Friday, April 16, 2010

Enter Obama, Master of Realpolitik

The New York Times has what appears to be the money quote of Obama's newly articulated policy in the Middle East and towards Israel:
Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The full transcript of Obama's press conference can be found here.

This is supposed to be a reflection of a new approach--a pragmatic approach that takes a more realistic view of the situation in the  Middle East and how it affects US interests.

At least that is the way that Peter Berger wrote in an article for The New York Times:

If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.

“Everybody always breaks it down between idealist and realist,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “If you had to put him in a category, he’s probably more realpolitik, like Bush 41,” the first President George Bush, Mr. Emanuel said.

He added, “He knows that personal relationships are important, but you’ve got to be cold-blooded about the self-interests of your nation.”
Putting aside Obama's poor handling of relations with Great Britain, it would be easier to take Berger's adulation and Emanuel's description of Obama as a practitioner of realpolitik and as someone comparable to Bush 41 if in fact Obama had the experience or accomplishments to back that up. Also, one does not usually associate someone who is "cold-blooded about the self-interests of your nation" with a president who makes a point of apologizing for US during his trips around the world.

Similarly, Mr. Berger's apparent surprise at the discrepancy between the supposed good will generated by Obama as opposed to his lack of friendships with world leaders seems to ignore the US allies who have received short shrift from the Obama administration.

More importantly, the connection drawn between Israel on the one hand and the involvement of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan is less than tenuous. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air writes:
The war in Afghanistan has its roots in the Cold War in the near term, and in centuries of tribal conflict. Iraq’s misery stems from Saddam Hussein’s attempt to overrun Kuwait in 1990, thanks in no small part to a lack of diplomatic fortitude from the US prior to the invasion.

Even al-Qaeda didn’t bother mimicking the Arab regimes they hate in blaming the Israelis for their terrorism until several years after they began their operations. AQ initially began attacking American assets because of our presence in Saudi Arabia, which they consider holy land, and that resulted from Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. For that matter, Osama bin Laden and the original core of AQ were radicalized by the Saudi-Yemen conflict over disputed territory, and the elimination of the Saudi royal family has always been Osama’s key goal.
We already saw from Obama's Cairo speech that history is not his strong point--which makes the current attempt to burnish Obama's credentials as a master of foreign policy unconvincing.

Just scary.

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