Sunday, June 3, 2012

Barry Rubin: Obama doesn't understand Western European history so he can't get America's future right

Here is an excellent article by Professor Barry Rubin (PJ Media) whose general theme is not too different from that discussed by Mark Steyn in DWT's post from yesterday. Prof. Rubin decries Obama's lack of knowledge, and apparently even interest, in Western European history and states that without such an understanding, there is no hope for guiding America into a successful future.

Here are some snippets:

President Barack Obama’s mistaken reference to Nazi German death camps as “Polish death camps” is being ridiculed by critics as an example of incompetence. That misses the point. His defense is that he was just reading his teleprompter. That misses the point, too.
After all, you don’t need to be a historical genius to have caught that error even if it was on the teleprompter. I am not suggesting that Obama doesn’t know that the Nazi Germans operated the death camps, though, to recall another gaffe of his, he might think that those among them hailing from the country whose capital had been Vienna spoke “Austrian.”
Nevertheless, what this is really about is that Obama does not see himself as emerging from European history and, truth be told and despite his university degrees, doesn’t know much about it. He has no idea, for example, about how the Poles and other Central European people, or Europe itself, think or what they have gone through. And frankly he doesn’t care.

It’s fine to have a president who doesn’t come from a European background personally or physically but not so good to have a president who doesn’t grasp the meaning of modern European history. That’s why they used to have those Western civilization courses required of every college student, a standard whose loss has been devastating in the production of credentialed ignoramuses.

And how is that narrative important? Here are three critical points:

–Historically, America has done better than Europe in terms of economic prosperity, a relatively classless society, and social development. If you don’t understand the basis of American exceptionalism — and Obama rejects that idea — you don’t understand what policies work and which don’t work. By the same token, there are certain elements of Western democratic civilization that are the highest points reached by human society. A number of non-European places — Singapore, Japan, and now China — have recognized those realities and have adapted such institutions and modes of thought. If you focus on the shortcomings of Western civilization and don’t understand its greatness, you are also unable to run a Western society effectively.

–Europe suffered greatly from leftist extremism. Communism was a disaster. The left as well as the right can be brutal, repressive, and an economic disaster. Not knowing this story means that Obama isn’t inoculated against some of the same mistakes. And Obama has never found anyone on the left to be an enemy; never found any leftist ideology to be mistaken.

–Twentieth-century European history showed twice — against Nazism and Communism — the need to stand up to dictators, to be tough, to show one’s credibility, to be ready to go to war, to understand that ideological extremists cannot be bought off or charmed into moderation.
The lack of real comprehension regarding European history thus underpins Obama’s three greatest failings: wrong ideas about society, economics, and foreign policy.

Read the whole thing. It's depressing but enlightening.


  1. I've never understood the "Obama is an intellectual" meme. Personally, I think he's an uneducated idiot. How can one be an intellectual with no base knowledge to draw from? Rubin says:

    Obama’s gaffe was not just an act of stupidity or incompetence but another sign that he doesn’t understand European history. And given the vital lessons that story has to tell for the management of American foreign and domestic issues, that’s very dangerous.

    He's spot on. Obama doesn't understand ANY of it; not history, not economics, not even the simplest things that every American on the street GETS.

    November can't come soon enough.

    1. "November can't come soon enough."

      I loved the heckler's chant at Axelrod's Massachussetts campaign stop a couple of days ago.

      "Five more months! Five more months!"

    2. Modern intellectualism is the Emperor's New Clothes. Intellects do not have to prove the wisdom of what the say: they only have to talk about how wise they are for saying it, and people believe them.

  2. I think Professor Rubin is completly correct that Barry0 has no understanding of (or certainly respect for) European and Euro/American history.

    His only connection seems to be a decidedly third world (African/Indonesian) view of the west, along with the foolish belief still held to in some portions of Africa that Marxist (and/or Maoist) governance is some undefined 'good'.

    Of course, as one who spent his formative years in Indonesia, where he learned to think of the muslim call to prayer as the most beautiful of sounds, and whose passport he used to go to Pakistan when Americans were banned from there, how can one expect him to have any understanding of a society that his actual countrymen viewed only as an invader or oppressor

  3. The key thing about Obama is that, whatever goes wrong, it is NEVER his fault. This time the "telepromter did it!"

    Like who but he or his staff of word manipulators wrote the lines on that teleprompter?

    Had to be George Bush. Right?

    Or Bain Capital.

