Obama’s betrayal of our Polish and Czech friends was absolutely disgraceful (removing their missile defenses). His stupidity with his “Polish death camps” remarks shows me that far from being the “smart guy” that Bill O’Reilly loves to always refer to him as, he has at best a pedestrian intellect and at worst, he embraces a left-wing version of the Cold War. I am disappointed that there has been not enough talk about foreign policy (understandably with the lousy economy) this year. As for the Obama administrations concern over Poles staying in America beyond their visas – I wish he would feel the same way about people from Pock-ee-stan overstaying their visas. The last I checked there was no Polish terror plots in the United States that the FBI and Homeland Security uncovered. It is interesting that Romney will be visiting Britain, Poland and ISrael – three nations that Obama has completely dissed and insulted, Britain with the return of the Churchill bust, Poland with the comment on “Polish death camps ” and the removal of U.S. anti-missile systems, and Israel – well the list is a long one.
by George Weigel
Cracow – Well-informed Poles know that, barring some cataclysmic international event between now and November 6, the 2012 U.S. presidential election will be fought and decided on domestic U.S. economic issues. My Polish friends and colleagues understand that high unemployment, sluggish growth, rapidly accumulating federal debt, the overreach of Obamacare, the administration’s embrace of gay marriage, and the Obama assault on religious freedom are of much greater concern to most Americans than foreign policy. Yet those same friends and colleagues are uncomfortable with, even nervous about, a variant of the Carvillian slogan that dominated 1992: “It’s the economy (and the culture), stupid.”
Their concerns are worthy of serious American attention.
Poland’s experience with the Obama administration has not been a happy one. It was bad enough that the administration abruptly cancelled the emplacement of missile-defense components that Poland had agreed to accept in the face of serious Russian pressure. But when the administration announced this betrayal on the 70th anniversary of the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, without even informing the Polish prime minister in a timely manner, it raised a very large question mark in Polish minds about the administration’s strategy, its grasp of the history of east-central Europe, and its understanding of the linkage between the two.
That question mark was transformed into an exclamation point when President Obama made an unimaginably inept reference to “Polish death camps” during a recent White House ceremony awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Jan Karski, a hero of the World War II Polish underground and a longtime professor at Georgetown University. Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski may have accepted Obama’s quick retreat and confession of a misstatement. Beneath the public veneer of reconciliation between the two presidents, however, Poles (including, one suspects, President Komorowski) remain shocked and angered at the ignorance of both Obama and the White House staff, who not only misrepresented the extermination camps of World War II but also seemed not to grasp that millions of Poles died in these Nazi death factories. As one Cracovian policeman said when the subject came up during a conversation three weeks ago: “This is no joke to me. My grandmother died at Auschwitz.”
In between the missile-defense betrayal of September 17, 2009, and the Karski fiasco of May 29, 2012, there was the infamous open-microphone exchange between President Obama and then–Russian president Dmitri Medvedev. Obama’s plea for “understanding” that he had “one last election” to contest before he could, presumably, cave in completely on missile defense was regarded by knowledgeable Poles as a danger signal reminiscent of what their parents and grandparents had heard during the heydays of appeasement.
And, like the earlier gaffe of kowtowing to Russian pressure by canceling the Polish-based missile-defense sites on September 17, the precise date of the Soviet stab-in-the-back that completed Poland’s vivisection in 1939, Obama’s plaintive request to Medvedev (obviously intended for the ears of Medvedev’s master, Vladimir Putin) confirmed Polish fears that, in addition to their ignorance of 20th-century European history, Obama and his foreign-policy counselers adhered to a Left-revisionist view of World War II and the Cold War that elides over the West’s double betrayal of Poland: the Anglo-French failure to attack Germany in September 1939, when the Reich’s western frontier had been largely stripped of armed forces in preparation for the Polish invasion, and the subsequent betrayals of the Tehran and Yalta conferences, which left Poland to the tender mercies of Stalin.
These concerns should not be misconstrued. It’s not as if Poles imagine that U.S. foreign policy today ought to be crafted as expiation for America’s pre–Pearl Harbor isolationism or FDR’s less-than-successful diplomacy with “Uncle Joe” Stalin at Tehran and Yalta. Poles are too smart, too well disposed toward the United States, and too experienced in the hard school of European power politics for that. The serious Polish complaint about the missile-defense betrayal, the open-mike pusillanimity with Medvedev, and the Karski gaffe — the complaint that ought to register in the 2012 campaign and that ought to form part of the Romney critique of Obama’s foreign policy — is that all of this reveals a deep misunderstanding of both European history and contemporary strategic realities in Eastern and Central Europe. That misunderstanding, in turn, seems to feed a policy of appeasing Russian efforts to recover the sway the defunct Soviet Union once exercised in these parts. If this is the famous Russian-policy “reset” that Hillary Clinton announced in 2009 (with a show-and-tell gimmick using the wrong Russian word for “reset”), thoughtful Poles want none of it.
Poland’s nervousness about the 2012 election is an important reminder to Americans that, as important as the economy is, and as crucial as the repudiation of Obama’s assault on civil society is, there is more at stake on November 6 than domestic matters. To borrow from the Marxist vocabulary, the correlation of forces here in Eastern and Central Europe has shifted in the past four years; that shift is due in no small part to the Obama administration’s misreading of the modern history of this region; and that shift is bad news for the future of freedom. What Polish nervousness about 2012 reminds Americans of is that Obama’s foreign-policy fecklessness has to be part of the debate in the next three and a half months — as does a new vision of responsible American leadership in the world.
Read the rest here: The Polish view of the 2012 campaign
Tags: George Weigel