Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Obama and America's Royal Allies

When Barrack Hussein Obama first ran for and was elected President of the United States, one could be forgiven for thinking that there was even greater pro-Obama hysteria outside of America than here at home. Around the world he was treated like a celebrity, drawing huge crowds in Britain, Germany and even being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize regardless of the minor detail of not having done anything to deserve it. However, now that his two terms in office are almost over most of that gushing adoration has died down and, looking at his administration, we can better evaluate how Obama has done in terms of dealing with the official and un-official allies of the United States. For our purposes here, we will be looking at Obama’s relationship with the monarchies of the world, almost all of which are directly or indirectly allied to the United States. The picture that emerges is, unfortunately, not a pleasant one but not one that most conservatives at least would find at all surprising as they alone seemed interested enough to try to find out what sort of man Obama really is rather than falling in love at first sight with like those on the left, both at home and abroad.

In terms of his dealings with monarchs, one of the first things that grabbed public attention in America was Obama bowing to certain monarchs. If one cares to, one can look back at the archives and see that I stuck up for our president on this occasion, the first instance being when, on a visit to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, he bowed to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, albeit rather awkwardly while simultaneously trying to shake his hand. However, that was not the end of it. Many Americans lapsed into exaggerated hysterics about how it was an offense to republican principles for the President to bow to the Emperor of Japan, while the White House responded to the issue by saying the President was simply following local custom. As I said at the time, I had and have no problem with the President showing proper respect and bowing to the Japanese Emperor but I later came to have a problem with Obama’s inconsistency on this front. Given what has happened since, I sometimes wonder if he was actually intentionally bowing at all or simply bending low to shake the Emperor’s hand, given that the Japanese monarch is considerably shorter than the President.

No, it was not his behavior toward the Emperor of Japan that was a problem for me but rather where things went from there that showed Obama was not simply being fastidious on the issue of protocol. Later, Obama bowed to another monarch, that being the King of Saudi Arabia. He bowed so low in fact that it almost seemed he was about to pick something up off the floor. But, again, no major cause for alarm. However, when he later had formal meetings with other monarchs such as the King of Sweden, the King of Norway or the King of Spain, did he ever bow to any of them? Not that I noticed and Michelle Obama committed a major faux-pas in London by actually putting her hands on the person of Her Majesty the Queen. Obviously, the bowing was not being done in an effort to follow protocol to the last detail. If not, why does it seem that Obama only shows such respect to non-western, non-Christian monarchs? And, the list does not end there as Obama has, in his own behavior and the policies of his administration, done a great deal to show that America’s royal friends are no friends of his.

We might as well begin with the United Kingdom which, while not our oldest, has certainly been our closest and most important ally. Despite being widely celebrated in the UK, with even conservatives like Tory MEP Daniel Hannan voicing support for him, Obama made it clear as soon as he took office that he was no great friend of the British. His first act upon moving into the Oval Office was to remove and send back the bust of Sir Winston Churchill that his presidential predecessor had placed there. In their first exchange of gifts, Obama sent the Queen some off-the-shelf items from the White House gift shop and an iPod loaded with his own speeches in an act which even many on the left thought arrogant and in very poor taste. These acts caused more than a few to recall how Obama had, in the books he enjoys writing about his favorite subject -himself-, related stories of how his grandfather in Kenya was supposedly tortured by British colonial authorities during the Mau Mau terrorist insurgency and whether the President might just have a strong anti-British grudge he is nursing. However, there is much more to it than mere symbolic gestures as those above.

Obama referred to the French as America’s strongest friend and ally which is language usually reserved for the British with the French traditionally, and correctly, being referred to as America’s “oldest” ally. Obama refused five requests for a private meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (the Israeli PM could sympathize on that one) and later, in another appallingly bad exchange of gifts, sent Brown a set of various films on DVD which would have been bad enough but to add insult to injury they were DVDs that cannot be played in Britain. Are we expected to believe that Obama and his White House team that is bursting at the seams with Ivy League graduates, hailed as the smartest administration in American history, has no knowledge or understanding of region coding? He also, after the BP oil spill and conveniently right around election time, made a point of constantly referring to BP as “British Petroleum” as if to make it more sinister and foreign sounding, regardless of the fact that no one else calls it that anymore, the company having some time ago dropped the name and stuck only with the initials to stand for “Beyond Petroleum”.

