Barnett wrong on Obama

Tom Barnett and I agree on a lot (such as the use f private contractors to counter the excessive relative value given to individual lives in public discourse), but he’s wrong in his defense of Senator Barack Obama and his attacks on Senator Clinton (see posts from July 28 and July 25). Specifically, in a recent Democratic Party debate Obama said that he would freely meet with rogue leaders without preconditions, while Clinton emphasized the need for care and concern when meeting with rogue states.

Meetings with high-level American officials are goods. They benefit not only the regimes hosting the officials, but those factions within the regimes seen as orchestrating it. The opposite is also true: when American officials are too busy to visit some country or organization, the snub hurts not only the would-be host but those elements that are seen as having “lost” or “depended on” the visit.

It’s is foolish to pretend that high-level American officials have an infinite amount of time and energy, or that as much time as possible should be spent visiting our enemies instead of our friends, “on the fence states,” or even doing the other jobs they are employed to do.

Barnett’s defense of Obama is wrong, and I fear it has a lot more to do with exasperation against Senator Clinton and the “baby boomers” in general (or perhaps the physical pain Tom’s enduring) than with the validity of Obama’s statements or even Barack himself.

For a more reasonable analysis of Obama’s statement, see zenpundit‘s Obama’s lack of sea-legs in foreign policy.

Update: A social faux paus! As I’m complaining, Tom is complimenting!

3 thoughts on “Barnett wrong on Obama”

  1. Relax Dan,

    I get to be protective of Obama when I want and I can get criticized for that as well.

    Everything is written for purpose, except when it's not.

  2. I agreed with Barnett's general thoughts on the matter — before he posted them! — over at ZenPundit.[1]

    I think that those most opposed to Obama's declaration either a) already have chosen against him and so seek whatever can be spun to pile on or b) merely believe in keeping the president, whoever becomes president, operating from within a box. The world has changed, in case nobody's noticed.


  3. Tom & Curtis,

    Thanks for the input!

    If I may, this hub-bub began when Obama issues a radically capitulatory foreign policy that no one serious believes he actually means, at least for the reasons he give.

    Curtis interprets it as a subtle, “5G” move to make our enemies think their on the offensive because they win bargaining games.

    Tom interprets it as a statement of calculated risk, if emphasizing the risk part more than Charles Krauthammer does.

    My interpretation: Edwards has moved farther to the left, so Obama has to as well, if he intends to form an alliance of leftists and Clinton-haters necessary to stop Hillary's juggernaut.

    Ultimately, I guess Obama's statement is no more surprising than the typical Democratic nonsense against China, or the typically Republican nonsense against immigration.

  4. I agree with Dan, Obama's statement was nothing more than signaling to the base “I'm not Bush” by declaring the opposite of what is perceived as a Bush problem of diplomacy.
    The problem is that is was a rather simplistic answer. Maybe for his purposes, it needed to be, but it opened him up for just the attack the H.C. gave him.
    Now if only I were old enough to remember all the 'simplistic' and 'naive' things that Reagan supposed said and was attacked for to make a comparison.

  5. Dan, no, I do not see it as a 5GW move. It could be, maybe, but I don't “see” enough about Obama to make that call.

    Primarily, my concern is about maneuverability. As I said at ZenPundit, I do not believe Obama plans to hand over to renegade regimes the keys to the White House; given that, then, how would a change in the Obama direction for foreign policy shake up the board, create initiative, perhaps even confuse those renegade leaders? It would be a new field for them; they would need to quickly learn the new rules. This isn't about handing over American keys or capitulating to every demand made by Chavez et al., in order to make them feel like “winners.” However, their reactions to such dialogues could be insightful, and their attempts to reposition and “take advantage” of the situation could indeed lead to some openings for our own jujitsu maneuvers.

    The 4GW diplomatic style of giving ultimatums before meetings occur — strong arm tactics, really — are merely us trying to stay within a box while keeping them within a different box. It severely limits what we do; it is a form of hatred in conflict, too linear. [1] And really, it doesn't fool anyone.

    Whether Obama could take full opportunity out of his proposed approach is a different subject.


  6. ElamBend, we agree.

    Curtis, allowing an “enemy” to take the initiative makes sense in cases where we own the rules of the game. However, the system only operates according to our rules in the Core, and not the Gap. That's both a national security reason that we need to shrink the gap, and cause of many thinkers' exasperation with Obama.

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