Several months ago in this space, on slight twinklings of accelerated economic growth, confirmation of the path to energy self-sufficiency, conciliatory noises to the Republicans, and (prayerfully hopeful) signs that the president’s irrational preoccupation with arms control might cause him to do something about the Iranian nuclear program, I dared to write that he could be the first president since James Monroe whose second term would be better than his first. That was not a very high bar, as I am unable to find any positive accomplishments of his administration in its first term. Despite my frequent expressions of under-appreciation of this administration, I always hope the president of the United States does well, and am eager to seize any plausible pretext to be positive.
But it is really an insuperable challenge to put any positive face on the events of the past few weeks. As I wrote here last week, it is impossible to imagine what the president thinks he is doing in Syria. And the brush-off he received at the G-8 meeting in Northern Ireland last week from Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian thugdom that by fraud and force rules the shriveled remnant of the country that imploded after 45 years of trying to rival America, appears to be a new nadir in the self-abasement of the U.S. presidency.
Unfortunately, it was the merest prelude to the oratorical self-immolation Mr. Obama went on to conduct in Berlin. Like an anti-Vietnam college demonstrator in a time warp, the president genuflected to the moral-relativist fiction that terrorism is the result of “instability and intolerance.” He inflicted on his German audience his enthusiasm to fight global warming, even though there is no global warming: no movement in 16 years and one centigrade degree in 30 years. There is some climate change, but no evidence that human behavior has anything to do with it. This is the president who padded around the most inane conference in modern world history in Copenhagen in 2009, unsuccessfully seeking an interview with the Chinese prime minister and trying to assemble a $100 billion annual payoff to the most bloodstained despotisms in the world as the penance of the advanced countries for the evil of a carbon imprint generated by successful economies. Four years on, he is still babbling the same nonsense, more publicly and with a reduced possibility of anyone taking it seriously except the Mugabes and similar tyrants, still plying their rounds with cupped hands and shrieks of environmental victimhood.
Even more astonishing is his continuing preoccupation with arms control. The entire arms-control regime has been exposed by the Iranian theocracy, in its only service to the civilized world. It was always, almost from Hiroshima on, a club whose membership was gained by a succession of countries that declared they were adequately important and responsible to make and deploy such weapons. The Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and, discreetly, Israel and South Africa (which has since renounced these weapons) joined the nuclear club uninvited, while most countries signed the Non-Proliferation Agreement, which pledges the growing ranks of the nuclear powers to seek world disarmament. This was always an impossible and undesirable objective; only the presence of deliverable nuclear weapons in the hands of some of the main Western powers, especially the United States, has saved the world from a devastating general war these 65 years. It was a matter of time before one or more completely unacceptable countries tried to acquire these weapons to exploit the potential they conferred for blackmailing others. Stalin could claim that the Soviets needed an atomic bomb to avoid intimidation from the United States (i.e., intimidation into honoring their commitments at the Yalta Conference in 1945 to a free and democratic Eastern Europe). The British, even under the Labour party, could claim justification because they had been co-developers of atomic weapons with the U.S. and wished a deterrent to the USSR indigenous to Western Europe. France would have these weapons if the British and Russians did, China if the Americans and Russians did, India if China did, and Pakistan if India did.