Free Markets, Free People

There Is No Room For Narcissism In Successful Foreign Policy

Have you ever heard a speech, digested it and then thought, “am I hearing something that really isn’t there?” I’m talking about President Obama’s UN speech. I’ve listened to this guy for 3 years now and I’ve come to at least have a familiarity with his style of speaking. I’ve also caught on to the fact that the content of his speeches is much different when addressing an international audience than a domestic one. And, has been noted by many, his speeches to the international community have been based in series of apologies for America.

But never have I heard what I heard before the UN. So I had to think about it and wonder if, in fact, I was just reading way too much into it. That’s until I read Michael Gerson today in the Washington Post. He put into words exactly what I thought at the conclusion of the speech that day:

Obama’s rhetorical method in international contexts — given supreme expression at the United Nations this week — is a moral dialectic. The thesis: pre-Obama America is a nation of many flaws and failures. The antithesis: The world responds with understandable but misguided prejudice. The synthesis: Me. Me, at all costs; me, in spite of all terrors; me, however long and hard the road may be. How great a world we all should see, if only all were more like…me.

On several occasions, Obama attacked American conduct in simplistic caricatures a European diplomat might employ or applaud. He accused America of acing “unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others” — a slander against every American ally who has made sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued that, “America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy” — which is hardly a challenge for the Obama administration, which has yet to make a priority of promoting democracy or human rights anywhere in the world.

The world, of course, has its problems, too. It has accepted “misperceptions and misinformation.” It can be guilty of a “reflexive anti-Americanism.” “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Translation: I know you adore me because I am better than America’s flawed past. But don’t just stand there loving me, do something.

I realized that the simple word I was searching for to describe it all was “narcissism.” Some may prefer to use “malignant narcissism”, but I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so I’m unable to make that determination. But as Gerson demonstrates in his analysis of the speech (and my first impression and the impression I retained after reading the speech), it was indeed an indulgence in classic narcissism. Obama’s come to believe his own press clippings. I find his indulgence of this narcissism to be extremely dangerous, especially in a man with so little experience in foreign affairs.  It is a weakness the jackals who inhabit the world of international politics will surely see as a weakness and attempt to exploit.

A lot of things are perking in the world right now. The reason this sort of narcissism is dangerous is because it assumes an ability, undemonstrated to this point, to handle any crisis. That sort of an assumption, especially without any context or framework of experience could lead an overconfident leader into a foreign policy disaster. As anyone paying attention knows, there are plenty of potential disasters on the horizon. If this speech is any indication of the President’s state of mind, his name may be all over at least one of them.


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44 Responses to There Is No Room For Narcissism In Successful Foreign Policy

  • Just watch, next Obama will promise to make the trains run on thyme. (Cue rim shot)

  • He hasn’t “come to believe” it, Bruce; it was always so. How else to explain a guy who’s never really done much of anything except run for office writing an autobiography at 34?

  • Man, your case of ODS is really wild. He can’t sneeze and you wouldn’t find a way to launch a vicious and weird attack at him. That’s OK, the fact of the matter is, he’s the most intelligent, competent, and respected President we’ve had in a long time. Get used to getting upset and annoyed, I guarantee you — you’ll have to deal with that over the next seven years.

    In this case, Iran, I am very impressed by the way he has built coalitions, and now is set to undertake a really difficult policy balance — pressure the regime enough to make them change, but not enough to evoke a nationalist reaction amongst the growing Iranian middle class and opposition. Someone like a Bush would be a bull in a china shop, hurling around dangerous phrases like “axis of evil” and making outlandish unilateral threats (‘dead or alive’) that he couldn’t keep. It feels like after eight years we finally have someone in the White House who has a firm grip on reality. But after all the complaints about “BDS” over the last eight years, it so delightful to see people like you parade a particularly virulent form of ODS so shamelessly.

    Watch and learn. Confident, patient foreign policy, able to admit errors, not arrogant, willing to work with others.

    • Prof. Erb — Watch and learn indeed. That cuts both ways.

      If one always points to some hidden rabbit about to jump out of the hat in the future, anything is possible.

      But so far, Obama has produced no rabbits, no coalitions. Maybe that changes next week, next month, next year. But for now, nothing.

