Victor Davis Hanson

Not being George W. Bush while apologizing for America's purported sins is not a foreign policy.

Ronald Reagan came into office with the idea of rolling back the Soviet Union. Reagan hoped that such an evil empire might collapse from its inability to match a newly confident United States.

George H.W. Bush sought to oversee a peaceful dissolution of the Soviet empire, the reunification of Germany, and a new Western-led world order that thugs such as Manuel Noriega or Saddam Hussein could not disrupt.

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Bill Clinton pushed Western-inspired liberal globalization to lift the Third World out of poverty.

After 9/11, George W. Bush sought to keep America safe from another round of Islamic terrorism while promoting Middle East constitutional government as a way of weakening Islamic terrorism.

But what exactly does Barack Obama wish to accomplish abroad?

In interviews and speeches, Obama emphasizes his nontraditional background and his father's Islamic heritage. Apparently, he hopes that by reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush, America will be better liked.

But without a strategic vision, "Bush did it" leads nowhere -- given that most of the world's problems predated and transcend Bush. Obama doesn't seem to understand than wanting people to like America is only a means to an end, not a policy in itself -- and an especially dubious means, given the character of many nations in the world today.

Nor does Obama comprehend that global tensions often reflect fundamentally different views of the human condition, rather than simple miscommunication or clumsy diplomacy -- and so can't be solved by serial apologies.

Last I heard, the Chinese communist government has not said a word about the killing of millions of its own, or about past fighting with many of its neighbors. Russia does not apologize for its bloodletting in Chechnya -- or for any of the other countries it has invaded and crushed.

Only Obama's America offers atonement, as if apologies will singularly achieve our new goal of being liked above all else. Yet when there is no upside for a country being democratic or pro-American, and not much downside for being dictatorial and anti-American, global confusion follows over the proper path that civilization should follow.

So after 16 months of the Obama presidency, we are starting to see the sort of chaos that results from America's lack of strategic vision or advocacy of its own values.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.