Bambi No More

Crossposted at Ich Bin Ein Oberliner.

Writer, blogger, and Atlantic associate editor Matthew Yglesias has a fascinating look at Obama's foreign policy out in this month's Atlantic. It's called--for those too lazy to click on the link--"The Accidental Foreign Policy, and it's billed as "How an early gaffe and an excruciatingly long primary season helped Barack Obama find a distinctive voice on foreign affairs."

Yglesias focuses on Obama's willingness to meet with foreign leaders--something widely lambasted by the Serious class on both sides of the aisle as dangerously naive. That is to say, it was widely lambasted by the two big centers of establishment foreign policy: neo-conservatives (i.e. President Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, McCain, etc.) and moderate hawks (i.e. Senator Clinton, Broderites post-partisans, Friedman, etc.).

Yglesias points out that before the "gaffe", Obama's foreign policy was stunningly timid and hopelessly vague. He writes:

Despite his stand against the war in 2002, he had since hewed closely to the party line on foreign affairs. The only substantive thing he had to say about Iraq policy during his famous 2004 convention speech was: "When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going; to care for their families while they're gone; to tend to the soldiers upon their return; and to never, ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world." This merely echoed the bland competence-and-execution argument of mainstream party thinking. And as Clinton's campaign has been at pains to point out, Obama's Senate voting record on Iraq-related issues is nearly identical to hers. Before the YouTube debate, the higher Obama's political ambitions had reached, the more cautious his foreign policy had become.

Shortly put, Obama's foreign policy was pretty much run-of-the-mill for Democrats over the last few years: saner than Bush, but always with a "we're tough, too" whine. Needless to say, this isn't what we need today.

I appreciate two things about Obama's willingness to meet with foreign leaders--and the sketches of his policy points that have fallen out of that. First, it signals a pragmatism that has been sorely lacking since Bush II. Neoconservatism is essentially and necessarily dogmatic. That is to say, it provides a clear structure--a policy heuristic, if you will--that determines, given a situation, what the response is. In this way, Bush's foreign policy has actually been quite predictable. Dictator in the middle east? Make claims of threat to U.S. Safety and call for regime change. It's misplaced Mother Teresa with machine guns.

The moderate hawkishness of the Serious pundit and politician class fares little better. It often amounts to a "we'll do what he did, just better". It ignores the fundamental problems with "the white man's burden"-esque machismo of neo-conservatism. Namely, democracy at gun point might not be the panacea the right thinks it is. Free markets, free people; free people, moderate people--while catchy,  has failed.

Obama's policy, as Yglesias notes avoids these kinds of dogmatic policy structures. As he writes, "[I]f Obama wins in November, the thrilling debate over what should replace neoconservatism--"realistic Wilsonianism"? "ethical realism"?--can be tabled." None of this is to say that Obama's pragmatism leads to great policy. Consider the AIPAC speech, which laid out a depressingly familiar toe-the-line approach to Israel/Palestine. But, Obama's policies in other areas are heartening. Yglesias writes:

Obama calls not only for direct negotiations with leaders of rogue states, but also for an American commitment to eventual global nuclear disarmament (in part to reinvigorate nonproliferation efforts); a substantial rebalancing of American military priorities toward Afghanistan (and away from Iraq); a softening of the embargo on Cuba; and a widening of the current, single-minded focus on democracy promotion to include other development goals that might more effectively prevent terrorist recruitment. Many think that there's little difference between the Democrats on policy grounds. That may once have been true, but over time--and largely in response to Clinton's barbs--Obama's foreign-policy approach has evolved into something substantially different from either Clinton's or McCain's.

Looking back on Obama's foreign policy experience in the senate, one might have seen this pragmatism coming; his work, for example, with Sen. Lugar, a staunch conservative, in weapons proliferation demonstrates this kind of leftist pragmatism (see here or here). At any rate, his international politics, while certainly a departure from the Serious and Responsible clusterfuck of the last few years, is by no means as "naive" as his critics would say. It is different, to be sure, but after so many years of so much the same, it is a needed respite from the failures of the pundocracy.

The second upside of Obama's approach is his rejection of the classic snare for dovish politicians. That is, he refuses to play the testosterone equals good policy game that Republicans have been shoving down America's throat since Nixon. This rejection of American Exceptionalism is necessary both for good policy and for good politics, and its clear that Obama understands this. Instead of backing off from his comments about engagement with pariah states, he forcefully supported them. If you ask me, it's about time a Democrat showed some spine on foreign policy.