      Frankly I hope Obama does have some razzle-dazzle moves with regard to Iran, because a serious storm is brewing over there. Israel will attack Iran if something doesn’t change, and I’m not looking forward to that.

      But so far, we have seen no fruits from all of the intelligence and competence you claim for Obama.

      • Fair enough — I can understand your skepticism and need to see more. It is early. One thing about FDR — it wasn’t the number of his talks, it was the fact he was taking communication with the public to a new level. The idea that this is just Obama wanting to be on TV would be mistaken, these are decisions recommended by media savvy people around the President.

        • The measure of Obama’s success with the on going Obama Show is his poll numbers.

          So far, the result has been failure. His poll numbers keep going down, and his agenda is doing even worse.

        • Prof. Erb — You continue to ignore the specifics.

          Obama’s intelligence, competence, and superb handling of foreign affairs, which you repeatedly tout, have already failed on the other two of Obama’s major coalition efforts: Guantanamo and Afghanistan. With the exception of Bermuda, Obama received no, none, zero, zip help from any of our allies.

          Why should it go better with Iran?

          As to Obama’s media savviness, short of declaring martial law or starting his own late night talk show, Obama in the past month fired off all his media guns. Addressing all schoolchildren, addressing the Joint Houses, addressing the UN general assembly, chairing a UN Security council meeting, appearing on five Sunday talk shows plus Letterman.

          If this doesn’t strike you as excessive, what could? Do you seriously imagine that Obama can make this a monthly routine?

          • “Do you seriously imagine that Obama can make this a monthly routine?”

            Considering the guy probably stands in front of his mirror in the White House every morning now and hums
            “mmm mmm mmm
            Barack Hussein Obama”

            I believe a one word answer is “yes”.

    • Prof. Erb — By the way, Obama doesn’t admit mistakes. He admits the “mistakes” of Bush and his predecessors. That’s not the same thing.

      However, Obama does glorify himself before the world in a way I don’t remember from any previous president, and he does it practically 24/7.

      Currently I’m working my way through FDR’s Fireside Chats just to remember what a Democratic President, who loves his country, can sound like. Obama is not a patch on FDR.

      The topic here is narcissism.

      FDR only gave 30 Fireside Chats in his 12 years as president, even though his years were the most treacherous for America since the Civil War.

      I’m wondering what Obama is going to do in the next couple weeks after addressing all the schoolchildren, both Houses of Congress, the UN, five talk shows and Letterman. Where does he go from here?

    • Erb – I’d be one of the last to ever be accused of being a Bush apologist, but I had to make reference to one of the curiosities of your post. When you accuse Bush of being a simpleton in seeking clearly delineated conflicts e.g. “War on Terror,” simpletons like those on the left need to be quite careful as to what they wish for.

      Obama’s answered your desire for open and shut demarcations of conflict with an unending “police action.” Following the prodding by globalists (ala Soros), he’s shifted the focus of U.S. power from a discrete “get in, get it done, get out” conflict to an unending process of the imposition of power upon others (especially ourselves).

      In fact, if you examine nearly all aspects of Obama’s agenda, it is readily explained from this globalist perspective. There will be no economic recovery; we are redefining what economy is and reshaping how it will be run, into a new realm and unending process. The War on Terror is no longer winnable (and Obama confesses this desire for unending engagements in his UN speech), but conservatives mistake this for Obama wanting to lose. Both sides get it wrong: Obama’s end-game is a new terrain on which all will be controlled, not a resolution to the existing crises that face the nation. Transformation and unlimited power given to his globalist friends is his end-game.

      The best way to interpret the change that Obama represents is in the transformation of the former USSR. The United States is finally allowing the other shoe to drop. Where the socialist facade and game of pretend was ended by the oligarchs who desired direct and more efficient control, America’s oligarchs have made an equivalent move with Obama, nationalizing and seizing large portions of the economy in an inverted but parallel event.

      Indeed you’re right: we have much to watch and learn from as Obama smooths the path for Soros and the other globalists he represents to control our economy and nation.

