Brit complains about U.S. weakness

And I thought Republicans were harsh on the president.  Here is British journalist Nile Gardiner, writing in the London Telegraph:

The débacle of Washington’s handling of the Libya issue is symbolic of a wider problem at the heart of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The fact that it took ten days and at least a thousand dead on the streets of Libya’s cities before President Obama finally mustered the courage to call for Muammar “mad dog” Gaddafi to step down is highly embarrassing for the world’s only superpower, and emblematic of a deer-in-the-headlights approach to world leadership. Washington seems incapable of decisive decision-making on foreign policy at the moment, a far cry from the days when it swept entire regimes from power, and defeated America’s enemies with deep-seated conviction and an unshakeable drive for victory.

Just a few years ago the United States was genuinely feared on the world stage, and dictatorial regimes, strategic adversaries and state sponsors of terror trod carefully in the face of the world’s most powerful nation. Now Washington appears weak, rudderless and frequently confused in its approach. From Tehran to Tripoli, the Obama administration has been pathetically slow to lead, and afraid to condemn acts of state-sponsored repression and violence. When protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the Islamist dictatorship in Iran in 2009, the brutal repression that greeted them was hardly a blip on Barack Obama’s teleprompter screen, barely meriting a response from a largely silent presidency. . . .

It has also become abundantly clear that the Obama team attaches little importance to human rights issues, and in contrast to the previous administration has not pursued a freedom agenda in the Middle East and elsewhere. It places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes, even if they are carrying out gross human rights abuses, in the mistaken belief that appeasement enhances security. This has been the case with Iran, Russia and North Korea for example. This administration has also been all too willing to sacrifice US leadership in deference to supranational institutions such as the United Nations, whose track record in standing up to dictatorships has been virtually non-existent.

via Do tyrants fear America anymore? President Obama’s timid foreign policy is an embarrassment for a global superpower – Telegraph Blogs.

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.

  • Porcell

    It becomes increasingly clear that Pres. OBama is way out of his depth in both national and international affairs. Essentially, he became infatuated with his successful campaign rhetoric and somehow attempts to govern in campaign mode. At the international level the tyrants and rogue states of the world regard him as ineffectual.

    Just recently he announced that Ghadafi should be dealt with by the feckless International Criminal Court, which prompted John Bolton to write an article today in the WSJ, A United Nations Court For Gadhafi?
    Mr. Obama’s embrace of the International Criminal Court is typical of his buck-passing approach to world affairs.
    that sums up as follows:

    Mr. Obama’s ready embrace of the International Criminal Court exemplifies his infatuation with handling threats to international peace and security as though they were simply local street crimes. It also reflects his overall approach to international affairs: a passive, legalistic America, deferring to international bodies, content to be one of 15 Security Council members rather than leading from the front.

  • Porcell

    It becomes increasingly clear that Pres. OBama is way out of his depth in both national and international affairs. Essentially, he became infatuated with his successful campaign rhetoric and somehow attempts to govern in campaign mode. At the international level the tyrants and rogue states of the world regard him as ineffectual.

    Just recently he announced that Ghadafi should be dealt with by the feckless International Criminal Court, which prompted John Bolton to write an article today in the WSJ, A United Nations Court For Gadhafi?
    Mr. Obama’s embrace of the International Criminal Court is typical of his buck-passing approach to world affairs.
    that sums up as follows:

    Mr. Obama’s ready embrace of the International Criminal Court exemplifies his infatuation with handling threats to international peace and security as though they were simply local street crimes. It also reflects his overall approach to international affairs: a passive, legalistic America, deferring to international bodies, content to be one of 15 Security Council members rather than leading from the front.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    eh, maybe less is more.

    The US (not the world) was better off when we didn’t get so involved.

    I disagree with Obama mostly, but I think he has been doing a great job keeping his trap shut and not inflaming passions in Egypt and Libya. Those folks aren’t children. They can take responsibility for themselves. No need for the big dogs to get involved just yet, or ever perhaps.

    Now, it’s true I don’t know jack about foreign relations, so I could be totally wrong.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    eh, maybe less is more.

    The US (not the world) was better off when we didn’t get so involved.

    I disagree with Obama mostly, but I think he has been doing a great job keeping his trap shut and not inflaming passions in Egypt and Libya. Those folks aren’t children. They can take responsibility for themselves. No need for the big dogs to get involved just yet, or ever perhaps.

    Now, it’s true I don’t know jack about foreign relations, so I could be totally wrong.

  • Greg Smith

    It is true that Obama is hopelessly out of his depth in his current position and we will all be paying for it for many years to come. But I have to say that the whiners in Europe need to make up their mind. Which way do they want it? They have spent decades whining about how imperialistic we are and how we are intervening all over the world. Now, when we have a president who is sitting out a world crisis (for whatever reason) they are whining because we are doing nothing.

    Why do people always want it both ways? Or, actually, just the way it is not being done currently? Why don’t the Brits send a carrier to the Med and deal with the issue themselves?

    The real issue, of course, is that the Euros want us to be leftist socialists electing the likes of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. That is, until there is some kind of crisis. Then we need a Reagan and we, by golly, better do something about it.

  • Greg Smith

    It is true that Obama is hopelessly out of his depth in his current position and we will all be paying for it for many years to come. But I have to say that the whiners in Europe need to make up their mind. Which way do they want it? They have spent decades whining about how imperialistic we are and how we are intervening all over the world. Now, when we have a president who is sitting out a world crisis (for whatever reason) they are whining because we are doing nothing.

    Why do people always want it both ways? Or, actually, just the way it is not being done currently? Why don’t the Brits send a carrier to the Med and deal with the issue themselves?

    The real issue, of course, is that the Euros want us to be leftist socialists electing the likes of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. That is, until there is some kind of crisis. Then we need a Reagan and we, by golly, better do something about it.

  • Porcell

    Excellent, Greg.

  • Porcell

    Excellent, Greg.

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

    Yes Greg,
    And there is a deeper problem. We have become to worried about what others think as a nation, to truly lead. I mean I like to know what is going on in the world. I read foreign newspapers from time to time. But it bugs the hell out of me, when our News Crews are going over to France and Britain to poll concerning their opinions of our Elections, and implying to our public that somehow they should take that into consideration when they vote. To what end?
    It has long been a problem though that Western Europe while benefiting from a Militarily Strong United States, with a heavy presence in their backyard, some how began to believe in a utopia that didn’t need a military to protect it. In short, they have been protected from reality, and have become naive.
    Now to be fair, I do not know what this author’s opinion was before Obama on the likes of say, Bush. But then I would rather have someone who doesn’t care what the conservatives or liberals of Europe think about U.S. Foreign Policy, but considers only what the U.S. Stands for and will stand for, and then what is best for its interests, which I do like to think has something to do with spreading freedom, democracy, and protecting human rights. Even if it also considers things like where we get our oil, etc.

