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Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

Obama’s noises about abandoning nuclear weapons, his release of torture memos, and his sucking up to Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Cuba at the Summit of the Americas all have the same source:  his belief that the U.S’s disproportionate strength, global perceptions of our arrogance, and our shoddy record all combine to make the rest of the world hate us.  If we only show that we understand them and are sympathetic, so this thinking goes, they will respond by scaling back their venom.

This is not completely unreasonable thinking.  There are times when gestures of humility and magnanimity are effective, particularly in certain kinds of interpersonal settings like the boardroom or in an academic environment, where give and take is the name of the game.  There is no doubt his sensitivity in this area had much to do with his electability.  However, when such a  technique is applied in a world with real and motivated enemies, competitors, hostile strange alien peoples, and Islamic terrorists who believe they are undertaking a religious mandate, it is a formula for disaster.  It may make us some friends, but more likely it will invite contempt by our enemies, and such easily bought friends with lack the respect and fear that the U.S. has always commanded and will instead be cowed by our enemies’ threats.

The standard leftist narrative of foreign policy excludes any acknowledgement that our military strength and the sometimes dirty deeds of our security forces are why we have been safe from major threats under Bush’s presidency, and that these actions are also the reason why the Cold War did not end at a summit or conference, but instead ended with the implosion of the Soviet Union after a decade-long and quite controversial arms race.

For someone who has spent as much time in Chicago as Obama has, I’m surprised that something like the following has never affected Obama’s view of human nature:  every single time that I gave a panhandler a dollar in a moment of Christian compassion, the response was never–NEVER—an appreciative thank you.  It was always a request for more money, a more greatly embellished tale of being down and out, or, sometimes, it was the prelude to a physical confrontation.  I learned.  Obama should have concluded from the hustling and violence all around him in Chicago that the response of the toughest of the street thugs to weakness is not to scale back, but instead to pounce. Indeed, didn’t his mentor Saul Alinsky teach him exactly that?

In dealing with our friends in Europe, it’s perfectly appropriate to engage in some bonhomie to restore these essential, centuries-old relationships.  In dealing with Latin America–a land of prickly poseurs and blowhards that are alternately envious of and fearful of our nation–a certain circumspection is called for.  Such jealous lands, with such different histories and values, cannot be completely trusted, especially when they’re indulging in their periodic flirtations with dictatorial caudillos. Any outreach must be tempered by self-respect and reminders of their own failures, crimes, and our relative even-handedness in places like Panama and El Salvador since the 1980s.  Finally, when dealing with lunatic nations like North Korea, Somali pirates, al Qaeda thugs, Iran, and other undeniable enemies, strength and clarity are what is called for.  It’s this last tool that Obama seems to lack appreciation for entirely, embarrassed as he is by our allegedly sorry history.

Obama is continuing to act out the 1970s psychodramas of the far left, a movement that scuttled its credibility during the Cold War.  If Bush looked at the world and mistakenly saw an inviting place where throngs of the oppressed were itching for the imposition of U.S. style government, Obama cannot imagine that if we are sometimes wrong, so too are our enemies.  Further, he does not see that while a nation such as ours may at times be selfish, short-sighted, ham-handed, over-eager, and a bit ignorant, other nations transcend these venial sins and can become positively satanic–hostile not only to us, but to civilization itself.  The coddled and charming Obama seems unequipped to learn that in dealing with such beasts, one must become the hunter not out of charity or an inflated sense of self-importance but from the primal duty of self-preservation.  Or, more ominously, perhaps he thinks some kind of golden mean of U.S. weakness and Third World invigoration can be found, and that in this newly balanced world, conflict will soon evaporate.

In spite of his “community organizin'” background, Obama is first and last a lawyer.  And lawyers, as a class, love procedure, words, meetings, resolutions, and all the rest.  They do a good job of restraining strong men and would-be tyrants in domestic matters.  But men that would become tyrants are also the men that would become generals, leaders, war heroes, and cut-through-the-bullshit problem solvers.  Obama and the Europeans are “arresting” pirates that should instead summarily executed.  They’re begging for North Korea to stop its provocative actions, when such compliance should instead be demanded and coerced.  They’re “reaching out” to Iran, when this crazy nation run by fanatic theocrats should instead be isolated, perhaps by throwing a bone or two to the far less troublesome Russians and Chinese, who share our Islamic extremism problem.

There is little sign that Obama can get beyond the procedural instincts of a lawyer and just do something by speaking in the unmistakable international relations language of force.  Diplomacy and alliance-building certainly have their place, and Bush should have shown these tools more respect.  But force is a tool too–the most fundamental and reliable in fact–and Obama shows little understanding of the times and places where it sends a message with the greatest eloquence.

