Since we just celebrated our nation’s victory for independence, it’s healthy to step back from the canvas of the current admininstration to better understand the genesis and current context of its policies.
In the area of national security and military intervention, it’s been a fascinating exercise in political forensics to witness the response to President Obama’s firing of General Stanley McChrystal. If history demonstrates anything it’s that its lessons are perpetually susceptible to revision based on new evidence and more informed analysis. So it is that over the centuries, the credibility of Herodotus’ rendering of the Peloponnesian War has attenuated, while that of Thucydides is deemed more persuasive.
Moreover, the deeper one delves into the tiered nature of history, the clearer it becomes that discrete causes for events are the exception rather than the rule. A prototypical example is the causes of the Great War, now known as World War One. The standard causal explanation, which has demonstrable credibility, is the abysmal complexity and countervailing influences of the treaty arrangements that prevailed in advance of war.
The issue of Belgium’s neutrality obligations date to the 1839 Treaty of London, which isn’t commonly discussed except in the more erudite–that is, unread–texts. However, it wasn’t merely Belgium’s neutrality that was guaranteed under Article VII of the treaty, but rather the grim obligations of the signatories in the event of foreign invasion.
Peeling away yet another layer, Britain’s declaration of war against Germany, subsequent to the latter’s invasion of Belgium in August 1914, was less a matter of upholding its treaty obligations than with Britain’s fear of Germany’s control of Belgium’s sea ports. A key message in matters as complex as war is that we must move well beyond the gloss of casual observation into the sub-text of nuanced motivations.
To that end, and regardless of the historical incident in question, it’s wise to discern patterns of events that evolved over time, ones that indict or reward strategic prescience and the relative efficacy of outcomes. With respect to war, and in contrast to the modern liberal who naively endorses soft power, Plato’s maxim prevails: “It’s only the dead who will see the end of war.”
Axiomatic in the equation is that a consensus among historians typically fractures beyond the empirical description of events. For example, there is little disagreement regarding the effectiveness of weapons and tactics in the Hundred Years War, but the legitimacy of Britain’s claims on the French throne and the inbred role of dynastic succession as well as Salic Law, are debated to this day.
On a broader scale, however, the sway of culture and the values that underwrite it is, perhaps, more challenging to decipher, especially when its proximity is so close that it taints our lens. Besides understanding history’s many lessons, it’s at least as important that we recognize the insidious and noxious cultural influences in our midst, so we can quickly neutralize and correct them.
Against that background, it’s particularly curious that the deeper message in Mr. Obama’s firing of General McChrystal has been largely overlooked. Even in a military that has suffered at the emasculating hands of political correctness, weakness is correctly understood as a trait our enemy will reflexively exploit. Dating to the appeasement of Hitler before World War Two, as well as the studied reticence to confront Communism under Stalin and fascism under Mussolini, modern liberalism created a template for weakness in foreign affairs that is as resilient today as it is damaging to national security.
Facile analysts in the mainstream media were quick to compare Obama’s decision to President Truman’s firing of Gen. MacAurthur, asserting that both generals were insubordinate. However, the code of military conduct in a civilian model is the low-hanging fruit of this matter. The deeper and more instructive lesson is that the acerbic battle between Truman and MacArthur signaled the genesis of the American left’s descent into national security irrelevance, this despite Truman’s unwavering opposition to Communism.
Indeed, under the political aegis of the newly formed Progressive Party in 1948, Henry Wallace, FDR’s vice-president, began shaping a foreign policy framework that willfully failed to recognize the threat of Communism. With few exceptions, the ensuing decades have witnessed the tectonic depreciation of the Democrats’ steely defense of freedom under FDR against Hitler and the Japanese.
The glaring sub-text, which has been scrupulously overlooked by the mainstream media, is that Obama’s firing of McChrystal was merely the latest example of a clash of national security polities.
Liberals, whom Obama faithfully represents, disdain all war and have what amounts to a genetic predisposition to avoid it at all costs. The clear message in the Rolling Stone interview is that McChrystal’s staff profoundly disagreed with the president’s stringent rules of engagement. even in the context of a counter-insurgency strategy, which predictably hobbles our military’s efforts. In this instance the dots are pre-connected to MacArthur’s caustic criticism of the Progressive Party’s evolving appeasement of Communism, and Obama’s approach to our current war is just as feckless.
When combined with his instinctive inability to call radical Islam by its proper name, Obama’s apology tour, his obeisance to the tyrants of Iran, his stunning indifference to Russia’s evolving autocratic, anti-democratic policies, and his benign response to North Korea’s resurgent belligerence, merely reanimate the policy of Democratic appeasement that began decades ago.
Mainstream Americans have a hard-wired understanding that a policy of weakness is doomed to fail. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to dealing with our enemies, and the left’s unambiguous role in perpetuating it with strategic policies at odds with our national security interests, is as dangerous as it is ignorant of history.
Mella blogs at http://clearcommentary.townhall.com.