UNITED STATES: by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
President Obama's Captain Queeg moment
, March 16, 2013
In Herman Wouk’s classic World War II novel, The Caine Mutiny, there is a moment when a group of the ship’s officers are getting away from the increasingly eccentric Captain Queeq by relaxing ashore.Suddenly the malcontent Lieutenant Keefer asks the others: “Does it occur to you that Captain Queeg may be insane?”
In fact Queeg is not insane, at least not at that time. He is simply grappling, more and more disastrously, with a job too big for him. Come the crisis of a typhoon, he becomes paralysed and nearly sinks the ship by failing to give the obvious orders. At the subsequent court-martial he appears quite normal until he breaks down under the pressure of cross-examination.
Before this, the officers have searched the regulations for guidance, but the regulations refer only to a captain who is clearly and unmistakably insane, not one who is merely guilty of eccentricity and bad judgment. At a lower level of responsibility, Queeg might have performed adequately, but with Keefer’s question, the remaining respect for Queeg’s office has gone.
Reaction to the Benghazi murders of September 11, 2012, may be Obamas’s Queeg moment — an undeniable demonstration that, in an emergency, he is incapable of grappling with reality. For all his unceasing invocation of the words “hope” and “change”, the outstanding thing about Obama has been his apparent inability to react, even to an imminent crisis. Like Queeg, he stands frozen on the bridge as the waves grow higher, or obsesses over issues like homosexuals and women in the military as the typhoon rises.
Faced with the worst looming fiscal cliff-fall in the history of the world — a crisis largely created by his own party — Obama, like Queeg in the typhoon, has done nothing at all, but has, increasingly, resorted to meaningless words and sat back and let government spending soar to astronomical, unimaginable heights.
Yet Obama does not project any sense of urgency, merely a smug, radiating sense of his own greatness.
The one fiscal measure to which he seems committed — taxing the rich — is infantile stuff, like Queeg’s obsession with who ate the wardroom strawberries. Any first-year politics or economics student knows that there are not enough rich, even in as wealthy a country as the United States, to have raising their taxes make any appreciable difference to government revenue.
Like Queeg, Obama shows an inability to change course when such a change is desperately needed. Giving an additional 20 F-16 fighters and numerous Abrams tanks to Egypt was never, in my opinion, a clever idea. Even when Egypt was an unequivocal friend, its security required things like armoured cars to put down street violence, not these hi-tech weapons whose only conceivable use would be against Israel, and which might tempt Egypt to launch another attack.
When Mubarak was an unquestioning ally, such a gift might have been understandable; but no-one knows where Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood and its associates may go today.
I am prepared to entertain the possibility that Obama is being deliberately destructive of US power, that of a society his wife Michelle has obliquely confessed to hating and despising; but I am not going to argue that here. Rather, I am arguing that in a crisis he simply blocks himself off from reality, as he did at the time of the Benghazi murders, and appears to be now doing in Mali.
Obama seems to show no awareness that Egypt and other major Islamic countries have changed from being friends to something like enemies in a few months, and this requires a change of policy, probably a major one. For a President of the United States there is a difference between making a bad policy choice and clinging to that policy when it is plainly completely wrong, like the Caine steaming in a circle and cutting its own tow-line.
The dancing is still there, the golf, the celebs, the multi-million dollar holidays; but behind them it is possible to detect a desperate emptiness, an interconnected mosaic of failures.
The one much-boasted triumph, the killing of Osama bin Laden, was the work of other men. One of those most responsible, Dr Shakil Afridi, rots in the hellhole of a Pakistani jail, abandoned. Every day he remains in a torture-cell US prestige sinks lower, and not only in the Arab world. What price is the US’s national honour?
Allies have been lost or slighted in almost every part of the world, the Afghan war has brought the U.S and NATO humiliation, and Russia and China now lead in outer space.
The Western position in Mali seems to have suddenly collapsed without warning, or without preventative action being taken, and meanwhile, we have had the North Korean threat. I somehow doubt we would have had that if Reagan had been at the helm.
What, exactly, have things come to when a cockroach of a country, apparently run by real, certifiable lunatics, can threaten the United States with nuclear weapons?
Obama sits paralysed at the wheel, clinging in a fast-changing world to the policies of George W. Bush. While any sane person wants good relations with China, it cannot be denied that China is building a blue-water fleet, including stealth frigates and nuclear ships ahead of many possessed by the US, while
Putin’s Russia is also rapidly rearming.
The typhoon waves are starting to break over the bridge.
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer. A shorter version of this piece was published in The American Spectator Online (January 29, 2013).