Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reality Wedge #2

What troubles some of us about President Obama isn't a single apology here or a single handshake there; it is evidence of a particular cast of mind. For Obama's foreign policy gambit to succeed, it isn't enough for him to "listen" and sit passively by as America is castigated by the Daniel Ortega's of the world. He also, and most importantly, needs to press reluctant allies and our enemies for concessions and actually get a few. Peter Wehner - Commentary

If, as we all suspect, (Obama) means to push the sides toward a deal, there is no obvious reason apply pressure privately. It is time he started talking more like John Foster Dulles and less like Oprah. Obama, in other words, has to start by imposing an agenda on Israel's conversation. He can win over Israelis eventually, but only if every front page story for the next six months is about whether or not Bibi and Lieberman are destroying relations with Washington. That is the only thing Israeli elites fear more than the loss of solidarity. Bernard Avishai
David Seaton's News Links
You may remember from my last post, that I refer to an area of agreement between people who can agree on very little, as the "Reality Wedge".

I would class Israeli peace activist Bernard Avishai and former Bush-II White House aide, Peter Wehner, writing in neocon haven Commentary Magazine as "people who can agree on very little", wouldn't you?

Nobody could be more in Barack Obama's corner than Eugene Robinson, who wrote in the Washington Post about the Trinidad Conference and the Chávez handshake:
My argument isn't that Obama should try to be someone he's not. It's that he's declining to use one of the tools at his disposal. As public anger over the U.S. bank bailouts was rising, a well-timed burst of presidential outrage might have allowed him to get out in front of it.
What these people are saying is that they are afraid that Barack Obama is a wimp.

Personally, I don't think he is.

JFK wasn't a wimp either, but Nikita Khrushchev thinking he was nearly started WWIII.

Khrushchev, had come up in a much more dangerous and difficult environment than JFK and misread him. Likewise, most leaders in the world's problem countries today have come up in very hard schools, much harder than "tough" old Chicago. They are not going to cut the USA any slack... They are simply waiting for "Obamamania" to run out of gas.

At the moment Obama is enjoying this incredible tailwind all over the world by simply not being George W. Bush... It is impossible to exaggerate how relieved the world feels that the most powerful (or at least the most dangerous) country on earth is no longer governed by a murderous idiot. But, at the same time, it would be most ingenious to confuse that relief with a massive urge on the part of the world to gulp down America's Kool-Aid.

Not being Bush is a wonderful thing but it isn't a solution, because Bush wasn't the problem itself, only an outward sign, a symbol of that problem. The problem is still there... with bells on.

American power was built around a healthy population, great manufacturing, good public education, solid money and a victorious military: all of which are simultaneously in crisis. America has created a web of world power well described by Chalmers Johnson and Noam Chomsky and many people around the world are eager to throw that yoke off. Now is their chance... be assured they will take it.

Obama is going to have to draw some clear red lines somewhere, sometime, but I think that is going to be difficult... it would be like Microsoft manufacturing airplanes... that is not how they got where they are.

My basic reading of Barack Obama and his problem remains more or less the same: he got where he is by appearing to be all things to all men. In this he is a genius... I have never ever seen such footwork before. Comparing Obama's powers of triangulation to Bill Clinton's or Tony Blair's is like comparing Einstein to Euclid. Finally, he is going to have to play the ball where it lies. To do that, however, would be to betray his very nature, his strategy of life, which is ambiguity.

He may find himself in a great war without really understanding how it happened to him. DS


Forensic economist said...

The reality wedge is that America is becoming less and less able to dictate to the rest of the world. Which means that Obama shakes hands with foreign leaders not because he is a liberal, but because that's what the leaders of independent nations do with each other.

I forecast it will take a generation or more for many Americans to realize this. We will get frothing at the mouth America firsters howling about how Obama and the democrats "lost" the middle east, just like the right wingers howled that democrats "lost China" to Mao by not supporting Chiang.

The question is: is the historical analogy to today the British Empire in Afghanistan or the Russian (soviet) empire in Afghanistan? The latter debacle led to the break up of the Russian Empire. Or to the British in 1956? With the Chinese about to play the role the Americans played in '56, telling us to go home like we told the British.

A glimmer of hope: apparently Obama is refusing to meet Netanyahu.

bailey alexander said...

Great, salient points but as magical as Obama may be, as popular as he may appear, he's still managed to surround himself with same ol' same 'ol.