      • I can agree on only two points: a) Obama does have an internationalist agenda, though I think that’s because the era of the sovereign state itself is ending (my view at: The era of discrete national economies is over. I do not think it’s going to be controlled by any small group of elites, though, I think in fact globalization will make that impossible. b) I agree that current policy is predicated by a belief that the war on terror is unwinnable, but that’s because it is. You do not defeat a strategy. Terrorism is the strategy of the era of globalization. Major inter-state war fought by big armies is not the wave of the future. Economic sabotage, terrorism, and other forms of political violence are displacing it. That’s one reason I think a lot of people over-estimate the usefulness of American military power. It was unable to shape political outcomes in small relatively backward places like Afghanistan and Iraq…what can it really accomplish?

        • “The era of discrete national economies is over”

          It has been over for quite some time. How clever of you to notice.

    • the fact of the matter is, he’s the most intelligent, competent, and respected President we’ve had in a long time

      This is an example of what I meant weeks ago by poor communication. Hyperbolic cheerleading makes people tune out. This statement is not true and you know it – with the exception that you don’t define “in a long time”. If you meant to say he’s more intelligent, competent and respected than Bush then you should just say that. Leaving it open means to some people that you’re saying he’s more intelligent than Clinton, more respected than Reagan, and more competent than any president who was previously a successful governor, making the statement far from the fact of the matter.

      Hyperbole is fun but when making serious statements of fact you should let fact stand alone. If it can’t, word the statement as the opinion it is:

      I believe he’s the most intelligent, competent, and respected President we’ve had in a long time, certainly more so than Bush.

      You’ll get more respect and intelligent discussion being clear.

      • You’ll get more respect and intelligent discussion being clear.

        What makes you think he’s interested in respect or intelligent discussion? Almost every post he makes suggests otherwise.

      • What I said wasn’t that much of a compliment, when you look closely at the competition! Part of my approach here is to sort of mirror how McQ is saying things, but from the other perspective. The hyperbole about charging narcissism and the like is a bit over the top. But I’m sure he believes it. I really believe Obama is probably the best President we’ve had in my lifetime (geez, even that’s not saying much…though maybe Ike, who was still President until I was ten months old, compares well). Normally I wouldn’t word it the way I did there, but I was mirroring the provocative wording McQ used.

        I tend to respond pretty much in line with the tone of person I’m responding to, though I try to avoid actual personal attacks since it’s easy to do that (it takes no knowledge or skill to insult), but requires more thought and creativity to respond with content.

        • Wouldn’t it be better to explain why you disagree in a cogent manner, and point out any critiques of style directly yet separately?

        • “(it takes no knowledge or skill to insult),”

          You really are oblivious to what goes on around you and have absolutely no appreciation for the use of language. Or maybe it’s just whistling in the dark. Some of the insults directed towards you are quite skillful and knowledgeable. Accurate, too.

      • the fact of the matter is, he’s the most intelligent, competent, and respected President we’ve had in a long time


        LOLLLLLLLZ you mean the guy just dubbed “President Pantywaist”??

    • Ah, yes. The resident expert in narcissism hastens to defend someone who “thinks like me”. As expected.

      • Scott isn’t the resident expert on narcissism, he’s the resident exemplar of narcissism. He’s not actually aware of the condition, either as a general concept or how it applies specifically to him.

        Narcissism is an acute lived form of solipsism. Scott is afflicted in spades.

        Perhaps the greatest “topic sentence” uttered by a malignant narcissist was Joseph Stalin’s “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”

        From that first sentence any series of whims can be written into the record of the world with vague hand-waving justifications. But there will be one thing that is always missing: any sort of reasonable dialog about those whims. The “dialog” will always consist of the one-way application of power.

        On another note: I absolutely disagree with Huxley about Franklin Roosevelt. He was a revolting individual, a nasty incompetent and liar. A good example of that was his habit of setting and resetting the price of gold during the depression based on his daily whim.

        • “Scott isn’t the resident expert on narcissism, he’s the resident exemplar of narcissism.”

          Of course! *slaps forehead*. Stupid of me. I stand corrected. Thank you.

    • Watch and learn, all right.

      We can sit back and watch this idiot fail. So far, the signs are that he’s the worst president ever. The silver lining is that his incompetence is going to help tie up his domestic agenda.

      Obama showed Americans just how incompetent he was when he refused to accept that the Surge had worked after it had.

  • Uh oh. If Erb thinks it will work, that means the opposite will happen – and Iran will be nuclear by 2013.

    Maybe Obama can pull off getting China to agree to sanctions…probably gove Taiwan to China as a quid pro quo and call it a “success.”

