Editor's Note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.
If United States is ever to be eclipsed as a major power, defeat might begin with foreign “leaders”—all dictators, actually—having ready access to the American people via our own mass media. Recently, Russian strong man Vladimir Putin was welcomed to the editorial pages of that “newspaper of record,” The New York Times.
There, the Kremlin chief held forth on his vision for Mideast peace, a solution to Syria’s ongoing civil war, and, for good measure, lectured us on how dangerous it was for any nation to think of itself as “exceptional.” Amerika, you’re no more exceptional, he seemed to be saying, than Russia, Belarus, or even Chechnya.
Following Putin’s debut as an ex-KGB agent turned Timesman, both Iran’s new “president,” Hassan Rouhani and Syria’s boss Bashar al-Assad were captured by American journalists for what was breathlessly billed as “exclusive” interviews.
Rouhani’s session was conducted by The Washington Post’s veteran deep thinker, David Ignatius, while Assad parried light jabs from FOX News questioners, the serious and sonorous Greg Palkot (sans helmet) and the always entertaining Dennis Kucinich.
Because President Obama has a known aversion to dealing with foreign crises, this shaping of American public opinion by foreign dictators is a dangerous trend. If all men are created equal, why shouldn’t all opinions by all “leaders” be treated equally? We have our view of world events. The world has different views. Let’s hear from them about their view. Let’s be broad-minded. It can’t hurt to talk, after all.
Except that the people in those “leaders’” countries who disagree with the views expressed by their leaders have an alarming tendency to wind up dead. Pesky journalists in Moscow have been warned by shooting those who asked too many impertinent questions. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died in the ongoing civil war there. And Hassan Rouhani—that self-described “moderate”—never uttered a peep of protest when Iran’s mullahs were shooting down opposition voters in the streets of Tehran in 2009.
We admit we are not doing Google or Lexis/Nexis searches on Rouhani then, but we can be assured of this much: If he had protested the killing of opponents by the mullahs' regime, he would never have been permitted to run for president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We Americans seem to have been lulled into a stupor. It’s strangely like those years the locusts ate in the mid-seventies. That’s when Jimmy Carter urged us to get over our “inordinate fear of Communism.” Taking Carter’s University of Notre Dame speech as a starter gun, the Soviets and their cat’s paws ran freely in Africa and Latin America.
During the Cold War, there were occasional efforts to alert Americans to their peril. A few rock `em, sock `em movies such as Red Dawn and The Hunt for Red Oktober were screened. But those tended to be independent efforts.
The mainstream liberal view was represented by the novels of John LeCarré. To illustrate this point, Mark Steyn once described his lunch with the late conservative paladin Bill Buckley:
Bill was talking of how he’d created Blackie [CIA agent Blackford Oakes] as an antidote to the John Le Carre ethos, in which there’s no good, between east and west, and thus between their respective warriors at the KGB and in the western intelligence agencies. And once you accept this view the conflict is necessarily trivial: it’s just a game between opposing bureaucracies whose machinations and manoeuvres are their own justification. Le Carre was profoundly wrong but a good enough writer that his became the default there’s no bad, there’s just shades of gray and total moral equivalence template of spy fiction, and, because life imitates art, of far too many real intelligence types at the CIA and MI6 toward the end of the Cold War.
President Obama was schooled in moral equivalence of East and West. We’ve never asked to see his grades at Columbia or Harvard, but it would be instructive to know at least which courses he took at those Ivy League liberal bastions. He has acknowledged attending Marxist scholars' conferences as a college student, but how many of the actual courses he took would have equipped him to understand American Exceptionalism?
He has expressed decidedly mixed views himself about American Exceptionalism. At his first G-20 Summit, he said he did believe in American Exceptionalism—but quickly added that the Brits and the Greeks doubtless believed their own nations exceptional. More recently, he took to the airwaves to tell us American Exceptionalism might require us to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war.
It would have been nice if our own president had defended this country’s good name from the contemptuous jabs of Vladimir Putin. Mr. Obama might have said that Russia’s culture has enriched the world, but Russian rule has always been despotic.
Our president might have offered the Kremlin’s boss this challenge: If you don’t think America is exceptional, then tell us: When the Berlin Wall fell, which way did your captive people run?