The View From 1776
Friday, February 15, 2008
Senator Obama’s Foreign Policy
Islamic leaders, from Osama Bin Ladin to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who view the United States as a paper tiger, are most likely to see an unsolicited visit by the new President as weakness to be exploited.
As the odds increase that Senator Barack Obama will become the Democratic presidential nominee, we should take a serious look at his announced foreign policy tactic of no-preconditions, personal meetings with the leaders of Iran and other enemy states.
This diplomatic summitry, so much in vogue with liberal-progressives, is another example of what British socialist Graham Wallas called the liberal fallacy. Liberals, said Mr. Wallas, reflexively assume two fallacious things: first, that their intellectual analysis leads to the only rational conclusion on issues, and, second, that once explained to the rest of the world, everyone else will readily endorse liberal-progressive positions.
Thus Senator Obama, whatever he personally believes, plays boldly to the liberal-progressive faith that all international conflicts can be amicably settled through personal meetings of national leaders.
That approach is unlikely to be recommended, even by the liberal-progressive apparatchiks of the State Department. The intransigent problem is that national interests often present zero-sum games in foreign relations.
For example, if Iran desires to dominate politics in the Middle East, it cannot allow the United States to stabilize Iraq and to maintain a strong military presence there. If the United States and much of the rest of the world have a literally vital interest in maintaining full access to Middle Eastern oil, they cannot permit Iran to dominate the Middle East and pull neighboring Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait into their sphere of influence.
In such situations, only the credible threat of economic and military retaliation provides sufficient leverage to negotiate effectively with jihadists. Abandoning that threat and walking into a summit conference with only a sweet smile and the promise of “change” is likely to be unavailing.
Michael O’hanlon, in an op-ed article published in today’s Wall Street Journal, explains more fully why that is so. Mr. O’hanlon, by the way, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning DC think-tank.
For additional background discussion, read: