Skip to main content

Obama's foreign policy paradox: Americans are embarassed to be wimps

Contrary to what is often claimed, the architect of our defeat in Vietnam, Gen.Vo Nguyen Giap, was not the subject of the interview a section of which is reproduced below. It is not from his memoirs, but from the Wall Street Journal.

The actual interview was with (former) North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin, who when he gave it had turned against the Communist cause. Here is what Bui had to say:

Q: How did Hanoi intend to defeat the Americans?

A: By fighting a long war which would break their will to help South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh said, "We don't need to win military victories, we only need to hit them until they give up and get out."

Q: Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi's victory?

A: It was essential to our strategy. Support for the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us.

Q: Did the Politburo pay attention to these visits?

A: Keenly

Q: Why?

A: Those people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor. America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.

Q: What else?

A: We had the impression that American commanders had their hands tied by political factors. Your generals could never deploy a maximum force for greatest military effect.

But the point remains valid. One of the weaknesses of a democracy is that when its people become discouraged and war-weary, and there is a lack of political support for a war, it gives up. There is no doubt but that the strategy worked for the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies. There is no doubt that it's working now for the Taliban.

Yes, when the pain gets too severe and Americans decide that it's not worth it, they give up. They even go through periodic episodes of isolationism, in which they are content to withdraw from the world and lick their wounds regardless of the threats to their welfare, lives and freedom that may be out there. But this is not 1789; the United States is not a minor, agrarian nation separated (and therefore protected) by two oceans from anybody who would want to mess with us. Our security- indeed, our survival- requires involvement in the affairs of the world, and sometimes military action. In fact, as the most powerful nation on the planet,  the world looks to us (even the parts of the world that despise us, as the most powerful and richest power in the world is always despised) to do exactly that.

Yes, when the going gets rough, we throw in the towel.  But we are not proud of that fact.

As a result, Jimmy Carter found that a wimpish foreign policy was no key to popularity. And Barack Obama has found the same thing. It seems that only 39% of the American people approve of the Obama foreign policy.

Obama's foreign policy is even less popular than his handling of health care and the economy.

Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, explores the paradox Mr. Obama faces- a paradox that may have implications for the 2016 presidential election, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee: while Americans say that they want a head-in-the-sand, isolationist approach to the world, they are embarrassed and even revolted by it when it's given to them.

Yes, the urge to disengage from the world when our involvement starts to hurt is an inherent weakness of democracy. But it seems that the American people, even as they heed that urge, are embarrassed by it.

They know that they are better than that- and that America is, too.


Popular posts from this blog

Jan Chamberlain's rhetoric is too strong. But the stand she has taken is right.

I do not share the religion of Jan Chamberlain. I don't even pray to the same god. But I can't help but admire the integrity of the woman who quit the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rather than sing at Donald Trump's inauguration.

Ms. Chamberlain, like me, voted for Evan McMullin in November. Like me, she holds no brief for Hillary Clinton or her agenda. But she cannot, as she put it, "throw roses at Hitler."

As I've said before, comparing Trump to Hitler strikes me as harsh. I believe that Trump is a power-hungry narcissist who exhibits disturbing signs of psychopathy, like Hitler. Like Hitler, he has stigmatized  defenseless minorities- Muslims and undocumented aliens, rather than Jews- and made them scapegoats for the nation's troubles. Like Hitler, he has ridden a wave of irrational hatred and emotion to power. Like Hitler's, his agenda foreshadows disaster for the nation he has been chosen to lead.

But he's not going to set up death camps for Musli…

Neither Evan McMullin nor his movement are going away

Evan McMullin has devoted most of his post-college life- even to the point of foregoing marriage and a family- to fighting ISIS and al Qaeda and our nation's deadliest enemies as a clandestine officer for the CIA. He has done so at the risk of his life.

He has seen authoritarianism in action close-up. One of his main jobs overseas was to locate and facilitate the elimination of jihadist warlords. Evan McMullin knows authoritarians.

And when he looks at Donald Trump, what he sees is an authoritarian like the ones he fought overseas. He knows Donald Trump. After leaving the CIA he served as policy director for the Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives. He tells about his first encounter with The Donald in that role in this opinion piece he wrote for today's New York Times.

In fact, when Mitt Romney and Tom Coburn and all the others who were recruited to run as a conservative third-party candidate against Trump and Hillary Clinton backed out,  McMulli…

Huzzah! Once again, 45 does something majorly right!

First. he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and now 45 has- at long last- initiated a sensible space policy, with a plan to promote a "rapid and affordable" return to the moon carried out by private enterprise by 2020.  Afterward, it will be onward to Mars and beyond.

This is a great idea for three reasons. First, private enterprise is the future of space exploration, and as far as I know we will be the first spacefaring nation to put most of its eggs in that basket. Second, it's nice to have eggs! Since the Obama administration canceled the Constellation program to develop the Ares booster and the Orion crew vehicle (though it subsequently reinstated the Orion part of the program), the United States has been twiddling its thumbs while China has taken great leaps toward the moon and other countries- including Russia, India, and Japan- have to various degrees intensified their own space programs. It would be both tragic and foolhardy for the nation which first…