Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Barack Obama: alliance against terror’s 'thankless child'

Barack Obama’s presidency—in terms of American blood, treasure, executive time, and personal commitment—intensified the War on Terror. And so did the leaders of his two most reliable allies, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Obama remains the reluctant, but undisputed liberal leader of a war alliance. While, on the other hand, his conservative fellow warriors—Stephen Harper and David Cameron—are portrayed by innumerable liberal zealots as warmongers and closet authoritarians, men who’ve used terror on the television to manipulate their citizens and compromised their rights.

Barack Obama doesn’t have any obligation—or demonstrated capacity—to help repair the profiles of other politicians. Besides, Cameron and Harper choose freely to continue to support Obama’s US-led war. And they keep calling themselves conservatives despite the risks. It bears attention, however, that Obama has stood aside and allowed his borderless popularity—and his most well-known advisors and mercenaries—to actually work against the electoral interests of his two conservative allies in arms.

David Cameron won the recent British election, despite the help that Labour Leader David Miliband received from Obama’s high-profile political advisor, David Axelrod. Stephen Harper didn’t survive last month’s election and was defeated by a Liberal who enjoyed the council of Obama’s battleground-state advisor Mitch Stewart and a platform blessing by Obama’s Great Recession fighter, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

Tories on either side of the Atlantic are never short of things to be bitter about.

However, Stephen Harper and his champions, especially, have little reason to be silent about Obama’s meddlers. In Canada’s election, mediocre US relations were a significant issue, along with Harper’s support for Obama’s controversial military intervention against ISIL.  

Sure, Obama’s friends were hardly decisive, in either election. And, anyway, self-identified liberals should be free to sell their services, advise and campaign for progressives abroad as well as at home. After all, aren’t we fighting together to preserve those very freedoms?

Still, these arguments don’t excuse Obama personally.

None of the Democrats who dragged Obama’s name into our elections were doing it to save liberal values or advance urgent Democrat Party interests, let alone Obama’s foreign policy. David Miliband, Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair and, for that matter, David Cameron and Stephen Harper are all as liberal—or more so—than the Obama presidency. None of these British and Canadian politicians promised to be better or lesser allies.

The conduct of men Obama made famous is part of the Obama legacy. He’s a self-declared war president, a president who supposedly rejected unilateralism and sought out and secured allies in arms. Yet, he’s allowed his stature as commander of that alliance to be trivialized by the sloppy conduct of men who profit immensely by being Obama’s men.

Looking at the situation somewhat differently, my complaint looks plain silly: the alliance against ISIL and Muslim terrorists isn’t serious, certainly not one of those alliances in which allies instinctively have each other’s backs. The absence of solidarity may simply confirm that, along with those wild Republicans, the Obama White House sees America as still sufficiently powerful to not bother to let allied interests inhibit the mischief of its pals.

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