The most serious issues though, are those that deal with actual foreign policy as it relates to Great Britain. Obama has never wasted an opportunity to show his visceral dislike for the British. His primary cohort in this was his Secretary of State and current favored candidate to succeed him, Hillary Clinton. It was Clinton who pushed for the intervention in Libya only to then adopt the “lead from behind policy” and have Europe do all the heavy lifting involved. When the situation resulted in chaos, Obama was quick to blame the Europeans rather than accepting any responsibility for the actions of his own administration. Likewise, when Obama at least pretended like he wanted to go to war with Syria, he blamed British PM “Call me Dave” Cameron for failing to win a vote in the House of Commons for giving the U.S. Congress an example to follow and thus for every bit of bad news that has come out of Syria since. The one point, though, that I found most outrageous was when Argentina began rattling the saber again over the Falkland Islands in 2010, Obama sent Hillary Clinton to act as mediator and basically take the side of Argentina over Britain. Clinton no doubt agreed as it was her husband, President Bill Clinton, who made Argentina a “major non-NATO ally”, and the only one in all of South America, in spite of the fact that this country has an outstanding territorial dispute with Britain, which is already an ally and which the U.S. is obligated to defend.

Finally, we have Obama’s latest effort to insert himself into the debate over Britain staying in or leaving the European Union with Obama very publicly urging British voters to vote to stay in the European Union. This, of course, is just the sort of behavior that would infuriate Americans on the left and/or the right if it were done by a foreign leader in regard to an American issue. I am a big fan of the U.K. and as much as I wish that the British would feel the same about the U.S. the fact of the matter is that Britain should tell Obama to mind his own bloody business and not try to tell them how to vote. They should be concerned with what is best for Britain, not what is best for America (that is for Americans alone to worry about). Furthermore, I cannot regard this as yet more evidence of simple bad manners since I am very, very much of the opinion that staying in the EU is bad for Britain and so, taken along with his history in office, cannot dismiss the notion that Obama is purposely advocating something that has had and will have a very negative impact on a country he clearly dislikes. It is no surprise that more than one prominent figure in the ‘Brexit’ crowd such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage (UKIP MEP) have finally been compelled by this to state openly that Obama has been consistently anti-British during his time in office.

Moving beyond Europe, where thanks to the EU national relations between America and individual countries does not count for much anymore as Brussels handles everything, we have the problematic situation in the Middle East where, despite his bowing and scraping, Obama has left the Arab monarchies feeling less than pleased with the United States government. Certainly he has been more attentive to them than to the crowned heads of Europe but for the Arab monarchies there is one overriding issue and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran. For a long time there has been a long-standing tension and recurring open hostilities between Iran and the Arab states over the dominant position in the Middle East (and other than Egypt, the leading Arab states are predominately monarchies; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman). Now, one can certainly question whether or not these Arab states are genuine allies of the United States (they leave plenty of room for doubt) but the facts on paper are that such is the case and they have been greatly alarmed by the Iranians, who already had a pliant ally in Syria, expanding their influence into Iraq and they have been trying to do the same in Yemen.

This has greatly alarmed the Arabs and never have they expressed more diplomatic outrage at the United States than after Obama’s notorious “deal” concerning the nuclear program in Iran. This called for the release of billions of dollars to Iran, the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran and left little room for doubt that they will inevitably obtain nuclear weapons. Since the agreement, and in spite of it, they have also been buying more and more conventional weapons from the Russians. Of course, when it comes to Iran, the enemy they like to talk about the most is Israel but since the Islamic Revolution they have made it clear that they are the enemies of the Arab Muslims as well, referring to the Sunnis as the “heretics who hold Mecca”. Obama’s deal with Iran and his overall indecisiveness in the region so infuriated the Saudis that they turned down a temporary seat on the UN Security Council on the grounds that, thanks to Obama, it doesn’t matter anyway. By clearing the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Obama has set the stage for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia and Egypt sure to obtain their own nuclear arsenals to counter that of Iran.