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

    Yes Greg,
    And there is a deeper problem. We have become to worried about what others think as a nation, to truly lead. I mean I like to know what is going on in the world. I read foreign newspapers from time to time. But it bugs the hell out of me, when our News Crews are going over to France and Britain to poll concerning their opinions of our Elections, and implying to our public that somehow they should take that into consideration when they vote. To what end?
    It has long been a problem though that Western Europe while benefiting from a Militarily Strong United States, with a heavy presence in their backyard, some how began to believe in a utopia that didn’t need a military to protect it. In short, they have been protected from reality, and have become naive.
    Now to be fair, I do not know what this author’s opinion was before Obama on the likes of say, Bush. But then I would rather have someone who doesn’t care what the conservatives or liberals of Europe think about U.S. Foreign Policy, but considers only what the U.S. Stands for and will stand for, and then what is best for its interests, which I do like to think has something to do with spreading freedom, democracy, and protecting human rights. Even if it also considers things like where we get our oil, etc.

  • DonS

    It has also become abundantly clear that the Obama team attaches little importance to human rights issues, and in contrast to the previous administration has not pursued a freedom agenda in the Middle East and elsewhere. It places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes, even if they are carrying out gross human rights abuses, in the mistaken belief that appeasement enhances security.

    This seems right to me, from what I have observed. And it makes sense. Statists are about the government, not the individual.

    Greg, your comment is right on!

  • DonS

    It has also become abundantly clear that the Obama team attaches little importance to human rights issues, and in contrast to the previous administration has not pursued a freedom agenda in the Middle East and elsewhere. It places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes, even if they are carrying out gross human rights abuses, in the mistaken belief that appeasement enhances security.

    This seems right to me, from what I have observed. And it makes sense. Statists are about the government, not the individual.

    Greg, your comment is right on!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “And I thought Republicans were harsh on the president. Here is British journalist Nile Gardiner …”

    Well, see, Gardiner is pretty much indistinguishable from a Republican, right? He lives in D.C. He works at the Heritage Foundation. He not-infrequently appears on Fox News. He called Dick Cheney “brilliant”. He worked for Giuliani’s Presidential campaign, for cryin’ out loud! In what respect is his opinion about Obama surprising? He’s been carping on him for quite some time!

    Along those lines, Greg, your comment (@3) — “I have to say that the whiners in Europe need to make up their mind. Which way do they want it?” — suggests that you think all Europeans are the same and you cannot distinguish between different factions over there saying different things. Has Gardiner himself ever whined about “how imperialistic we are”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “And I thought Republicans were harsh on the president. Here is British journalist Nile Gardiner …”

    Well, see, Gardiner is pretty much indistinguishable from a Republican, right? He lives in D.C. He works at the Heritage Foundation. He not-infrequently appears on Fox News. He called Dick Cheney “brilliant”. He worked for Giuliani’s Presidential campaign, for cryin’ out loud! In what respect is his opinion about Obama surprising? He’s been carping on him for quite some time!

    Along those lines, Greg, your comment (@3) — “I have to say that the whiners in Europe need to make up their mind. Which way do they want it?” — suggests that you think all Europeans are the same and you cannot distinguish between different factions over there saying different things. Has Gardiner himself ever whined about “how imperialistic we are”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@6), I’m sorry, but in what sense is Gardiner’s claim that the Obama administration “places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes, even if they are carrying out gross human rights abuses, in the mistaken belief that appeasement enhances security” reasonable?

    Does the fact that Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq somehow erase the large number of authoritarian, human-rights-abusing regimes that he — like nearly every American President — buddied up to? Including quite a number of deplorable regimes we were friendly with in order to wage his “War on Terror”?

    Did Bush ever do anything about Mubarak, or did he value him for his stability? Read Matt Latimer’s take on just how tough Bush was with Mubarak, to say nothing of Saudi Arabia. In fact, it seems like Bush might even have been influenced by Mubarak and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan when it came to invading Iraq. Which kind of softens the whole “freedom” agenda a bit.

    To say nothing about our good ol’ ally Uzbekistan. Good ol’ freedom-loving, human-rights-embracing Uzbekistan. And don’t forget cradle-of-democracy Pakistan!

    Anyhow, Gardiner said, “This has been the case with Iran, Russia and North Korea for example.” Which is curious, since no less than two of those examples officially became nuclear powers under Bush’s ever-so-tough not-gonna-engage-the-Axis-of-Evil agenda. So … how’d that work out for us? Might a President be excused for thinking that such tough talk was less productive than the previous approaches?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@6), I’m sorry, but in what sense is Gardiner’s claim that the Obama administration “places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes, even if they are carrying out gross human rights abuses, in the mistaken belief that appeasement enhances security” reasonable?

    Does the fact that Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq somehow erase the large number of authoritarian, human-rights-abusing regimes that he — like nearly every American President — buddied up to? Including quite a number of deplorable regimes we were friendly with in order to wage his “War on Terror”?

    Did Bush ever do anything about Mubarak, or did he value him for his stability? Read Matt Latimer’s take on just how tough Bush was with Mubarak, to say nothing of Saudi Arabia. In fact, it seems like Bush might even have been influenced by Mubarak and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan when it came to invading Iraq. Which kind of softens the whole “freedom” agenda a bit.

    To say nothing about our good ol’ ally Uzbekistan. Good ol’ freedom-loving, human-rights-embracing Uzbekistan. And don’t forget cradle-of-democracy Pakistan!

    Anyhow, Gardiner said, “This has been the case with Iran, Russia and North Korea for example.” Which is curious, since no less than two of those examples officially became nuclear powers under Bush’s ever-so-tough not-gonna-engage-the-Axis-of-Evil agenda. So … how’d that work out for us? Might a President be excused for thinking that such tough talk was less productive than the previous approaches?