    Of course.

    Maybe it was just a misinterpreted phrase in Austrian?

    The man is incurable.

  4. I want to repeat my near psychotic prediction: I believe Romney will win the election in November. I believe we will have to be very lucky to get Obama removed from the White in January. He will resist, with considerable support within government, with every lame duck tool at his disposal starting 07 November.

    If the margin of defeat in a given state is slim, he will demand a recount, and then a recount of the recount.

    If the margin of defeat in a given state is huge, he will demand investigation and recount because the disparity is too great, so it must be either conspiratorial or discriminatory.

    Remember, Obama is n-e-v-e-r wrong. He will not accept defeat rationally.

    I want to be wrong. Really.

    Then again, I wanted to be wrong about Gore and Kerry's attempts as well. Obama will make them look like election debate amateurs....Gore and Kerry merely "wanted" the office, while Obama truly believes it is his right.

    1. "...removed from the White..." should be "...removed from the White House..."

      Obama has spent his entire life trying to remove himself from the white....or it from him, whatever. I doubt he gives much credence to Martin Luther King's admonition to judge by the content of character and not the color of skin.

      Yanowhadahmeen? Yo?

  5. Here is an example of people who may vote against their self-interest, or at least that of Israel.

    I. Will. Never. Understand. This. Behavior.

    1. You and me both, Aridog. And also the rest of us Israelis. It seems to me that outside of the Orthodox Jewish communities in the States, the rest of the Jewish community see liberalism as more their religion than Judaism. Hence their distancing from Israel and their disinterest in it.

      It will be very interesting to see how the voting pans out on the actual day. Scary but interesting.

    2. Calling Aridog. I know this is an old post but I wanted to reply here. Look at this by Legal Insurrection and be cheered.

  6. Sorry to take this thread OT for a minute, but am I the only one who can't see recent comments and latest posts in the sidebar?

    1. We can't see them in the Great White North, either. We seemed to have traced it down to the fact that we access the site at rather than Check the URL in your window. You probably have a similar situation.

    2. Interesting! I'm seeing I didn't know it existed! How weird! I wonder if we can "force" blogger to show us dot com rather than our geographical location. It's very sneaky of blogger/google to do this without telling us.

    3. Oh grrr! My comment got eaten! What I wanted to say was that's very interesting Matt. My URL reads - which I never knew existed. Blogger must be redirecting us to our geographical location rather than to the original URL. That's a very sneaky practice of them. I wonder if we can force blogger to take us to the .com site where we should be.

    4. OK, I googled the question and found the answer.

      As a temporary stopgap, anyone outside the US should write TCKT's URL as (ncr stands for No Country Redirect).

      There is a way to change this in the template of the blog but I think only Lady Red can do it. The details are here:

      method 1

      method 2.

      I'll email Lady Red.

    5. Mine is "" and my experience is slightly different. I see no recent comments until I open a thread and then only if it has multiple comments to make it long enough ... then the recent comments appear in the right side bar. Seems to be a feature of formating? Hell, what do I know ... my brain is fried from shopping iPad features for a friend.

  7. Replies
    1. Because you're in the Great United States, and not in a little backwater like Canada. :-). Or Israel..

    2. Or Dearborn/Detroit USA. :D

  8. annie, you're genius! Matt and I have been so frustrated not being able to see the recent comments in the sidebar, we tried changing the dot ca to dot com but blogger would automatically switch it back.

    The URL you found works for us.

    Yeah annie! Thank you :)

  9. Annie is our new techie! :D

    Calm down, lewy darling. Just kidding! Hee-hee! I peeked at your links annie, and it looks like just embedding a bit of code. I'm just walking out the door to enjoy an evening with my mom and dad, but I'll see what I can do when I get home (if Vikram hasn't already beat me to it, lol!)

    1. Huh. This whole approach never occurred to me because... it's too simple! Yeah, that happens sometimes.

      So I read through the scripts and the writeup... I've tried something _even simpler_ for a moment - so far it doesn't break the blog for me...

      Matt/Fay: try loading now _without_ the /ncr suffix. You should see the blog redirect to the .ca url as before, but (with luck) the recent comments should appear as well. If not, we'll try something else.

      What I did was simply insert /ncr/ into the url that pulls the raw comment text (the "feed") to create the "Recent Comments" sidebar. This might just work.

    2. OK, I remembered I could test this myself by simply entering the .ca url into the browser... and it doesn't work. :( Trying the script annie linked now...