It's a great article. Read it.

UPDATE: Wow. I just made the rec list. Thanks everyone. This is a first for me.

Tags: Barack Obama, foreign policy, Matthew Yglesias, neoconservatism (all tags)



Tip Jar

For a sane foreign policy.

by shef 2008-06-14 02:58PM | 0 recs
Great diary

Highly rec'd

by Is This Snark 2008-06-14 03:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Great diary

Thank you. And thanks for your diary up right now. Well needed.

by shef 2008-06-14 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Great diary

Lori, Vcalzone and I had this exact conversation about this a couple of days ago; we all could tell that "the Obama doctrine" came about because he got rhetorically trapped at a debate.

by Jess81 2008-06-15 12:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Turning a gaffe into a foreign policy position is not only dumb , it is dangerous.

Very few serious foreign policy analysts on both sides of the spectrum would advocate meeting with the mullahs in Iran without preconditions.

Even Obama himself doesn't know what the hell his position is.

If Obama can say the gas tax issue is pandering and doesn't make sense , someone should ask him if he can point to any serious foreign policy analyst on all sides of the spectrum that would suggest the position makes any sense.

As far as I am concerned it is not a rational position.

If he wants to isolate Iran like he claims if they continue their dangerous activities , meeting with out preconditions as president totally undermines that.

by lori 2008-06-14 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

But bombing Iran if they attack any country in the region, is a better policy? Sorry but at least Obama wasn't and isn't trying to be republican lite.

by venician 2008-06-14 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Turning a gaffe into a foreign policy position is not only dumb , it is dangerous.

That would only be true if the gaffe were in fact bad policy. I would argue it isn't, and, as such, this particular argument doesn't make sense. You disagree. That's fine. But then our disagreement is over the substance of the policy not the way in which it was conceived.

That said, first off, Yglesias claims that polling demonstrates that American's support Obama's position. That, of course, does not mean that it is necessarily good policy (I imagine that Sen. Clinton's gas tax was supported by many Americans--to continue your analogy--but it wasn't good policy). So, while that is important, it doesn't mean it is good policy.

So, let's try some serious policy people. I would argue that, as opposed to the gas tax, international affairs is far murkier than  economics, at least in terms of the way conventional wisdom gels. So, your analogy, in this case, fails. There is no reason to suspect that the two most prevalent schools of policy and their conventional wisdom actually bear much resemblance to good policy. After all, it was their failings that led to this mess we're in now.

So, if we reject those schools, and, thus, their CW, we will have to make some new form of wisdom. First of all, Obama's policy is not to talk with everyone on god's green earth all the time. The question was on the leaders of the governments. In Iran's case that would be the Ayatollah.

It is the kind of "that's taboo" thinking regarding foreign policy. Namely, the idea that Iran is so terrifically evil that we musn't engage that is so indicitive of this failed foreign policy.

Lastly, even if you are correct that this is a terrible idea, you didn't address, the other portions of Sen. Obama's policy that fell out of this so-called gaffe. Namely, his pragmatism RE disarmament, prioritizing Afghanistan, etc. I would say that this singleminded focus (and I don't want to put words in your mouth, so...) among conservatives and some Clinton supporters on Iran as opposed to other aspects of Obama's policy positions demonstrates that they see what they want to see. After all, I think you'd be hard pressed to call his views on non-proliferation anything but good policy--at least coming from most lefty schools of thought.

by shef 2008-06-14 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

It is bad policy as far as I am concerned. It doesn't help that he himself doesn't think it is . He has been backtracking , parsing his way around it.

The bi partisan approach that has been used and has worked over time which Bush has rejected is fine with me.

In the sense that you allow members of your cabinet including your secretary of state to conduct intense talks and negotiations with or without preconditions ( preferably without preconditions in my opinion ) then if there is something to be gained or our interest has been served then the President himself can meet with these bad actors.

Even Richardson disagreed with Obama , Biden said he was wrong and he was learning .

His position would undermine the so called " isolation " which he talks about and would also undermine allies ( Britain , Germany etc ).

In my view it is as foolish and radical as the " doctrine of preemption " , infact as dangerous as the doctrine of preemption is I would think it is a better choice as it can be more effectively used as a policy of deterrence.

Odds are he recognizes he is not on solid ground , little wonder is on the defensive on the issue.

by lori 2008-06-14 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Simply because he is on the defensive over a given issue does not necessarily imply that he is being disingenuous in his support for direct talks.

