Thursday, April 28, 2011


From the beginning of the Obama presidency, I've lamented his inclination to seek friends among our enemies at the expense of our friends. The former isn't the problem. But when it is attempted by paying the price of the latter, it is a big problem. And we are now reaping what the President sowed by playing it down the middle in the belief he can mediate from Mount Olympus above the fray of mere mortals stuck in their petty squabbles (tip to Instapundit):

Neither the Middle East despots nor the populists think President Obama is a reliable friend. In Afghanistan also he appears to have found a policy that is too robust to please the doves who want out no matter what — yet his hesitancy and announcement of withdrawal dates has not convinced either the Pakistanis or the Taliban that the US will remain until its basic conditions are met. ...

Worst of all, it suggests to people abroad and at home that the way to manipulate this “split the difference”, consensus-seeking President is to raise your demands. If you are going to get something like 50 percent of what you ask for, ask for twice as much as you really want. And with this Presidential style, the squeaking wheel gets the grease. Not surprisingly, all the wheels have begun to squeak.

Here is the paradox we face: The President is a consensus-seeker whose decision making style rewards polarization and a conciliator who loses friends without winning over enemies.

The President has reached out to enemies to see if he can make them our friends. But by stiff-arming our friends to achieve that outreach, he graphically demonstrates to those enemies the worthlessness of our friendship. So our enemies exploit our president's eagerness to talk in order to extract concessions from us while they can without any intention of compromising their core objectives at our (or our stiff-armed friends') expense.

This, my friends, is "smart diplomacy."

Do read all of the article. I don't endorse every line (and much is directed at domestic politics), but Mead writes much to think about.