  • DonS

    tODD @ 8: I did not endorse the entire article, and I don’t know enough to do so. But, I think the part I quoted is right. I think that it is in part based on Obama’s lack of preparation for the role of president, particularly in foreign relations. He doesn’t know what he is doing, and he has not compensated for his own shortcomings with competent and experienced cabinet officers, as other presidents have done. He is afraid to be bold, and afraid to make a mistake, which is why he thinks engagement with regimes hostile to our interests is more vital than human rights issues. He believes it to be the safer course. But then again, as I said above, I don’t find that those having a statist mentality typically highly value individual rights, so that’s not really surprising.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 8: I did not endorse the entire article, and I don’t know enough to do so. But, I think the part I quoted is right. I think that it is in part based on Obama’s lack of preparation for the role of president, particularly in foreign relations. He doesn’t know what he is doing, and he has not compensated for his own shortcomings with competent and experienced cabinet officers, as other presidents have done. He is afraid to be bold, and afraid to make a mistake, which is why he thinks engagement with regimes hostile to our interests is more vital than human rights issues. He believes it to be the safer course. But then again, as I said above, I don’t find that those having a statist mentality typically highly value individual rights, so that’s not really surprising.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@9), I gave you numerous specific examples of how, in terms of actions (and not mere rhetoric, though even there, Bush was frequently conspicuously quiet), Bush no more showed concern about “human rights issues” than has Obama. They are, in fact, remarkably similar in their tolerance of repressive autocratic regimes in pursuit of regional stability. It’s been America’s approach for some time now. But, of course, you’re using it as a mere partisan hammer to attack Obama.

    In response to that, you merely replied with subjective claims — some of which are obviously mere speculation on your part. So when Bush buddied up to repressive, autocratic regimes, it was because, apparently, he did know what he was doing; it came from his strengths, not his shortcomings; and he wasn’t afraid to boldly cozy up to these repressive autocrats.

    Of course, Bush’s fearless, bold, knowledgeable rhetoric does appear to have given rise to two more nuclear powers among hostile regimes than before his rhetoric, but hey, it was good rhetoric, wasn’t it? So stirring.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@9), I gave you numerous specific examples of how, in terms of actions (and not mere rhetoric, though even there, Bush was frequently conspicuously quiet), Bush no more showed concern about “human rights issues” than has Obama. They are, in fact, remarkably similar in their tolerance of repressive autocratic regimes in pursuit of regional stability. It’s been America’s approach for some time now. But, of course, you’re using it as a mere partisan hammer to attack Obama.

    In response to that, you merely replied with subjective claims — some of which are obviously mere speculation on your part. So when Bush buddied up to repressive, autocratic regimes, it was because, apparently, he did know what he was doing; it came from his strengths, not his shortcomings; and he wasn’t afraid to boldly cozy up to these repressive autocrats.

    Of course, Bush’s fearless, bold, knowledgeable rhetoric does appear to have given rise to two more nuclear powers among hostile regimes than before his rhetoric, but hey, it was good rhetoric, wasn’t it? So stirring.

  • DonS

    tODD, I didn’t say a word about Bush. He is not president. Obama is. I stated my opinion concerning Obama’s handling of foreign policy. When Bush was president, I opined on his foreign policy.

    Why does everything always have to go back to Bush? When is Obama going to stand on his own two feet? And since when is it the rule that an opinion can’t be subjective? I think my comments have validity, as far as they go. I think it is true that Obama took the job of president before he was ready for it — he had far less experience than Sarah Palin even, whom I recall being accused of not being ready to be vice president. And, I think because of his inexperience, he is overly cautious.

    You are, of course, free to disagree.

  • DonS

    tODD, I didn’t say a word about Bush. He is not president. Obama is. I stated my opinion concerning Obama’s handling of foreign policy. When Bush was president, I opined on his foreign policy.

    Why does everything always have to go back to Bush? When is Obama going to stand on his own two feet? And since when is it the rule that an opinion can’t be subjective? I think my comments have validity, as far as they go. I think it is true that Obama took the job of president before he was ready for it — he had far less experience than Sarah Palin even, whom I recall being accused of not being ready to be vice president. And, I think because of his inexperience, he is overly cautious.

    You are, of course, free to disagree.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@11) said, “I didn’t say a word about Bush”, but, of course, he approvingly quoted a paragraph (@6) from the column that refers to “the previous administration”.

    Furthermore, the whole point of the column is to criticize Obama, as if he were somehow unique as a President in ignoring “human rights issues” in countries where it’s convenient to ignore them. Witness the words “just a few years ago”, “now”, and “it has become abundantly clear”. These are indicators of change from previous administrations, even as I have given ample evidence that there has been no change in this area for several administrations.

    Moreover, and I repeat myself, the paragraph you approvingly quoted — “This seems right to me, from what I have observed. And it makes sense.” — cites as two “examples” countries where Bush’s non-engagement strategy with “hostile regimes” had a notably unwanted effect.

    To all that, though, you offer me opinions on whether Obama is “afraid to be bold”. And then, bizarrely, question me with “since when is it the rule that an opinion can’t be subjective?” Um, if, as you note, I am “free to disagree”, then your opinion is subjective.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@11) said, “I didn’t say a word about Bush”, but, of course, he approvingly quoted a paragraph (@6) from the column that refers to “the previous administration”.

    Furthermore, the whole point of the column is to criticize Obama, as if he were somehow unique as a President in ignoring “human rights issues” in countries where it’s convenient to ignore them. Witness the words “just a few years ago”, “now”, and “it has become abundantly clear”. These are indicators of change from previous administrations, even as I have given ample evidence that there has been no change in this area for several administrations.

    Moreover, and I repeat myself, the paragraph you approvingly quoted — “This seems right to me, from what I have observed. And it makes sense.” — cites as two “examples” countries where Bush’s non-engagement strategy with “hostile regimes” had a notably unwanted effect.

    To all that, though, you offer me opinions on whether Obama is “afraid to be bold”. And then, bizarrely, question me with “since when is it the rule that an opinion can’t be subjective?” Um, if, as you note, I am “free to disagree”, then your opinion is subjective.

  • DonS

    tODD, I think you misunderstood my last comment. You say:

    And then, bizarrely, question me with “since when is it the rule that an opinion can’t be subjective?” Um, if, as you note, I am “free to disagree”, then your opinion is subjective.

    To clarify, the point I was trying to make was that opinions ARE subjective, by nature, so it was odd that you were questioning the subjectivity of mine. If you understood that point, I don’t think you would have used the incongruous “bizarrely” or made the “Um” comment, which implies that you thought I was saying opinions can’t be subjective.