In the absence of further evidence I'd say that the better explanation is that he truly does believe in direct talks.

After all, it seems to me that this gaffe was what he has wanted to say from the beginning but he has been more conservative on his foreign policy plans as he didn't want to give ammo to the "naive" meme. After he made his "gaffe" he--and his advisers--chose to come out swinging rather than play the came faux-centrist game as everyone else.

I don't see how this view is any less plausible than your 'he's being disingenuous' explanation.

In my view it is as foolish and radical as the " doctrine of preemption " , infact as dangerous as the doctrine of preemption is I would think it is a better choice as it can be more effectively used as a policy of deterrence.

This strikes me as hyperbole. You don't actually believe that speaking with the Ayatollah is worse than invading Iraq? Any conceivable scenario for the dangers of talking with Iran (what, nuclear war?) is not only implausable but would incredibly context-dependant.

In contrast preemptive war (which, unless I'm not understanding what you mean by that), in the Bush sense, is not really preemptive; it is virtually unjustified.

Finally, I don't understand what you mean by "even Richardson", as if Richardson is such a crazy, fringe policy guy. Similarly with Biden. Now, I respect Biden a good deal on foreign policy, and I am by no means a foreign policy expert, but I don't understand just what the danger is in talking to the Ayotollah. If anything, it would signal to Iranian reformers and moderates that the US isn't planning an attack (something used by the hardliners to keep everyone in check).

So, what exactly is the danger?Frankly, I don't see how you isolation argument plays out.

by shef 2008-06-14 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

I do not think both the doctrine of preemption in the Bush sense and Obama's position are wise paths.

However if I had to chose I would think the doctrine of preemption would be better because it can be used effectively as a a " policy of detterence " .

Infact every president has that option inherent in his/her powers as CIC , it has mainly being used as a form of unspoken deterrence . Bush exploited it in a perverse way because Iraq ended up posing no clear and present danger to us.

However I don't think any president we have would hesitate to use preemption if there was verifiable clear and present danger and preemption was the way to eliminate it.

Both Bush's idea of preemption and Obama's position are not prudent in my view.

I have read several quotes from Obama on this issue of direct talks and the position he had been stating prior to the gaffe was similar to the position I have above.

It was only after the gaffe , that his position changed.

He obviously believes in direct talk , but I believe he doesn't really think talking as president without preconditions is not a good idea.

Its important to note that I am not having a disagreement over talking or direct talks without preconditions but when and where it is appropriate to apply presidential power .

Richardson turned into a fringe guy on foreign policy during the primary when he advocated for withdrawal of every single troop from Iraq in 1 year or maybe a shorter time frame ( can't remember what the timeframe was ) which was deemed as impossible . His position was a political stunt in my estimation.

I believe presidential powers should be used wisely especially when it involves bad actors on the international stage , as long as Obama believes Iran is a grave threat and he wants to isolate them if they continue their actions , advocating a position of meeting without precondition as " president " undermines that in my opinion.

It seems you would have to place your trust in Ahmadinejad acting a good faith , at least thats what I think the precondition position entails which seems naive to me.

by lori 2008-06-14 04:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

I still don't see how the danger of engagement with Iran is even close to on par with the Bush version of preemptive war. Granted, of course, that Bush's version is a perversion of what you rightly note is an inherent power (read: there's preemptive war, then there's Bush's preemtive war--two different things).

I'll ask the question plainly: how is the danger of talking with the Ayatollah (not Ahmadinejad, who is NOT the leader of Iran) on par or worse than Bush's version of preemptive war?

You have yet to detail what, exactly, you think Obama's position will lead to.

Furthermore, as pointed out downthread, there are always preconditions, and it is a matter of where one sets the bar. So, where do you set the bar? What kind of conditions do you think Obama should follow?

by shef 2008-06-14 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Are you advocating a Palestine type situation ?

If thats the case , it is a good faith policy . I don't think it is a wise course of action to do that .

I do not think the Ayatollah has shown that much deviation from Ahmadinejad himself .

In the sense that the " so called moderates " in Iran don't seem to have that much difference in views from the hardliners that could be exploited as compared to Palestine.

Even in the case of Palestine in which we can find two parallel organizations , its hard to claim much success over the years.

