A famous line from the classic TV show I Love Lucy is Ricky’s “Lucy, I think you’ve got some ’splainin’ to do.”
So does President Barack Obama when it comes to his conduct of foreign policy. The nutshell version seems to be: alienate your traditional friends, befriend your enemies, and leave Americans guessing.
Two recent events put this in focus.
Obama is about to embark on what some call a “new apology tour,” which includes stops in Vietnam and Japan. Politico’s senior White House reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere writes about Obama’s “apology” complex: “These trips are deliberate, ordered up by a president whose foreign policy has been shaped by a sense of himself as a catalyst forcing the world to deal with the past in order to deal with the future, according to current and former officials close to the president.”
Obama’s planned May 27 visit to Hiroshima while he’s in Japan for the G-7 summit is the most irksome to me because it is personal.
My father served in the Pacific Theater of Operations as a forward observer in the Army Field Artillery. That military occupational specialty had a high casualty rate. He survived. One of the reasons he did was President Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Operation Downfall, a two-part invasion plan, had been drafted by General George Marshall. It was viewed in the wake of unprecedented American losses on Okinawa, where one third of the invasion force was killed, wounded, or missing. Estimates of losses for just the first part of the planned invasion of Japan ranged from as low as 31,000 for just the first 30 days to a total of about 280,000.
After Marshall formulated his plan, U.S. intelligence intercepted messages indicating the Japanese had substantially increased their invasion defense forces beyond his estimate. One intelligence officer said the new reported invader-defender ratio of 1:1 was “not the recipe for victory.”
It was in this context that Truman made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The top estimates of the resulting death tolls have been placed at 150,000 and 80,000 respectively. Compare this with Marshall’s estimate of 280,000 American lives lost in only the first phase of a land invasion. My father might have been one of those losses, depriving my mother of her husband, and me of my father and my future sister.
Civilian casualties, while to be avoided when possible, were not as big an issue then as today. After all, the United States did firebomb Dresden.
In evaluating Truman’s decision, we should take into account the war crimes of Imperial Japan that preceded the decision, including the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Nanking, the occupation of Korea, and the sexual slavery of Korean women by the Japanese military.
The White House has been trying to keep Obama’s trip to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park under wraps, unwilling to describe his planned remarks. “We said that this is not about issuing an apology,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters. Instead, Rhodes tried to spin the visit as aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
That’s odd, because the nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is likely to create a new nuclear power — Iran — a country that has pledged death to America and the eradication of Israel. Just recently, a senior Iranian military commander boasted that the Islamic Republic could “raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.”
Which brings us back to spinmeister Rhodes and his New York Times blockbuster interview with David Samuels two weeks ago, in which Rhodes bragged that he deceived (lied to) the media and the nation about the negotiations with Iran leading up to the JCPOA. He also claims to have a “mind meld” with Obama.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen put it simply: “In effect, the White House lied. The lie exposes a truth. Obama wanted the deal (almost) no matter what.”
When Rhodes was called before Congress to explain himself, the White House took umbrage. While not specifically invoking executive privilege, he was not allowed to appear because of an alleged intrusion on the “separation of powers.”
This prompted House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Jason Chaffetz to remark, “You have plenty of time, Mr. Rhodes, to go out and talk to all the media friends and talk to the echo chamber that you brag about in The New York Times, but when it comes time to actually answer hard questions under oath, you decide not to do it.”
A significant player in the Jewish community has been named a part of Rhodes’s “echo chamber.” A week ago, Associated Press identified the Ploughshares Fund as a key surrogate in selling the Iran nuclear deal. Unmentioned in the story was that Ploughshares is financed by billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Institute. The AP story revealed that J-Street, the liberal Jewish political action group, which bills itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” received $576,500 to advocate for the deal, while more than $281,000 went to the National Iranian American Council. The amount received by J-Street to promote JCPOA was the largest amount reported by AP and twice as much as received by the Brookings Institution.
You’ve got some ’splainin’ to do.