  • DonS

    tODD, I think you misunderstood my last comment. You say:

    And then, bizarrely, question me with “since when is it the rule that an opinion can’t be subjective?” Um, if, as you note, I am “free to disagree”, then your opinion is subjective.

    To clarify, the point I was trying to make was that opinions ARE subjective, by nature, so it was odd that you were questioning the subjectivity of mine. If you understood that point, I don’t think you would have used the incongruous “bizarrely” or made the “Um” comment, which implies that you thought I was saying opinions can’t be subjective.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@13), I really don’t understand how your “since when” sentence can be read in the way you say it should, but I’ll trust that that’s how it should be read.

    That doesn’t change my criticism, which was not “questioning the subjectivity of” your opinions, but questioning why you thought your subjective — and, as I noted, in some cases unprovable (“afraid to be bold”) — opinions was in any way a rebuttal to the numerous specific, objective cases I cited that were contrary to the paragraph you approvingly quoted.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@13), I really don’t understand how your “since when” sentence can be read in the way you say it should, but I’ll trust that that’s how it should be read.

    That doesn’t change my criticism, which was not “questioning the subjectivity of” your opinions, but questioning why you thought your subjective — and, as I noted, in some cases unprovable (“afraid to be bold”) — opinions was in any way a rebuttal to the numerous specific, objective cases I cited that were contrary to the paragraph you approvingly quoted.

  • Porcell

    Don, I would pay little attention to a polemically ad hominem criticism of the British writer Nile Gardiner’s article in the London Telegraph. Gardiner’s article tells some hard truths about Obama. Your critic, so far, hasn’t, so far, addressed any of the issues that Gardiner raised.

  • Porcell

    Don, I would pay little attention to a polemically ad hominem criticism of the British writer Nile Gardiner’s article in the London Telegraph. Gardiner’s article tells some hard truths about Obama. Your critic, so far, hasn’t, so far, addressed any of the issues that Gardiner raised.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Really, Porcell (@15), I think Don is capable of replying to me on his own, without requiring any cheerleading. If you have something to say in reply to me, please offer it. You can even use my chosen handle, without resorting to such indirect cutenesses as “your critic”.

    But as it is, merely lobbing the charge of “polemically ad hominem criticism” at me, without addressing the points I’ve made — even as you complain, somehow, that I haven’t “addressed any of the issues that Gardiner raised” — rings more than a wee bit hollow.

    I mean, at least try to follow the points I’m making before you dismiss them, won’t you?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Really, Porcell (@15), I think Don is capable of replying to me on his own, without requiring any cheerleading. If you have something to say in reply to me, please offer it. You can even use my chosen handle, without resorting to such indirect cutenesses as “your critic”.

    But as it is, merely lobbing the charge of “polemically ad hominem criticism” at me, without addressing the points I’ve made — even as you complain, somehow, that I haven’t “addressed any of the issues that Gardiner raised” — rings more than a wee bit hollow.

    I mean, at least try to follow the points I’m making before you dismiss them, won’t you?

  • DonS

    Hmmm. OK, let me start over again. It was not my intention to either endorse or not endorse the referenced article in toto. I just thought that particular passage was a nice summary of my own observation of Obama’s foreign policy so far. It is not necessarily my intention to say “Bush good” and “Obama bad”. Bush is irrelevant at this point, except as a historical figure. But, these are my observations:

    a) Obama was unprepared to be president. He had virtually no executive experience and precious little experience in national politics prior to beginning his run for president. He’s a smart guy, but he’s learning on the job. When you are the leader of the free world, during an international crisis, that is a tough role.

    b) Obama has a very strong ego, and also a fair amount of insecurity. This combination is causing him to be very cautious about how to respond in these crises. He doesn’t want to make a mistake, and he doesn’t want to look bad. He is keenly aware that many critics are waiting in the wings, both domestic and international. As a result, he is not showing much leadership to the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a very different thing than the world is used to. Engagement with historic enemies is a preferred tactic for him, because it is safer and offers the best hope, in his mind, of avoiding a disastrous blowup.

    c) Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and thus has his doubts that he SHOULD be leading the world. He wants the international community to fill that role. Of course, the problem with that is that the international community is entirely dysfunctional. This factor also supports his notion to engage hostile regimes — he doesn’t feel that we are necessarily less evil than they are. His foreign policy tends to be equivocal.

    d) Obama is a statist. I have not seen him to have much of a focus on human rights in general, and I wouldn’t expect his foreign policy to be motivated by such things.

  • DonS

    Hmmm. OK, let me start over again. It was not my intention to either endorse or not endorse the referenced article in toto. I just thought that particular passage was a nice summary of my own observation of Obama’s foreign policy so far. It is not necessarily my intention to say “Bush good” and “Obama bad”. Bush is irrelevant at this point, except as a historical figure. But, these are my observations:

    a) Obama was unprepared to be president. He had virtually no executive experience and precious little experience in national politics prior to beginning his run for president. He’s a smart guy, but he’s learning on the job. When you are the leader of the free world, during an international crisis, that is a tough role.

    b) Obama has a very strong ego, and also a fair amount of insecurity. This combination is causing him to be very cautious about how to respond in these crises. He doesn’t want to make a mistake, and he doesn’t want to look bad. He is keenly aware that many critics are waiting in the wings, both domestic and international. As a result, he is not showing much leadership to the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a very different thing than the world is used to. Engagement with historic enemies is a preferred tactic for him, because it is safer and offers the best hope, in his mind, of avoiding a disastrous blowup.

    c) Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and thus has his doubts that he SHOULD be leading the world. He wants the international community to fill that role. Of course, the problem with that is that the international community is entirely dysfunctional. This factor also supports his notion to engage hostile regimes — he doesn’t feel that we are necessarily less evil than they are. His foreign policy tends to be equivocal.

    d) Obama is a statist. I have not seen him to have much of a focus on human rights in general, and I wouldn’t expect his foreign policy to be motivated by such things.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS, again, there isn’t much that I could say in response to most of your points (@17) — even if I were so inclined — as they are your opinions. I could say “nuh-uh!”, but I’d have to care enough to do so.

