Yesterday, TheDC published Part I of our interview with Dinesh D’Souza — the prolific writer, world-class debater, and now president of The King’s College in New York City — who is the author of the new book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.”
In his new tome — which has inspired both passionate debate and vitriolic denunciation — D’Souza suggests that to understand Obama and the policies he is pushing as president, you have to understand the anti-colonial dreams of his father. These same dreams, D’Souza argues, are what motivate Obama today.
In Part II of our interview, D’Souza defends his thesis against what he calls the “single best piece of counter evidence against my theory,” and tells us about the recent conversation he had with his ailing debating partner, Christopher Hitchens:
TheDC: Let’s go to what I think is the most serious allegation in your book. I’ll just read the passage. Speaking about President Obama, you write, “His goal is not success in Afghanistan; rather, it is how quickly he can get America out. His anti-colonial strategy doffs a hat to political reality, but also ensures, win or lose, a prompt pullout from a war he doesn’t want to fight. Moreover, if America and NATO are seen to have ‘lost’ Afghanistan, that would be a good thing, because from the anti-colonial point of view, such a defeat would discourage colonial military expeditions in the future.” Is not the implication of this that Obama has increased American troops in Afghanistan, put them in the harm’s way, knowing that many will die in a mission he hopes they lose in order to discourage future American military expeditions? And if that were actually true, wouldn’t that make Obama not just radical, but evil?
Dinesh D’Souza (DD): No, because I don’t think that he would see his actions that way at all. I think Obama would see his actions this way. My two big pieces of support before I go into this. First, is the interesting comments by General McChrystal about Obama. Namely, I’m not talking about the prudence of telling Rolling Stone all this, because that was insubordinate and the firing of McChrystal was warranted under the circumstances. I’m talking about what McChrystal and his aides actually said. They said, “We presented Obama with what we thought was the counterinsurgency plan, a plan to try to win in a tough situation, and Obama was disengaged, he was uninterested, basically he didn’t care.” Now why would a president not care about his top general’s game plan to win in Afghanistan? Well, the short answer is because he doesn’t want to win! That would be an excellent explanation for why someone is bored or disinterested.
Here’s a second point. I saw Bob Woodward a couple a days ago on television, “Larry King Show,” and he was talking about an incident involving Joe Biden and Obama. Now remember this is the power of a theory, okay, its ability to predict the future. Obviously I haven’t seen Bob Woodward’s book, I know nothing about this, but my theory was predictive, and Woodward confirmed it. Biden basically goes up, this is as Woodward is telling the story, Biden goes to Obama and says, “Hey Obama, if you have a surge, Afghanistan becomes your war. You’re going to have to win and if you lose you’re going to take the blame.” Obama’s reply, very revealing, in effect, “Joe, I don’t see things that way. I don’t define victory and winning and losing the way that traditional politicians do. I am using a different compass altogether. For me, victory isn’t measured by winning in the traditional sense.”
Now, what I’m trying to say is this is exactly what the anti-colonial view would predict. It would predict that Obama would define victory much more in terms of getting us out of there than in terms of having, let’s say, a pro-American democratic government in Afghanistan.
NEXT: Does D’Souza believe Obama would prefer that we lose in Afghanistan?
TheDC: Let me follow up on that. That quotation could show that he conceives victory — and I may disagree with this – but it may show that he conceives victory as trying to create a position from which America could withdraw in what he sees as a responsible way from Afghanistan. But it does not necessarily show that he’s looking to increase troops with the intent that America would ultimately be defeated and would thus be discouraged from fighting such wars in the future.
DD: No, no. Right. But…this reminds you of how Obama would analyze the situation. It’s not that he’s put more troops in harm’s way. Obama’s thinking, “I would rather not do the Afghanistan surge, but during the campaign I did make Afghanistan the good war, the contrast with Iraq, the bad war. Now I’m in a bit of a bind because I want to get out, but politically, I’ve made it my war, and here is my general who is proposing a surge, similar to the surge that worked in Iraq. How do I say no to him? I really can’t. It’s going to make me look really bad. So what do I do? I give him a partial surge and at the same time I announce the pull out. This way, we can try the surge, but the truth of it is, my main goal is to make sure we’re out of there in a year. So in fact I would be really happy if we could get out of there in such a way that we don’t do these kinds of neo-colonial military expeditions in the future. If we quote ‘win’ in the traditional sense, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, then it’s going to increase the appetite of Americans for more neo-colonial adventures.”
