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Very Foreign Policy

I think I've found the "unified field theory" of President Obama's foreign policy. And it's as short-sighted, shallow, simplistic, and stupid as I feared.

Let's take a look at how the Obama administration relates to just three countries. The other day, I pointed out yet another way they are essentially flipping the bird at Great Britain at every opportunity. A very long-time ally, a nation whose friendship has been a tremendous asset over the years, and Obama seems intent on playing the passive-aggressive game to push them away from us.

There's also a hefty amount of frost on our relations with Israel. Obama has essentially said that he thinks a nuclear-armed Iran is inevitable, so the world should just relax and try to enjoy it. He's also been far more sympathetic to the Palestinians than to the Israelis, and has also played the cool, passive-aggressive game with Israel as well.

And in one case that I had overlooked until the other day, Obama has not been overly kind to India. One might even say that he's treated the world's largest democracy like he's treated Las Vegas -- a convenient scapegoat and whipping boy for economic problems.

Why have our relations with these nations eroded over the last year or so?

Not to get too Zen, but the answer lies within the question.

In this context, "eroded" means "not as good as they were before." And "before" the decline was eight years of the Bush administration.

You remember those eight years, when pretty much every other nation in the world hated and feared us? Well, if you looked beyond the media spin, you'd see that during those times the Bush administration actually improved our relations with certain select nations. Three of them were Great Britain, Israel, and India -- two of whom had once been controlled by the British before their independence.

There's a geopolitical concept that I haven't delved too deeply into that I find somewhat elegantly appealing -- the notion of the "Anglosphere." These are nations that have some historic ties to Great Britain -- former colonies or other places once dominated by the British. And they are among the most wealthy, successful, and freest places in the world.

Canada. Ireland. Israel. Australia. India. South Africa. New Zealand. Hong Kong. Singapore. And the biggest, most successful former English colony of them all, the United States.

One of the problems with this notion is that it implicitly endorses the colonial era and the imperialism of the British, and the notion that the imposed imperialist culture is superior to that of the indigenous culture. One classic example was when General Sir Charles Napier was confronted with the traditon of "suttee" (now spelled "sati"), the throwing of a widow on to the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. General Napier addressed it thus:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

This sort of thing sends liberals into hysterics. How DARE we impose our moral beliefs and standards on others? It still echoes today, whenever anyone brings up such topics as how Islam treats women, gays, and other various "unclean" infidels.

But it's a hard fact to dispute -- a nation that has a lengthy history of ties to the British Empire is far, far more likely to be a successful nation than one that never suffered under the whip of John Bull.

So with that as a form of intellectual "cover," the Obama administration is rationalizing its true motive for its foreign policy -- to "punish" those nations that were so foolish as to seek good relations with the Bush administration. Since everything that their predecessors was so inherently and irredeemably evil, then those nations that got along with Bush are obviously bad, too.

Conversely, those that gave Bush the most headaches obviously recognized the sheer badness that was Bush, and they would be the most amenable to recognizing how wonderful Obama and his people are. Hence the thoroughly-rebuffed outreaches to Venezuela and Iran, and Hillary Clinton's tacitly siding with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

As I alliterated at the outset, this overarching theme to Obama's foreign policy is short-sighted, simplistic, shallow, and stupid. And my analysis here probably qualifies for at least half of those adjectives.

What bothers me is that it also seems to be accurate.


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Comments (17)

Just even on a personal bas... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Just even on a personal basis, Obama has a lot more in common with leaders like Chavez, Castro, Ortega and Morales than he does with the leadership of any democracy. So it is not surprising when we find that he is cozying up to thug regimes throughout the world and snubbing every historical ally that the US has ever had.

So much for elevating the image of the US abroad. I thought that the dems wanted us to be respected. We will end up more of a pariah state than we ever possible could have been with Bush.

Whoever succeeds Obama will have a lot of repair work to do.

How about a little deeper t... (Below threshold)

How about a little deeper then that.