    Still, I am interested/baffled by your last statement, that Obama doesn’t “have much of a focus on human rights in general, and I wouldn’t expect his foreign policy to be motivated by such things.” Again, there is an implied comparison there to other administrations, so I must ask: what recent Presidents have had a significant “focus on human rights”, with a corresponding foreign policy, in your opinion?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS, again, there isn’t much that I could say in response to most of your points (@17) — even if I were so inclined — as they are your opinions. I could say “nuh-uh!”, but I’d have to care enough to do so.

    Still, I am interested/baffled by your last statement, that Obama doesn’t “have much of a focus on human rights in general, and I wouldn’t expect his foreign policy to be motivated by such things.” Again, there is an implied comparison there to other administrations, so I must ask: what recent Presidents have had a significant “focus on human rights”, with a corresponding foreign policy, in your opinion?

  • DonS

    As a matter of interest, here is a column by liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, also noting the passivity of the President, both in foreign and domestic matters: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/03/02/a_wheres_waldo_presidency_109086.html

    tODD @ 18: Yeah, I think we are dealing with opinion here, so there you go. As far as human rights go, I believe statists are generally anti-human rights. Sometimes they speak in human rights language, but their actions belie their true interests. For example, U.S. Democrats claim to be for democracy and the sanctity of the principle of “one man, one vote”. But in reality, they tend to thwart that goal by refusing even simple common sense measures to ensure that the vote is not compromised by fraud and manipulation. Same-day registration, refusal to support photo I.D. requirements for voters, refusal to take sufficient measures or even follow the law to ensure that military votes are counted, refusal to allow voter registration rolls to be purged when voters have been inactive for more than a predetermined number of elections — these kinds of things chip away at our assurance that elections are run fairly and are not compromised by corrupt officials or groups.

    It’s not an accident that the Bill of Rights was added to our Constitution immediately, at the insistence of many of the Founders. As a shorthand, the Bill of Rights is referenced as granting certain rights to the citizens and the states. But really, what it does is guarantee protection of rights we the citizens already possess from infringement BY the federal government. Its function is really to protect us from our government (now including, thanks to the 14th Amendment, state and local governments as well). Why? Because it is government that is the biggest threat to our liberties, due to the fact that it must act coercively, and without flexibility. This is why I say that a statist CANNOT be a true supporter of human rights.

    Like I said, this is my opinion. If you disagree, you may certainly identify Obama’s human rights initiatives, particularly in his foreign policy. I just haven’t seen them, myself.

  • DonS

    As a matter of interest, here is a column by liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, also noting the passivity of the President, both in foreign and domestic matters: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/03/02/a_wheres_waldo_presidency_109086.html

    tODD @ 18: Yeah, I think we are dealing with opinion here, so there you go. As far as human rights go, I believe statists are generally anti-human rights. Sometimes they speak in human rights language, but their actions belie their true interests. For example, U.S. Democrats claim to be for democracy and the sanctity of the principle of “one man, one vote”. But in reality, they tend to thwart that goal by refusing even simple common sense measures to ensure that the vote is not compromised by fraud and manipulation. Same-day registration, refusal to support photo I.D. requirements for voters, refusal to take sufficient measures or even follow the law to ensure that military votes are counted, refusal to allow voter registration rolls to be purged when voters have been inactive for more than a predetermined number of elections — these kinds of things chip away at our assurance that elections are run fairly and are not compromised by corrupt officials or groups.

    It’s not an accident that the Bill of Rights was added to our Constitution immediately, at the insistence of many of the Founders. As a shorthand, the Bill of Rights is referenced as granting certain rights to the citizens and the states. But really, what it does is guarantee protection of rights we the citizens already possess from infringement BY the federal government. Its function is really to protect us from our government (now including, thanks to the 14th Amendment, state and local governments as well). Why? Because it is government that is the biggest threat to our liberties, due to the fact that it must act coercively, and without flexibility. This is why I say that a statist CANNOT be a true supporter of human rights.

    Like I said, this is my opinion. If you disagree, you may certainly identify Obama’s human rights initiatives, particularly in his foreign policy. I just haven’t seen them, myself.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@19), you replied to me, but did not answer my one question.

    Again, what recent Presidents have had a significant “focus on human rights”, with a corresponding foreign policy, in your opinion?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@19), you replied to me, but did not answer my one question.

    Again, what recent Presidents have had a significant “focus on human rights”, with a corresponding foreign policy, in your opinion?

  • DonS

    Yes, tODD. I didn’t answer that question on purpose. I didn’t want to get into a debate about presidents. Only our current one matters right now. I don’t think any president conducts his foreign policy solely with a view toward the human rights of foreign nationals. He has to have his own country’s interests as his priority. He was elected to represent us, American citizens, not foreign nationals.

    I think you want me to say that President Bush had a significant focus on human rights in his Iraq policy, because he stated it was a goal to institute a democracy there, and he did so. And I suspect that is because you want to make a point that it was really about oil, and if it was just about human rights, why didn’t we do more in non-oil countries, in Africa, for example? Or why did he support other non-democratic leaders like the Saudi Arabian royal family, Mubarak, Musharraf in Pakistan, etc? Good questions, all. I think the answer is what I said above — the priority of a good president, primarily, should be to act in the national interests of the U.S., and not to dissipate the nation’s resources on feel-good missions that don’t significantly advance those interests. Sometimes, to advance our national interests, strategic alliances with despots are necessary. It’s dirty business, but it’s fact.

    Again, though, the focus should be on Obama, not historical figures. Prior presidents didn’t necessarily do things right, and each brings his own imprint and emphasis into his foreign policy. My criticism of Obama is measured. Overall, he has done an OK job, especially given his inexperience and political philosophies, as well as a really lame and almost invisible Secretary of State. In other words, he has well exceeded my expectations. For what it’s worth.

  • DonS

    Yes, tODD. I didn’t answer that question on purpose. I didn’t want to get into a debate about presidents. Only our current one matters right now. I don’t think any president conducts his foreign policy solely with a view toward the human rights of foreign nationals. He has to have his own country’s interests as his priority. He was elected to represent us, American citizens, not foreign nationals.

    I think you want me to say that President Bush had a significant focus on human rights in his Iraq policy, because he stated it was a goal to institute a democracy there, and he did so. And I suspect that is because you want to make a point that it was really about oil, and if it was just about human rights, why didn’t we do more in non-oil countries, in Africa, for example? Or why did he support other non-democratic leaders like the Saudi Arabian royal family, Mubarak, Musharraf in Pakistan, etc? Good questions, all. I think the answer is what I said above — the priority of a good president, primarily, should be to act in the national interests of the U.S., and not to dissipate the nation’s resources on feel-good missions that don’t significantly advance those interests. Sometimes, to advance our national interests, strategic alliances with despots are necessary. It’s dirty business, but it’s fact.