So this is a way of analyzing Obama’s motives that don’t impute to him any nefarious motives, that don’t imply that he’s trying to put Americans in harm’s way, simply says he’s bowing the political necessity and his main goal is to get out.
TheDC: But you think he’d prefer it if we lose?
DD: I don’t think he prefers that we lose. I think that to him that getting out is the definition of success and what happens over there is secondary. So in other words, let’s say you offered Obama some choices. We can stay in Afghanistan and stabilize the situation, or we can get out and win, or we can get out and lose. I think he would say, “I’d rather get out and win, but I would prefer to get out and lose to remaining over there because that would be the continuing neocolonial occupation that I don’t want.”
So I’m not saying Obama wants to lose. I’m saying Obama wants to get out. That is his definition of success. What else happens over there, is it a Taliban takeover? Is it a treaty with the Taliban in which a power sharing between [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and the Taliban? I think that to Obama is the second issue. It’s not the priority. The priority is withdrawal.
NEXT: D’Souza responds to what he considers the “single best piece of counter evidence against my theory.”
TheDC: Drone attacks. You can’t say drone attacks are a political necessity. So under your view of Obama, of how Obama views the world, the fact that he has increased drone attacks above the levels of George W. Bush — and he’s even approved the targeting of an American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki hiding in Yemen – doesn’t seem to conform to your thesis. As I said, this is certainly not a political necessity. His leftist base is very upset, especially about the targeting of Awlaki – in fact, I’m not sure anyone was actually demanding this. Isn’t this something that an anti-colonialist would not do?
DD: This is perhaps the single best piece of counter evidence against my theory. And my explanation for it would be to say that Obama has justified those attacks in his mind by making a critical distinction. If he were to think of this as prosecuting a war on terror, then the enemy combatants who are striking against America would in his view be resisters of American imperialism.
Therefore, Obama makes a critical distinction. He says, “This is not a war on terror. We’re not fighting a war on terror. We’re not fighting a war against Islamic radicals. We’re fighting a war against common criminals. These are kind of like, these are the international equivalent of guys who hold up a grocery store or rob a bank. And of course when people do that there are laws and we should have the police go after them.”
So two categories. On the one hand a war in which imperial America is fighting against anti-colonial resisters — that would be a very difficult one for Obama to justify. Obama justifies it by saying, “Okay it’s not that kind of a war. Basically there are international outlaws that are bombing and killing American citizens, they’re violating human rights if you will, and we’re sending cops to get them.” And that is very much the public rhetoric of the Obama administration in replacing the Bush rhetoric on the War on Terror.
So, yes, I think it is a counterargument. I recognize its weight. But I don’t think it overturns the theory. In fact, it’s interesting that Obama has made some important rhetorical maneuvers to allow him to do stuff like that, which take it out of the context of war and make it essentially a police action.
TheDC: Under your anti-colonialist narrative, you write that Obama supports so much spending by the U.S. government in order to burden the United States financially with the goal of hampering American actions abroad and forcing the rich into shouldering an increasing burden of America’s tax bill. But isn’t Obama just supporting policies like the stimulus that Larry Summers and other liberals support and believe, however misguidedly, will ultimately lift America out of its current financial downturn?
DD: I do think there are arguments that go back to the 1930s about how Keynesian stimulus can help produce a recovery. But my point is that Obama’s spending is by no means confined to the $800 billion stimulus or even the bailout but rather massive increases in spending in a lot of other areas – education, health care.
So when you look at the, you know, the $13 trillion debt, and you begin to compute the interest portion of that debt and you look at level of that debt held by the Chinese and the leverage that gives the Chinese over America’s economy. When you see economists say things like, “Well, they can’t ask for the debt because we can’t pay, hahaha,” then you realize that this is a country that has been top dog since World War II, now beginning to sound like a loser.
NEXT: D’Souza talks about his friendship with debating partner Christopher Hitchens
TheDC: But the difference, as I gather from what you wrote in the book, is that Obama supposedly thinks this is a good thing while his advisors believe these polices will end up helping America get out of the precarious economic position we are in.
