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Thought-provoking but flawed
on October 23, 2013
Dinesh D'Souza's "Obama's America" is a good, quick read containing some valuable original research. But I found many of his arguments unconvincing. He works way too hard in defense of his thesis that anti-colonialism lies at the root of Obama's policies - foreign and domestic.
Example: He argues that Obama intervened in Egypt and Libya, but has avoided intervening in Syria and Iran, because he deliberately seeks to undermine US allies in the Middle East. The argument requires us to see Moammar Gadhafi as an "ally," which is a bit problematic to begin with. In any event, there is a simpler explanation for Obama's policies: degree of difficulty. It was easy for him to intervene in Libya, a small country with a minuscule military. It was even easier for him to intervene in Egypt, where the mere threat of cutting off foreign aid was enough to send Mubarak packing. Intervention in Iran and Syria, on the other hand, would be much riskier, since both are relatively large and militarily powerful countries with no dependence on US aid. Obama simply took the easiest course of action. It may not have been the smartest course of action, but to attribute his policy to anti-colonialist motives is a stretch.
Another example of D'Souza's questionable reasoning involves his claim that Obama is seeking to emasculate the US military by reducing our nuclear stockpile to only 300 ICBMs. Leave aside the fact that the Senate would have to ratify any such agreement, which doesn't seem likely. The crux of D'Souza's position is that 300 ICBMs would leave us woefully unprepared, because the combined forces of Russia and China could wipe out all of our land-based missiles in a first strike, leaving us ill-equipped to respond with a counterstrike. This scenario assumes, however, that our land-based missiles would sit passively in their silos even as enemy missiles rained down on them. In reality, US policy would dictate that the land-based missiles be launched as soon as an enemy attack was confirmed. The whole point of such a launch would be to get them out of their silos so they would not be sitting ducks. Of course, it is always possible that the order to launch would not be given, because of communications problems or presidential indecision. But our enemies can hardly afford to assume that this will be the case.
These are just two small issues, but they are indicative of the problems in D'Souza's overall approach. He seems to be the sort of person who fixes on a conclusion and then marshals only the evidence that supports it, while overlooking fairly obvious counter-arguments. And his predictions about Obama's second term - for instance, that the Bush tax cuts would be repealed in their entirety - have not panned out so far.
Even so, the book is well written, briskly paced, and generally enjoyable. And the author did go to the trouble of interviewing a number of original sources for information on Obama's upbringing and intellectual influences. In short, "Obama's America" is worth a read, but it's best taken with a grain of salt.