Three Pundits on President Obama’s 2014 West Point Address: some thoughts by Political Observer, part 1

David Frum in his Atlantic magazine essay titled Obama at West Point: A Foreign Policy of False Choices has this to say about the West Point address and his interpretation of how the President views his office:

Obama might personally think that America’s relative loss of clout is a trend beyond his control or correction. He would not be the first statesman to guide the foreign policy of a declining power. He would not even be the first American president to believe that such was his lot. Under adverse conditions, the responsibilities of leadership become even heavier than when times are easier. Yet embedded in the president’s West Point speech is a remarkably passive view of his office.

‘He would not be the first statesman to guide the foreign policy of a declining power.’ This is the purest kind of Neo-Conservative  hyperbole. Not content with this, he makes the dubious conjecture that the President has a ‘passive’ view of his office. As a Neo-Con Mr. Frum is obsessed with his own perceptions of decline, decadence and degeneration wedded to a more aggressive expression of  American Exceptionalism. The President, not only pays homage to exceptionalism but embraces it in his December 1, 2009 West Point address, yet the President’s own conception of this nodal point of American Political Theology fails to meet the Frum standard :

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples.  That is who we are.  That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents and great-grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs.  We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents.  We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies.  We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes.  But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades — a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, and markets open, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination.  Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations.  We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.  What we have fought for — what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren.  And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

As a country, we’re not as young — and perhaps not as innocent — as we were when Roosevelt was President.  Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom.  And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

And this unequivocal profession of faith from the May 28,2014 West Point commencement address:

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.    And that’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo — because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders. That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence — because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens.   America does not simply stand for stability or the absence of conflict, no matter what the cost.  We stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere.

The American Foreign Policy of President Obama,  from this point forward will not meet the aggressive bellicosity of Bush II, but will express itself in the use of Done Warfare, aided by a policy of interventionism modeled on the Victoria Nuland strategy, used in Ukraine. Certainly none of this more modest and measured forms of imperialism are acceptable to Mr. Frum, whose experience of military affairs is absolutely nil, but whose appetite for war can only be attributed to an absolute ignorance of it’s costs. This strategic thinker imagines himself as the possessor of an exceptionalism of his own: the amoral posture of the technocrat, without conscience or care.

Political Observer







About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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