DD: I don’t think I ever say that he thinks it’s a good thing.
TheDC: Well you do write that he’s in the Oval Office “cheering them on and grinning in triumph.”
DD: Right, he’s cheering these things on, but why? For two reasons. One is I think an anti-colonialist would take special relish in the fact that you’re able to spend like a drunken sailor and stick the rich guys with the tab. It’s kind of like going to a restaurant, eating for free, looking at your enemy across the table and sending him the bill. That is a gleeful moment.
And second, I do think that it does tame American arrogance. I mean, this is something that others have written about including [Brad] DeLong [and Stephen S. Cohen] in the book, “The End of Influence,” which I cite at the end of the chapter. So it is true that a country that loses its economic might is going to be less powerful around the world. So what I’m saying is Obama might think that, hey, that is actually, you might say, a desirable outcome. It’s going to tame American arrogance. But that doesn’t mean he seeks the outcome in that it is going to tame American arrogance. But that doesn’t mean he seeks the outcome. There is a difference in saying, “This outcome is occurring and I can see the benefit of it,” and saying, “I’m trying to make America economically weaker.”
TheDC: Let’s move away from your book for a few final questions. Your debating partner Christopher Hitchens is obviously now suffering from a terrible illness. Have you spoken with him recently?
DD: We’ve spoken, leave emails, and I would say he’s a dear friend of mine. And not only have we done multiple debates but we’re very collegial. We’ll often have drinks or dinner before or after our debates. I’ve known Christopher Hitchens for 25 years. My first debate with him was at Georgetown in the late 1980s, so we have a lot in common that goes beyond our philosophical or theological differences. We both are interested in literature and politics and history. Of course, my heritage is from India and his is from Great Britain — his ancestors weren’t very nice to mine and this is why I’m sometimes not very nice to him when we do our debates. But, no, I’m genuinely fond of him and really hoping that he is able to beat this. And I’ve told him that if he gets back on the stage — we’re scheduled to do a debate in February — that he shouldn’t expect any mercy.
NEXT: D’Souza comments on the brouhaha surrounding Newt Gingrich’s comments about his book
The DC: What do you think about the hostile reaction surrounding the comments Newt Gingrich made pushing your anti-colonial thesis of Obama?
DD: Well, the Gingrich comment was, to me, very gratifying because what he said was that this was a really insightful look at Obama that brings a fresh perspective that he hadn’t seen, a uniquely fresh perspective. And that’s really what I’m trying to contribute.
I’m not saying the other theories about Obama are wrong. I’m simply saying they’re inadequate. I mean, does anybody think that the prevailing theories — A) Obama is a Muslim, B) Obama is not really an American or C) Obama is a socialist — I mean, these are the prevailing theories and they clearly have serious flaws. Now, they’re not flat out wrong, in the sense, that if you take the socialist theory, Obama’s father was in fact an African socialist, but he fitted socialism into a larger framework of anti-colonialism. So I’m saying the anti-colonial idea is a really helpful way to round out the picture on Obama.
TheDC: Before this book came out, your previous two books were religious in nature. Do you expect to write more on religious issues in the coming years, especially now that you’re president of a Christian college, or are you going to focus more on political books like this one?
DD: For the last several years, my goal has been to keep one foot in the, you might say, religious philosophical debate and one foot in the secular cultural and political debate. I do want to point out that none of my books are religious in a sense that they rely on revelation or sacred scripture or the Bible. They address topics of religious significance like, “Is there a God? Is there life after death?” But they address them in a completely secular and rational way.
So in other words, my book which is called, “Life After Death: The Evidence,” is an attempt to discover if there is life after death by looking at near death experiences, looking at the latest findings in modern physics and brain science. In no way is it an effort to say something like, “What does the Bible say about the afterlife?” It is rather an argument on the basis of reason alone. So, yeah, I’m now interested in writing a book on, “Does the presence and magnitude of suffering in the world undermine the argument for the existence of God?” Again, it’s a secular inquiry. It has a long philosophical and historical pedigree and tradition behind it.
But I’m also actively writing in the world of politics as well. I’m giving some thought to what I should write after my book on Obama.
To read Part 1 of the interview, click here.
This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.