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Will 2010 Be A Bad Foreign Policy Year For Obama?

I can’t help but think James Carafano is on to something in his comparison with Obama’s rather naive foreign policy with another naive foreign policy –  that of Jimmy Carter. Why does Carafano feel that 2010 may be Obama’s 1978?

Because America’s enemies had taken measure of the man during his first, change-filled year in office. They saw weaknesses they could exploit. In the second year, they made their move.

Carter was a big “soft power” advocate, and believed diplomacy was the be-all and end-all of foreign policy. He was of the opinion the US could essentially negotiate anything. He also felt that the US was too arrogant and needed to humble itself before the world. While those who shared his views welcomed these changes, those who opposed us saw them precisely as Carafano describes it – weakness – and ruthlessly exploited that weakness. His 2nd year in office was a series of foreign policy disasters.

Sadly, warning signs that others will use the administration’s “soft power uber alles” strategy to undermine U.S. interests are already cropping up.

» The Russians are demanding more and more at the strategic-arms negotiating table, while giving their U.S. counterparts less and less.

» Iran and North Korea are running out the clock, sending diplomats into the umpteenth round of talks while their scientists toil feverishly advancing their nuclear and missile programs.

» In Latin America, socialist dictators continue to outmaneuver the White House.

Meanwhile, new al Qaeda-related or -inspired plots appear to be popping up every day. Three in the United States were thwarted last month. A Boston-based plot was thwarted just last week. Turkey uncovered another network the week before that. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is on the march.

And the year is not over yet.

The point about al Qaeda sponsored plots uncovered in the US recently are interesting and have had me wondering since first reading about them why AQ has suddenly decided that now is the right time to again attack the US. Is it a coincidence that they seem to become more emboldened with the change in leadership in the US? No, I don’t think so. I think the fact that three real plots to attack us coincide with a real belief that the US is in a weaker position now than it was last year. I’m coming to believe that al Qaeda’s plans reflect the belief of the world at large that the US is a nation with weaker leadership less likely to strike back if attacked.

Now, that may end up being completely wrong, but in terms of deterrence it appears that the perception of strength and a willingness to go after our enemies should they attack us seems to be waning. And that’s dangerous for all of us.

It’s one thing to modify a foreign policy approach with the addition of more soft power. There’s nothing wrong with soft power per se. But it’s application a) takes a long time to bear fruit and b) as proven by Carter, its application alone or in lieu of the use of hard power when necessary is seen as a sign of weakness, not strength.  What Carter never learned about international politics is it is better to be respected than liked.

International politics is a world of anarchy. And while countries attempt to lay out and abide by rules they all supposedly agree on, in the end they almost always act in their own best interest and blow off the agreements if necessary. For those who line up against us, their best interests are served by a weak US. It allows them to act as they wish, with minimal penalty, to achieve their desired goals. The litany of foreign policy failures under Carter underscore that reality.  They tested the perception of weakness found in the Carter foreign policy and upon realizing its reality, exploited it. What Carafano is attempting to point out is the Obama administration is presently building the same sort of perception of the US that did Carter.

Given that, it certainly not at all a stretch to expect the same sort of attempted exploitation of the US by its enemies that occurred under the Carter administration. Keep an eye on developments in 2010. They may very well bear out Carafano’s thesis.



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17 Responses to Will 2010 Be A Bad Foreign Policy Year For Obama?

  • {chuckle} What balderdash! It could only come from ex-military basket cases who have been permanently scarred by their experience. Otherwise, you would see, McQ, that negotiation is a magical, life-fulfilling process whereby all we have to do is prostrate ourselves before everyone else in the world and admit our sins, and they forgive us and promise never to commit aggression again. Then we call live in peace. Because war is icky and awful. I decree it.

    Jimmy Carter, great and holy man that he was, understood this. But before he could complete his great quest for world peace, he was rudely defeated by the odious Reagan, who started us on our consumerist, debt-laden path and who was so rude he actually stood up to Communists! And the fact that the Soviet Union fell just after Reagan left office is both a sad testament to how much he damaged the world order and a complete coincidence having nothing to do with Reagan’s actions, depending on what we wise leftists need it to be on any given day.

    Don’t worry about Obama. He thinks like me, and he’s doing the right things, and you dense righties just can’t stand it, can you? Your kind of thinking is being pushed aside, now that the Bush regime is over (finally!). Just give Obama a few more months or years or decades and he will have brought a new era of peace to the whole world, and the violent societies in the Middle East will be singing Kumbaya to each other and never threaten us with terrorist actions again. As soon as they destroy Israel, of course. Carter has told us this is necessary.