    Again, though, the focus should be on Obama, not historical figures. Prior presidents didn’t necessarily do things right, and each brings his own imprint and emphasis into his foreign policy. My criticism of Obama is measured. Overall, he has done an OK job, especially given his inexperience and political philosophies, as well as a really lame and almost invisible Secretary of State. In other words, he has well exceeded my expectations. For what it’s worth.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@21), it’s clear that you only want to talk about Obama now, but in what way could you reasonably argue that “Only our current [President] matters right now”? So … history is pointless, then? Who cares what happened before, and what we may learn about it? Those who cannot remember the past are probably better off?

    Honestly, your refusal to compare Obama to any other President — or, it would seem, to learn from the actions of past Presidents, now that Obama is in power — beggars belief. I’m willing to bet, were I so inclined, that just a wee bit of Internet research would turn up no small amount of your discussing Presidents that were not in office! Need I back that statement up?

    Regardless, to make the criticisms you are making is, implicitly, to compare Obama to past Presidents for whom you did not offer the same criticisms. Since you apparently are only laser-focused on the President in office, never his predecessors, that would include George W. Bush, as we did not engage in discussion when Clinton was in office (the only time you would ever discuss Clinton, of course).

    I do not ever remember you similarly criticizing Bush for lacking a “focus on human rights”, in his foreign policy or otherwise. This leads to one of two distinct conclusions. Either you believe that Bush truly did care more about human rights than did Obama, and this was shown in his foreign policy, or you don’t actually so much care about Presidents, foreign policy, and human rights in general as you do in criticizing Obama right now.

    Much as your last comment offers (exceedingly faint) praise for Obama (“has well exceeded my expectations”), it also supports the latter conclusion, with such statements as

    The priority of a good president, primarily, should be to act in the national interests of the U.S., and not to dissipate the nation’s resources on feel-good missions that don’t significantly advance those interests. Sometimes, to advance our national interests, strategic alliances with despots are necessary. It’s dirty business, but it’s fact.

    Of course, you repeatedly tie this criticism of Obama to his being a “statist”. Again, it would be helpful to know, via historical comparisons, what you mean by that word — is he significantly more of a statist than every recent predecessor? Certainly, one could argue that Bush was also a statist — more than a few disappointed conservatives threw him under the bus towards the end of his term, denouncing his lack of conservative bona fides. He certainly had a statist approach to national security — and, towards the end of his administration, towards the economy, as well.

    Now, certainly, you did criticize Bush in some measure — though, not that I remember, according to his statist national security measures, which, as I recall, you supported. But, again, I don’t recall you ever tying Bush’s statist mentality to your concern for his treatment of human rights.

    So, Don, why is that? Was Bush a human-rights paragon, above criticism? Or is human rights really not the issue here?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@21), it’s clear that you only want to talk about Obama now, but in what way could you reasonably argue that “Only our current [President] matters right now”? So … history is pointless, then? Who cares what happened before, and what we may learn about it? Those who cannot remember the past are probably better off?

    Honestly, your refusal to compare Obama to any other President — or, it would seem, to learn from the actions of past Presidents, now that Obama is in power — beggars belief. I’m willing to bet, were I so inclined, that just a wee bit of Internet research would turn up no small amount of your discussing Presidents that were not in office! Need I back that statement up?

    Regardless, to make the criticisms you are making is, implicitly, to compare Obama to past Presidents for whom you did not offer the same criticisms. Since you apparently are only laser-focused on the President in office, never his predecessors, that would include George W. Bush, as we did not engage in discussion when Clinton was in office (the only time you would ever discuss Clinton, of course).

    I do not ever remember you similarly criticizing Bush for lacking a “focus on human rights”, in his foreign policy or otherwise. This leads to one of two distinct conclusions. Either you believe that Bush truly did care more about human rights than did Obama, and this was shown in his foreign policy, or you don’t actually so much care about Presidents, foreign policy, and human rights in general as you do in criticizing Obama right now.

    Much as your last comment offers (exceedingly faint) praise for Obama (“has well exceeded my expectations”), it also supports the latter conclusion, with such statements as

    The priority of a good president, primarily, should be to act in the national interests of the U.S., and not to dissipate the nation’s resources on feel-good missions that don’t significantly advance those interests. Sometimes, to advance our national interests, strategic alliances with despots are necessary. It’s dirty business, but it’s fact.

    Of course, you repeatedly tie this criticism of Obama to his being a “statist”. Again, it would be helpful to know, via historical comparisons, what you mean by that word — is he significantly more of a statist than every recent predecessor? Certainly, one could argue that Bush was also a statist — more than a few disappointed conservatives threw him under the bus towards the end of his term, denouncing his lack of conservative bona fides. He certainly had a statist approach to national security — and, towards the end of his administration, towards the economy, as well.

    Now, certainly, you did criticize Bush in some measure — though, not that I remember, according to his statist national security measures, which, as I recall, you supported. But, again, I don’t recall you ever tying Bush’s statist mentality to your concern for his treatment of human rights.

    So, Don, why is that? Was Bush a human-rights paragon, above criticism? Or is human rights really not the issue here?

  • Porcell

    Don, you’re right that this thread is not really about Bush; it’s about Obama. Your feckless critic has yet to say a word that refutes Nile Gardiner’s point that Obama appears weak, rudderless and frequently confused in his approach from Tehran to Tripoli.

  • Porcell

    Don, you’re right that this thread is not really about Bush; it’s about Obama. Your feckless critic has yet to say a word that refutes Nile Gardiner’s point that Obama appears weak, rudderless and frequently confused in his approach from Tehran to Tripoli.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@23), seriously, if you want to join in the conversation, then actually read what arguments are and aren’t being made and enjoin them.

    But there is no value in your taking weak potshots from the sidelines while you wave your pom-poms.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@23), seriously, if you want to join in the conversation, then actually read what arguments are and aren’t being made and enjoin them.

    But there is no value in your taking weak potshots from the sidelines while you wave your pom-poms.

  • DonS

    tODD — well, it’s obvious that YOU want to talk about Bush, anyway. I am not averse to discussing history, but I felt like this thread was about Obama, and his response to current foreign crises, so that is what I wanted to focus on.

