Remember all those polls during the Presidential Campaign, how Europe desperately wanted Barack Obama to win. How the European leadership fawned over Obama when he made his summer tour tour around the world? One of the President’s campaign promises was that he was going to “repair” our relationship with Europe (as if they needed to be repaired).
Ever since he was inaugurated, President Obama has done his best to diss our allies in Europe. There was that famous “non joint press conference” when Gordon Brown came to visit, refusing Nicolas Sarkozy offer to share a meal when Obama was a guest in the country and his economic battles with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Last month the German magazine Der Spiegel wrote an article wondering if Merkel and Obama were frienemies.
His one-sided Middle East Policy has not endeared the President to our strong ally Israel, and Canada is not too happy about the protectionist measures in the porkulus bill.
Lets face it, eight months into the Obama Presidency, our “relationship repairer-in-chief” has done more to increase the divide between the US and its allies than to bring us together.
There is a group which the President has tried to make friends with, almost despot, or rogue regime in the world:
The Obama administration has made a point of extending an “open hand” to almost every malign regime on the planet.
by Abe Greenwald
Former presidents, clear your calendars: On Sunday, the Iranian government confirmed that it’s holding three American hikers in custody.
The moment belongs to rogue regimes. On August 4, former president Bill Clinton flew to North Korea, shook hands with Kim Jong Il’s top nuclear negotiator, broke bread with and took pictures next to the dear leader himself, extracted two American hostages from history’s largest gulag and flew back home.
On the same day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the U.S. recognition of the legitimacy of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “He’s the elected leader,” said Gibbs. “Death to America,” said Ahmadinejad at his inauguration the next day.
On August 1, the Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Burma’s isolated military junta is building a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities with North Korean help, with the aim of acquiring its first nuclear bomb in five years, according to evidence from key defectors revealed in an exclusive Herald report today.”
The last time that place made headlines, a U.S. ship was off its coast trying to get Band-Aids and powdered milk to its cyclone-ravaged people. Burma is so unglued that the status of its very name is in flux. Now Burma, or Myanmar, or whatever one calls this paradise of kleptocracy and child labor, is on a five-year nuclear plan.
What could have given the jungle-hiding junta of a pariah swampland that kind of moxie?
“It’s time for realism, as well as hope,” said Hillary Clinton soon after becoming Secretary of State. Since then, Sec. Clinton and her boss in the White House have been hoping while the bad guys have been getting real.
The Obama administration has made a point of extending an “open hand” to almost every malign regime on the planet, appealing to the non-existent better angels of tyrants and madmen. The new State Department immediately continued George W. Bush’s pointless courtship of North Korea, trying to beg Pyongyang back to nuclear negotiations in six-party talks. Then, when North Korea shot off missiles, tested nuclear bombs, and took Americans hostage, Hillary Clinton decided to get seriousness and . . . call the Kim regime mean names. So petrified was Kim that he booked her husband as court jester for a palace feast.
During Barack Obama’s first interview as president, he told a correspondent from Al Arabiya television that “it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran,” if we want the mullahs to abandon their quest for nuclear weapons. Queer that he was less willing to say anything to the mullahs five months later when they staged a phony election and killed those who objected. Obama refused to condemn the regime’s actions until it was all too late. The Khamenei-Ahmadinejad thugocracy imprisoned democrats, blamed the West and has not even pretended that the nuclear issue is up for discussion.
Months back, the Obama administration dropped hints about easing trade sanctions on Burma required under the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. They hoped the country’s rulers would seize the opportunity to grant their people more freedom and follow in the democratic footsteps of rising Indonesia. Instead, the junta seized the occasion of unprecedented American softness, tightened its grip on democratic troublemakers, and went whole hog on a nuclear partnership with North Korea.
It’s bad enough that the Obama administration has spent its first 200 days flattering known menaces. But its preemptive apologetics have now opened the door for every tinpot dictator with a copy of Rogue Regimes for Dummies. Considering how kindly the White House treats Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (not to mention King Abdullah, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad, and Manuel Zelaya) other small pariahs will likely follow Burma’s lead. That calculus, for Hillary Clinton’s information, is called realism.
The president and the secretary of state have missed no opportunity to brag about their disdain for “rigid” foreign policy ideologies. But they fail to realize that defending human rights and democracy on a global level is more than ideological folly. It is sound national security policy. Governments that violate the most basic trusts with their own people cannot be relied upon as good-faith U.S. partners. American exceptionalism is predicated on the notion of liberty for all people. This is not merely a lofty aspiration, but a kind of good neighbor filter. And today, we’re all neighbors.
As fits the administration’s M.O., the president has at long last come around to acting responsibly on Burma: trade sanctions have been renewed. Similarly, Robert Gibbs amended his comments on Ahmadinejad. But until Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton recognize that the American project is itself an inescapably ideological one, they will leave the American people exposed to the whims of bad actors for whom realism is the very stuff of life.
Abe Greenwald is policy adviser and online editor with the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington D.C.