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If Obama’s foreign policy is sometimes incoherent, Hillary’s is simply Bush-lite.  Her recent essay in Foreign Affairs reveals herself as someone who does not depart substantially from the globalist paradigm of Bush and President Clinton, with the main difference being her greater faith in “diplomacy.”  In a world where many nations’ interests involve knocking America down in prestige and power, this is simply wishful thinking of the worst sort.  It’s essentially the foreign policy espoused earlier by John Kerry.  It is vague about how she will fight terrorism, focusing instead on a policy of supporting the people that will clean up the pieces in the wake of an attack, the lauded “first responders.” 

The flaws in Hillary Clinton’s basic perspective are never more apparent than in her discussion of one of the major foreign policy failure of the last decade, the payoff deal given to North Korea to cease its nuclear programs.  This deal was brokered by Jimmy Carter and signed off by President Clinton and promised North Korea money to cease its nuclear arms programs after it had essentially threatened the West with its arsenal.  She writes: 

Like Iran, North Korea responded to the Bush administration’s effort to isolate it by accelerating its nuclear program, conducting a nuclear test, and building more nuclear weapons. Only since the State Department returned to diplomacy have we been able, belatedly, to make progress.

Actually, North Korea was undertaking all these programs after the deal when it promised it would not do so.  Nothing in Bush’s “axis of evil” remark could have set off such a massive undertaking.  The money paid off by the ’94 Clinton Deal enabled the North Korean regime by giving it much-needed financial and material support.  As I wrote earlier:

I can’t say I blame Clinton for not discovering North Korea violations and weapons plans earlier. The secret North Korean regime is notoriously hard for our spies to penetrate. But I do fault him for thinking he could bribe a criminal regime like this into behaving sensibly. The basic concept of the agreement was the problem, and the end result was more or less inevitable. Even the most minimally rationally black-mailer, once he’s been paid, has an incentive to seek more. And that’s exactly what North Korea’s been trying to accomplish ever since. Clinton’s plan was all carrot and no stick. Bush has been tasked with cleaning up a mess that he did not create, where he did not fail to negotiate real security guarantees, and under the threat of a far more substantial North Korean weapons capability.

On top of its flawed concepts, Clinton’s lengthy essay provides little guidance as to when and where diplomacy is necessary or unlikely to be of use, nor does it articulate when force is needed and under what circumstances she would use it.  For instance, does she embrace the “humanitarian wars” concept of President Clinton?  Does she think a UN mandate is always necessary (after all, her husband did not in Kosovo)? Does she recognize that certain irrational players on the world stage, such as A-Jod in Iran, may not respond to the same incentives as less ideological and religiously-tinged leaders?  Finally, does she recognize any inherent or at least structural tension between the Western World and the Islamic world?  She’s either silent or vague on these issues.  The world Muslim only comes up in referring to her support for “building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan.”

Bush has been a disaster on foreign policy because he is a liberal.  He believes in spreading democracy, the universality of American values, and the necessity of idealism in our foreign policy.  He also has been incompetent, using tough talk without backing up words with appropriate action, alienating potential friends like Russia, using democracy as a substitute for the necessity of real security in Iraq, and being diffident and inarticulate about the need for intelligence-gathering against al Qaeda.  There is no reason to think Clinton will not be worse in all these respects, even if she is accepted more readily by the Europeans. 

Let’s not forget that it is al Qaeda, China, Iran, and Russia who matter most in the next President’s foreign policy.  On all four matters, the first President Clinton, embracing a very similar view as Hillary was a disaster.  Al Qaeda grew in strength and planned 9/11 during his watch.  China grew stronger military and economically under his watch, and its increasing trade with the West did not liberalize its internal affairs as promised.  Iran continued to support terrorism during Clinton’s more mild presidency and was linked to the Khobar Towers bombing without any retaliation on his part.  Finally, Russia grew increasingly alienated from the West during Clinton and Bush’s presidency because both presidents desired to expand NATO, criticized Russia on Chechnya (where it’s fighting al Qaeda and its allies), and both meddled in Russia’s internal affairs and elections.  Clinton may not be loony on foreign policy, but liberals and conservatives alike should expect many of the same problems as Bush has had, coupled with the likely disappointments that the deus ex machina of diplomacy will foster.  These problems will persist because both Hillary Clinton and Bush use liberal ideas–the importance of the UN, democracy (including among our allies), and human rights–as guides when hard-headed realism about diplomacy and the use of force is needed.

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