“This state visit is … a terrible mistake,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
“He is illegitimate with his own people, and Brazil is now going to give him the air of legitimacy at a time when the world is trying to figure out how to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons.”
Engel was speaking of the state visit of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that began Monday, at the invitation of President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva of Brazil.
Extending such an honor to the leader who hosted a conference of Holocaust skeptics and deniers, often predicts Israel will disappear from the map, stole his last election, and is stiffing the West on Iran’s nuclear program is clearly a poke in the eye of Barack Obama.
Nor is this the only dissing of Obama and America by Lula.
The Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa has, for two months, been host to Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a Chavista, who was ousted by his own Supreme Court and booted out of the country by the army.
America will survive such irritants. But they are symptomatic of something larger: the mounting disrespect Obama and America are receiving from friend and adversary alike.
Under the new center-left government that broke a 50-year hold on power by the LDP, Japan will cease refueling U.S. warships off Afghanistan, is demanding renegotiation of a U.S. troop deployment deal already agreed to and is moving out of Washington’s orbit — and closer to Beijing. Pyongyang, having tested a second nuclear device, continues to dismiss all U.S. demands.
China just backhanded Obama’s request to revalue its currency to stanch the steady hemorrhaging of U.S. jobs, technology, and factories to the mainland, and treated Obama’s call for openness and better treatment for dissidents and minorities with dismissive contempt.
Yet had it not been for U.S. magnanimity in throwing open its market to Chinese goods, Beijing would never have registered the double-digit growth rates it has seen for the past two decades.
Some gratitude China is showing.
Despite U.S. warnings, President Hamid Karzai has stolen the Afghan election in a fashion so brazen as to make a mockery of U.S. claims of his legitimacy. Corruption remains pandemic, and ignored, including in Karzai’s own family. He knows we have no other option.
Iran continues to slap away Obama’s open hand, secure in the knowledge that China or Russia will veto any serious U.N. sanctions.
Israel, too, has taken the measure of Obama.
“Bibi” Netanyahu, elected on a platform of no negotiation with Hamas, no Palestinian enclave in Jerusalem and no withdrawal from the West Bank, a la Gaza, has defied Obama’s demand for an immediate halt to any and all expansion of settlements. Not only has Bibi gone unpunished, his poll ratings have soared in Israel, and Obama has capitulated completely, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas so disillusioned and demoralized he is considering not running again.
The hopes raised by Obama’s Cairo speech have disappeared, as our traditional Arab friends like the Egyptians and Saudis have been hung out to dry.
Hillary Clinton may have pressed the reset button on relations with Russia — but there has been precious little reciprocity for the U.S. decision to scrap the ballistic missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Moscow has recognized Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics and is now busy meddling in Ukraine to inflict a humiliating defeat on our man in Kiev, President Viktor Yushchenko, in January’s election.
Again, none of the above represents a grave threat to any vital U.S. interest. Nevertheless, this lack of reciprocity, this lack of respect, this indifference to what the president is demanding or even asking is revealing about the era we have now entered — and about Barack Obama.
All that bloviation we heard for two decades — about the “Second American Century,” the “End of History,” the “New World Order,” America as “omnipower” and “indispensable nation,” the “New Rome” seizing its “unipolar moment” to impose “benevolent global hegemony” on mankind and “ending tyranny in our world” — it was, all of it, bullhockey.
Second, though Obama may be liked and admired by people all over the world, this counts for next to nothing in global power politics.
Brazil, Japan, China, Russia and Israel are all countries with their own national interests that do not necessarily comport with those of the United States. All have come to see Obama as a diffident, dithering, doubting dilettante who can be dissed with impunity. And none of these nations is going to sacrifice what it considers critical to win a smile from Barack Obama.
Multilateralism and globalism are on the way out. Unilateralism and nationalism are on the way in.
As other countries look out for their national interests first, why do we not do the same?
If we Americans will not put America first, who will?