Moving farther to the east, we have the situation with America’s most important ally in the East Asia-Pacific region: Japan. Here, a great many people, including a great many Japanese, have been fooled by Obama’s empty gestures. He gave, as political pay-back, Japan a “celebrity” ambassador in the person of Caroline Kennedy, never mind that she has no diplomatic experience, could not speak Japanese or any such troubling details, she was a Kennedy after all, she is famous and she was given an uproarious welcome when she came to Japan. However, rather than simply representing the United States in Tokyo, Obama’s chosen ambassador said that her primary goal in Japan was to promote greater participation in politics by women in Japan. Because, it seems, that gender roles in the Land of the Rising Sun are still far too traditional for the liberals of the Obama White House. What does it say that a foreign ambassador’s stated goal upon being posted is to interfere in the internal affairs of the host country? To represent the American government is her job, to promote Japanese-American friendship is great, to promote American interests is fine but to try to tell Japanese voters what sort of people they need to elect is, again, none of her business and none of Obama’s business. And one will notice that none of Obama’s ambassadors to countries where women are treated as little more than property ever said anything similar. She has also stuck her nose where it doesn’t belong with her comments critical of fishing practices in Taiji and the Prime Minister visiting the Yasukuni Shrine.

Other countries, particularly China and Korea, have a history of protesting any time any Japanese official chooses to worship at Yasukuni Shrine but the U.S. had previously always said nothing about it, considering it an internal matter and, shocking as this may sound, none of their business where and in what way a Japanese prime minister chooses to exercise his freedom of religion. But, all of that was before Obama and thanks to Kennedy’s expression of “disappointment” other countries which had previously stayed out of the issue, took the occasion to speak up as well, piling on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The idea that someone as far to the left as Obama would find nothing to criticize in a prime minister as far to the right as Shinzo Abe was certainly na├»ve. What was most outrageous though was something that many in Japan cheered Obama for which was his public statement that the Senkaku Islands, which are Japanese territory but claimed by Communist China, are covered by the Japanese-American security treaty. In other words, if China decides to grab the islands, it will mean big trouble with America.

The Japanese applauded this but it was actually only a re-statement of what was already well established. What many, in all their rejoicing, failed to note was that Obama followed up that comment with the completely asinine statement that the U.S. took no official position on the territorial dispute over the islands between China and Japan. I seem to have been the only one to find this outrageous but I hope I am mistaken in that. Either way you look at it, this was an immensely outrageous thing for Obama to say. By that statement, Obama could only mean one of two things; either he meant that the Senkakus are Japanese territory and we will defend them but that could change at any time depending on how this dispute unfolds, or he just casually announced that he was pledging America’s sons and daughters to possibly give their lives in defense of a cause which he is not even sure is the right one! In any case, it shows that Obama’s attitude toward Japan has been one of tepid support and unfriendly meddling. An aide to Prime Minister Abe went so far as to say that relations were better when there was a Republican in the White House.

Lastly in the region, there is also the case of Obama’s disgraceful record toward the Kingdom of Thailand. The United States and Thailand have been official allies since 1966 but have had friendly relations going back much farther with King Mongkut of Siam famously offering to send President Lincoln a herd of war elephants so he could fight the Civil War properly and illustrated at the worst of times by the United States not responding in kind when Thailand declared war on the United States in World War II. Things began to go wrong when, again, Obama decided to meddle in the affairs of an American ally after the 2014 military coup. Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s successor, John Kerry caused great offense in the halls of power in Bangkok when he issued a statement expressing how “disappointed” he was in the actions of the Royal Thai Army and that, “this act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military”.

