Barack Obma’s enchantment with negotiation

It’s going to take substantive arguments to defeat the “hope” and “change” candidacy of Barack Obama. Even his inexperience is being spun as “freshness,” which for many of today’s angry voters is a qualification rather than a disqualification.

Michael Gerson has written that Obama may be defeated by that very inexperience touted as an advantage – especially when it comes to foreign policy. Gerson suggests a “thought experiment” regarding the possible “foreign policy achievements of Obama’s first 100 days”:

“Redeeming his Inaugural pledge to ‘pay any price, bear any burden, fly any distance to meet with our enemies,’ Obama’s first major international meeting is with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. National security adviser Samantha Power does her best to talk tough on human rights in preparation for the meeting.

But, as Henry Kissinger once said, ‘When talks become their own objective, they are at the mercy of the party most prepared to break them off.’ Having made Iranian talks ‘without precondition’ his major foreign policy goal, Obama is left with little leverage to extract concessions, and little choice but to move forward.”

Gerson suggests that Israelis would be comparing Obama to Neville Chamberlain, and America’s moderate Arab allies in the region would feel betrayed.

Then after Obama meets with the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba, his administration would begin the arm-twisting necessary to renegotiate NAFTA. Gerson envisions our allies questioning the new president’s courting of his enemies while insulting his closest friends.

Obama would begin the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq , breaking the morale of the troops, since the surest way to do that, Gerson says, “is to undo its achievements and humiliate it on the verge of success.”

“Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies react with panic at another sign of American unsteadiness and retreat from the region. Armed groups of Sunni and Shiites within Iraq begin preparing for a resumption of sectarian conflict. An intercepted al-Qaeda communication talks of ‘so much defeat, exhaustion and death — and then, praise be, this unexpected victory!'”

Obama’s goal would be to improve America’s image.

“But there is something worse than being unpopular in the world — and that is being a pleading, panting joke…

Which is why President Obama would probably not take these actions — at least in the form he has pledged.”

Gerson writes that “it is a bad sign for a candidate when the best we can hope is for him to violate his commitments.”

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Martin Peretz writes in his piece “Obama Abroad” that his qualms with Barack stem from “his enchantment with negotiation”:

“So far he has not allowed that there are conflicts in which negotiation is ipso facto futile, and conflicts in which there may be strategic consequences from the cult of talk. Talking certainly didn’t work with Hitler and Stalin, although Western leaders actually negotiated with these tyrants face-to-face. Our partners in those evil days traduced every agreement they made. The same was true of diplomacy with Yasser Arafat.”

Regarding would-be talks with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Peretz says that –

“…the president of the United States has many ways to communicate his opinion of a foreign leader. And when Mr. Ahmadinejad begs to differ, or expresses to the American president his low view of him, or walks out of the room, what then? Not military action, certainly, but the diplomatic option will have been squandered.”

David Limbaugh weighed in on Obama’s foreign policy unrealism writing that Obama –

“insists he doesn’t just want to end our involvement in the Iraq war but ‘end the mindset that gets us into war.’ He admonishes us not to focus on the ‘common enemy,’ but on restoring ‘a sense of diplomacy.’ Employing a stunningly novel concept, he’d try to resolve our differences with other nations without resorting to war.

Setting aside that George Bush did exhaust all realistic diplomatic avenues before attacking Iraq, Obama’s recurring theme rears its naive head again: We can all get along — even terrorists — if we remove the arbitrary barriers against believing in man’s perfectibility and that even terrorists and tyrants aren’t evil.”

This article first posted in May.

©2008 John F. Biver