My point is I don't trust that the Ayatollah has different aims/goals from Ahmadinejad.

by lori 2008-06-14 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

i.e. In terms of the Nuclear situation.

by lori 2008-06-14 06:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

It is all about image, Ahmadinejad relies on the image of defiance of a belligerent America.  If the American President attempted to reach out without preconditions, the Ahmadinejads of the world would lose leverage.  And it would stop looking like America was the bully, but their own leaders. Which also helps our image in the world if we are forced to resort to military action.

Dialogue at even the Presidential level does not undermine, policies of economic and political isolation.  But I am curious where you think those policies have succeeded.  How has Cuba, Gaza, and North Korea worked out?  Countries that have some of the most powerful militaries in the world on their doorstep?   With the ability to strike, and personal possession, of oil, Iran has far more leverage than any of those countries.

by Tumult 2008-06-14 07:30PM | 0 recs
Re: That's Key

Trust me, Europe's leadership secretly LOVES our doctrine. Particularly in the UK. If we back off, then they have to actually take a hand in matters instead of hanging back and watching us take the hit.

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 09:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Of course the leadership likes it

I'm well aware. My sister was just in Germany, and she said that everywhere she went, as soon as people found out she was American, they told her, "You must elect Barack Obama!"

by vcalzone 2008-06-15 12:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Preemption is immoral and illegal. You'd think someone with small town values would know that.

by Rationalisto 2008-06-15 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

His position on Afganistan , nuclear disarmament are not unreasonable position .

Probably because they were well thought out and weren't attempts at elevating a gaffe into serious policy to blunt political attacks.

by lori 2008-06-14 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

fair enough.

by shef 2008-06-14 04:16PM | 0 recs

no reason to HR. C'mon.

by shef 2008-06-14 03:39PM | 0 recs
I appreciate your diary, although I have some degree of difference with it. Nonetheless, it is a great diary. People should be free to enter into a discussion. Because discussion will take place anyway and attempting to suppress it or differences in policy gives an opponent more credence - undeservedly so.

Really great work. Keep em coming.

by Jeter 2008-06-14 10:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

So lori, since you seem to be such an expert on foreign policy what would you do if you were in charge?

by jsfox 2008-06-14 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More


by vcalzone 2008-06-14 03:46PM | 0 recs

Rude? How so? So my question had a bit of tone to it, but still it's just a question. Somebody throws out an opinion  that expresses to know what they are talking about  I have a right to ask for some proof.

by jsfox 2008-06-14 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Rude

She didn't make up claims or say something in a way that stirred up trouble. She said she had a problem with it and explained why. She never said she knew better than the person blogging, she just disagreed.

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 03:58PM | 0 recs
Uprated, though I don't care for the tone

It's overly confrontational and not particularly polite, but it's not trolling.

by nathanp 2008-06-14 08:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

If Obama can say the gas tax issue is pandering and doesn't make sense , someone should ask him if he can point to any serious foreign policy analyst on all sides of the spectrum that would suggest the position makes any sense.

Economics is a far more precise science than international relations, I'm afraid.  So while economists can speak with authority about the implications of a gas tax holiday, the implications of foreign policy decisions are likely to have less easily predicted results.

by freedom78 2008-06-14 06:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

There's talk today about Obama making a world trip before the convention. Would it be in terribly bad form to do it partially DURING the convention? Having him go around the world as the Democrats come together then come home to claim victory would look about as strong as anybody could. Think about it. He'd be extremely popular worldwide because of Bush. A full week of people yelling and cheering for him in places he's never been. How do the Republicans compete with that?

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 03:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Bomb Iran?

by venician 2008-06-14 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Yeah, flesh it out a bit. Maybe the Capitol Steps are free.

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 03:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

As for foreign policy, I never thought he was as dovish as he claimed to be. At heart, Obama doesn't strike me as a dreamer, he's a pragmatist. He just seems to inspire other people to be dreamers.

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Lori is pushing the "meeting with out preconditions" Republican talking point. I denounce that!

Asked if he were still willing to meet without pre-condition during your first year with Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il, Hugo Chavez, Obama said, "I do. Now, I did not say that I would be meeting with all of them. I said I'd be willing to. Obviously, there is a difference between pre-conditions and preparation. Pre-conditions, which was what the question was in that debate, means that we won't meet with people unless they've already agreed to the very things that we expect to be meeting with them about. And obviously, when we say to Iran, 'We won't meet with you until you've agreed to all the terms that we've laid out,'" from their perspective that's not a negotiation, that's not a meeting." [Meet the Press, 11/11/07]

Doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, but that's a good thing in my humble opinion.

