Obama Understands Diplomacy

Obama and Clinton have started a great argument on diplomacy. Unfortunately for Hillary, Barack is absolutely right. William Arkin at the Washington Post doesn’t get it. Let’s take a look (emphasis mine):

My conclusion from this affair comes in two parts. First, maybe Obama really is different (if also naive). And second, maybe he needs some new advisers.

Obama dismissed Sen. Hillary Clinton’s national security approach as “Bush-Cheney Lite” yesterday and said his priority as president would be to “unite” the country and seek change. His remarks came a day after Clinton smacked him down as “irresponsible and naïve” for his remarks during Monday’s CNN-YouTube debate.

In other words, Obama seems to have misstepped according to Arkin. The supposedly problematic position is actually both wise and necessary (emphasis mine):

Obama also held a conference call with reporters, characterizing Clinton as no different from the Bush administration for foreswearing dialogue. “If that’s not what she means, then she should say so,” he said. “Nobody expects that you would just sit down with them for coffee,” he said, speaking of the preparations he would make for meetings with the leaders of North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and other nations. But he stuck with his answer and said he would not impose preconditions.

This is a very important position to take. It understands the primacy and the value of dialog. It also understands the danger and the cost of the alternatives. Hence Obama’s very apt comparison of Hillary’s outright rejection of dialog as following in Bush and Cheneys bloody footsteps.

So why frame this as naive?

Well, this is not necessarily bad, nor it is necessarily wrong, but it is naïve. The president of Iran doesn’t even recognize Israel’s right to exist. Sitting down to chat with him would be like sitting down with Osama bin Laden to explain that it’s all a big misunderstanding, that America shares his ideals for a better life. Sorry, Obama, but those aren’t everyone’s ideals, and that’s not bin Laden’s beef.

That first sentence is so flatly dishonest in such a small space it should make your brain do a backflip. He’s just trying to soften the blow with “not necessarily bad, nor it is necessarily wrong”. Or is naive foreign policy “good and right” in Arkin’s estimation?

The benefit of dialog is it invites people to the table. It creates options instead of shutting doors. If you sit down to talk with a despot, this does not commit you to agree and acquiesce!  At the very least, it creates a diplomatic space in between a workable solution and a violent last resort.

One thing this world does not need more of is war.  And we do not need a Presidential candidate who automatically ticks off an alternative to war on some misguided principle or mistaken notion of good foreign policy.  Not all experience is useful or good, and Hillary Clinton is unwittingly making that readily apparent by playing the experience card as a counter to Obama’s position.

Keep options on the table.  Keep a cool and level head.  That will result in sound foreign policy, and is the mark of a true stateswoman/statesman.

Obama should be aggressive on this and fight the “naive” label before it starts to stick.  His position on diplomacy shows quite he is quite the opposite.

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7 Responses

  1. I think Obama is correct. Hillary Clinton’s national security approach is “Bush-Cheney Lite.”

    Her Iraq posture is “Bush-Cheney Lite” too. She’s already said she thinks troops should remain in Iraq and I believe her. If people on the left think her election will herald a new direction in foreign policy and the troops will all come home, they’re naive.

    Hillary is in bed with the military, industrial complex — they own her bones.

  2. I also agree with Obama. Hillary’s stance came off as a power play – “if those other little countries behave nicely for a year then I might talk to them.”

    But beware the leaving Iraq rhetoric – Obama wants to increase the efforts on Afghanistan and move into Pakistan. http://snipurl.com/1owse

    And both of them are supportive of the astoundingly
    insane concept of a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran.

  3. Christopher,
    Right on!
    Alexia,
    A very good point. A pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran is insane. Increasing the efforts in Afghanistan and moving into Pakistan actually is sensible, although I’d have to give it a lot more thought on whether or not I thought it was in any way agreeable.

  4. If Obama would adopt some sensible economic policy, he’d be an OK guy. He’d also have to cast off his militaristic ways – although I think a lot of that is for show, just to be “electable” and a “strong leader” – the same lame reasons why Clinton babbles along the same lines. These folks are not independent thinkers, they are hand-picked and groomed career bureaucrats. I suppose that sort of eliminates any hope for him to suddenly turn around and change for the better. Although, I do enjoy his attacks on Clinton, she’s like the Democratic Party’s Giuliani. I shudder for our future.

    I really hope you’re not serious about moving into Pakistan. If you want to watch how fast a revolution can overthrow its military dictatorship (and why wouldn’t you, I mean heck, we may have our own chance here soon enough!) then just send a few divisions into Pakistan. Bin Laden would be laughing even more than he already is. Sensible policy that most certainly is not.

  5. Bret,
    No one can even come close to Giuliani.

    However we do it, military, diplomacy, collective police action, we need to do something. Al Qaeda is in Pakistan. Honestly I am not sure of the best approach right off the bat (only that some approach is needed).

    I think we’d disagree firmly on “sensible” economic policy, but I’d like to see him scale back the militaristic show. I’d like to see all the candidates do that. But just as you’ll hold Ron’s feet to the fire when he steps out of line, I’ll hold Obama’s to that same flame of accountability.

  6. I know you’ll never agree with me, but man, libertarians and anarcho-capitalists are the only ones who truly care about the poor.

  7. Well of course not. I’m not in either camp, and I care about the poor.

    If you were to say that libertarians and anarcho-capitalists care about the poor, then I’d say yes, for some, I believe that.

    I just don’t think the practical results of either philosophy meet that noble end.

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