Dear Mr. President

By O'Rourke, P. J. | World Affairs, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Dear Mr. President


O'Rourke, P. J., World Affairs


Your administration has just begun to walk on dry land. Take that statement any way you like. E.g., your ideas are evolving and only now have emerged from the primordial sea of campaign ooze. Or, e.g., it is time for you to get real and quit walking on water.

Anyway, we don't know much about how your policies--especially your foreign policy--will work. You intend to withdraw from Iraq. Ah, don't we all. And you appointed a secretary of state who thinks that "foreign affairs" means her husband is overseas.

Madam Secretary traveled to China, met its leaders, and did not so much as hint that the Chinese Communist Party adheres to every principle and engages in every practice that the founders of the United States of America deemed tyrannical and vile.

Mr. President, you gave a nice and--as stirring boilerplate goes--stirring inaugural address. But in that speech the word "democracy" never passed your lips. You did not refer to democracy in the United States let alone democracy, or the hope of democracy, in the rest of the world. Instead you said, "America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity." Mr. President, Robert Mugabe seeks a future of peace and dignity--for himself.

You claimed that a "demand" exists for "greater cooperation and understanding between nations." I hope you mean an expanded NATO kind of cooperation and understanding and not the Hitler-Stalin Pact kind. You proposed a "new way forward" with the Muslim world to be "based on mutual interest and mutual respect." Mutual interest is not always benign (e.g. Hitler-Stalin Pact). As for mutual respect, Israel and Hezbollah have that for each other, if grudgingly.

Mr. President, you told "leaders around the globe" that "your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." In which case the Pharaoh Cheops is the global political figure whom we most respect and admire. And we harshly judge Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams, who destroyed the cooperation, understanding, mutual interest, mutual respect, and future of peace and dignity between Great Britain and the thirteen colonies.

Mr. President, you listed the "values upon which our success depends." I hope this was not an exhaustive list: "honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism." The hordes of Genghis Khan had these values, after their fashion.

Doubtless, Mr. President, I'm just recounting some of the inevitable slips and goofs that accompany the undertaking of any new endeavor. I don't mean to be hypercritical. And I'm probably making too much of your reticence on the subject of democracy. Democracy is a necessary--if not always sufficient--condition of equality before the law and hence of all human liberty. But democracy can have deleterious consequences: you, the House, and the Senate, if I may say so as a Republican. And equality before the law, if carried to extremes, would have deprived you of your no doubt soon-to-be-excellent Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.

Therefore, Mr. President, I give you--in the matter of foreign policy at least--the benefit of the doubt. Every new Most-Powerful-Person-in-the-World should be offered this, until the world irrefutably proves itself too much for him. However, there is one thing I'd like to know in advance about your global strategic initiatives. It's the most general of general questions: how do you feel about evil?

We could start with whether you feel America is evil. But we know what your wife thinks about this, or did until recently. I'm a married man myself, Mr. President. And I'm sure your nuptial motto is, like mine, "Yes, Dear." So let's pass over that specific matter and talk about evil in a larger context. You are better educated and younger than I am so I won't presume to lecture. I'm sure you've read your ancient philosophers more carefully and more recently than I have. …

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