Why Aren't More Americans Angry about U.S. Defeat in the Middle East?

The obliviousness of so many to America’s humiliation in the Middle East fills me with despair.  Maybe U.S. defeat will stimulate action to hold those responsible -- mostly leftists -- but I doubt it.  Too many people are still asleep, and the Obama administration, its lapdogs in the defense establishment and MSM toadies, are spinning the debacle to maintain obliviousness. 

Sadly, with very few exceptions, Republicans have done little to alert Americans to the nation’s loss of international prestige and its likely consequences.  Figuratively, my country’s nose is being rubbed in the muck, and most of the ruling class, public, and mainstream media (MSM) seem to be either oblivious to or unconcerned about it. 

If anyone believes our humiliation in the Middle East will end there, that loss of influence in one part of the world won’t haunt us elsewhere, he/she/they is/are dreaming. 

It’s as if we’re back in 1937.  Japanese airplanes have just sunk the U.S.S. Panay and three oil tankers, killing several Americans, and virtually nothing is being done about it. 

Many, maybe most, Americans don’t seem to care that yesterday’s superpower is today’s paper tiger.  The short- and long-term consequences of the end of America as superpower have been repeatedly explored.  Mark Steyn’s After America:  Get Ready for Armageddon is a very readable example. 

If we hope to see better days, we need to understand why so many Americans seem oblivious of, or at least indifferent to, their country’s defeat in the Middle East. 

It serves no useful purpose to excoriate Obama for America’s rapid decline as a superpower.  As Steyn puts it (p. 200), “[w]hile Obama seems actively to be willing U.S. decline as some sort of penance to the planet, many others have accepted American diminishment as a mere fact of life to be adjusted to as best one can.”

Steyn’s book, plus other books and essays have already detailed the story.  (One worries that criticisms of Obama and his ilk are read or heard only by the choir, and that those who need this perspective to wake up remain blissfully ignorant.)

Obama and those he’s put in charge of our nation’s destiny:  Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, etc. -- all overseen by Valerie Jarrett, constitute the worst foreign policy team ever in American history. 

Nor does it help much to rail against left-wing politicos and the chattering classes who work tirelessly to undermine America’s national security. 

The sad fact is that, in addition to the ruling class, a large slice of the populace appears willing to accept America’s end as a superpower.  Painful as it might be, our focus must be on the American public, at least the same people who -- for whatever the reason(s) -- twice voted to put Obama in control of American government, and could make Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden the next president.

The explanation for Americans’ seeming indifference to their country’s declining international prestige can be grasped by focusing on what research on public opinion about foreign affairs has repeatedly found.

Any analysis of public opinion about international affairs must begin by noting that most people, most of the time, do not know very much about the outside world, largely because they do not care much about it.  Other than periods of hot (and cold) war, or during international imbroglios such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, when pollsters ask Americans what they think is “the most important problem facing the nation,” domestic matters far outstrip foreign affairs. 

Two major consequences flow from Americans’ disinterest in and ignorance of world affairs.

First, more than with domestic matters, when it comes to foreign affairs, Americans are dependent on the quantity and substance of MSM coverage of events and personalities abroad.  (Sadly, the size of the MSM’s audience still exceeds that of alternative media.) 

The probability that the typical American will have some personal exposure to domestic issues is far higher than for foreign affairs.  A citizen may know someone who is unemployed; he/she may be the victim of crime; her/his children may experience a poor teacher; and retirement accounts are affected by financial markets.  Other than terrorist attacks on America -- which one hopes remain rare -- or if a loved-one is in uniform during wartime, most people, most of the time, have no personal experience with events and personalities beyond our borders.

The second consequence of Americans’ general disinterest in and ignorance of foreign affairs is that key political leaders -- especially the president -- have much more leeway in framing public policies than with domestic matters.  (Our Constitution and developments in the 20th century have vested America’s Chief Executive with major powers vis-à-vis other branches of government and the public in the realm of foreign affairs.  Under Obama, those powers have become even more over-weaning; think of the way the nuclear deal with Iran has been handled.)

Due to MSM coverage of foreign affairs, and especially because the president is the dominant source of U.S. foreign policy, a large part of the reasons for the populace’s indifference to our declining status in the international arena can be placed at these two “doorsteps.” 

Although one is tempted to attribute Americans’ seeming indifference to their nation’s declining international status to war weariness, recent polls suggest that may not be true.  At least half the public appears more willing than the ruling class -- Republicans as well as Democrats -- to reinsert American combat troops in the Middle East.

Why, then, do so many people seem so indifferent to America’s decline vis-à-vis Russia in the Middle East?  One answer to that vexatious question can be had by recalling what a famous political scientist, V. O. Key, Jr., noted in his posthumously published The Responsible Electorate (1966), viz., the public is “an echo chamber.”  Fed pap by the ruling class -- especially the people in charge of the Executive branch -- and the MSM, we shouldn’t be surprised when ordinary people spout pap to pollsters.

The echo chamber phenomenon is particularly likely when ordinary people are asked about international affairs, topics with which they usually have virtually no personal experience.  Therefore, if Obama and the Obamians and the MSM spin events in the Middle East in ways that minimize the significance of American defeat, and appear resigned to our overall national decline, we should not be surprised to find that large slices of the populace are also undisturbed.

This is why the 2016 presidential election is so important.  No matter who wins next year, after eight years of Obamaism, America faces a long and difficult slog to return to superpower status.  Should a radical leftist win in 2016, Mark Steyn’s apocalyptic forecast may come true.