Eon's ago, back when I worked at the Pentagon and the dinosaurs roamed the earth, there was a major who worked in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who had a sign on his desk, "The Nixon Doctrine: Walk Stickly and Carry a Big Soft." I thought him to be a bit of a hawk, but the twist on Teddy Roosevelt's slogan has stayed with me.
The central thrust of Barack Obama's foreign policy seems to be a push to be better liked around the world, with the assumption that other countries will then act in a way that is more in line with our view of what is good in the international community. Unfortunately, there is plenty of developing evidence that the leading country in the world needs to have the stick in evidence. (Also, with school starting, it is good to reflect on the wisdom that teachers should not start the year by trying to be friends with the students.) Some examples:
1. North Korea. It is nice to have Al Gore's reporters back home; however, all evidence points to a continuation of efforts to develop and potentially export nuclear weapons, with no US response.
2. Iran. The voices for democratic reform have been silenced with no US response, the campaign offer to "meet without preconditions" has been rejected, and the nuclear program continues apace.
3. Israel/Palestine. The Israeli government has re-invigorated the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territories - a blocking move for any peace process - with no US response.
4. China. China continues its call to establish an international reserve currency to replace the dollar - and now a United Nations Conference has echoed the call, with no US response. (That is, no US response other than expanding trillion dollar deficits as we lose our global financial leadership.)
5. Scotland. With the fig leaf of Scottish independence, the UK government has released a convicted Lockerbie bomber in exchange for commercial considerations, with no US response.
7. Pakistan. The Pakistani government has released nuclear proliferator AQ Khan, with no US response.
8. Afghanistan. For whatever reasons Obama has chosen to make this his war; the only country to offer meaningful military support is the United Kingdom. In the absence of US leadership, France, Germany, and the UK have called for an international conference as a step toward an exit strategy - bypassing the US and NATO.
I am sure that there is a positive benefit of the "charm offensive", but I cannot help but reflect back on Major Reynolds' desk top slogan. Internationally the Community Organizer in Chief has yet to identify any "must succeed" objectives (other than the impossible Afghanistan adventure), and demand the cooperation of our allies.
A year ago, Fareed Zakaria wrote a thoughtful essay in Foreign Affairs titled "Is America in Decline?", which concluded that the US could continue its world leadership role, "but only if it can overcome its political dysfunction and reorient US policy for a world defined by the rise of other powers." That will not happen if being liked takes precedence over being respected.
This week's You Tube is a portion of a speech by a Congresswoman from Los Angeles which explains why the vetting process did not exclude Van Jones from the Obama administration. He has company.
Also, a contribution by a loyal reader in Massachusetts.
Bill Bowen - 9/11/09