The Obama Watch

President Obama Chooses Decline for America

Today, in Part I, we focus on his determination to diminish America as a great power.

By 10.21.09

Send to Kindle

"Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the End of American Ascendancy." That was the title of the devastating critique of Obama Administration foreign, defense, and domestic policies delivered by Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer at the annual Wriston Lecture at the Manhattan Institute in New York City on October 5.

Krauthammer responds to commentators arguing that America is suffering overdue, inevitable decline, saying, "For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice. Two decades into the unipolar world that came about with the fall of the Soviet Union, America is in the position of deciding whether to abdicate or retain its dominance. Decline -- or continued ascendancy -- is in our hands."

And what are our leaders deciding? Krauthammer quite correctly explains, "The current liberal ascendancy in the United States -- controlling the executive and both houses of Congress, dominating the media and elite culture -- has set us on a course for decline. And this is true for both foreign and domestic policies."

President Obama and the ultraliberal leadership of Congress are now pursuing policies that will by design produce major declines in the standard of living of the American people. They are pursuing a foreign policy of worldwide retreat. They are actively tearing down our nation's defenses. Krauthammer is sounding the alarm for the American people to wake up.

America: Just Another Country

In pursuit of this policy of decline, President Obama is traveling the world over denying the fundamental morality of American world leadership. Krauthammer said:

The current foreign policy of the United States is an exercise in contraction. It begins with the demolition of the moral foundation of American dominance. [P]resident Obama was asked about American exceptionalism. His answer? "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Interesting response. Because if everyone is exceptional, no one is. 

Translating Obama's quoted language into plain English, what he is saying is that there is nothing special about America. Everything he says and does is consistent with that view.

Krauthammer continues:

[A]s he made his hajj from Strasbourg to Prague to Ankara to Istanbul to Cairo and finally to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama drew the picture of an America quite exceptional -- exceptional in moral culpability and heavy-handedness, exceptional in guilt for its treatment of other nations and peoples….Obama indicted his own country for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world. Quite an indictment, the fundamental consequence of which is to effectively undermine any moral claim that America might have to world leadership.

Krauthammer further notes that in denouncing the idea that any nation or group of nations should be elevated above any other, Obama has effectively dismissed as well the moral standing and leadership of the UN Security Council, the G-20, and the Western Alliance. In denouncing "alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of the long gone Cold War" as making "no sense in an interconnected world," Obama has effectively dismissed any moral authority or leadership for NATO as well.

Krauthammer concludes: "This is nonsense. But it is not harmless nonsense. It's nonsense with a point. It reflects a fundamental view that the only legitimate authority in the international system is that which emanates from 'the community of nations' as a whole," of which America is only one nation among many. In other words, the only legitimate moral authority for world leadership is a body like the UN General Assembly, with its assorted tyrants and kooks, where America is just another country. This is the moral vision of the man we elected President, Barack Hussein Obama.

As Krauthammer further explains:

For what might be called the New Liberalism, the renunciation of [American] power is rooted…in the conviction that America is so intrinsically flawed, so inherently and congenitally sinful that it cannot be trusted with, and does not merit, the possession of overarching world power. For the New Liberalism, it is not just that power corrupts. It is that America itself is corrupt -- in the sense of being deeply flawed, and with the history to prove it.

Indeed, Obama showed disdain for America before the whole world when he said in his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 24, "For those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months." So in America's entire history, from Washington to Jefferson to Lincoln to FDR to Reagan, what is praiseworthy about America for the whole world to see is the last nine months under the Glorious Leadership of Our Dear Leader, the Messiah. Of course, the humble Obama said at the beginning of that speech, "I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world."

President Obama then goes on in that speech seemingly to renounce America, quoting FDR approvingly as saying, "We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community." In other words, Obama views himself as a citizen of the world, which is not the same thing as being an American in that world.

America's Worldwide Retreat

Ideas have consequences, and the notion that America is just another country among all the others with no moral basis for world leadership leads to concrete changes in policy. Krauthammer explains:

Operationally, this manifests itself in various kinds of strategic retreat, most particularly in reversing policies stained by even the hint of American unilateralism or exceptionalism. Thus, for example, there is no more "Global War on Terror." It's not just that the term has been abolished or that the secretary of homeland security refers to terrorism as "man-caused disasters." It is that the very idea of our nation and civilization being engaged in a global mortal struggle with jihadism has been retired as well….In our reversion to pre-9/11 normalcy…anti-terrorism has reverted from war fighting to law enforcement.

So the War on Terrorism that banished al Qaeda to hiding in caves with dead leaders has now reverted to the same after the fact police tactics that left us with 3,000 dead on 9/11. We are back to where they are fighting a war against us, but we are not fighting a war against them, as the 9/11 Commission noted.

Another retreat is the "Unilateral abrogation of our missile-defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic -- a retreat being felt all through Eastern Europe to Ukraine and Georgia as a signal of U.S. concession of strategic space to Russia in its old sphere of influence," as Krauthammer said. It was thought that by America making this concession, Russia would cooperate with us on sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, and so maybe the missile defenses would not be necessary. But President Obama now has the Russian answer to his flower child foreign policy gambit. As Garry Kasparov wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, "Last Wednesday in Moscow, the remaining illusions the Obama administration held for cooperation with Russia on the Iranian nuclear program were thrown in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's face. Stronger sanctions against Iran would be 'counterproductive,' said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov." Putin himself said in Beijing at the same time that sanctions against Iran would be "premature." I guess they will be premature until Israel gets nuked.