    3. OK, yeah, that script appears to work. Sadly (for me) I have no idea _why_ it works... there appears to be an interaction between the "window" object and the "XMLHttpRequest" object in javascript that I just don't get... but if it works for Matt and Fay and annie, then, well, OK! Let me know if it doesn't work for you guys - it should...

      Tons of thanks to annie for digging around and finding the fix!

    4. Whoa ... Lewy, you dun'gud! I can see "recent comments" now, even in the front page window. Haven't been able to do that for months and months. Now let's see how long it lasts :D

    5. Too good to be true usually is ... the "recent comments" list on the front page is gone again when I closed and re-opened my Opera browser to TCKT. :-(

    6. Thanks Lewy, right now annie's fix is working great for me, I even logged out and logged back in from my favourites link and it went straight to dot com.

      Let's nominate annie the Israeli for another one of those Nobel science prizes!

  10. Heh. :) Glad to be of help guys. My first port of call for strange computery stuff is always google. It's amazing what you can find out there. Didn't even take much "digging around" as you put it. I just wrote "how do I stop blogger changing url's country code?" and hey presto! :)).

    Anyway, I'm happy to tell you that Lewy's fix is working because I just opened TCKT from my favourites as usual, and the sidebar appears perfectly.

    Thank you Lewy!

  11. One of the big stories mainstream conservatism pushes is how unfair the media is to Republican "morons" when they make mistakes, while Democratic "intellectuals" get a pass when they do the same thing.

    It's true. But it misses the point.

    The real story is that in our democratic age, our leaders in Washington, including the President, are decidedly of mediocre intelligence. These are people who are good at back-slapping and raising money, period.

    Believe me, ladies and gentlemen, if you could but spend a day with a high-ranking govt. official or, God help you, a U.S. Senator, you would go home with that twisted knot in your stomach as you realize that our country is in the hands of morons.

    Not, metaphorically speaking, as in "these people are morons!"

    But, in reality: as in, these people are half-educated and not that bright.

    1. If you believe Tom Clancy, it is because talent follows money, and despite the ridiculous benefits, the actual take-home pay for politicians is far from the level of the highest-paid professions.

      In any case, the age of the statesman has been gone for decades, and we are now in the age of second-tier (at best) thinkers and doers in the national government.

      If nothing else, we could transfer all elected official retirements to Social Security to make a life-long career in gov't at least somewhat less attractive.

      Of course, there is also the possibility of a random selection of legislators, one per district and two per state, by lottery. With some minimum educational requirements (confirmed by, say, an intensive test on the constution and US/world history), I cannot imagine that they would do worse than the overwhlming number of lawyers we get in there now.

      That would also have the benefit of not subjecting the populace of the necessity of learning about the candidate prior to voting (not that many of them do it now) and, miracle of miracles, would avoid the enforced hideousness of campaigns and campaign commercials every two years.

  12. Lewy, have I told you lately how much I love you? I do! :)

  13. From the 2009 letter to Obama administration from E. European leaders:
    Third, the thorniest issue may well be America's planned missile-defense installations. Here too, there are different views in the region, including among our publics which are divided. Regardless of the military merits of this scheme and what Washington eventually decides to do, the issue has nevertheless also become -- at least in some countries -- a symbol of America's credibility and commitment to the region. How it is handled could have a significant impact on their future transatlantic orientation. The small number of missiles involved cannot be a threat to Russia's strategic capabilities, and the Kremlin knows this. We should decide the future of the program as allies and based on the strategic plusses and minuses of the different technical and political configurations. The Alliance should not allow the issue to be determined by unfounded Russian opposition. Abandoning the program entirely or involving Russia too deeply in it without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.

    From linked PM article:
    Everyone in Central Europe understood the significance of September 17, 2009. It was the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, the Baltic states, and other countries. For the Poles it was a commemoration of a tremendous tragedy, especially since the USSR was then in alliance with Nazi Germany, which 17 days earlier had seized the rest of Poland.

    It was that date Obama chose to cancel the placement of U.S. defensive missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. Those two countries had taken considerable risks — Russia made threats — in agreeing to host the missiles. In cancelling them, Obama didn’t even consult the two countries. The Czech foreign minister said he was only informed of the decision in an early morning phone call that woke him up. The Poles didn’t even get a phone call.

    Thank you for posting this, lewy, it is very informative although depressing. I pray that Romney will get good people in his administration (J. Bolton for one), and significantly change domestic and foreign policies over time.

