So…well, well, well. All your Volgi’s giving the president the benefit of the doubt on his potential strategic reasons for not commenting on Iran seems to be in vain, given his intemperate and despicable “meddling” in the situation in Honduras. Mr. President, when you end up on the same side as Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, grab the parking brake and hang a bootlegger reverse.
The situation in Honduras is unfortunate, to be sure, but given the fact that the Supreme Court ordered the military to intervene, we are not dealing with the run-of-the-mill Latin American generalissimo-bids-for-power coup d’état. Indeed, the most obvious superficial analogy may be the military coups in Turkey in defense of the Atatürkist order. Answers will arrive sooner or later. As much as the President—and many European foreign ministries—may think that the defense of procedural democracy is the defense of institutional democracy, history teaches otherwise. To violate Mr. Godwin’s law, if the German military had moved on Hitler in 1933 when he passed the Ermächtigungsgesetz effectively abrogating the Weimar constitution, it might not have been such a bad thing. Similarly, the Atatürkist coups d’état in Turkey—regrettable in many, many ways—may have preserved a republic—albeit a very, very imperfect and weird republic—in a neighborhood where they’re rather scarce on the ground.
Why would Obama do this? Unless he’s entirely following State Department-type politics of procedure, the juxtaposition of his not-so-masterful inaction on Iran and his quick jump to the defense of Señor (maybe still Presidente) Zelaya strongly suggest Obama’s instincts are those of Jimmy Carter: in any foreign crisis, find the most anti-American side and take it.
Why this might be so is suggested in the article the Mandarin, with uncharacteristic scrutability, posted below characterizing Obama as an “African Colonial,” that is, one who’s internalized a European political ideology and wants to level any traditional structures in its way. There’s a kernel of truth here, but it leans entirely too heavily on Obama’s African roots. Obama, in his own Afrikanikos-Amerikanos Agonistes memoir, describes his first visit to Kenya—in 1988 when he was twenty-seven years old. It is too much to claim that he was shaped by an African ethos. Africa the metaphor, however, seems to be crucial.
Obama seems to have been shaped by a combination of hero worship (ultimately bitterly disappointed) of his absent Kenyan father—and a dedication to his “dreams,” among which standard-issue left-wing economics and anti-colonialism feature prominently—and the left-wing, anti-American academic ethos in which his mother, a perpetual Ph.D. student who married foreign men, stated America was “not” her country, and spent her life outside the U.S.—even refusing to return with her fifth-grade son when he went to Hawaii to live with her parents and get his education at the élite Punahou School.
From his grandparents, to Grandpa’s commie friend Frank Marshall Davis, through his education at Occidental and Columbia, it’s likely Obama’s left-wing worldview was continually reinforced. And what was a huge portion of left-wing concerns back in the late-’70s and early ’80s? Tiersmondisme. Third-Worldism. After the national-liberation movements of the ’50s and ’60s and the enthusiasm of the New Left for them, the discipline of defining the anti-Western side as that of the angels became central to the engagé curriculum. Obama himself, writing at the remove of years specifically invokes some of their totems:
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully… At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz [sic] Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. —Dreams from My Father, p. 100
Obama’s faintly ironic tone here doesn’t belie the self-seriousness of the narrative, and nowhere does he show any evidence that these ideas struck him as incorrect, much less that he learned of their insufficiency.
Consequently, rather than an “African Colonial,” I think it’s more fair to say that Obama seems to be a “Third-Worldist Intellectual.” He appears to approach the world with the paradigm of a 1980s grad student: find the encoded master narrative of «Кто—Кого?» (Lenin’s famous Who/Whom?) where кто = Evil Colonialists of Pallor and кого = Their Swarthy Victims. Ergo, anyone who opposes the ECP is the good guy. Iranian revolutionaries? Well, the Shah was trying to modernize Iran. So Khomeini’s the good guy (see Foucault on this point). Meanwhile, in Honduras, the chavista Zelaya regularly denounces el Norte like Chávez and Castro, so any move against him is perforce in the service of Evil and its Pale Purveyors (whom you owe the barest civility and, indeed, maybe an iPod full of your own words to raise their consciousness).
I exaggerate for effect and I certainly hope it’s not the case. But given Obama’s background surrounded by hard Leftists for whom the above is probably not merely uncontroversial but insufficiently vigorous, it‘s hard not to wonder if he’s got this junk rattling around in his intellectual baggage and if it’s not shaping his thinking, at least on a gut level.
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.