    So, let’s talk about Reagan. I don’t think President Obama would have the guts to stand before the Berlin Wall and challenge Mr. Gorbachev to tear it down! In the name of human rights.

    I also don’t think he would involve the U.S. militarily in Bosnia — in the name of human rights, as President Clinton did.

    So, these two comparisons both support my conclusion that Obama isn’t particularly interested in human rights.

    Maybe it’s time now to hear your point of view.

  • DonS

    tODD — well, it’s obvious that YOU want to talk about Bush, anyway. I am not averse to discussing history, but I felt like this thread was about Obama, and his response to current foreign crises, so that is what I wanted to focus on.

    So, let’s talk about Reagan. I don’t think President Obama would have the guts to stand before the Berlin Wall and challenge Mr. Gorbachev to tear it down! In the name of human rights.

    I also don’t think he would involve the U.S. militarily in Bosnia — in the name of human rights, as President Clinton did.

    So, these two comparisons both support my conclusion that Obama isn’t particularly interested in human rights.

    Maybe it’s time now to hear your point of view.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@25) said, “tODD — well, it’s obvious that YOU want to talk about Bush, anyway.” Not as such. I’m happy to talk about your criterion in light of all recent Presidents (through, say, Reagan — before which I have no personal memory and must rely on books), as I feel I have made clear.

    “I am not averse to discussing history, but I felt like this thread was about Obama.” Actually, until your most recent comment, you had communicated the opposite idea — namely, that you were averse to discussing history. I will now accept that the floor is open for comparisons to past administrations. That said, the quote that Veith provided made it explicitly clear that this discussion about Obama was taking place in contrast to Bush’s presidency:

    … a far cry from the days when it swept entire regimes from power …

    Just a few years ago …

    Now Washington appears weak …

    … in contrast to the previous administration …

    [The Obama team] places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes …

    To accuse me of being the one introducing Bush into this discussion would appear quite disingenuous. Of course, conversations here do meander, as I’m quite sure you’re aware (and even occasionally approve of), but even if we are to adhere to some oddly strict notion of what we can and cannot talk about, you have to agree that Bush was on the table from the get-go.

    That said, it in no way bolsters your case to offer me guesses as to what Obama might have done in previous Presidents’ shoes. You don’t actually know, and all you’re really doing is, once again, telling me your opinion of Obama. Which is fairly established at this point.

    What’s more, I’m a bit surprised to see you approving of Clinton’s involving us in Bosnia — something that the average “conservative” at the time was highly critical of. Am I understanding your position correctly?

    Anyhow, I still think you’re completely ignoring the reality of the approach taken by all recent Presidents by which human rights issues are almost always ignored unless they serve as a convenient pretext for action.

    For instance, while you laud Reagan’s Berlin Wall speech (“In the name of human rights”), you ignore his support for repressive autocratic (but anti-communist) regimes all over the world.

    My “point of view” is simply that: that Obama is not appreciably different from any modern President in not truly caring about human rights — or, at the very least, utterly failing to consistently act on such a concern via foreign policy. And you go so far as to laud this indifference in general (@21). And then you turn around and criticize Obama for it.

    As such, all I really get from your comments here is that you don’t like Obama much (which I get), and that as such, you’ll criticize him for a standard that you hold no other recent President to.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@25) said, “tODD — well, it’s obvious that YOU want to talk about Bush, anyway.” Not as such. I’m happy to talk about your criterion in light of all recent Presidents (through, say, Reagan — before which I have no personal memory and must rely on books), as I feel I have made clear.

    “I am not averse to discussing history, but I felt like this thread was about Obama.” Actually, until your most recent comment, you had communicated the opposite idea — namely, that you were averse to discussing history. I will now accept that the floor is open for comparisons to past administrations. That said, the quote that Veith provided made it explicitly clear that this discussion about Obama was taking place in contrast to Bush’s presidency:

    … a far cry from the days when it swept entire regimes from power …

    Just a few years ago …

    Now Washington appears weak …

    … in contrast to the previous administration …

    [The Obama team] places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes …

    To accuse me of being the one introducing Bush into this discussion would appear quite disingenuous. Of course, conversations here do meander, as I’m quite sure you’re aware (and even occasionally approve of), but even if we are to adhere to some oddly strict notion of what we can and cannot talk about, you have to agree that Bush was on the table from the get-go.

    That said, it in no way bolsters your case to offer me guesses as to what Obama might have done in previous Presidents’ shoes. You don’t actually know, and all you’re really doing is, once again, telling me your opinion of Obama. Which is fairly established at this point.

    What’s more, I’m a bit surprised to see you approving of Clinton’s involving us in Bosnia — something that the average “conservative” at the time was highly critical of. Am I understanding your position correctly?

    Anyhow, I still think you’re completely ignoring the reality of the approach taken by all recent Presidents by which human rights issues are almost always ignored unless they serve as a convenient pretext for action.

    For instance, while you laud Reagan’s Berlin Wall speech (“In the name of human rights”), you ignore his support for repressive autocratic (but anti-communist) regimes all over the world.

    My “point of view” is simply that: that Obama is not appreciably different from any modern President in not truly caring about human rights — or, at the very least, utterly failing to consistently act on such a concern via foreign policy. And you go so far as to laud this indifference in general (@21). And then you turn around and criticize Obama for it.

    As such, all I really get from your comments here is that you don’t like Obama much (which I get), and that as such, you’ll criticize him for a standard that you hold no other recent President to.

  • DonS

    tODD: I don’t like Obama much. That is true, and well established on this blog and elsewhere. You don’t like Bush much. That is also well established, at least on this blog, and I suspect elsewhere. And how much you like or dislike someone (or at least their politics) also colors the way you view their actions.

    For example, you regard Bush’s claim that one of the reasons he invaded Iraq was to advance democracy to that country as belied by the fact that he didn’t do that everywhere that undemocratic regimes exist. You also wonder about the sincerity of Reagan’s challenge to “tear down this wall” in view of his support for other autocratic regimes. On the other hand, I believe both of these men believed what they said and did in promoting American exceptionalism and in promoting the advance of democracy throughout the world. In particular, Paul Wolfowitz, a member of Bush’s cabinet and influential in the decision to invade Iraq, is a true believer in the U.S. role in advancing democracy throughout the world, according to biographers of all political persuasions. So, I have no reason to judge the hearts of either Bush or Reagan on the matter, and to determine that they were being untruthful or insincere in their statements or actions. And they both took bold action in the name of human rights, at least at some point during their respective administrations.

