The rest here.Given that hypocrisy is an important part of diplomacy, and diplomacy is necessary to foreign policy, allow me to congratulate you on winning a second term.I wish I could also congratulate you on your conduct of international affairs. I do thank you for killing Osama bin Laden. It was a creditable action for which you deserve some of the credit you've been given. Of course the intelligence was gathered, and the mission was undertaken, by men and women who, although they answer to your command, answer to duty first. And it is difficult to imagine any president of the United States who, under the circumstances, wouldn't have ordered the strike against bin Laden. Although there is Jimmy Carter. Thank you for not being Jimmy Carter.But even though it violates the insincere amity that creates a period of calm following national elections, no thank you for the following, and it is only a partial list:• Telling the Taliban to play by the rules or you'll take your ball and go home;• Leaving Iraq in a lurch (and in a hurry);• Watching the EU go down the sink drain and into the Greece trap and wanting to take America along on the trip;• Miscalculating human rights and strategic engagement in the Chinese arithmetic of your China policy;• Being the personification of bad weather during the Arab Spring with your chilly response when you encountered its best aspects and your frozen inaction when you encountered its worst;• Playing with Russian nesting dolls, opening hollow figurine after hollow figurine hoping to find one that doesn't look like Vladimir Putin;• Sitting and doing nothing like a couch potato watching a made-for-TV movie as the Castro and Chávez zombies continue their rampage;• Hugging the door on your date with Israel;• Putting the raw meat of incentives in your pants pocket when you go to scold the pit bulls of Iran and North Korea;But the worst thing that you've done internationally is what you've done domestically. You sent a message to America in your re-election campaign. Therefore you sent a message to the world. The message is that we live in a zero-sum universe.There is a fixed amount of good things. Life is a pizza. If some people have too many slices, other people have to eat the pizza box. You had no answer to Mitt Romney's argument for more pizza parlors baking more pizzas. The solution to our problems, you said, is redistribution of the pizzas we've got—with low-cost, government-subsidized pepperoni somehow materializing as the result of higher taxes on pizza-parlor owners.In this zero-sum universe there is only so much happiness. The idea is that if we wipe the smile off the faces of people with prosperous businesses and successful careers, that will make the rest of us grin.There is only so much money. The people who have money are hogging it. The way for the rest of us to get money is to turn the hogs into bacon.Mr. President, your entire campaign platform was redistribution. Take from the rich and give to the . . . Well, actually, you didn't mention the poor. What you talked and talked about was the middle class, something most well-off Americans consider themselves to be members of. So your plan is to take from the more rich and the more or less rich and give to the less rich, more or less. It is as if Robin Hood stole treasure from the Sheriff of Nottingham and bestowed it on the Deputy Sheriff.But never mind. The evil of zero-sum thinking and redistributive politics has nothing to do with which things are taken or to whom those things are given or what the sum of zero things is supposed to be. The evil lies in denying people the right, the means, and, indeed, the duty to make more things.Or maybe you just find it easier to pursue a political policy of sneaking in America's back door, swiping a laptop, going around to the front door, ringing the bell, and announcing, "Free computer equipment for all school children!"However, domestic politics aren't my first concern here. The question is whether you want to convince the international community that zero-sum is the American premise and redistribution is the logical conclusion.I would argue that the world doesn't need more encouragement to think in zero-sum terms or act in redistributive ways.Western Europe has done such a good job redistributing its assets that the European Union now has a Spanish economy, a Swedish foreign policy, an Italian army, and Irish gigolos.
Monday, December 31, 2012