December 2, 2008
When the World Loves AmericaBy Christopher John
Barack Obama has been elected President. We were told there was an absolute need that we elect him. That more than his race, more than the historical significance of electing a black (and white) man as President of the United States, it was most important to elect Obama President for what it would mean to the rest of the world.
Right now the rest of the world absolutely loves Barack Obama. They see him as not only America's savior but also the worlds. Now that the "one we've been waiting for" is here, it might be a good time to look back to the last time American had that elusive moral high ground. When everyone loved our American President.
He was a fresh new face. He was young and attractive, he reminded people of JFK. He was hip, he played the sax, wore Ray-Ban sunglasses and inspired the youth to "rock the vote." He was an eloquent and smooth-talker, he would be everything to everyone. And of course he wore boxers.
He was supported by an adoring media, loved by the Hollywood elite, was a champion of minorities, excited the young and "hip" and had the respect of the leaders and people of many nations. The world and America were galvanized as they hoped for change. It was 1993 and Bill Clinton was President.
Yet while President, America was involved in conflict (the polite term for war) and suffered greatly from terrorism. How many remember the Bosnian War, when Clinton ordered military attacks on Serbia leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees and civilian deaths, captured US soldiers and a further strained relationship with Russia?
How many remember or admit that America and Americans were also attacked several times during Clinton's two terms of worldwide adoration? Al Qaeda orchestrated the bombing of The USS Cole and the bombing of two U.S. Embassies in Africa. The combined attacks resulted in thousands of deaths and casualties.
Clinton actually aggressively retaliated with a series of cruise missile strikes, one of which destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that manufactured half the medication for humans and animals. The administration claimed it produced chemical weapons. An investigation later proved that claim to be false. There was no worldwide condemnation and Clinton was not villainized. That's one positive side effect when adored Presidents order military strikes.
Perhaps most ironically and conveniently forgotten was the fact that Clinton bombed Iraq -- citing among other dangers, the need to stop Saddam Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Seriously. In case you aren't paying attention, this was before George W. Bush was President, before "Bush lied, people died" and before anyone "voted for it before they voted against it."
The good news is that even bombing Iraq and pursuing the elusive weapons of mass destruction is excusable and buried in history when your President is so revered. The bad news is the world conveniently puts its head in the sand and the adored President hardly elicits an objection from his fans while far more nefarious attacks are planned.
Bill Clinton was the President in 1993 when the almost unthinkable occurred. America was attacked when the World Trade Center was bombed. It's important to understand that even though the terrorists failed in their ultimate goal of knocking down both towers, their intention was to do exactly that. If they succeeded we would be talking about 2/26/03 as the worst terrorist attacks in US history.
Even so, the terrorists who loved our President committed the first act of war on American soil since Pearl Harbor. The rest of the world, allegedly enamored with America and our President, yawned. Then the American loving terrorists spent another eight years plotting to do it again while we peacefully did little. The world approved.
With the well-liked Clinton in office, the gentler America still managed to be an enemy to far too many. Men, women and children were still being killed. Oddly, Europeans and the rest of the world have never been particularly upset when Americans die. The problem is when Americans protect or defend themselves - this offends them.
Neither do they care if the world really is any "safer," or if the usual nations sponsor and encourage terrorism, the usual regimes oppress their people, and the usual tyrants and dictators demand the death of certain people or countries. Contrary to the propaganda that a particular President causes these conditions if he is hated, the world is a consistently violent place regardless of the likeability of the President.
The world does not ask or expect that when our President is adored, our military neutered and our response to danger is inaction, that other nations cease their terrorist activities or that ruthless regimes become peaceful. Again the world does not care. What they do demand through their wagging fingers and lecturing condescension is that we become weaker and capitulate to the aggressors. Conveniently, this American pacifism will equal American deaths. This to some is the acceptable cost of being liked.
Those who believe that a weaker America would make for a more peaceful and tolerant world are naïve or dangerous, and probably a bit of both. Obama and the American people would do well to understand that when the rest of the world "loves us" and loves our President, people continue to die and the world remains violent. And when we elect a President largely because he is "liked" and then believe the world's approval of him will mean peace, it is not only foolish but also deadly.
America has its enemies regardless of its Presidents party affiliation. Some despise America and they don't care what color, race or religion generation after generation of Americans share. Our enemies don't care how "nice" the President is or how well liked he is.
They didn't ask party affiliation, political belief, or religious persuasion of any of the murdered on 9/11/01 when the hated George Bush was President. And they didn't care in the 1993 attack, when the loved Bill Clinton was President. If America is attacked during the Obama administration, I doubt they are going to be worried about hurting the loved ones feelings.
We don't know yet what type of conflict President Obama will face or when he will face it. What we do know is that being admired does not keep Americans safe, the world peaceful or war from starting.
This will be Obama's first lesson and the question he may end up asking of the world is: what value is being "liked" if your friends and enemies still hate you?