Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Global Chaos

When I was a child, my parents told me many stories. I'm sure most of your parents were the same way.

Mostly, I think it was my mother who told me stories, but my father did from time to time. The story that I remember hearing from him most often was the one about Chicken Little — you know, the one about the chicken who was convinced the world was coming to an end and ran about proclaiming, "The sky is falling!"

I'm getting somewhat the same sensation these days.

Under Barack Obama, the United States' global reputation is leaning away from strength and closer to impotence. His supporters, like the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, insist that "it's virtually impossible to be a successful modern president," which is a handy and much–used excuse. I heard it from Jimmy Carter's supporters in 1980. I heard it from George H.W. Bush's supporters in 1992. Nothing new about it.

They probably said it about Herbert Hoover in 1932.

But that's a copout.

Each of those presidents was said to have failed. I know for certain that Carter's backers and Bush's backers insisted that the presidency had become too big a job for any mortal man. And each of those presidents was beaten by a man whom history regards as far more successful than the president he succeeded.

"Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail," Cillizza writes.

I disagree. It's an important job, and sometimes it requires a lot of work for what seems like minimal gain, if any gain can be seen at all. But this assumption that a president will "almost certainly fail" suggests that, well, if the guy we've got can't do it, no one can. Not so. Presidents are not infallible. Popes, kings and dictators are considered infallible. But America is not ruled by a pope, king or dictator.When a president's failings become too great to ignore, his apologists immediately begin to defend him for fighting the good fight — and excuse him for falling short — for no one can juggle the duties of the presidency, especially if his skin is black and he has to deal with all those racists.

Never mind that those racists elected him president twice.

Early in his presidency, I heard Obama's supporters boast that he was opening a new era in global relations. In that first year, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For what? I asked. Nobel Prize recipients typically have accomplished something for which the Nobel Committee is rewarding them.

He got it for what he will do, one of my friends assured me. What will he do? I asked. My friend did not respond.

OK, well, I've got a pretty good idea now. Russia's on the move, and we do nothing to stop it. There are at least two things I never ever expected to see in my lifetime that, apparently, I shall, nevertheless, see. The first was the breakup of the old Soviet Union. Once that happened, I never thought I would see the Soviet Union reunited. But Vladimir Putin appears determined to do that, and Obama has no apparent intent to prevent it. That is thing #2.

And that seems likely to lead us to a third thing I never expected to see — Cold War II.

All hell is breaking loose in the Middle East (OK, all hell is always breaking loose in the Middle East, only it seems more dangerous, more menacing today). Tens of thousands of children are being permitted to cross the U.S.–Mexico border illegally, most not accompanied by adults — along with who knows how many other adults, all of whom are in violation of U.S. immigration law. Many may be criminals in their native countries.

America has no foreign policy to speak of. There appears to be a perception that there is a new law in America, an open–border policy. There is no such law, of course, but that doesn't change the fact that people think there is and seek to take advantage of it.

America has always been a compassionate country, but the current border crisis creates a no–win situation. There is validity to the argument from those who ask how the United States can, in good conscience, turn away children and send them back to possibly criminal and violent environments in central and South America.

I don't believe that anyone likes that idea. But as much as the United States might like to fling open its doors and be the sanctuary for all the oppressed peoples of the world, it simply cannot do so. America already admits more legal immigrants than any other country in the world — by far. It does not have the resources to support hundreds of thousands of new illegal immigrants (in addition to the millions who are already here), to provide food and shelter and health care for them all.

America might have had the resources if the Obama administration had focused from the start on resolving the economic crisis and putting America back to work, as it promised to do but did not do.

Well, that is a discussion for another time. The fact is that America does not have those resources now and must be careful with the relatively meager (by historical standards) resources it has, especially when the government is subsidizing health care policies for nonexistent applicants.

What is needed is a president who has diplomatic skills, who could talk to leaders of other countries about stepping up and helping with the immigrants who are currently flooding across our southern border — and will at least try to work with members of the opposing party.

And we need a president who will forcefully tell the world that the United States does not have an open–border policy, that no country can afford to have an open–border policy in these perilous times. But we will do everything we possibly can for all immigrants who enter the country legally and want to become citizens.

Americans are generous people; they want to see everyone succeed, but they expect everyone to play by the same set of rules.

The perception of an open border has been achieved largely through word of mouth. When word begins to spread that people are not being allowed across the border, I believe the crisis will subside. Then, hopefully, a meaningful discussion about immigration policy can begin.

Like it or not, America is a global power that other countries look to for leadership. Without it, the world will descend into greater chaos.

Some presidents have the skills that are necessary to lead a great power through times like these; others do not. And when those who do not are granted power and make decisions that weaken the United States, those who would harm us are emboldened.

My father once told me that the great thing about America is that there has always been someone, the right man for the times, who steps forward and leads.

I hope that leader comes along soon.

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