Liberty, Safety And “Smart” Power: Contradiction By Design

In recent days, we’ve looked at the “Liberaltarianizing” of the United States, and how Americans seem to be too quick to trade their freedom for safety. In what is a third part of an unintended series, we focus on foreign policy and how that affects both of the previous topics. The Obama administration as made a big hullabaloo over the use of “Smart Power” in international relations (I would argue that Obama “Smart Power” is a repackaging of “Soft Power“, with an over-reliance of soft power strategies, while generally eschewing “Hard Power”). Under the guise of “restoring America’s standing,” one could argue that the ultimate result of the Obama strategy is to reduce the United States’ international hegemony, making America “just another country” in the world stage.

Unfortunately, there is evidence that such an approach would do nothing other than to increase unrest around the globe, thereby decreasing the safety so coveted by “liberaltarians.” Nature abhors a vacuum, and in a world without a dominant United States presence, the leadership vacuum is being filled by what Robert Kaplan terms Anarchy. This is borne out historically in an example provided by Kaplan:

The problem is, however, that in geopolitics equality usually does not work  very well. For centuries Europe had a rough equality between major states that  is often referred to as the balance-of-power system. And  that led to frequent wars. East Asia, by contrast, from the 14th to the early  19th centuries, had its relations ordered by a tribute system in which China was  roughly dominant. The result, according to political scientist David C. Kang of  the University of Southern California, was a generally more peaceful climate in  Asia than in Europe.

The fact is that domination of one sort or another, tyrannical or not, has a  better chance of preventing the outbreak of war than a system in which no one is  really in charge; where no one is the top dog, so to speak. That is why Columbia  University’s Kenneth Waltz, arguably America’s pre-eminent realist, says that  the opposite of “anarchy” is not stability, but “hierarchy.”

Of course, leftists would bristle at the notion that one country should be “more equal” than others, or that this source of inequality is the thing that creates international stability and peace. Since the end of World War II (especially) the role of international hegemon has been filled by the United States, inasmuch as America emerged as the dominant world power, and through a general consensus, was expected to lead on the world stage. When the hegemon fails to lead (or “leads from behind”) it is betraying its agreed-upon position, and can be said to be acting irresponsibly. However, as Kaplan continues:

Of course, hegemony has a bad reputation in media discourse. But that is only  because journalists are confused about the terminology, even as they  sanctimoniously judge previous historical eras by the strict standards of their  own. In fact, for most of human history, periods of relative peace have been the  product of hegemony of one sort or another. And for many periods, the reigning  hegemonic or imperial power was the most liberal, according to the standards of  the age. Rome, Venice and Britain were usually more liberal than the forces  arranged against them. The empire of the Austrian Hapsburgs in Central and  Eastern Europe often protected the rights of minorities and prevented ethnic  wars to a much greater degree than did the modern states that succeeded it. The  Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the Middle East frequently did likewise. There  are exceptions, of course, like Hapsburg Spain, with its combination of  inquisition and conquest. But the point is that hegemony does not require  tyrannical or absolutist rule.

Stability is not the natural order of things. In fact, history shows that  stability such as it exists is usually a function of imperial rule, which, in  turn, is a common form of hierarchy. To wit, there are few things messier in  geopolitics than the demise of an empire. The collapse of the Hapsburgs, of the  Ottoman Turks, of the  Soviet Empire and  the British Empire in Asia and Africa led to chronic wars and upheavals. Some  uncomprehending commentators remind us that all empires end badly. Of course  they do, but that is only after they have provided decades and centuries of  relative peace.

Obviously, not all empires are morally equivalent. For example, the Austrian  Hapsburgs were for their time infinitely more tolerant than the Soviet  Communists. Indeed, had the Romanov Dynasty in St. Petersburg not been replaced  in 1917 by Lenin’s Bolsheviks, Russia would likely have evolved far more  humanely than it did through the course of the 20th century. Therefore, I am  saying only in a general sense is order preferable to disorder. (Though  captivating subtleties abound: For example, Napoleon betrayed the ideals of the  French Revolution by creating an empire, but he also granted rights to Jews and  Protestants and created a system of merit over one of just birth and  privilege.)

In any case, such order must come from hierarchal [sic] domination.