The Obama State Department has since then made numerous statements and taken actions which have all offended and aggravated our friends in Thailand and all because the military government is out-of-step with Obama’s liberal worldview of how things should be done. And it cannot be said that this has nothing to do with the King, a great man revered in Thailand who was born in America and supported the United States during the Vietnam conflict. The King officially appointed the Thai general who led the coup to the office of prime minister in 2014, effectively giving it his endorsement and was totally correct to do so. Not only is the meddling of Obama unseemly and uncalled for, it is also putting him on the wrong side. The military took action because of the violent acts of radical leftists who were upset that their favorite government had been brought down, a government that was marked by corruption and criminal behavior on a rampant scale. By being so critical of the current government in Thailand, Obama has offended a long-standing friend and pushed them closer toward Communist China which is ever looking to increase its influence in Southeast Asia, made all the easier since Russia abandoned Vietnam in favor of the Chinese. Thailand is our only solid friend in the region and Obama, in true, holier-than-thou, Wilsonian fashion, has needlessly antagonized them and made things worse for Thailand as well as the United States.

It is not terribly dissimilar from his actions in regard to the republican government in Egypt where Obama pushed for the removal of an official Arab ally because he did not meet his lofty, liberal standards, only to then see the country fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood (an organization so radical even Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have labeled it a terrorist organization). If Obama knew anything about Thailand he would know that the occasional coup is not exactly unprecedented and not the harbinger of disaster as it often is in other countries. He would know that the U.S. military and the Royal Thai military have worked closely together for decades and that the leaders of the Royal Thai Army are not power-hungry tyrants-in-waiting but are largely honorable men, loyal to their King, who want the best for their country and took action to save it from the disruptive, even terrorist and disloyal elements that were threatening it.

Then again, perhaps I am being unkind to Mr. Obama. Perhaps he knows the situation better than that. Perhaps he knows what the “red shirts” were all about, perhaps he approved of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his socialist, welfare-state policies, his easy loans and big spending that made Thai farmers dependent on the government, his cronyism, his rampant bribery and the violence and intimidation used by the supporters of the prime minister and his family. Maybe he sees nothing wrong with the extremely dubious loyalty of his crowd to the fundamentals of Thailand. If so, then he is guilty of nothing less than cheering on the ruination of an American ally and is doing the best he can, short of direct intervention, to kill any chance at recovery. However, whether his policy is malicious or simply ignorant, it has certainly been negative for both countries involved and has only served the interests of powers that have only the worst of intentions for both the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand in the long-run.

There are other issues that could be highlighted, such as Obama’s killing of the Keystone XL pipeline, even going so far, as he did with BP, to invoke national bigotry by constantly complaining how the pipeline would primarily be to the benefit of Canada rather than the United States but, then again, that was when Stephen Harper was in office and I’m sure now that little Justin Trudeau has taken over his opinion of Canada has greatly improved. However, I think the case has been well made. President Obama has certainly been bad for this country and his constant habit of “reaching out” to our enemies while snubbing or taking sides against our allies, has certainly been well demonstrated and had negative consequences. The only problem I have in pointing this out is that, while it upsets me a great deal, from numerous on-line comments I see on a daily basis, I am also constantly having to face the dilemma that there is so much mindless anti-Americanism out there as to mean that in this twisted, upside-down world where many people seem to hate their friends and admire those who want to kill them, that maybe Obama’s antagonistic attitude toward our royal allies will have the opposite effect that it otherwise would have. I hope that is not the case and hope that there is a silent majority out there who wants to be friends rather than enemies but, if that is not the case, change may soon be coming with the next presidential election.

2 comments:

  1. While perhaps Obama might have phrased his comments on the EU in more generous and warmer terms, he was simply offering political realism. Those on the Leave side in the EU debate expect nations like the USA to grant Britain free trade deals as if it is an entitlement. With the rise of Trump and frustration in America about the impact of global trade on jobs, this cannot be taken for granted.

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  2. The quality of this blog is outstanding. I have a question for you, MM. I know that Aristotle thought that a benevolent kingdom was the best form of government, but in school I learned that he preferred republics as a happy medium, claiming that democracy, the bad form of republican government, was superior to tyranny, the bad form of monarchy. Do you have an opinion on this? Maybe write a blogpost about it? Thanks for all your great work. Truly fantastic blog.

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