  • If Obama fails to bring about a more peaceful and equitable world, it will only be because of your lack of faith.

  • I just published a blog entry about the Iran situation. Here is an excerpt where I describe how Obama should be different from Bush:

    “They will test Obama and the world community to be sure of their resolve. They will make bombastic statements threatening potential violence in Palestine or threats to the region, hoping to get Obama nervous and willing to back down. It seemed to work with Bush, whose talk on Iran was always about twenty times worse than his almost non-existent bite.

    What Obama has to do is maintain a stable and dogged persistence on Iran, punishing them with economic sanctions that can be maintained by most of the international community in a manner that hurts the Iranian economy and weakens the hold of the hardliners on the country. He cannot start talking trash. President Bush’s problem was that he talked a lot of trash, but couldn’t follow through. Thus he pushed allies away, helped the hardliners in Iran rally the people behind them, and was unable to accomplish his goals.”

    • He has achieved nothing on Iran.

      Iran is going to make a bomb and use it on Israel and there is no a dang thing that Obama is going to do to stop it. In fact he is probably going to make it happen faster.

      With regards to the “coalitions”, if you give a bunch of money to people who don’t give a crap about you and your convictions then you find out rapidly that they vanish pretty fast once problems appear.

      In short the “coalitions” he has made are worth sh1t

      • There’s no guarantee he can stop it, or even Israel can. But tell me, what would you do? Have you thought through the consequences of attacking Iran? Do you want particular sanctions? Put up front what you would do, compare it to what Obama does.

        • I didn’t suggest he adopt any particular policy.

          My point is that he is achieving nothing and pretending that so is stupid and dangerous.

          If he thinks that playing the unicorn gambit with Iran will achieve anything then he is a naive little man. My next door neighbor can believe feldercarb like that but I expect far better of the US President.

    • Prof. Erb — You are substantially wrong on most, if not all, of your points. Typical.

      All Obama has done is renew sanctions in place from the Bush administration. The Bush administration, in the spirit of multilateralism, left Iran to the Europeans and they did nothing.

      Meanwhile, Obama has let Iran sail through a September deadline, now moved to talks in October and something by the end of year. Or so we are told.

      Until some coalition emerges that puts effective heat on Iran to back off from its nuclear program, Obama gets no credit and you are talking trash.

    • Prof. Erb — Here’s Obama’s coalition-building from last week. Please explain how this demonstrates Obama’s superb handling, intelligence and competence. Will other nation feel sorry for Obama and rally to his side? Is that the plan?

      Sarkozy Mocks Obama at UN Security Council

      “President Obama dreams of a world without weapons … but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite.

      “Iran since 2005 has flouted five security council resolutions. North Korea has been defying council resolutions since 1993.

      “I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map,” he continued, referring to Israel.

      The sharp-tongued French leader even implied that Mr Obama’s resolution 1887 had used up valuable diplomatic energy.

      “If we have courage to impose sanctions together it will lend viability to our commitment to reduce our own weapons and to making a world without nuke weapons,” he said.

      Mr Sarkozy has previously called the US president’s disarmament crusade “naive.”

  • “punishing them with economic sanctions that can be maintained by most of the international community in a manner that hurts the Iranian economy and weakens the hold of the hardliners on the country.”

    You mean like Cuba? or North Korea? or Iraq?

    p.s. China and Russia are not even on board yet. Venezuela and others may sanction bust. There is also a time component – will your sanctions result in a policy change fast enough, and can they be held tight long enough?

    “He cannot start talking trash. President Bush’s problem was that he talked a lot of trash, but couldn’t follow through. Thus he pushed allies away, helped the hardliners in Iran rally the people behind them, and was unable to accomplish his goals.”

    Talking trash, like when Condi said we would negotiate at any time and place provided they stop enriching? Or when we hinted heavily that if they agreed to the E-3 plans we would join up? The E-3 were offering all manner of goodies, and sanctions are already in place….what makes you think adding an extra sanction or two will really be the straw that breaks the camels back?

    Personally, I am resigned to a nuclear Iran or a “ready-to-assemble” nuclear Iran.

    • And don’t forget mainland China until Nixon, Japan in 1940, etc.

    • Perhaps. I read the tea leaves differently than you do, but I may be wrong. I think, though, Iran’s regime is weaker than a lot of people realize. Therein there is still a chance pressure can work. Ultimately, so much right now is still behind the scenes that it is guess work.