However, as I alluded to above, these days seem to be behind us; not only is a hegemonic role for the United States antithetical to Obama’s world view and political philosophy, but after two lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans in general seem to have a case of battle-fatigue. Obama’s strategy is playing directly into it: outside of some special-ops personnel to carry out surgical drone-strikes on individuals, there is a reluctance to put “boots on the ground” to right wrongs in places such as Libya, Syria. Granted, since Korea, presidents in general have been reluctant to use force; it wasn’t until George W. Bush after 9/11 (and to a lesser extent, George H.W. Bush in Kuwait) that U.S. force was employed en masse. However, Obama seems to have accelerated a shift:

In a world of strong states — a world characterized by hierarchy, that is —  the United States often enforced the rules of the road or competed with another  hegemon, the Soviet Union, to do so. Such enforcement came in the form of robust  diplomacy, often backed by a threat to use military power. Richard Nixon, Ronald  Reagan and George H.W. Bush were noted for American leadership and an effective,  sometimes ruthless foreign policy. Since the Cold War ended and Bill Clinton  became president, American leadership has often seemed to be either unserious,  inexpertly and crudely applied or relatively absent. And this has transpired  even as states themselves in the Greater Middle East have become feebler.

In other words, both the hegemon and the many states it influences are  weaker. Hierarchy is dissolving on all levels. [emphasis mine]

Thus, the exact kind of international policies that “liberaltarians” are asking for in order to preserve their ability to safely exercise their personal pleasure license could be creating the conditions that directly threaten that safety. As we’ve noted, as safety is threatened, Americans are tending to not think twice about giving up their liberty to the state in order to protect them (again, from the situations they’re directly creating. Of course, in an imperial presidency, the surrender of freedom is not a problem and is even welcomed. However, to those that value our civil and political liberty, it is increasingly problematic. As Kaplan concludes:

Unless some force can, against considerable odds, reinstitute hierarchy — be it  an American hegemon acting globally, or an international organization acting  regionally or, say, an Egyptian military acting internally — we will have more  fluidity, more equality and therefore more anarchy to look forward to. This is  profoundly disturbing, because civilization abjures anarchy.

Anarchy and Hegemony is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

A Bad Week For Leftists

This past week was a rough one for leftists, to be sure – not that it was a necessarily good one for conservatives (except in one case) – it was just a spectacularly bad week to be a liberal*.

For starters, more gun restrictions in the form of universal background checks was shot down in spectacular fashion by the Democrat-controlled Senate to start the week (win for constitutional conservatives!). Obama’s tantrum press conference after the defeat was certainly embarrassing, but it was also fun trying to figure out if it was because he actually lost the debate, or if he was mad that he couldn’t blame it on the House Republicans (the enemy!) this time.

Speaking of losers, the elite liberal “intelligensia” who were hoping beyond hope that the Boston Marathon bomber would be a white, conservative, Christian male (I’m looking at you, David Sirota, Michael Moore, Chris Matthews, Peter Bergen, et. al.) can’t be happy that the bombers turned out to be Chechen immigrants who were influenced by/followed radical Islam. To be sure, anyone who was hoping that the bombers were of a certain demographic in order to win politcal points needs to examine his or her priorities in a profound way – it was still edifying in a shadenfreudig sort of way to watch the leftists squirm and backpedal and have to eat their words; although I hear Michael Moore is still convinced he’s right (and too busy eating other things to make room for his words…).

What’s more, even the leftist sacred cow of “reproductive rights” (read pro-death/pro-abortion) came under fire with the testimony and pictures released, albeit grudgingly, from the Kermit Gosnell trial. The grisly images were a reminder of what abortion-on-demand will ultimately lead too, and created quite a dilemma for the “protect abortion at all cost” media. They tried to embargo the story at first, but were eventually shamed into covering the story by social media, including some liberal commentators in print.

gosnell

Finally, just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the Elvis Impersonator who sent letters laced with ricin to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) was a nutjob, but not a right-wing nutjob. In fact, evidence suggests that the alleged guilty party, one Paul Kevin Curtis was actually a Democrat activist. I don’t know if it could get any worse than “crazy Elvis is a Democrat,” at least from an embarrassment standpoint.

ricin-elvis

Never fear, though, little leftist – at least there’s a chance the explosion at the West, TX fertilizer plant was caused by some white, gun-toting, bible-clinging right-winger…

(*h/t Rat’s Right; “An Open Letter To Liberals” inspired this post)

Post-Newtown Gun Control is Not About the Children, but Control

Excerpted from Catholicvote.org:

Kermit Gosnell is on trial for many counts of murder, including delivering babies alive, taking a pair of scissors, and snipping their spinal cords. Did you know about that? I’ll bet lots of people who may have heard of it a while ago forgot about it, and didn’t know his trial has begun.

That may be because no one is talking about it in the major media outlets. I mean no one. Check out this screen capture of Google News results for “Gosnell.” LifeNews.com, a couple of local papers, and someone at HuffingtonPost.com covered it, sure. But look at the last link. It says, “It Is Disturbing That Mike Rice Gets More Coverage Than Kermit…” Yes, coverage about the non-coverage gets higher billing than most coverage. So you could be excused for not knowing about this.

