By John Bolton
May 26, 2016 | 8:47pm
President Barack Obama walks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
An American president’s highest moral, constitutional and political duty is protecting his fellow citizens from foreign threats. Presidents should adhere to our values and the Constitution, and not treat America’s enemies as morally equivalent to us.
If they do, they need not apologize to anyone.
The White House says that Obama won’t apologize as he visits Hiroshima Friday. But who believes his press flacks?
His penchant for apologizing is central to his legacy. He may not often say, “I apologize” explicitly, but his meaning is always clear, especially since he often bends his knee overseas, where he knows the foreign audiences will get his meaning. It is, in fact, Obama’s subtlety that makes his effort to reduce America’s influence in the world so dangerous.
He started in Cairo in 2009, referring to the “fear and anger” that the 9/11 attacks provoked in Americans, saying that, “in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.” He later said, “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions . . . based on fear rather than foresight” — a characterization Americans overwhelmingly reject.
In Europe, saved three times by America in the last century, Obama apologized because “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” And in this hemisphere, Obama said, “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms,” culminating in his recent fawning visits with the Castros in Cuba.
The list goes on and on.
Then there’s his penchant for bowing to foreign leaders. He has bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. He bowed to the emperor of Japan on a previous visit. He has bowed to China’s leader, Xi Jinping. And these are not casual nods of the head, but unmistakable gestures of obeisance.
For those who may wonder, the diplomatic protocol on bowing is clear: Heads of state don’t bow to other heads of state, monarchs or otherwise. Period. And Americans don’t bow to anyone. We fought a revolution to establish that point.
Obama’s apologies and gestures prove yet again, in his words, that he isn’t like those other presidents on our currency. And Friday, in Hiroshima, Obama may prove conclusively that, on national security, he’s no Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman.
Obama’s narcissism, his zeal for photo opportunities with him at the center, whether in Havana or Hiroshima, too often overcomes lesser concerns — like the best interests of the country. He puts his vanity before our nation’s pride.
Even without an express apology, there will likely be moral equivalence like: Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and we bombed Hiroshima. We’re all guilty, but let’s put it behind us.
Obama’s narcissism, his zeal for photo opportunities with him at the center, whether in Havana or Hiroshima, too often overcomes lesser concerns — like the best interests of the country.
Undeniably, World War II is history, and further strengthening the US-Japan alliance profoundly important. But there is no moral equivalence here.
Pearl Harbor was “a date which will live in infamy,” in Roosevelt’s words. Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) came after four years of brutal war and a desperate race against Nazi and Japanese efforts to develop atomic weapons. We won the race, and Truman acted decisively and properly to end the war.
Truman understood that not using the atom bombs would have condemned millions of service members to death or debilitating injury. Japanese resistance grew significantly as US forces neared Japan, and, expecting fanatical Japanese resistance, American military planners repeatedly increased projected US casualties. The calculus could not have been clearer.
Retrospectively, critics argue that Japan was incapable of winning the Pacific war, thereby invalidating any arguments favoring dropping the bomb.
But being unable to win is not equivalent to surrendering in defeat. Truman pursued Roosevelt’s goal of “unconditional surrender” because recreating the prewar status quo, with a belligerent Japanese military again threatening international peace, was simply unacceptable.
Truman wanted to end World War II and save American lives, and also lay the basis for sustained international peace. Before Obama casually trashes Truman’s courageous decision, he should reflect on what the alternative would have been.