      • Typically, Scott, you look at things right in front of you as if they were tea leaves. That’s because you bring a set of pre-judgments that are disconnected from reality to bear on real things, which obscures their reality. So, for you, the things right in front of you are as hidden as the things “behind the scenes.”

  • erb said this: he’s the most intelligent, competent, and respected President we’ve had in a long time.
    Jesus screaming christ. First McQ openly admits it took him 3 years to see what obama is all about and now this idiot erb goes flying way off the opposite side into bozo land.
    WTF is wrong with you people already?
    I sized that rotten punk up in less than a minute and I did the same with bush and clinton. None of those 3 would make it longer than a minute at any decent business conference table anywhere in the US because they simply cannot hold a cohesive conversation, period, and its as clear as day. But there you 2 are, donning your kneepads (erb) and confessing your inability to recognize poor character (mcq).

    • Where in the world did I say “it took [me] 3 years to see what obama is all about”? I said I’ve been listening too him for 3 years and am familiar with his style of speech. If you’re going to go off in a screaming hissy fit, at least be right about what you’re claiming. I know you’ve been reading this blog for more than a day so you know I’ve been on Obama from the beginning.

    • “None of those 3 [Clinton, Bush, Obama] would make it longer than a minute at any decent business conference table anywhere in the US because they simply cannot hold a cohesive conversation, period, and its as clear as day.”

      Well, Bush was a businessman. Although not an especially successful one, he had an MBA from Harvard (perhaps a detriment to his natural skills) and started and ran his own company.

      Also, I’ve never been automatically impressed by the “cohesive conversation[s]” of businessmen, despite my high regard and deep respect for people who start, run, and succeed in business. The nuts and bolts of making a business successful is a matter of stoical determination, which might or might not translate into enlightening conversation at a business conference.

      • P.S.:

        I think that one of the best seminars on business that I’ve ever seen is a program on the Food Channel called “Diners, Drive-in, and Dives” hosted by Guy Fieri.

        At the heart of the successful small businesses he visits, which are often multi-generational family businesses, is a remarkable focus on what I would call the “product formula.” Always in the background of that formula, of course, is the aura of brutally hard work and incessant determination. The key always being to keep both sales and productivity high and to hit your market at price points that keep you going when others fail. There is nothing easy about it, and the people who do it often sacrifice the best part of their lives to it and would do it all over if they had to, such is their dedication.

        That, to me, is the heart of American prosperity.

  • Like Obama, Erb doesn’t care what kind of attention he really gets, so long as he gets it. Hence his constant profound pronouncements of ‘watch and learn’, ‘best whatever’ and other mental diarrhea in regards to Obama.

    Obama thinks his ‘natural charm’ will charm everyone’s socks off. He’s a deluded fool.

    Erb, having no ‘natural charm’ to fall back on in the first place is just a fool.

    Obama’s numbers are headed pretty much where I predicted they would be, in pretty much the time frame I thought they’d go there. Amazing, because I’m not one to make predictions.
    He’s not specifically a little Hitler (yep I said it…use Stalin if it makes you happier), but he has SOOOOOO many allies of that ilk in the House and Senate that it’s going to appear as if he is before this is done. Waxman, Frank, etc, all contribute to the overall effect, and since the canned spam sits at the top of this colossal junk pile he’ll get the inevitable, and well deserved, blame.

    George Washington was once reported to say (paraphrased) that the people don’t always see where things are going, but once they FEEL it, they react.
    The reaction will come in spades if Crap & Trade and Health Care get anywhere near being bills for Presidential signature.

    And THAT’S just the domestic side of the house. When Iran goes nuclear and Israel decides it’s time to take physical preemptive action, Bambi is going to be in a world of hurt. This clown couldn’t even get it right when the Honduran Constitution provided him a clear road map to guide him. He really CAN’T pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel. Try to imagine him attempting the operation when he doesn’t even have plainly written instructions.

  • I have yet to see anything but average intelligence from Obama. His public speaking style is flat, nothing even remotely close to BC or RR.

  • Well, I am relieved. It seems this Iran thing, N. Korea, etc. is nothing very serious, since Obama has enough spare time to go to Denmark and lobby for the Olympics.