    1. Hi flo - it was annie that posted this thread - and who figured out how to fix the blog today!

    2. Florie ... if and when Romney wins, he will have a huge, no, monumental task in front of him: that of cutting out the layers and layers of institutionalized lard executives in all agencies. Paul Light, writing in the Wall street Journal, described this layered lard this way:

      Research I conducted shows that between 1961 and 2009, the number of executive layers—or ranks by title—at an average cabinet-level agency jumped from seven to 18, even as the number of executives per layer swelled from 451 to 2,600. If Congress and the president want greater accountability from the bureaucracy, they should cut the standard reporting chain in half and reverse the recent proliferation of lower layers occupied by chiefs of staff, deputy chiefs of staff, team leaders and management-support specialists.

      One of the reasons I've come round long ago to Romney as the best choice is simply that he has the real world business management experience to weed out institutional bloat versus productive personnel.

      In the government's case, these positions are very serious ... they are the ones who run the government day to day regardless of who is president or in Congress. They are the "rule makers" ... those who have no applicable functional skills can imagine up "rules" faster than you can print them out. In today's world, many of these "rules" have the force of law, due to vague sloppy legislation, with the exception that under "rules" findings, you are guilty de facto, and the burden of proof is on you to prove your innocence. If you can afford it.

      If he manages it there will be loud screams from the left, because these wonks are their political foundation. Most of the dangerous wonks I cite are appointed, meaning SES folk, not civil service folks, although the infection has leaked down in to the GS-15 and 14 civil service grade levels ... too many positions for any reasonable measure of responsibility and workload.

      Romney is the only candidate in decades who has the experience to take on this task. I truly hope "politics" doesn't prevent him from doing so.

    3. Thanks for the info, Aridog. I thought it would be a very daunting task and I hope Romney holds firm to his promises to us voters.

      Also, my apologies to annie, sometimes I forget to read the credits at the bottom of the post and this one seemed lewy-like :-)

      Thanks, annie, for posting this and fixing things. I'll BBL, I have an appt. for a brain tune-up this afternoon...

  14. I particularly liked this part:

    A few months ago, a leading Czech intellectual told a cheering audience in Prague, “Americans proved they weren’t racist by electing Obama in 2008. Now they must prove they aren’t stupid by voting him out of office in 2012.”


    Sing it, brother.

  15. The trouble is, that even after Annie's fix, it shows her as an 'unknown' poster, without the Smiley Star of David, and not as the author of the post.

    1. DWT, she might not have been logged in to her Google acct. I always sign in but I'm kinda OCD that way.

    2. Lewy's right (as usual with the techie stuff). I'm usually signed in to my "anneinpt" google account (my blog account) or my "family" account and not my TCKT account. I like to keep all the various parts of my life separate. I'm OCD (or perhaps schizoid?) that way Sorry! :)

      Here I'm signed in to my blog account so you can see my blog icon.

    3. Oof, why didn't my picture appear? I just added a picture to my gmail profile. Go figure. Anyway, this is me - annie.

    4. OH HAI ANNIE!

      Man I should do business online in Israel, I seem to be on Jerusalem time...

      annie FWIW I'm not seeing your magen david icon here, just a generic Blogger icon. Your profile is linked correctly though.

      Also FWIW I use a browser based password manager which lets me switch between accounts real quick (and manages lots of long, randomly generated - hence strong - passwords).

    5. You should definitely do business in Israel, no matter what time zone you're in. Israel is one of the very few countries that has weathered the global economic storm well. (Actually, why are you not in bed young man?!).

      Your password manager sounds like a good idea. Do you have a link?

    6. annie, I use LastPass - I discovered it through the LifeHacker website. Works pretty well for me.

    7. Thanks Lewy. I'll have a look at it.

  16. OK, this is weird. I thought the icon of my gmail account is what would appear here, but it isn't. It's a separate icon just for commenting. I tried adding an icon to my profile when I sign in with my blog account but it's taking so long I gave up. The little circle just went round and round and didn't stop.

    So here I am,back as annie. :)

    1. OK, I figured it out. I had to go to my anneinpt blogger profile and add the icon there. Now you'll see "my" orange tree, the icon of my blog. So if you see that, you'll know that's me too.

      Blogging is so confusing...

    2. I like the smiling Magen David, Annie

    3. Here, I put it back for you. :)

      (I also like it).