"The Obama policy is to punish any country that openly supported the policies of the Republican president. Thus hoping to ensure less international support during the next Republican Administration"

On the nose Jay.The ... (Below threshold)
recovered liberal democrat:

On the nose Jay.
The twisted revisionist history that little BHO heard all his life from his mentors is guiding this country's foreign policy. It is inexcusable and we will suffer for it as a country long after this pathetic, anti-American president is gone. Voter's remorse is sure a bitch doncha know.

The answer to your question... (Below threshold)

The answer to your question, Jay Tea, is the answer you provide, and it also reveals the flaw in your logic.

"Obama's foreign policy is short-sighted, simplistic, shallow, and stupid." All of these things are true. What you assume, however, is that Obama has a policy.

From what I've seen, he has nothing of the sort. If you recall Apocalypse Now, there's a line addressed to Kurz: "Frankly, sir, I don't see any method at all."

For all practical purposes, foreign affairs are a nuisance to Obama, an irritating distraction from his grandiose quest to re-engineer America from the inside. He spent his entire career as a community activist, and he never outgrew it, inciting dissatisfaction and victimhood, finding scapegoats under every bush, and taking every opportunity to find fault with his own country.

Viewed through Obama's brain, his "historical greatness" will be determined by how radically he can change our country. Capitalism is bad, so scapegoat the rich and give their money to other people. Everything is racial, and the middle class is "the rich". Taxes finance an ever-growing list of entitlement programs. Manipulate the political system by any means necessary to achieve The Great Agenda. The Great Orator will get America to go along. He can't change his ways, because his value system is stuck in the radical left ideology of the 1970's. He's effectively blind.

As far as foreign policy, Obama has displayed a clumsiness I don't think we've ever seen in our lifetimes. It's more than just bowing to everybody in sight. More important, at every opportunity, he says the wrong thing, takes the wrong position, backs the wrong side, and suggests "solutions" that make him - and us - the laughingstock of our friends and enemies alike.

Despite his obvious expectations, history, and the American people, will not be kind to Obama.

It's even simpler; if it's ... (Below threshold)

It's even simpler; if it's socialist, Barry's for it.

As I have said before: For... (Below threshold)
jim m:

As I have said before: For Obama everything is about ideology. He was raised and mentored by communists. He spent his young adult life under the tutelage of communists. His idolized father was a communist.

He was quite clear that in getting elected his plan was to dramatically restructure American society. To that end he is walking away from all of our traditional allies. He is alienating our country from the western democracies that for 200 years we have aligned with. He is moving toward socialist dictators.

In domestic affairs he is willing to subvert the rules of the senate and force through legislation that is deeply unpopular but is part of his core ideology.

There is no damage he is not willing to do to this country, there is no ally he is not willing to abandon in pursuit of his ideological agenda.

And how do you think Toyota... (Below threshold)

And how do you think Toyota's shaming last week played back home in Japan?
Do you wonder if the UK will be eager to contribute troops to Afghanistan with Hillary's Falklands boobishness? It's all on purpose.

The President is a spiteful... (Below threshold)

The President is a spiteful and hateful little man whose sense of history is no deeper than a college freshman influenced by his lefty professor. I've never liked him; now I'm beginning to loathe him.

What is remarkable, Jay, is... (Below threshold)
roc m:

What is remarkable, Jay, is that you have the audacity to call this analysis. Aside from your clear personal grudges and the so absurdly partisan stance, your piece stands out mostly for its ignorance.

Anglosphere?!?!? It is called the Commonwealth and is made up of 54 member states including Nigeria, Uganda, Pakistan and, until recently, another great beacon of democracy, wealth and success, Zimbabwe. Other illustrious candidates that are not part of the Commonwealth but that would fit your definition are Sudan, Somalia and Iraq. No other country is responsible for leaving behind such a trail of destruction and failed states as Great Britain in the aftermath of its colonial presence.

And you might want to check polls in Great Britain and India to see if they have a more favourable view of America today or at any time in the period 2000-2008.

