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Japan Crisis: Obama's Lost Opportunity

Former Ambassador John Bolton called Barack Obama our first post-American president. It’s becoming clear that Obama measures his policies and actions by how they help to diminish America’s stature in the world.

A good example was his cold impersonal statement about Japan on Thursday.

Japan, one of our staunchest allies and closest trading partners, has been devastated by three mega-disasters in a row: earthquake, tsunami, and possible nuclear meltdown. Yet the president’s response is to sign a condolence book, reassure Americans about radiation drifting across the ocean, and approve airlifting supplies and help the way another president might help Bolivia or Bangladesh.

Taking a stand with Japan as our best friends in Asia is not only a moral obligation, but an act of long-term self-interest. Making our military the visible major player in aiding Japan’s recovery, could go a long way to easing the friction with Japan’s political leaders over our air and naval base in Okinawa. It could also help to save our strategic presence in eastern Asia.

Plus, Japan is going to be years rebuilding its infrastructure–including its nuclear industry. There’s going to be a massive influx of capital investment into the country over the next decade. American companies could be in the lead.

Instead, our president’s next trip is to Latin America and Brazil. While the Japanese government is sweating out its worst crisis since World War Two, Barack Obama will be dancing the rumba in Rio.

Brazil, we also note, was one of the countries that didn’t block the U.N. Security Council vote on a no-fly zone over Libya yesterday. Nor did India, the country Obama visited last year. This, it seems, is the new definition of ally in the Obama era: someone who won’t stab America in the back in public.

Later Obama plans to go to Ireland. It’s not clear if he’s planning to kiss the Blarney Stone. He’d better. Once the American people catch on that his interests are not his country’s, he’s going to need all the help he can get.

Arthur Herman is a historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist "Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (Bantam, 2008)," His other books include the Mountbatten Prize–nominated "To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World (HarperCollins, 2005)," the New York Times bestseller "How the Scots Invented the Modern World (Three Rivers Press, 2001)," and many articles on foreign and military policy. He is an AEI visiting scholar. 

Historian Arthur Herman is author "The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization" (Random House 2013).