF is also such an extreme-leftist animal If he is that stupid/or determined a pro-socialist in Central America, why should he not also give to Putler, another Socialist/neo-soviet dictator, whatever he wants.
    And we see, that he has already made a total fool of himself….and America, in his pathetic visit to Russia. Yes, we do have ‘change’, but it is not for the better for America, for the struggling dissidents in Russia, or for the world in general.
    It was a sad day for the world, the day B. Obama was put in the Oval Office, a very very sad day.
    R.D.

    • The fact that Chavez, Castro, Morales and Ortega want Zelaya resored to power says it all. You’d think that Obama and Clinton would have the brains to have a neutral policy towards Honduras at the very least rather than endorse those thugs.

      It’s just stupid.

      Even more frightening is the deadly power vacuum Obama has created in the ME:

      http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KF30Ak02.html

  2. An added observation about Obama in Russia:
    While seated in the same room with Putler, I listened to the claptrap philosophizing blather of Obama (most of what he said was either totally off-base or at any rate, irrelevant), Putler was staring distainfully at him, with a sour face and body language so full of utter contempt….as if he were seeing and hearing an excaped idiot in the chair near him.
    And too, this seemed to be the general look on the faces of the hand-picked audience for Obama’s speech….though in fairness to Obama, they were probably simply following their leader.
    I was hoping, that Obama would stay in Ghana, or….Russia, and not return to America. But then, we would have dumb-bell Joe Biden to replace him!…gadzukes!
    Ain’t life grand!?
    R.D.

  3. psalomschik

    Remains to be added to your post —
    “Democracy (inside the US) is inimical to imperial mobilization.” — Z. Brzezinski. The Grand Chessboard

    Do you want to bomb evil “leftist” Honduras, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Syria in the name of democracy, American destiny and in the name of God? Get it firmly fixed in your mind, your waspish America has passed the point of no-return both demographically and economically. Take Obama as a sign of promise of the future of the US nation.
    And one word more – ‘Recuerden El Alamo’ gringo criminal!

  4. Psalomchik,
    I agree with you on all that you have said. People and countries are being sold out, in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary. Lenin said that ” The capitalists will sells us the rope with which to hang them”. Obama is just a Useful Idiot for the Banking Cabal and the international corporations. We are just the “Human Resources” to be used up.

    The problem being that Putin Style Kremlin Mafia can bring down our whole system. Like the Governments of Georgia and Ukraine. RaSSiyans fighting for peace in the Caucuses , is like sucking for chastity. My belief is that any accommodation with evil, leads to bad results, and it grows stronger. NATO has already fully reinstated cooperation with Russia. The talk about “cooperation of common interests” is the stupidest. If there are common interests then what need there is in seeking cooperation? Bribing the Kremlin with the 1.5 billions in contracts guaranteed by the public is the worst mistake. Not enough of that is being said on the broadcasting “nitworks” in the US, in their adoration of Obama.

  5. George, until the Europeans grow a spine and put some money into alternatives to the Russian gas monopoly Obama is going to join them in their appeasement. He neither respects nor likes America enough to craft a bold American initiative.

    He’s a spineless Jimmy Carter Redux. He’s being battered by every thug on the planet that wants a piece of him which will probably cost us lives down the road.

    Sadly, 30 years after Carter, lessions need to be relearned here.

  6. Penny, you are right about money for the European Energy System. Every country in Europe is seeking their own deal with Gasprom. What good is a European Union? Especially that their defense is subsidized by the USA, without which there would be no NATO. No spine needed as long as we pay.

  7. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124744075427029805.html

    Another good article on Obama re-writing history in Russia. Great complement to the subject Forbes’ article.

  8. @rts
    Quote:”And one word more – ‘Recuerden El Alamo’ gringo criminal!” enquote

    Make that an additional word “Recuerde Goliad! Cabrón”

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