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Sunday, October 11

Obama switches out NATO policy for European Parliament policy; otherwise, it's business as usual for U.S. foreign policy

In his ongoing quest to figure out the Obama administration's foreign policy, Washington Post columnist and associate editor David Ignatius has analyzed several Obama speeches and found a recurring theme. In his October 8 editorial for The Washington Post he summarizes the theme, which is fast gaining coin in the Obama camp, and which the U.S. Department of State is pushing. So whether or not you agree with David's analysis, it's important to learn the lingo he discusses because it's going to play a huge role in U.S. foreign policy patter during Obama's presidency:
[...] To take the version that the president used in his inaugural address: "What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility." This involves a reciprocal exchange -- "mutual interest and mutual respect" is how Obama put it that cold day in January, and he has returned often to that formulation.

This idea -- of balancing rights and responsibilities -- strikes me as a central pillar of Obama's foreign policy. Iran has the right to civilian nuclear power but the responsibility to abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty; Israel has the right to live in peace but the responsibility to refrain from building settlements, which Obama rejects as illegitimate.


In Obama's formulation, America has regained its authority because it has returned to the global framework that the Bush administration disdained. Obama said this plainly in his Sept. 23 speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He talked about how the United States has "re-engaged" the world by dealing with issues that "fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism." Obama listed his deliverables -- banning torture, ordering the closure of Guantanamo, withdrawing from Iraq, embracing negotiations on climate change and even paying America's bills at the United Nations.

Now it's your turn, was Obama's corollary message. For nations that defy international norms (read: Iran, North Korea), Obama warned of isolation: "America intends to keep our end of the bargain," he said. "Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations [as signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty] must face consequences."

You can find similar language in almost every major address Obama has given. In his June 4 speech in Cairo, he spoke of Israeli and Palestinian "obligations" under international agreements. In a July 11 speech in Accra, Ghana, he told Africans that partnership with the United States "must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect." When he disclosed Iran's secret enrichment facility on Sept. 25, he blasted Tehran for "refusing to live up to [its] international responsibilities."

This vision of a global rule of law exemplifies what we are coming to understand as Obama's way of thinking -- optimistic, rational, practical.[...]
I don't want to short David's analysis so I hope you'll read the entire essay, which isn't long. But leaving aside that he inadvertently points to President Obama's knack for drawing false parallels, I think he's wrong when he concludes that Obama's foreign policy "is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with the details of real life."

Stephen Diamond's latest post, which I cross-posted earlier today, provides four "details of real life" from the Obama administration's playbook; together, they point to the operational end of Mr Obama's doctrine, which is the inverse of the human-rights oriented cast of Obama's speeches.

So I think it's now possible to perceive the outlines of the Obama Doctrine, which stripped down is pretty much the same as the Bush Doctrine: one set of principles for the tourists, another set for procedural matters.

I have no doubt that Obama will deliver, or at least try to do so, on items that are dear to the heart of the European Parliament, including shutting down Guantanamo and pushing for climate change legislation. But just as Soros & Co. were orchestrating phony democratic elections in Georgia and Ukraine for the State Department while President Bush was preaching the virtues of genuine democracy, recent actions of Obama administration officials mock his talk about responsibilities.

At this point, the only real change I see represented in Obama's approach is that it's moving away from NATO policy, which dominated U.S. foreign policy for more than a half century, and moving toward 'harmonizing' with EU policy. That is why Obama scuttled the missile defense shield project in Poland and the Czech Republic: it was a product of NATO policy but a major headache for the European Parliament, which is trying to engage more 'constructively' with Russia.

The project was a bad idea to begin with -- a brainchild of the 'Get Russia' faction in NATO -- but it had created such friction with Moscow that it boomeranged and opened a wedge in NATO. (Reference the 'Germany-Russia dyad' that John Batchelor noted several weeks ago.)

If you ask whether Americans will ever see an American foreign policy -- don't make me roll on the floor with laughter. Listen, there's a war going on in Mexico, a really scary one; how scary the American public has no idea because the nightly news hasn't been reporting on it.

Bush tried, okay? He really tried to construct an American foreign policy. He was demonized for it, even within his own party, when he wasn't being ignored. In the greatest irony of the Bush presidency, in the end it fell to Vladimir Putin to defend the failed attempt. He did it with his trademark sarcasm, but he wasn't far off the mark when he said that Bush had to learn the hard way that the U.S. president doesn't run things in Washington.

Obama is more pragmatic in this regard; he knows he can get much further by not antagonizing the Eurocentrics in Congress, his party, and the defense establishment.

Speaking of Mexico, last week Mark Safranski's ZenPundit blog linked to Dr. Max G. Manwaring's paper for the Strategic Studies Institute titled A “New” Dynamic in the Western Hemisphere Security Environment: The Mexican Zetas and Other Private Armies. Mark observes about the Manwaring paper:
This is good. Why Mexico and the war next door gets less media coverage than Iraq amounts to a case of national denial. Things are getting worse south of the border and we are not prepared.
That's saying a mouthful but it's not so much denial as the NATO-centric U.S. news media, which except for Fox News Channel is busy retooling for the EU-centric era of American news.
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