Obama and foreign policy. He said he’d be “tough” like Reagan, who “understood that diplomacy backed by real leverage was a fundamental tool of statecraft.” It all come down to strategy or lack of. President Reagan had a strategy. Conducting talks was a tactic NOT a strategy. Senator Obama hasn’t shared that with us his strategy. What would his preparation be? What would he talk to the Despots about? What would he hope to get out of the talks?
Obama Is Right, Words Matter By KARL ROVE
June 12, 2008
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter!” Sen. Barack Obama thundered at a Wisconsin Democratic Party dinner in February. He should have remembered that at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference last week. There, Mr. Obama defended the outrageous promise he made last July to meet, during his first year as president and without precondition, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Mr. Obama’s eagerness to undertake a “World Tyrants Tour” is both naive and foolhardy, and how he dealt with those concerns at AIPAC raises the question of whether he’s done his homework. Mr. Obama knew the audience was wondering what could come from such meetings, except propaganda victories for thugs and a loss of prestige for America. He tried to mitigate the damage of his promised meetings. But the man who criticizes George W. Bush for unilateralism ended up denouncing a multilateral approach to Iran, saying it would “outsource the sustained work to our European allies.” Mr. Obama also said he would practice “tough and principled diplomacy.” There would be “careful preparation.” He would “open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies.” And then he brought up Ronald Reagan. He said he’d be “tough” like Reagan, who “understood that diplomacy backed by real leverage was a fundamental tool of statecraft.” But what do Mr. Obama’s words mean? What would his preparations be? What would his agenda be? Does he want to coordinate closely with allies or not “outsource the sustained work” to them? And would he really be anything like Reagan? As early as March 1975, Reagan described the leverage he would require before sitting down with the Soviets. His key insight was that “We need to remove [the Soviets’] incentive to race ahead by making it clear to them that we can and will compete . . . at the same time we tell them that we prefer to halt this competition and reduce the nuclear arsenals by patient negotiation.” There were three elements to Reagan’s strategy. First, he argued America must become a reliable ally and respected by our adversaries. As we did, we would “be tested in ways calculated to try our patience, to confound our resolve and to erode our belief in ourselves.” But being consistent and credible was important to friend and foe alike. Second, Reagan said America must rebuild its conventional as well as its nuclear defenses, because “we are number two in a world where it’s dangerous, if not fatal, to be second best.” The Soviets must “know we are going about the business of restoring our margin of safety.” Third, Reagan knew “peace is made by the fact of strength – economic, military, and strategic. Peace is lost when such strength disappears or – just as bad – is seen by an adversary as disappearing.” America’s economy had to be restored, so the Soviets would know the U.S. could compete with them. Reagan’s careful preparation for negotiations with the Evil Empire was simple to explain and difficult to achieve: “a consistent foreign policy, a strong America, and a strong economy.” If you want an arms race, we’ll give you one, Reagan said, and we will win it, so once you’re convinced of that, let’s negotiate. Reagan spoke about his strategy repeatedly in speeches, debates and articles in the half-decade before being elected president. His approach was not cloaked in secrecy. It was not abstract promises. And it was not something to be revealed only after the election. Reagan knew a successful strategy doesn’t surprise adversaries, it engages them and draws them toward changes in behavior. When it comes to America’s adversaries, Mr. Obama doesn’t have a comprehensive strategy to match Reagan’s. Mr. Obama believes in talking and in meeting, in the hope that his charm will sweep despots off their feet like college students in Madison, Cambridge and Berkeley. If Mr. Obama wants to portray himself as Reagan, then let him show it by spelling out his strategy for Iran and the other rogue states he’s pledged to spend his first year visiting. What specifically will he say in those meetings that will cause their leaders to change? What will he do to create the conditions that lead them to abandon their aggressive course? If Mr. Obama keeps dodging these questions, then the American people will have every reason to view him as unprepared for the world stage. America’s adversaries are watching too. And one can only imagine the guffaws in Tehran, Damascus, Pyongyang, Caracas and Havana as tyrants think about how they’d be able to take advantage of Mr. Obama’s arrogance and innocence if he were elected president.