I’ll bet you did know about the ABSOLUTE NEED for more restrictive gun laws nationwide because of the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut.

Pardon my French, but this is political opportunism by people who want control at its worst.Obama-Obey

Anyone. And I mean anyone who does not want to talk about Kermit Gosnell’s actions and our abortion-saturated culture but does want to use Newtown to push gun control because of our gun-saturated culture does not care about saving kids. They care about control.

The difference between the children gunned down by Adam Lanza and the children who had their spines snipped by Kermit Gosnell is nothing more than time.

The socio-economic wherewithal of the family does not lessen the humanity of the child. To say otherwise is to say the Newtown kids were “more human” because their parents had more money than the poor people who went to Gosnell. That is an abhorrent thought that no feeling person could harbor.

The “choice” of the mother (or the mother’s mother, who is forcing her teenage daughter to have an abortion) does not confer humanity upon the child. If it does, why not extend that principle longer and let the family take the kid home, give it some thought, see how the kid grows up, and let them bring the kid back for an “after-birth abortion” some time down the road when the kid becomes inconvenient or fails to make the honor roll. Just reserve the right to “choose” until later in life.

If you disagree and think an “after-birth abortion” is okay within the first few moments after birth, especially for a kid who should have been aborted, tell me what is different about the kid herself between that moment right after birth and the moment the kid arrives home for the first time (should she be so fortunate). Why would it be murder to intentionally kill the kid once home but it is not murder there in the delivery room? If you have a response, challenge yourself: Provide a response without talking about “should have been aborted,” “the mother’s choice,” or “terrible quality of life.” None of those affect the humanness of the new human person that has left the birth canal alive.

The Newtown victims were murdered by a mentally unstable man who had been mercilessly bullied as a youth, who was mesmerized by hundreds of hours of military-style first-person shooter video games, and enabled by a mother mind-numbingly irresponsible with the weapons she lawfully owned in one of the states with the most restrictive gun laws. They were not murdered by a roving band of renegade scary-looking guns with bloodlust or in a yippy-kai-yay shootout in a town as permissive with guns as the Wild West.

Yet the target in the national rush to DO SOMETHING!!11!!!!!11!! in the wake of Newtown is not violent video games. It is not bullying. It is not even making sure families with mentally unstable members are more heavily scrutinized or required to be more responsible with their guns. No, it’s gun ownership, through blanket measures that will restrict the rights of millions of people who are entirely innocent and entirely responsible with their guns.

Continue Reading…

Something The President Could Learn From The Pope

obamahaloWell, there are quite a few somethings, really. There’s no doubt that there are many who see Obama as a savior-like figure who will deliver him or her from whatever perceived injustice “victimizes” him or her. However misplaced that perception may be (that’s the subject for another blog), there is a lesson the president could learn from the Vicar of Christ regarding humility, and frugality.

Recently, it has been reported that Pope Francis has made a decision to stay at the Saint Martha (Vatican workers’) residence, rather than at the papal apartment in the Apostolic Residence. Initially, the Pope was staying at Saint Martha’s due to renovations to the Residence, in addition to the fact that the Cardinal Electors were staying there during the conclave.

popeHowever, now that the renovations have been complete, and the Cardinals have moved out, the Pope has decided to stay at Casa Santa Marta for the forseeable future. Not that this is any shock. While Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pope declined to stay at the Archbishops residence, and instead kept a small apartment and cooked for himself. He even relied on public transportation rather than having a limo and driver. While at the workers’ residence, the pope has already invited street sweepers, gardeners, and the Vatican staff to join him in his daily Mass.

This picture presents a vast contrast with President Obama over the last few months, and especially since the Fiscal Cliff, and sequestration were going to end the world. In that time, the Obamas have taken three vacations (four if you count the fact that one was “separate vacations” with Michelle and the girls skiing while Barack flew to Florida for some golf with Tiger Woods). Now of course, the president needs to take some time off, I’m not denying that; the presidency is probably the most stressful job in the world (just look at the before and after photos of the presidents), but these aren’t the George W. Bush/Ronald Reagan types of vacations where the president flies back home and clears some brush of his ranch. No, these are the full luxury, exotic and expensive type of vacations that cost the taxpayers lots of money.

As a run-down, the Obamas began the year in Hawaii for nine days and five rounds of golf; then over Washington’s Birthday, Michelle and the girls flew to Aspen for a ski trip, while the Duffer-in-Chief flew to Miami for more golf (and President Barack Obama greets professional gol...pointers) from Tiger Woods. Now, we hear that the Obama girls are in the Bahamas for a spring break vacation. I’m not going to speculate on the actual cost of these three vacations, but it’s not cheap to fire up Air Force One to jaunt over to Hawaii or even Florida. Then there is the cost of accommodations (say, didn’t VP Biden just spent $585,000 for one night in Paris?) and security. To put things in perspective, it cost $80,000 alone for police and Secret Service protection just for Obama’s golf weekend. One might have thought that Obama might have realized that the $80,000 expenditure alone would look bad in light of the decision to stop White House tours for a savings of $74,000 a week from the same Secret Service budget; but hey, as long as he gets to take those savings to exploit all the perks and trapping of his office, right?