    Bush also has been acknowledged, by humanitarians of all political stripes, for taking a great interest in the human condition in Africa, particularly with respect to the AIDS epidemic.

    However, prior presidents were also mindful that their primary role in foreign policy is to advance U.S. interests. The U.S. does not have the resources or political will to force democracy into every autocratic country. The invasion of Iraq in early 2003 was deemed, by Bush and Congress, to advance U.S. interests, so was justified on that basis. Similarly, Reagan’s desire to see the East Germans go free coincided with U.S. interests in seeing Communism and the Soviet Bloc fall in Eastern Europe. In other instances, conventional foreign policy wisdom dictates supporting, in some measure, certain undemocratic regimes because of a perceived advantage to U.S. interests which outweighs the human rights calculation. Right or wrong, that has been a consistent view of the administrations of both political parties throughout the course of history.

    I didn’t say I supported Clinton’s Bosnia actions. I didn’t support them, because I didn’t see sufficient U.S. interests to justify putting our servicemen in harm’s way. But I did respect what he did. He and the other NATO allies wanted to help a suffering people, and to try to bring stability to a dangerous and imploding part of Europe. There is no question that one of his primary motivations in entering that conflict was to advance human rights.

    So far, with respect to Obama, at least so far in his young administration, in each of the Egypt and Libya crises, I have not seen any boldness or leadership on his part. He may believe this is pragmatic, and the best way to ensure future U.S. interests in the region, by not ticking off the potential eventual victor in each country, but it is still the case that he has not done or said anything substantive to promote human rights. At least that I can recall. And, in my view, his history does not reveal a strong interest in them. My opinion, to be sure. And almost certainly colored to some extent by my dislike of him and his policies.

    You apparently agree with my assessment of Obama. What made you unhappy is that I didn’t want to discuss his record in comparison to that of other previous presidents. I’m guessing this is because you wanted to justify his record as being no worse than anyone else’s. Well, this is where we disagree, at least so far. But, the jury’s still out. Obama has at least two more years to grow into his foreign policy.

  • DonS

    tODD: I don’t like Obama much. That is true, and well established on this blog and elsewhere. You don’t like Bush much. That is also well established, at least on this blog, and I suspect elsewhere. And how much you like or dislike someone (or at least their politics) also colors the way you view their actions.

    For example, you regard Bush’s claim that one of the reasons he invaded Iraq was to advance democracy to that country as belied by the fact that he didn’t do that everywhere that undemocratic regimes exist. You also wonder about the sincerity of Reagan’s challenge to “tear down this wall” in view of his support for other autocratic regimes. On the other hand, I believe both of these men believed what they said and did in promoting American exceptionalism and in promoting the advance of democracy throughout the world. In particular, Paul Wolfowitz, a member of Bush’s cabinet and influential in the decision to invade Iraq, is a true believer in the U.S. role in advancing democracy throughout the world, according to biographers of all political persuasions. So, I have no reason to judge the hearts of either Bush or Reagan on the matter, and to determine that they were being untruthful or insincere in their statements or actions. And they both took bold action in the name of human rights, at least at some point during their respective administrations.

    Bush also has been acknowledged, by humanitarians of all political stripes, for taking a great interest in the human condition in Africa, particularly with respect to the AIDS epidemic.

    However, prior presidents were also mindful that their primary role in foreign policy is to advance U.S. interests. The U.S. does not have the resources or political will to force democracy into every autocratic country. The invasion of Iraq in early 2003 was deemed, by Bush and Congress, to advance U.S. interests, so was justified on that basis. Similarly, Reagan’s desire to see the East Germans go free coincided with U.S. interests in seeing Communism and the Soviet Bloc fall in Eastern Europe. In other instances, conventional foreign policy wisdom dictates supporting, in some measure, certain undemocratic regimes because of a perceived advantage to U.S. interests which outweighs the human rights calculation. Right or wrong, that has been a consistent view of the administrations of both political parties throughout the course of history.

    I didn’t say I supported Clinton’s Bosnia actions. I didn’t support them, because I didn’t see sufficient U.S. interests to justify putting our servicemen in harm’s way. But I did respect what he did. He and the other NATO allies wanted to help a suffering people, and to try to bring stability to a dangerous and imploding part of Europe. There is no question that one of his primary motivations in entering that conflict was to advance human rights.

    So far, with respect to Obama, at least so far in his young administration, in each of the Egypt and Libya crises, I have not seen any boldness or leadership on his part. He may believe this is pragmatic, and the best way to ensure future U.S. interests in the region, by not ticking off the potential eventual victor in each country, but it is still the case that he has not done or said anything substantive to promote human rights. At least that I can recall. And, in my view, his history does not reveal a strong interest in them. My opinion, to be sure. And almost certainly colored to some extent by my dislike of him and his policies.

    You apparently agree with my assessment of Obama. What made you unhappy is that I didn’t want to discuss his record in comparison to that of other previous presidents. I’m guessing this is because you wanted to justify his record as being no worse than anyone else’s. Well, this is where we disagree, at least so far. But, the jury’s still out. Obama has at least two more years to grow into his foreign policy.

  • Porcell

    Actually Pres Bush made it clear with what is known as the Bush Doctrine that the Middle East should move toward democratic government. His 2006 U.N. speech on this subject infuriated Mubarak. He provided funding directly to Egyptian groups that monitored Mubarak’s sham elections. Also, he publicly supported and provided funds to Iran’s Green movement.

    Obama for most of his administration tried to “engage” Iran, Egypt, Russia, et al in a policy of realpolitik that has produced no significant result,other than, as Nile Gardiner suggests, to appear weak, rudderless and frequently confused in his approach from Tehran to Tripoli.

  • Porcell

    Actually Pres Bush made it clear with what is known as the Bush Doctrine that the Middle East should move toward democratic government. His 2006 U.N. speech on this subject infuriated Mubarak. He provided funding directly to Egyptian groups that monitored Mubarak’s sham elections. Also, he publicly supported and provided funds to Iran’s Green movement.

    Obama for most of his administration tried to “engage” Iran, Egypt, Russia, et al in a policy of realpolitik that has produced no significant result,other than, as Nile Gardiner suggests, to appear weak, rudderless and frequently confused in his approach from Tehran to Tripoli.


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