Powered by WebAds

Monday, August 03, 2009

The un-Bush

Cousin Elliot has an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal in which he reviews the many similarities and the differences between the foreign policies of the Obama and Bush administrations. I thought he did an excellent job of summing up the differences.
Differences in the execution of policy, however, make all the difference. Take, for example, outreach to Iran.

The Bush administration mulled this, and even tried it, diplomats warily meeting Iranians in various venues. But when Mr. Obama said to the leaders of Iran and other despotisms, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist” he did not expect to find the Supreme Leader’s paws sticky with the blood of freshly slaughtered protestors. Remarkably, rather than adjust the policy, the administration almost immediately released five Iranian “diplomats”—in truth, members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps—that we held in Iraq.

The Iranian policy shows a faith in diplomacy that might be understandable coming from process-obsessed diplomats who live for démarches, talking points, working groups, back channels, dialogues and summits.

But this policy will soon encounter the reality, a looming choice between war with Iran or acceptance of its status as a nuclear power. Is the administration prepared to act if diplomacy fails, as so often it does?

The confidence in diplomacy reflects a deeper theme here, namely, the repudiation of the Bush era. Even as stubborn facts cause the administration to claim many of the same executive privileges (e.g., a proper secrecy about some CIA activities) as its predecessor, and continue or expand the same policies, it suffers from its desire to be un-Bush.

Believing (incorrectly) that the Bush administration did not do diplomacy, it does so promiscuously, complete with such tomfoolery as a misspelled reset button given to the Russian foreign minister. Abhorring Bush’s freedom agenda, it will avoid anything of the kind until, of course, being Americans, the president, the vice president or the secretary of state blurt out their faith in universal ideals, and their indignation at the behavior of thugs, dictators and tyrants.

The biggest difference between the Obama and Bush administrations, though, is Messrs. Obama and Bush, or rather, their images at home and abroad. Mr. Obama is popular, and he dominates American foreign policy.

Brimming with confidence in his abilities and certain of the rightness of his views, he has undertaken a wildly ambitious agenda at home and abroad. He will bring peace between Arab and Israeli, wean Iran from its nuclear ambitions, restructure the international financial system, set us on the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons, reconcile Islam and Christendom, and end global warming, while introducing universal health care at home and bringing the country out of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Lord Salisbury, British prime minister and foreign secretary in the last years of the 19th century, famously defined foreign policy as the art of drifting “lazily down a stream occasionally putting out a diplomatic boat-hook to avoid collisions.” This does not suit our times. But the patter of applause from a press whose sycophancy would embarrass a Renaissance court should not hide the dangers inherent in Mr. Obama’s style, which is characterized by an easy assumption of foreign policy omniscience and omnicompetence.

Some of his ambitions will come crashing into ruin, and surely ghastly surprises lie athwart our path. The Bush administration, many of its critics said, fell victim to hubris, the fatal arrogance punished, according to the ancients, by the goddess Nemesis. The Greeks would understand the irony if we discovered that cold-eyed lady, always hovering closer than politicians realize, turning an increasingly disapproving gaze on today’s White House.
Bottom line: Obama has no Plan B on Iran and hubris will lead him to continue blindly on the diplomatic path regardless of its failure. What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.


At 9:37 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The White House hasn't faced a crisis that will shake its certainty. On that count, Obama has been quite lucky. But luck is not going to be on the side of the US forever. Sooner or later, the un-Bush era will come to an end.


Post a Comment

<< Home