Obama SeriesII: Obama is Average

Charles Krauthammer interviewed on Barack Obama and the state of the United Nations and the international community.(Excerpt from Der Speigel
Interview conducted by Klaus Brinkbäumer and Gregor-Peter Schmitz.)

Charles Krauthammer,

Charles Krauthammer
Charles Krauthammer
Courtesy of Fox News

SPIEGEL: Mr. Krauthammer, did the Nobel Commitee in Oslo honor or doom the Obama presidency by awarding him the Peace Prize?

Charles Krauthammer: It is so comical. Absurd. Any prize that goes to Kellogg and Briand, Le Duc Tho and Arafat, and Rigoberta Menchú, and ends up with Obama, tells you all you need to know. For Obama it's not very good because it reaffirms the stereotypes about him as the empty celebrity.

SPIEGEL: Why does it?

Krauthammer: He is a man of perpetual promise. There used to be a cruel joke that said
He has obviously achieved nothing.
Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be; Obama is the Brazil of today's politicians. He has obviously achieved nothing. And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.He should have simply said: "This is very nice, I appreciate the gesture, but I haven't achieved what I want to achieve." But he is not the kind of man that does that.

SPIEGEL: Why do Europeans react so positively to him?                            

Krauthammer: Because Europe, for very understandable reasons, has been chaffing for 60 years under the protection, but also the subtle or not so subtle domination of America. Europe ran the world for 400 or 500 years until the civilizational suicide of the two World Wars. And then America emerged with no competition and unchallenged.

SPIEGEL: Maybe Europeans want to just see a different America, one they can admire again.

Krauthammer: Admire? Look at Obama's speech at the UN General
"No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation." Take the first half of that sentence: There is no eight year old who would say that.

Assembly: "No one nation can or should try to dominate another
nation." Take the first half of that sentence: No nation can dominateanother. There is no eight year old who would say that -- it's so absurd. And the second half? That is adolescent utopianism.
 
SPIEGEL: Do you really believe that Obama deliberately wants to weaken the US?

Krauthammer: The liberal vision of America is that it should be less arrogant, less unilateral, more internationalist. In Obama's view, America would subsume itself under a fuzzy internationalism in which the international community, which I think is a fiction, governs itself through the UN.

SPIEGEL: A nightmare?

Krauthammer: Worse than that: an absurdity. I can't even imagine serious people would believe it, but I think Obama does. There is a way America will decline -- if we choose first to wreck our economy and then to constrain our freedom of action through subordinating ourselves to international institutions which are 90 percent
worthless and 10 percent harmful.

SPIEGEL: And there is not even 1 percent that is constructive?

Krauthammer: No. The UN is worse than disaster. The UN creates
The UN is worse than disaster.

conflicts. Look at the disgraceful UN Human Rights Council: It
transmits norms which are harmful, anti-liberty, and anti-Semitic
among other things. The world would be better off in its absence.

SPIEGEL: And Obama is, in your eyes, .

Krauthammer: He's becoming ordinary. In the course of his presidency, Obama has gone from an almost magical charismatic figure to an ordinary politician. Ordinary. Average. His approval ratings are roughly equal to what the last five presidents' were at the same time in their first term. He will not be the great transformer he imagines himself to be. A president like others -- with successes and failures.

SPIEGEL: Every incoming president to the White House has to confront
reality and disappoint voters.

Krauthammer: True. But what made Obama unique was that he was the
Obama has gone from an almost magical charismatic figure to an ordinary politician. Ordinary. Average.

ultimate charismatic politician -- the most unknown stranger ever to achieve the presidency in the United States. No one knew who he was, he came out of nowhere, he had this incredible persona that floated him above the fray, destroyed Hillary, took over the Democratic Party and became president. This is truly unprecedented

 SPIEGEL: What major mistakes has Obama made?

Krauthammer: I don't know whether I should call it a mistake, but it turns out he is a left-liberal, not center-right the way Bill Clinton
was. The analogy I give is that in America we play the game between the 40-yard lines, in Europe you go all the way from goal line to goal line. You have communist parties, you have fascist parties, we don't have that, we have very centrist parties.

So Obama wants to push us to the 30-yard line, which for America is pretty far. Right after he was elected, he gave an address to Congress and promised to basically remake the basic pillars of American society -- education , energy and health care. All this
would move America toward a social democratic European-style state.
It is outside of the norm of America.

SPIEGEL: Is Afghanistan still a war of necessity, still a strategic interest?

Krauthammer: The phrase "war of necessity and war of choice" is a phrase that came out of a different context. Milan Kundera once wrote, "a small country is a country that can disappear and knows it." He was thinking of prewar Czechoslovakia. Israel is a country
that can disappear and knows it. America, Germany, France, Britain, are not countries that can disappear. They can be defeated but they cannot disappear.

For the great powers, and especially for the world superpower, very few wars are wars of necessity. In theory, America could adopt a foreign policy of isolationism and survive.

So using those categories -- wars of necessity, wars of choice -- is unhelpful in thinking through contemporary American intervention. In Afghanistan, for example, the question is: Do the dangers of leaving exceed the dangers of staying.

SPIEGEL: You famously coined the term "Reagan Doctrine" to describe Ronald Reagan's foreign policy. What is the "Obama Doctrine?"

Krauthammer: I would say his vision of the world appears to me to be so naïve that I am not even sure he's able to develop a doctrine. He has a view of the world as regulated by self-enforcing international norms, where the peace is kept by some kind of vague international consensus, something called the international community, which to me
Israel is a country that can disappear and knows it.

is a fiction, acting through obviously inadequate and worthless
international agencies. I wouldn't elevate that kind of thinking to a
doctrine because I have too much respect for the word doctrine.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that diplomacy always fails?

Krauthammer: No, foolishness does. Perhaps when he gets nowhere on Iran, nowhere with North Korea, when he gets nothing from the Russians in return for what he did to the Poles and the Czechs, gets nowhere in the Middle East peace talks -- maybe at that point he'll begin to rethink whether the world really runs by international
norms, consensus, and sweetness and light, or whether it rests on the
foundation of American and Western power that, in the final analysis,
guarantees peace.

SPIEGEL: That is the cynical approach.

Krauthammer: The realist approach. Henry Kissinger once said that peace can be achieved only one of two ways: hegemony or balance of power. Now that is real realism. What the Obama administration pretends is realism is naïve nonsense.

SPIEGEL: At the end of Bush's second term, you wrote that history would judge Bush
kindly. Why?

Krauthammer: I think Bush actually handled the Iraq War better than Truman handled
the Korean War. The Middle East is strategically a far more important region.

I think he did exactly the right thing after 9/11.  Look at the Patriot Act, which revolutionized how we deal with domestic terrorism, passed within six weeks of 9/11 in thefury of the moment. Testimony to how well Bush got it right is that Democrats, who now control Congress and had been highly critical of it, are now after eight years reauthorizing it with almost no significant changes.
 
Clare Booth Luce once said that every president is remembered for one thing, and that's what Bush will be remembered for. He kept us safe.

SPIEGEL: Is it too early to foresee what Obama will be remembered for?

Krauthammer: It is quite early. It could be his election.


 

 


 





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