Keep up the analysis.

Roc, I was not aware that I... (Below threshold)

Roc, I was not aware that Israel and the United States fell into the "Commonwealth" category. And the "English rule = good" is not a rule, but an indicator. Basic logic here: I said that the countries doing best had English ties, not that all countries with English ties are doing the best.

As far as "No other country is responsible for leaving behind such a trail of destruction and failed states as Great Britain in the aftermath of its colonial presence," you might want to look up France. GB might have greater numbers, but former French colonies, as a percentage, are far, far worse off.


Bryan, Israel won its indep... (Below threshold)

Bryan, Israel won its independence in 1948... from Great Britain. England oversaw the "Palestine Mandate" from 1917-1948.

I didn't mention Kenya because I didn't want to get Mick riled up on more "birther" bullshit.

Despite your knee-jerk rejection of anything I say, there does seem to be a remarkable correlation between "dominated for a long time by England" and "currently successful." I don't have a theory to tie in a causal relationship, but the coincidence is remarkable...

And it looks like Obama buys into it, too, as it lines up pretty well with his deciding who not to make nice with.


Jay,I think that y... (Below threshold)
jim m:


I think that you have selected a surrogate marker. It isn't Anglosphere countries and it isn't countries friendly to Bush 43. I boils down to countries committed to democracy and the idea that people should be able to determine the course of their own lives.

Obama does not believe in these things. He does not believe in democracy. His first election was based on removing all challengers from the ballot. He doesn't believe that people should run their own lives, because he espouses redistribution of wealth and government control of education, health care, the economy and every other facet of life.

I am with you on the Anglosphere thing though. England did a great job of lifting their colonies up. Just take a look at former french colonies and you can see what a really bad job they could have done.

It's no more the "Anglosphe... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

It's no more the "Anglosphere" than it is the Roman Empire. The battle which rages on is the contest between civilization and barbarism.

The only nemesis of civilization is civilization itself. Civilization has "progressed" in some ways antithetical to its own interests, and even survival, beyond the arrogance of recognizing its own superiority to a stage of guilt over that superiority. This guilt has led to such nonsense as the myth of the noble savage and multiculturalism.

All "cultures" are not equal. A culture which requires women to stay home unless accompanied by a male family member and covered head to toe is not just an alternative, it is inferior. A culture which requires the stoning of rape victims for "adultery" or the forcible mutilation of the genitals of young girls is not an alternative, it is an abomination. A culture which posits the state as the ultimate arbiter of human rights is not just anathema to freedom, it is inferior in every respect.

A culture which permits members to kill their enemies and eat their hearts may be dear to the souls of the left, but it is not equal to "Western" civilization. Until civilized people can agree to recognize barbarism for what it is, misery will rule the world.

Jim,I do not disag... (Below threshold)
roc m:


I do not disagree with you or your epithets for cultures that have a place for the practices you describe, quite the contrary. One issue, however is that you are looking at them as a snapshot in time. "Progress" by definition happens *over* time and for a whole host of reasons (societal, geographic, resources, etc) at different rates and in different forms across the globe. Our very own country and presumably beacon of your "civilisation" camp did not abolish slavery until 1865, well after England and most Latin American countries. Surely we can apply similar epithets for practices occuring here even through the 1960s. This is not that long ago in the history of human society (or even our society, for that matter).

"Progress", also by definition, does not stop. It would be foolish to argue that we have attained perfection today. Many societies you would probably consider in the "civilised" camp view our capital punishment policy as barbaric. Equally our unrelenting drive for consumption and profit over sustainability and human values is viewed by others as backward.

I am not saying that I necessarily subscribe to those views, simply illustrating the inherent relativism and the fact that each society "progresses" at its own pace.

The main issue you fail to address is what exactly do you propose is done? Or are you simply suggesting we all agree at a philosophical level?