Again, contrast this behavior with that of the Pope, who has eschewn all of the perks and trappings of his “office” to remain closer to “the people” in order to help spread the ministry of Christ. Perhaps if Obama had thought it necessary to get “closer to the people”, instead of flying down to Miami for some golf, he could have invited Tiger Woods up to D.C. for a weekend stay at the White House (not like Woods can’t afford it), and a few rounds of golf at one of the many nearby courses, perhaps even the “same golf course Obama and Republican Speaker John Boehner played on in 2011.” Nah, who am I kidding? It’s much more fun to go jet-setting across the country on the taxpayers’ dime all the while complaining about budget cuts that he passes along to the citizens anyway (such as no Easter Egg Roll- wait can I say Easter?–  in addition to no tours). It must be good to be the king…

Say, The White House Wasn’t Kidding About That Memo

Remember about three weeks ago when an internal government memo directing employees to make the sequestration “cuts” as painful as possible was discovered? That specific memo was directed towards the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and specified that “… it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.” The impact of course, was that funding for fish inspections would have to be cut; therefore, rather than finding other ways to cut the budget in order to eliminate the impact on food inspection, the agency was directed to cut the funding regardless.

One would think that given the backlash the administration received when the memo was released (not to mention for the general good of The Reagans at the 1982 White House Easter Egg...the country), that strategy would be walked back. Unfortunately, with the President Petulant running the administration, that hasn’t been the case, and it seems like they’ve ratcheted up on making the budget cuts “as panful as possible.”  Not only have tours of the White House been canceled, it looks like the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll will also be a sequestration “casualty.”

While these events are certainly traditional and it is a shame that they have/may be canceled, to be fair, they don’t really affect public safety. However, as Jazz Shaw notes over at Hot Air, it looks like an issue directly relating to public safety is the latest pawn in the White House strategy: namely, the closing of 149 region airport control towers. Given that the “cuts” amount to a little more than $600 million of a $62 billion budget, he wonders if there’s not something afoot with the closures:

They need to cut $637M out of their budget, but how big is that budget? And how big of a percentage would you need to slash before you just start shutting down towers? Doug Mataconis thinks there might be a little more to see here than just red and black numbers on a balance sheet. Could it be… politics?

In fact, Jazz thinks that there could be even more in play than making the “cuts” painful:

I’m not doubting that for a moment, but somehow I think there’s yet another layer to this onion. It’s not just the number of towers being shut down, but which specific ones. And more to the point… who works there. When you scan down the list of closures, these are all towers which are managed and staffed by private contractors. Not one of them is staffed up by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union. That’s something of a remarkable coincidence, isn’t it? Maybe not.

The union workers will be forced to take off one day without pay every two weeks, which spreads the pain around a little but their jobs and their towers aren’t going away. And leave it to public sector unions to find a way to wring a silver (or green) lining out of any dark cloud. Assume there is some sort of public outcry this year after a couple of regional jets clip wings on the runways of some municipal airports. At that point, Washington gets the excuse they need to staff at least some of the towers back up. Will they go back to the private contractors, or will the unions move in with their “much more efficient” practices.

bidenfingers

I only spent THIS much

Playing politics with the welfare of the nation and economy, and advancing the cause of union power. More standard operating procedure from the Juvenile in Chief. In a rational world, one might think that if the president was more interested in making the cuts work and rolling back government spending (as he is want to pay lip service to), he could start by looking into that $585,000 hotel bill Joe Biden and entourage racked up for a one night stay in Paris in February (more than$1 million including his London stay).

Yeah, who am I kidding? They’re more interested in trying to destroy Republicans than doing what’s best for the nation.

Barack Obama: Juvenile In Chief

President Petulant is at it again: recently the following message was sent out via the president’s official Twitter account:

Obviously this is a reference to Mitt Romney’s comment that he was “severely conservative” at CPAC 2012, therefore, in a more  circuitous way, a jab at the attendees of CPAC 2013, currently in progress. Now I understand that Obama doesn’t personally tweet everything that comes out this account; it is run by Organizing For Action (OfA). However, that a president would approve of such a petty, divisive message being sent in his name says pretty much all we need to know about the man.

However, if this was just a case of an overzealous supporter tweeting an unauthorized message, I have a piece of advice for you, Mr. President: don’t give your teenage daughters access to your official Twitter account.