But Eastern Europe isn't the only place where America's missile defense is in retreat. Krauthammer reports:

Take, for example, missile defense, in which the United States has a great technological edge and one perfectly designed to maintain American preeminence in a century that will be dominated by the ballistic missile. Missile defense is actually being cut. The number of interceptors in Alaska to defend against a North Korean attack has been reduced, and the airborne laser program (the most promising technology for a boost-phase antiballistic missile) has been cut back -- [while] the federal education budget has been increased 100 percent in one year.

This is how President Obama reacts to North Korea's repeated ballistic missile launches.

The cutback in missile defense reflects a general cutback in national defense. "At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs," Krauthammer said, "the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making 'hard choices' -- forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today's urgencies and tomorrow's looming threats."

During the campaign last year, Obama celebrated what he communicated as his own brilliance in planning to talk directly with Iran's dictators about ending their nuclear program, as if no American administration had talked directly to Iran before. Many simple-minded voters fell for this false posturing, even though it should have been obvious that this soft-headed approach wouldn't achieve anything. Now in the era of American decline, the Iranians refuse to engage in talks with us about ending their nuclear program, so we have begun talks with them about ending our nuclear program.

America's Nuclear Disarmament

In the most prominent and dangerous example of American retreat, Obama is crusading around the world promising termination of America's nuclear deterrent in pursuit of the flower child dream of a world without nuclear weapons. Of course, America's dominant nuclear deterrent is a central component of America's superpower status, and that deterrent has served America and the world well in preventing the outbreak of another world war for 65 years now. But being a superpower is immoral in President Obama's view, so we are planning to give this us up too. The strategy is if we give up our nuclear weapons, then our enemies will also. If we don't do so, then we don't have the moral standing to ask Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons either.

But, as Krauthammer explains, the notion that American nuclear disarmament "will lead to reciprocal gestures from the likes of Iran and North Korea is simply childish. They are seeking the bomb for reasons of power, prestige, intimidation, blackmail, and regime preservation….Indeed, both Iran and North Korea launched their nuclear weapons ambitions in the 1980s and 1990s -- precisely when the United States and Russia were radically reducing their arsenals."

As for Russia's response to Obama's nuclear concessions and retreats, Kasparov writes in the Journal,

On Wednesday, a top Russian security chief, Nikolai Patrushev, said in an interview in Izvestia, one of the main Kremlin propaganda papers, that Russia was planning to reshape its policies on nuclear force to allow for preemptive strikes and use in regional conflicts. Since it cannot be a coincidence that this news leaked while Mrs. Clinton was still in Moscow, it can be considered a response to Mr. Obama's talk of a world without nuclear weapons and rescinding the deployment of missile defenses.

Kasparov adds quite rightly, "Washington's conciliatory steps have given the Kremlin's rulers confidence they have nothing to fear from Mr. Obama on anything that matters." With nothing to fear from Obama's policy of Peace Through Weakness, don't be surprised if the Kremlin decides to invade Georgia, or even Ukraine.

But such foreign policy failures "will not deter the New Liberalism because the ultimate purpose of its foreign policy is to make America less hegemonic, less arrogant, less dominant. In a word, it is a foreign policy designed to produce American decline—to make America essentially one nation among many," as Krauthammer puts it.

Democrats for American Decline

But why would anyone in America want such decline? Because to the American left, including President Obama as its leader, it is unfair and immoral for America to be so much more powerful than anyone else. It is a moral embarrassment to them. Why should we have so many nuclear weapons, and Iran and North Korea none? How can we ask Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons, if we don't give up ours?

President Obama and the American Left can't think of a good answer to that question. That comes from viewing the issue as a citizen of the world, rather than from an American perspective. As an American, I am concerned about the defense and safety of America and its people. I am not interested in being fair to murderous foreign dictators, and their inhuman, immoral regimes, from the rightly deposed Saddam to Kim Jong Il to Ahmadinejad to Putin. What is best for the American people is such overwhelming American military dominance that no one would ever dare attack us, which is where we were before President Obama, and what we are busily trashing now.

This strategy for American decline is what your modern Democrat party in Washington, from the ultraleft Barack Obama to the ultraleft Nancy Pelosi to the ultraleft John Kerry, is pursuing today. If you are a Democrat, this is what you are supporting.

But if America abdicates global leadership, what will replace us? Power abhors a vacuum. Some other power, or combination of powers, will take over global leadership. Will it be radical Islam? Or perhaps Islam in combination with reemergent communist dictatorships in Russia and China, portending the same fundamental threat to the survival of democracy we saw in World War II? Will Obama and the American Left reverse the result of the Cold War?

Or will it be a new world government established by the UN? Is this Obama's ultimate plan? After a glorious reelection in America, will Obama seek to become the King of Kings as head of a new world government established through the UN that he has already touted as the only moral basis for global governance?

Next week, in part II, we will discuss President Obama's choice of decline for America in domestic and economic policy, which involves a sharp decline in the standard of living of the middle class in America, and the end of the American Dream.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.