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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