    With his Christ-like visage and deeply moving oratory, Obama will motivate the leaders of the world to see how America is no longer a threat to any of their aspirations. And they will love him and love us, and don’t start with Sarkozy, just don’t start! I’m a wise leftist with an advanced degree in international relations, and I understand this whole area about a quadrillion times better than you thick righties, especially the ex-military basket cases. LOL!

  • In fairness, “Iran and North Korea are running out the clock” was true throughout the Bush administration as well. They’re more in our face about it, now that we’ve got a president who’ll lick their boots, but it’s not clear to me that the substance has changed a whole hell of a lot.
    Also, we were stopping Al Qaeda plots now and then during the Bush years as well. Whether the number has gone up is a good question, but given the lead time involved in planning plots and investigating and prosecuting them, it’s probably too early to make a judgement about that.
    In general, though, I do agree.

  • The only ‘soft power’ that is effective is the velvet glove covering the iron fist or, as Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick”.

  • AQ has shown that they attack when they think we’re the “weak horse”

  • AQ has shown that they attack when they think we’re the “weak horse”

  • In before Scott Erb (but not Ott Scerb!).

  • Obama has no business experience, except perhaps negotiating his last book deal, as a backdrop for how to make the deal.
    When Reagan went to Reykjavik, he was known as a tough guy on military matters, so when he proposed cuts in nuclear arms, he was trumping Gorbachev’s proposal of a 50 percent strategic-arms cut, which left Gorby gasping for air.
    Obama has removed all nuance from the table, except what his bargaining partners decide should be appropriate.  Any union or management bargainer knows this is business-death.

    • Obama has no business experience, except perhaps negotiating his last book deal, as a backdrop for how to make the deal.

      Correct! He has not business (production) skills and no negotiation skills since his entire background as a “Community Organizer” is based on thuggery.

  • I’m less concerned about a bad foreign policy year for Ovomit but rather one for the USA.

  • Now TAO, with the willing assistance of MiniTru, is turning a weakness into a virtue:

    Obama says he will not rush Afghanistan decision*

    In other words, he’s going to continue to dither and delay and otherwise f*ck around, apparently waiting to see which way the wind blows with regard to the A-stan runoff election, US public polling, the health care takeover debate, Michelle’s mood, etc, etc.  Says our decisive CinC (heaven help us!):

    “I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you [i.e. members of the armed forces] into harm’s way.”

    Well, that’s just great.  Wonderful.  Here’s the problem:


    So, TAO is going to ignore the generals (something which dems criticized Bush) and… do nothing.  He’s apparently going to leave our troops already in A-stan to twist in the wind, attempting to do too much with too little, while he “doesn’t rush” to decide whether or not to reinforce them, get a new strategy, pull out, or whatever else he decides to so.

    Just great.  Just f*cking great.

    And MiniTru plays right along, making his indecision sound like General Eisenhower planning D-Day.

    A more accurate headline:

    Obama continues to put off Afghanistan troop decision

    What are the odds we’ll ever see that in print?



  • I think the soft approach CAN work, but only in certain circumstances. A perfect example would be where the other country also wants to change the relationship – think Quadaffi. Or Iran, if the elections had been fair, and the opposition won, you could see where suddenly some deals could be made. Note also, this can go completely sour, like Iran did, so its not a risk-free strategy.
    However, you also get situations where Evo Morales kicks out the Bush people, loves Obama for 10 minutes, and then kicks his people out too. Maybe these guys don’t need Obama’s help (in fact they need USA to be the bad guy.) So being Mr. Friendly to them does not achieve much.

    • you hit the nail on the head Harun. The worse thing the USA can do to people like Chavez and his ilk is to ignore them. Without the USA as the big boogieman they have to think of another way to placate their people.  AND that also works for out so called allies in Europe. Many an election has been won by people who vowed to “stand up” to America’s bullying.
      That is why Obama’s naive policy has no chance of working.

  • I’ve had a long day and can’t quite get my thoughts together on this, so let me be brief.

    The future cannot be predicted, sometimes even if it is already happening right in front of you. It can be there like a hurricane churning up through the gulf, but your normative viewpoint cannot take in the data and assemble it. The meaning is lost. It will blindside you because you can’t see what you are seeing.

    What do we really know about 9/11?

    Here’s what I know, and what I knew by about 5:00 p.m. that day, from about three miles north of ground zero:

    We got off easy.

    I think that we are in grave danger now, and I hope I’m wrong. I really hope I’m wrong.

    A vast ruse collided with a huge miscalculation by the electorate. Worthwhile sentiments allowed things to stay hidden in plain sight. And a horrible deceitful Democratic Party leadership, with people like Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Charles Schumer and Joe Biden, has America gargling with the dog’s vomit.

    The Civil War was a cleaner, less catastrophic time than this.

  • I think we can stop or undo most of the domestic damage Obama may wreak.
    I believe the real price we will pay for the Obama presidency will be in foreign policy.