I happen to believe that plenty could be done. "Progress" is obstructed by politics driven by a cripled democratic system. A reformed political system where we could focused on more humanistic progress most of us agree on would be a start. Then, leading by example rather than imposition is a much more effective tool to drive broader global progress and reform away from "barbarism". This would have to be coupled with a far more idealogically driven foreign policy than the realpolitik that has governed foreign policy to date. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I do not mean hostile, crusade-like idealogical foreign policy, but rather using ideology to decide who our friends are and who we trade with.

After all, if we can all agree that subjugation of women and stoning to death are barbaric and apartheid regimes have no place in modern society, why have Saudi and Israel been two of our best friends on the world stage in recent decades?

Well, roc, for one, Israel ... (Below threshold)

Well, roc, for one, Israel is hardly an "apartheid state." Non-Jewish Israelis have all the rights of Jewish Israelis, and actually fewer of the obligations -- they're not required to give military service. To call Israel an "apartheid" nation is a disgusting, ignorant slur.

For another, our relationship with the Saudis is hardly "friendship," but a confluence of mutual needs. Apart from that (they want our money, technology, and protection; we want their oil), they're really not that friendly.


Jay,It was not int... (Below threshold)
roc m:


It was not intendend as a slur, nor to hurt anybody's feelings. Apartheid, in my book, is simply when a state is structured such as to treat different classes of its citizens in different ways. Although Israel has tried to be clever about it, the fact is that non-Jews do not have access to 93% of the country's land. There is also inequality with respect to acquiring Israeli citizenship. Finally, not having mandatory duty in the IDF for non-Jews is an entirely self-serving policy for Israel: non-Jews know they are unwelcome in the IDF and except for an extreme minority they opt out. This results in them not having all kinds of rights and benefits bestowed upon veterans (i.e. Jews) and therefore de facto exacerbates their condition as second-class citizens. If you do not like the word apartheid, feel free to suggest an alternative, but it sounds an awful lot like it in my book. You once again either do not know the facts or choose to ignore them.

Re: Saudi - my point exactly.

It was not intendend as ... (Below threshold)

It was not intendend as a slur, nor to hurt anybody's feelings. Apartheid, in my book, is simply when a state is structured such as to treat different classes of its citizens in different ways.

Like, say, how non-Muslims are treated in Muslim nations? Do you often call them "apartheid" nations when referring to the Copts in Egypt, the Christians in Lebanon, or any of the infidels in Saudi Arabia?

How do you describe how the Jewish citizens in the Palestinian Territories are treated by the Palestinian Authority?

That's a trick question -- the Palestinians have done everything they can to make their territories as Judenrein as they can. Hell, even "doing business with a Jew" is a capitol offense there.

Although Israel has tried to be clever about it, the fact is that non-Jews do not have access to 93% of the country's land.

I simply do not believe that. I refuse to believe that Israel restraing the 23.6% of its citizenry (source: CIA World Factbook) that is not Jewish to a mere 7% of its land. That is simply incredible.

If you do not like the word apartheid, feel free to suggest an alternative, but it sounds an awful lot like it in my book.

No, I don't like the word. But instead of an alternative, might I suggest you simply broaden your use of it to include the nations that are a lot closer to the old South African system than Israel is, ever has been, or ever will be.

I am a Zionist, roc, and proud that I am as much of a Zionist as a raised-Methodist agnostic can be. By "Zionist," I mean I believe that the Jews are entitled to a homeland, that their claim to their homeland as it exists is far superior to any others', and I think the world is a far, far better place with Israel in it.

Here's an argument that might appeal to your liberal sensitivities, roc. Look up the situation of gay Palestinians. The lucky ones flee to Israel for political asylum -- which is most often granted. The unlucky ones are KILLED, because being gay (much like being a Jew or being pro-peace) is a capitol offense in the Palestinian territories.

Israel is not perfect. But it's a fuck of a lot better than any of its neighbors, and is entitled to the support of other democracies against the dictatorships, thugocracies, theocracies, kleptocracies, and other slavering hordes who routinely call for its destruction.

In the Israeli question, i side with democracy and freedom and tolerance. Care to join me, roc?







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