Obama as foreign policy conservative?

Fareed Zakaria argues that Barack Obama, who has said how he admires the first George Bush’s international policies, is the true realistic conservative when it comes to foreign policy:

Obama rarely speaks in the moralistic tones of the current Bush administration. He doesn’t divide the world into good and evil even when speaking about terrorism. He sees countries and even extremist groups as complex, motivated by power, greed and fear as much as by pure ideology. His interest in diplomacy seems motivated by the sense that one can probe, learn and possibly divide and influence countries and movements precisely because they are not monoliths. When speaking to me about Islamic extremism, for example, he repeatedly emphasized the diversity within the Islamic world, speaking of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Southeast Asians, Shiites and Sunnis, all of whom have their own interests and agendas.

Obama never uses the soaring language of Bush’s freedom agenda, preferring instead to talk about enhancing people’s economic prospects, civil society and—his key word—”dignity.” He rejects Bush’s obsession with elections and political rights, and argues that people’s aspirations are broader and more basic—including food, shelter, jobs. “Once these aspirations are met,” he told The New York Times’s James Traub, “it opens up space for the kind of democratic regimes we want.” This is a view of democratic development that is slow, organic and incremental, usually held by conservatives.

Obama talks admiringly of men like Dean Acheson, George Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr, all of whom were imbued with a sense of the limits of idealism and American power to transform the world. “In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative,” wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in her profile of him for The New Yorker. “There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean. He distrusts abstractions, generalizations, extrapolations, projections. It’s not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good.”

Isn’t this what paleo-conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, believe?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    It seems to me that they are putting too much value on his idea that things should change gradually (a conservative impulse I agree with wholeheartedly). From Obama’s sweeping domestic policy changes, we can deduce that Obama does not really value incremental change – see, for instance, his view on redefining marriage.

    What really strikes me about Obama’s foreign policy is that at the deepest level, he believes people are only bad if they are poor – give them food, shelter, etc and they will be good. This is not a conservative impulse at all, as it denies human responsibility and reduces people to a simple garbage in, garbage out mechanism.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    It seems to me that they are putting too much value on his idea that things should change gradually (a conservative impulse I agree with wholeheartedly). From Obama’s sweeping domestic policy changes, we can deduce that Obama does not really value incremental change – see, for instance, his view on redefining marriage.

    What really strikes me about Obama’s foreign policy is that at the deepest level, he believes people are only bad if they are poor – give them food, shelter, etc and they will be good. This is not a conservative impulse at all, as it denies human responsibility and reduces people to a simple garbage in, garbage out mechanism.

  • Carl Vehse

    Zakaria? Of Newsweek/CNN?!? Check out NewsBusters’ “Zakaria Helps Obama With His Undivided Jerusalem Flip-flop”.

    Also, more credible than any positive claim about Obama’s foreign policy expertise is Little Green Footballs’ discussion in Obama Shunning Foreign Media”, Michelle Malkin’s column, “A cast of hundreds: Who isn’t an Obama foreign policy adviser?!”, and almost anything on NewsBusters, including this Newsbusters’ article that linked to the Obama quote:

    “[T]he objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.”

    And don’t forget your Obama World Tour T-shirt.

  • Carl Vehse

    Zakaria? Of Newsweek/CNN?!? Check out NewsBusters’ “Zakaria Helps Obama With His Undivided Jerusalem Flip-flop”.

    Also, more credible than any positive claim about Obama’s foreign policy expertise is Little Green Footballs’ discussion in Obama Shunning Foreign Media”, Michelle Malkin’s column, “A cast of hundreds: Who isn’t an Obama foreign policy adviser?!”, and almost anything on NewsBusters, including this Newsbusters’ article that linked to the Obama quote:

    “[T]he objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.”

    And don’t forget your Obama World Tour T-shirt.

  • kerner

    Dr. Veith:

    Your last question is based on the assumption that Pat Buchanan is conservative, which I question.

  • kerner

    Dr. Veith:

    Your last question is based on the assumption that Pat Buchanan is conservative, which I question.

  • Carl Vehse

    From a Rasmussen Report, “Belief Growing That Reporters are Trying to Help Obama Win”:

    “These results are consistent with earlier surveys finding that large segments of the population believe the media is biased It is also clear that voters select their news sources in a partisan manner. During Election 2004, CNN viewers heavily favored John Kerry while Fox Fans preferred George W. Bush.”

    “Alex, I’ll take ‘The Obvious’ for $500.”

  • Carl Vehse

    From a Rasmussen Report, “Belief Growing That Reporters are Trying to Help Obama Win”:

    “These results are consistent with earlier surveys finding that large segments of the population believe the media is biased It is also clear that voters select their news sources in a partisan manner. During Election 2004, CNN viewers heavily favored John Kerry while Fox Fans preferred George W. Bush.”

    “Alex, I’ll take ‘The Obvious’ for $500.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Kerner,
    ditto, I question the scruples of anyone who thinks WWII was an unnecessary war.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Kerner,
    ditto, I question the scruples of anyone who thinks WWII was an unnecessary war.

  • Abby

    The liberal Lutheran politics is the reason I left that church. You have turned sharply left and never look side to side to see what is happening in the world. It was very disheartening.

  • Abby

    The liberal Lutheran politics is the reason I left that church. You have turned sharply left and never look side to side to see what is happening in the world. It was very disheartening.


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