Book Review: In war, Obama has forgot his allies
Lord Salisbury, British prime minister and foreign secretary at the close of the 19th century, once observed with regard to a problem in Persia, “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.”
Barack Obama, facing problems in Persia and all over the earth, has had every reason to utter the same sentiment. But whereas Salisbury lived in reasonably quiet times, Obama does not. His (and our) foreign woes are summarized most concisely and readably by Bruce Herschensohn in his new book, Obama’s Globe: A President’s Abandonment of U.S. Allies Around the World. Long a well-known political commentator in California, Herschensohn teaches public policy and chairs the board of trustees at Pepperdine University.
Herschensohn was once a former deputy special assistant to President Nixon, who hailed him as “particularly well qualified in an area I find important, foreign policy. He is an expert in that area.” To have been called an expert in foreign policy by Richard Nixon is like having Pavarotti say you’re a great singer. Nixon often dazzled audiences with tours d’ horizon of international affairs, and Herschensohn does the same, “rotating Obama’s globe” from Europe to the Middle East to South Asia to East Asia and back to our hemisphere, not missing even Honduras.
The book’s core message is that the United States is at war – in effect declared by Iran in 1979 and waged ever after by ayatollahs and terrorist bombers alike – and that in wartime we must stand by our friends. Sometimes these allies are “outrageously evil”, as was Josef Stalin during World War II. More often they are simply distasteful, such as various Third World leaders whom the United States supported over the decades — not because they were stalwart defenders of freedom and democracy but because (as with Hitler in the case of Stalin) the alternative was far more noxious.
Herschensohn gives the example of the Shah of Iran, who had been a staunch ally of the United States until – with the encouragement of then-President Jimmy Carter – he was forced from power. We, and especially the long-suffering people of Iran, have had to live with tyrants far worse than the Shah ever since. Bounced from country to country as an undesirable, the ex-Shah finally was finally given refuge by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. When asked how difficult this decision had been, Sadat replied indignantly, “Difficult? Why should it be difficult to decide how to treat a friend?”
Herschensohn replies: “For the United States there should be no difficulty.” And if this is true with a Shah, a Hosni Mubarak, a Ben Ali of Tunisia, and other tough cases, it is emphatically true with such staunch democratic allies as Great Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Israel. On page after page, using the President’s or his administration’s own words, Herschensohn cites what his subtitle bluntly calls Obama’s abandonment of friends who are without doubt worthy of American support.
To give but one of many examples, Herschensohn writes that Obama considers the United States now to be “neutral” on the political fate of the Falkland Islands, unlike Ronald Reagan, who backed Great Britain when it bravely ventured to oust Argentine invaders in 1982. Obama even referred to the islands by the Argentine name the Malvinas – although he misspoke and called them the Maldives, an error that would have followed Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin to their graves.
Though Herschensohn praises Carter for attempting to rescue the hostages in Iran and Obama for getting Osama Bin Laden, he says both men stand in contrast to presidents of both parties starting with FDR who “treat(ed) the USA’s friends as friends and adversaries as adversaries”. In a time of war, he writes, the first objective must always be to be faithful – and to win.