American Elephants

Meet Obama’s Straw Man Pals! Quick, Before He Knocks Them Down. by The Elephant's Child


We talk a lot about “straw men,” usually in the case of a speech by President Obama. It’s one of his favorite rhetorical tricks. At Breitbart, Charlie Spiering pointed out five specific straw man arguments from the president’s much disparaged West Point foreign policy speech. Obama presents these positions  as a radical extreme, while carefully placing himself in the middle.

  1. Those who believe America is in decline
    Obama assured cadets that America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world” and those who think differently are just wrong.
  2. Those who warn against foreign entanglements
    Throughout history, foreign policy has fallen into two camps, one wo which were self-described realists who were reluctant to go to war.
    This apparently no longer applies to Obama
  3. Those who want to intervene around the globe
    A different view from interventionists on the left and right, says we ignore these conflicts at our own peril. Obama says “neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment.”
  4. Those who will send troops into war to avoid looking weak
    Obama boldly knocks down this straw man with a swift stroke. :I would betray my duty to you, and to the country we love, if I sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed fixing, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.”
  5. Those who are skeptical of multilateral action
    These straw men think that going to NATO and the UN is futile and a waste of time. Not Obama. “Of course, skeptics often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action. For them working through international institutions, or respecting international law, is a sign of weakness. I think they’re wrong”

The clue to a “straw man” argument is usually “those who”— a nebulous, unidentified and probably non-existent opponent who probably wouldn’t think that anyway. It’s a self-aggrandizing trick for those who find it easier to argue with a straw man than a real person. Unattractive.

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