Obama’s useful idiocy: A look back

Obama’s private conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was not intended for public consumption. It carried a secret that Obama wanted to keep from the American people — before the election. He did not want to let them in on it until after he had won his “last election” and had the “flexibility” that comes from not having to submit himself for the approval of the American people.

At Politico, Jennifer Epstein reports Obama’s “explanation” of his comments to Medvedev, but they don’t explain much. The man is spinning as fast as he can. The story should come with an admonition: Quiet: BS artist at work. Obama “explained” that the remarks reflect his publicly stated desire to reduce nuclear weapons. Epstein doesn’t note that Obama’s comments to Medvedev singled out missile defense. You’d think that the folks who do this for a living would want a little more in the way of “explanation.”

What has Obama got in mind regarding missile defense in his second term? That is the question raised by Bill Gertz’s Washington Free Beacon article. The Washington Times quotes Obama placing his comments in the context of his commitment to nuclear disarmament:

“I think everybody understands — if they don’t, they haven’t been listening to my speeches — that I want to reduce nuclear stockpiles,” Mr. Obama said. “And one of the barriers to doing that is building trust and cooperation around missile defense issues. I’m on record, I made a speech about it to a whole bunch of Korean university students [Monday]. I want to see us over time, gradually, systematically reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.”

Quiet: BS artist at work.

We know nuclear weapons have been on Obama’s mind a long time, and his thinking does not appear to have evolved much over the years. Let’s revisit Obama’s thoughts on the American nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. They help us get a fix on the man we know too little.

When Ronald Reagan set out to bring down the Soviet Union, he built up America’s nuclear arsenal while deploying short-range nuclear warheads in Europe and undertaking a widely derided missile defense program. Reagan’s build-up took place over the massive worldwide opposition of the left, much of it orchestrated by the Soviet Union under the auspices of one or another of its “peace offensives.”

Reagan’s efforts induced a kind of mass hysteria. ABC brought us The Day After, the documentary-style film portraying a fictional nuclear war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalated into a full-scale exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. The film graphically displayed the effects of the war on Lawrence, Kansas. Nuclear war was a bitch, of course, and the film served as a timely warning against the nightmare toward which Reagan’s policies would deliver us.

In Useful Idiots Mona Charen also recalls that public television brought us Testament (1983), “a moving film about a family in Washington State slowly dying of radiation poisoning after a nuclear war.” Not to be outdone, Charen adds, NBC “broadcast its own scaremongering documentary called Facing Up To the Bomb (1982).” (The title of Charen’s book comes from a phrase attributed to Lenin describing Western left-liberals and Social Democrats.)

In 1983 protesters formed a 14-mile anti-nuclear “human chain” in Berkshire, England. When Reagan visited London for an economic summit the following year, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament turned out somewhere between 80,000 (police count) and 200,000 (CND count) protesters marching from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to greet him. Reagan modestly allowed that he didn’t “take credit for all of the demonstrators being there for me…”

Nowhere was the hysteria greater than on college campuses. It manifested itself in intense hostility to the military, to national defense and security, and to every aspect of the Reagan defense build-up. The college crowd hated Reagan’s opposition to Communism, wherever applied.

The New York Times reported that in 1983, as a Columbia undergraduate, Barack Obama was among the “useful idiots” expressing high-minded disparagement of Reagan’s defense policies. That’s not exactly how the Times put it, because Times reporters William Broad and David Sanger failed to supply the missing historical context that Charen’s book provides, and because the Times itself figures prominently among the “useful idiots” chronicled by Charen.

The Times article reported on Obama’s March 1983 article “Breaking the war mentality.” The Times noted that in the article Obama railed against discussions of “first-versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.

Obama praised the nuclear freeze movement and celebrated the work of two groups: Arms Race Alternatives and Students Against Militarism. By Obama’s description of them, the groups were among the “useful idiots” promoting the Soviet line on Reagan’s build-up: “These groups, visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are shifting their weight into throwing America off the dead-end track.”

Obama expressed and dismissed a possible reservation regarding the “narrow focus” of the groups, citing the deep wisdom of Peter Tosh that “everybody’s asking for peace, but nobody’s asking for justice.” Heavy, man.

But if Peter Tosh was heavy, he had nothing on Obama himself. Obama decried “the most pervasive tendency of the collegiate system specifically, and the American experience generally.” Obama described this “tendency” as the disembodiment of “elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory from individual choices and government policy.” According to Obama, Arms Race Alternatives and Students Against Militarism had come “to save us from the twisted logic of which we are today a part.”

The Times chose to portray Obama’s 1983 article as the early expression of his continuing pursuit of “a nuclear free world.” That’s one way to put it. While others may hope that Obama has outgrown his youthful radicalism, the Times suggested that he is fulfilling it. The Times unfortunately appears to have gotten that one right.