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Fouad Ajami: Obama and the Eisenhower StandardRoundup: Historians' Take
Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover's Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
On Nov. 6, 1956, Election Day, to be precise, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a brief message to British Prime Minister Anthony Eden: "We have given our whole thought to Hungary and the Middle East. I don't give a damn how the election goes."
Eisenhower could afford that kind of attitude—he was a genuine American hero in World War II, and there was no chance of his losing his bid for a second term to the inconsequential Adlai Stevenson. But the election came, as the historian David Nichols put it, during a "perfect storm." Britain and France had invaded Egypt under the guise of bringing to a halt fighting in the Suez Canal between Egypt and Israel, and the Soviet Union had deemed this the right time to crush a Hungarian bid for freedom.
Ours is a different world. Barack Obama isn't to be held to the Eisenhower standard. Indeed, as a fortunate "off-mic" moment recently revealed, this president bargains with Russian errand boy Dmitry Medvedev over something as trivial as protecting Europe with a missile defense system. I will have more "flexibility," the leader of the Free World says, with my last election behind me.
Thankfully, we don't live in the shadow of a nuclear showdown. But from its very beginning, this presidency has been about the man himself and his personal ambition, and less so his duty to democracy.
So what's to be said of Mr. Obama's foreign-policy accomplishments?..
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