For the first time in living memory, both Britain and the US have national leaders who appear to have little concept of patriotism.
To suggest that former US Presidents — Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy spring to mind — were not patriotic would have been self-evidently absurd. Further, whatever party they belonged to, they could plausibly be said to be unifying figures.
FDR had been associated with bitter class-division during the Great Depression, and his pseudo-Keynesian economic policies were wrong and demonstrably prolonged that Depression; but come World War II there was no doubt that he spoke for a united America — this was demonstrated symbolically by his sending his Republican opponent, Wendell Wilkie, to report on the condition of embattled Britain, carrying personal messages to Churchill.
Analyses of JFK’s presidency have found many faults, but there was no doubting his patriotism, as witnessed by his resolute handling of the Cuban missile crisis and his committing the US to resist communist aggression in Vietnam and to beating the Soviet Union in the Space Race.
This, of course, is before we even begin to consider a figure like Ronald Reagan, whose attitude to the Cold War was summed up as: “We win. They lose.”
There is a story that, before newly-appointed US ambassadors departed on posting, Reagan would interview them, and, when they left, would ask in a vague, gentle way, pointing to a large map: “And where is your country, Mr Ambassador?” Woe betide any who did not point to the United States!
Yet now, with the Obama presidency, we have, for the first time, serious reason to doubt that the occupant of the White House is committed to either US military strength or national unity.
Evidence of this exists on several levels: Obama has managed to project unambiguous sympathy for the left-wing “Occupy” movement, and its members believe they have the President’s support. Members of the New Black Panthers, who apparently attempted to intimidate voters — a serious crime — have not been prosecuted.
Obama himself has associated with and patronised some of the most toxic extremists in US politics. Where he has quietly moved away from public association with some of the radicals of his student days — whose actions amounted, quite literally, to political terrorism — his actions have been ambiguous. He has cast wealthy people as the “enemy”.
Meanwhile, a great deal of his past remains shrouded in mystery. He is the first US President of modern times — perhaps the first ever — whose antecedents have not been thoroughly scrutinised by the media, ready enough to probe into the most private details of any other celebrity’s lives.
Obama was once a lawyer. The transcripts of trials he conducted, if any, should be publicly available. Are they? His connections with the likes of the shadowy left-wing billionaire George Soros and the organisations that Soros bankrolls have likewise never been properly investigated.
Obama has given notice of slashing the US nuclear deterrent. It is impossible to get to the truth of this vitally important matter, but one report I have read is that the US nuclear arsenal has been or will be cut to a mere 300 warheads — probably comparable to such minor-league nuclear powers as Israel, Britain and France, and dwarfed by the Russian nuclear arsenal.
The anti-missile shield for pro-American eastern European countries such as Poland has been withdrawn in what looks like an act of outright betrayal. The US navy is being cut to its smallest size in modern times. In lockstep with this, Britain, once a valuable ally, has cut its own navy to 19 frigates and destroyers and its air force a mere seven squadrons of modern jets.
Like so much else in the Obama administration, the space program has been the subject of vague double-speak, but the results are obvious. Two years ago Obama announced that America would give up any moon program, citing the quite childish reason, “We’ve been there already”.
This betrays a bizarre view of space exploration and space science in general. There have been six landings on the moon, by 12 men. A permanent base is needed to accomplish anything worthwhile. Moreover, since the last manned landing, in 1973, advances in computer and other technology have made space-flight potentially easier.
Obama, in a typical sop to the space constituency, has vaguely promised a mission to Mars sometime — although many problems, such as cosmic-ray bombardment, must first be solved, to say nothing of the enormous cost.
Meanwhile, even the space shuttles have been retired. In another bizarre announcement, Obama announced that NASA would be converted into an agency of goodwill to make Muslims feel better about their lack of scientific achievement.
Foreign policy, from the US point of view, has been a global failure, apart from quietly strengthening the US presence in the South Pacific.
Obama’s foreign policy initiatives have not won the US the friendship of a single Somalian goat-herd. Egypt looks like being converted from a friend to an enemy, and relations with Israel have cooled over Obama’s unnecessary insults to the Israeli leadership.
His commitment of very large and costly US forces to Afghanistan benefits no-one but Russia (one can imagine Vladimir Putin, on those occasions he wears a shirt, laughing up his sleeve as he allows and encourages America to both keep the Afghans down and send its own and NATO forces into the meat-grinder).
The US is not dependent on an empire as Spain and Portugal once were, and will not fall from power with the loss of an empire. It can only fall through internal division.
The Obama administration has done nothing to promote energy self-sufficiency, although the US is richly endowed with energy resources. Nothing is being done to develop either fusion power or the technology for synthetic petroleum should new energy sources be needed.
And the US is continuing to spend money like a drunken sailor in defiance of obvious economic logic. Obama’s overall plan, more-or-less openly admitted, is to reduce American power — an attitude summed up by his highly symbolic act of bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia in April 2009.
Were Obama a deliberate sworn enemy of the United States in its present form, driven by hatred and a desire to destroy it, while making the minimum gestures necessary to pass himself off as being of the political mainstream, he could hardly be doing more.
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.