Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hope Without Change? Get Real.

President Obama has downgraded the post-9/11 Bush idea of a freedom agenda in the Moslem world in the hopes that reaching out to despots can result in deals made at the top while the little people under those despots just accept their lot in life.

Funny enough, dark-skinned Moslems who have to live with that policy don't seem to terribly thrilled at that idea despite the novelty of a dark-skinned American president telling them that Moslems should accept that role in our foreign policy.

Now, I count myself as a realist rather than an idealist, despite the simplistic notion the anti-war side tosses about that if you support the Iraq War you must be a "neo-con." Nothing "neo" about me, folks. I had no problem during the Cold War of supporting autocrats who would help us fight our primary enemy, the Soviet Union. I wasn't happy about that tradeoff, but there'd be precious little freedom anywhere had we lost that struggle with communism.

But after we won the Cold War, my reason for accepting the logic of supporting autocrats for a higher goal disappeared. And after 9/11, it became clear to me that the realistic course of action to defeat Islamo-fascism was not to continue supporting autocrats in the Moslem world--the strategy that bred the resentment and desperaton that allowed Islamo-fascism to thrive--but to promote democracy and rule of law in the Moslem world.

Obviously, this doesn't mean that we push allies in the same manner as enemies. Get real, people. We can forcefully or aggressively promote democracy in countries led by enemies. And we can gently prod allied rulers into increasing democracy and rule of law. The tactics may not be consistent--and I don't care. The strategic goal is still the same--freedom and rule of law. Do that and the reason for the pool of support for terrorists declines.

I know that a lot of people expected the mere existence of President Obama with his middle name familiar to the Moslem world would transform our relations (along with some speeches, of course), but that was never realistic. Moslems are not happy to be told by Barack Hussein Obama that they should be happy to live under autocrats who have signed a lovely grand bargain with America, complete with bright red ribbons affixed with fancy wax seals, signed on a live television broadcast, and toasted by the Zakarias and Friedmans of our media-think tank complex.

Freedom still matters to people without it. I guess we've had it so long that we've forgotten its importance.

UPDATE: It is unlikely that President Obama, having thrown the Moslem street under the bus, so to speak, can make those leader-to-despotic leader grand bargains above them that the Left has grown so fond of during the Bush years. Why? Because we are short a leader. The title of the article is pretty damning: "Mort Zuckerman: World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur".

While it is easy to point to specific policies of the Obama administration that are good--and I believe I haven't been shy about pointing them out--the totality of the record has led to the above-quoted assessment. Do read, the entire piece, by all means. And keep it in mind when you read pieces that insist all is well with the Obama foreign policy record. Foreign Policy recently had a piece that I was tempted to comment on, but why bother? Even a dying forest has some living trees, and for the president's most devoted fan, it's all trees and no forest.

Certainly, I'll freely admit that under President Obama we haven't screwed up everything. We're even going to make some progress in some areas. And in cases where we screw up, our power is great enought to make the consequences to us less than fatal and something we can recover from. Take heart that even President Jimmy Carter was capable of learning from experience in his term of office. (Since then, not so much, of course. But he can do far less harm no matter how annoying he has become.)

But until President Obama has his own Carter moment, you can almost hear the president exclaiming, in a visit to one of the hard men of Russia, China, Iran, or Syria, "My! What an interesting window treatment!"

But have no doubt, the overall record of this administration and the thinking that forms their view of the world, less than two years into the age of hope and change, is not promising. And the world is starting to catch on, as Zuckerman writes:

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

"Smart" diplomacy? I think not.