Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama gives diplomacy a try

Remember that?

"But I have also said that we should be willing to initiate diplomacy as a mechanism to achieve our national security goals, and my national security team, I think, is reflective of that practical, pragmatic approach to foreign policy.

Obama was gonna extend a hand if Iran unclenched its fist.

Well, Iran responds.

[Y]esterday the Iranian government ordered up 10 additional uranium enrichment plants on the scale of its already operational facility in Natanz, which has a planned capacity of 54,000 centrifuges. That could mean an eventual total of more than 500,000 centrifuges, or enough to enrich about 160 bombs worth of uranium each year. Whether it can ever do that is an open question, but it does give a sense of the scale of the regime's ambitions.

The White House Responds ...

"Time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday, but the West has said this many times before. Earlier this year, Mr. Obama said Iran had a deadline of September.

Ba haa haa haa ...

Let's revist the criticism of Bush, and praise of Obama:

We've just been through eight years of disengagement by the Bush administration. We had a reckless, testosterone-starved Jesus-driven cowboy march into the White House declaring Iran, North Korea and Iraq the "Axis of Evil". From virtually the get-go, Bush's foreign policy strategy could be summed up in just a few short words: U.S. good, everyone else bad, enemies really bad. Therefore, you don't talk with your enemies, you don't negotiate with your enemies, you don't enjoin your enemies. Instead, you antagonize your enemies, you motivate and inspire your enemies, and you embolden and strengthen your enemies through big-stick rhetoric and cowboy swagger. Oh, and you bomb the shit out of them for no justifiable reason (that would be Iraq for those of you who are having trouble following this lefty diatribe). And in the process you damn-near alienate every one of your allies and severely tarnish America's reputation for diplomatic greatness. Might even say you make America hated throughout the world.

(memo to Andy Ostroy, they still hate us)

So it's no shocker that perhaps it's time for a new strategy. A policy of engagement, whereby the united States uses its diplomatic powers and not just its military muscle. A foreign policy centered on the negotiating table and not some arrogant frat-boy's bully-pulpit. Thankfully, we now have a president who gets it. A president more interested in world peace than proving to his daddy that he's not the colossal fuck-up he always thought, or that the history books will soon surely prove.

What Obama did last week was brilliant. All of it. From going on the Jay Leno program and speaking directly to the American people (pissing off the mainstream media, which tends not to like being marginalized or circumvented) to addressing the Iranian people who, by the way, are 70% under the age of 30 and are much more Westernized than you would think. Obama bypassed Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Komenei much in the same way he did his end-run around the American press. Oh this Obama guy's smart, alright.

Yea, Smart Power!

And that vision says, let's talk to the enemy. Let's engage them. Let's bring pressure on their governments by opening a dialogue directly with their people. Let's negotiate, but let's not forget our goal of protecting America, nor our unyielding commitment to use force when all else fails.

When has this dialogue with the people occurred? His meek statements after the Iranian elections? Or, perhaps his stance after the Honduran coup?

Knowing the opposition was planning to march, Mr. Obama issued his own statement the night before that instead chose to reach out to the regime. America, he said, "seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran's internal affairs." He went on to list the Administration's various efforts to appease the regime. So far and on all counts, the mullahs have rebuffed these entreaties.

And, on Obama's Honduran mistake:

At least the Obama administration figured out, after four months, that it had blundered. It deserves credit for realizing that elections were the best way forward, and for promising to recognize the outcome despite enormous pressure from Brazil and Venezuela. President Obama came to office intent on a foreign policy of multilateralism. Perhaps this experience will teach him that freedom does indeed have enemies.

One could hope. But I'm not holding my breath.