Elliot Abrams points to another Obama administration “triumph” in the foreign policy arena. Our policy of “engagement” with Syria. After making all sorts of uniltateral goodwill attempts and gestures (listed by Abrams), we’ve essentially seen Syria thumb it’s nose at us. Abrams asks and answers the question, “when does “engagement” become “appeasement”?
“Engagement” constitutes “appeasement” if it fails to change Syrian conduct, and the failure to change is overlooked while the “engagement” continues and accelerates. This would not just be fooling ourselves but condoning, rewarding, and thereby inducing even more bad conduct by the Assad regime.
Which is precisely what has happened during this year of American engagement.
Apparently “engagement”, at least when it comes to Iran, seems to be headed to the scrap heap of foreign policy ideas. That’s primarily because such a policy requires both sides to be willing to engage, something many experts tried to point out that Iran has never shown any willingness to do in the past. Candidate Obama wanted to point the finger of failure at the previous administration. But his administration has fared no better. Now, it appears, that administration has finally realized confrontation with Iran serves it best:
Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.
“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”
That’s not to say the spin factory in the White House isn’t trying to claim it’s failure to engage Iran isn’t a “success”:
Instead, administration officials say, the biggest benefit of Mr. Obama’s engagement policy now is not dialogue or understanding with adversaries, but simply a defusing of a worldwide view that the United States is part of the problem, a demonstration that the problem is Tehran’s intransigence, not Washington’s pique.
“What the president has achieved is that he has outed Iran,” a senior administration official said Friday. He said Iran, by refusing to respond positively, had exposed itself as uninterested in a better relationship with the United States.
They honestly think any objective person would believe that the 31 year refusal to “engage” with the US and the rest of the world was the US’s fault? Really? A country which took hostages from an embassy and held them for 444 days while calling the US “the Great Satan” was seen as the “good guy” in this? The intransigence isn’t just a product of the last 8 years. It is a product of the last 31 years. No one with any sense has ever considered the problem there a result of “Washington’s pique”.
However, that brings us to how the term “engagement” is now redefined by the White House:
At a news briefing on Thursday, the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, presented this latest metamorphosis of the administration’s thinking: that engagement is not necessarily about the two adversaries, but rather, about the worldview on America.
Of course it is. That was clearly what was meant in Obama’s “unclenched fist” speech, wasn’t it? Apparently the administration’s gameplan is to refuse to admit the failure of its policy and instead just redefine words to fit the present situation. I can’t say that comes as much of a surprise.