How do you think the Obama administration has handled the Middle East?
The administration’s policy in the Middle East is in shambles. The reason there is so much confusion is because Obama made the argument that most of the problems in the Middle East started with [George W.] Bush and would end with Bush. He was going to appeal directly to the Muslims and win their affections.
But Obama didn’t realize that they’re not angry about any particular thing we do. They’re angry at who we are and what we represent. To the radical Muslim mind, we are wealthy and prosperous, and we do not deserve it because we are godless and decadent. They have a much more illustrious history, they think, and yet they’re poor and remain in misery. Rather than look inward and examine the reasons why, they find scapegoats: Jews, Israel, the United States, imperialism, and colonialism.
It’s a mess, and I’m afraid that we look weak. What’s on the horizon is probably an Islamic takeover of most of North Africa and Syria. And then Iran will probably get the bomb. There will probably be some kind of war with Israel and Iran, and I don’t know what we’re going to do.
Do you think the Arab Spring revolts accomplished anything meaningful?
There were people within the Arab Spring that were genuinely interested in constitutional government and were pro-Western, but I think they were always a minority.
[The U.S. was] passive. Obama never made a speech saying, “I want to advise everyone that we support constitutional governments, and if we’re going to get rid of these pro-American authoritarians, we want to insist that the opposition is constitutional.” Instead, he said just the opposite. We didn’t really investigate who was against Gadhafi or who was against Mubarak. Now, we’re in sort of an Iranian syndrome, where what gets rid of an authoritarian is worse for the people and worse for us.
How do you think the chaos in the Middle East will change the election, if at all?
Originally, it was thought that, because the Middle East has been in the news, it would distract attention from the dismal economic news and that would help Obama. It has. With the bump that he got from the convention, Obama is still one or two points ahead in swing states.
If it goes on another two weeks and there’s violence and people will say, “Oh my gosh. The president can’t control the events. He doesn’t know how to react to them.” Voters will start to see a common theme here. He can’t handle the economy. He can’t handle foreign policy. Rather than deflect the news, it enhances the news.
How do you respond to students or professors who call the United State’s policy in the Iran and Afghanistan imperialistic?
If they believe it is imperialistic or colonial, they have to ask themselves if it fits the traditional definition. The answer is, we took nobody’s land.
We went in and did what? We took out a dictator. We established a constitutional government. We allowed other foreign countries that were hostile to us to get their oil. We didn’t take any of their land. We gave them a half a trillion dollars of foreign aid in reconstruction. And then we left.
That doesn’t fit the colonial model. You can argue that it wasn’t smart or in our best interests. But you can’t argue that it was imperialistic.
Do you have any advice for Hillsdale students?
Whether they like it or not, the atmosphere in academics here is the exception, not the rule. The values here are very different. I would urge them to go out, after they leave here, and be emissaries. They shouldn’t just find someone, get married, have five kids, and lead the traditional life without thinking that need to convince other people that the Hillsdale model is not only viable but that it used to be the norm.
There has to be a zeal. Students should rediscover what America used to be like. They can make little Hillsdale communities everywhere.
Are you going to come back after next fall?
I had a ten year contract. I came at 50. Now I’m 59. After my ten years, I’m going to have to sit down with the president and talk about it. I like it here. But do I have the time at my age? If I do come back, do I come back for two weeks rather than a whole month?