Obama administration signals troubling foreign policy shifts

Posted on March 9, 2009


Several recent foreign policy developments have led me to further concern regarding our geopolitical stance under this new administration. Take first the press conference snub and the DVD/bust faux pas with our friends in Great Britain (for which we are given the lame excuse of “Obama’s tired”) and couple it with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Russian “reset” button gaffe. The ploy, presenting the Russian Foreign Minister with a “reset” button to symbolize normalizing relations, was a tad hokey and gimmicky for my taste, but add to it the misspelling for the Russian word for “reset” with the word for “overload” or “overcharge,” and you have a pair of incidents that make you question the sheer readiness of this administration to act as equals on the global stage. Taken by itself, it makes you shake your head, but isn’t necessarily troubling.

Then you have Obama’s plan to bring Cuba in from the cold at an April summit, along with his relaxation of family travel restrictions and remittances to that country. The trade embargo will still stand for the moment, but it signals a warming of relations with a country under Raul Castro that has seen a recent militarization of its government and still exists, no matter what gushing visiting liberals say about it, as a Communist dictatorship. The move will likely anger the Cuban exile community, and makes you wonder why the time is now suddenly right for Obama to begin to embrace Cuba.

Next, we have Obama’s eyebrow-raising plan, enumerated over the weekend, to reach out to moderate members of the Taliban. Though the practice worked in Iraq with Sunni insurgents, it did so on a severely local basis, not as a broad strategic policy. As Michelle Malkin notes, are there really any Taliban moderates? The words led a Taliban spokesman to say that the Americans are now “tired and worried,” and gives the Taliban propaganda material. A foreign policy analyst quoted in the article notes that the moderates, if any, would likely have little to no power, and that the Taliban would have the position of strength in such an outreach. It leads one to think that Obama’s willingness to lay down with our enemies may not be such a fantastic or even feasible idea.

All this under an administration that has seemed loathe to use the phrase “war on terror,” from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and now, via Patterico, we have guidelines for the Voice of America to refrain from using terms like “Islamic terrorist” and “Muslim extremist.” The subtle but intentional shift in phraseology indicates to me an unwillingness to acknowledge that such threats exist and a desire to shift the conversation away from their potential to do harm.

All this is set against the backdrop of a world in which an unarmed Navy vessel is brazenly harassed by five Chinese ships like never before in the South China Sea. The USNS Impeccable had to use their fire hoses to try to drive off the Chinese vessels. The threats are real, and no amount of catering to our foes is going to save us from them. I can only hope this administration begins to wake up to that fact.

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