I highlighted the part which is important in distinguishing the Bush/McCain approach from Obama's. That, and thinking with a working brain.

by xdem 2008-06-14 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Then you denounce Obama and then the diariest .

Thats part of the parsing and back tracking he is doing on the issue.

And Clinton is accused of double speak.

by lori 2008-06-14 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

I don't understand how his comment leads to him denouncing me.

by shef 2008-06-14 04:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

I know I've said it to you before, when you watch the actual moment, he begins his answer almost immediately, as if he has been waiting to hear something like that. I do, however, think that he misheard or misinterpreted the part that said "without preconditions".

Or perhaps he is correct, meant exactly what he said and we all have different definitions of preconditions. It's kind of a BS argument anyway. There's always preconditions, it's just a matter of what they are. If Iran attacks Israel, he's not going to meet with them the next day. It's a matter of where the bar is set.

I think it shouldn't be set so high that they can't reach it or have an excuse not to try. Where's your bar?

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 04:38PM | 0 recs
It depends on how you read

'preconditions'.  The way Bush & Condi read it, Iran must first do the very thing we would be negotiating about as a precondition before we negotiate...that's why their way has never worked.

Obama said there would be preparations which would mean diplomatic envoys, a set up of what the agenda was, what our position is, what we hope to accomplish.  That's to be expected.

I'm not sure it was a 'gaffe' when Obama said that although that's how the media took it.  I think he meant what he said about preconditions.  Diplomacy never required them pre-Bush...I think Bush and Condi don't want to meet with foreign leaders at all, maybe because neither has any skills in diplomacy.

by GFORD 2008-06-14 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: It depends on how you read

Sheeeeeeeeeeit, Bush looked in Vladimir Putin's stone cold eyes and saw a kind soul. Maybe that was enough to make him realize that he should leave the tough negotiations to the big boys.

by vcalzone 2008-06-14 09:51PM | 0 recs
This is disengenuous

He's neither backtracking nor parsing in the quoted passage, he's explaining. Republicans are trying to sell what he said as "Obama will meet with anyone at any time, no matter how evil they are," which is not true. The President of the United States doesn't jump for anyone. That said, the idea that Iran, whom we would like to curtail their nuclear development, recognize Israel and cease supporting terrorism, can't meet with us until they curtail their nuclear development, recognize Israel and cease supporting terrorism is a patently absurd stance.

by nathanp 2008-06-14 08:33PM | 0 recs
Re: This is disengenuous
The President of the United States doesn't jump for anyone.

Obama needs to use that line.
by vcalzone 2008-06-14 09:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Lori I still disagree.  This is literally how it happened:

Debate moderator: Will you meet with foreign dictators such as Baby Doc Mohammed Jong Spinoza (my made up tyrant)?

Obama: Yes

Clinton: Yes, but not first without.... [she then goes on to lay out things that kinda go without saying, like using the state department and "advance work" to show, by implication, that Obama doesn't want to do these things, because he didn't mention them].

So now the charge on Obama's foreign policy has to tacks to it: one, that it's a bad idea to meet with all foreign leaders (a defensible argument), and two, that he doesn't even want to do any diplomatic advance work, and to the extent that he says he does, it's backtracking (an indefensible argument).

These two arguments are conflated and confused.  The outlines of the policy are not.  

Hillary Clinton is a good debater.  We all know that, it's the stuff of legends.  Among other things, she's concise, and can trap people into defending things they didn't say.  

But the primary is over, and just because Hillary Clinton implied that he wanted to just show up in Pyongyang with a suitcase and a swingin dick doesn't mean that that's what he said, and that any other statement by him is contracting his early position.  It isn't, and there's no political reason to tie that to him anymore.

by Jess81 2008-06-15 12:15AM | 0 recs
excellent point

There's always preconditions, it's just a matter of what they are. If Iran attacks Israel, he's not going to meet with them the next day. It's a matter of where the bar is set.

by shef 2008-06-14 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Thanks Shef for the great diary. Hopefully, some will see that foreign policy isn't engraved on tablest from Moses, but that for good or bad, often develops from mistakes, accidents, or gaffes.

In this case, Obama's foreign policy of meeting with leaders without preconditions is the realistic one. Lol. "We won't meet with bad people" is a step in establishing "we" are the "bad people." Not meeting foreign leaders is a sign of being divorced from reality, and in history it has proved to always be a fiction meant to assuage chauvinism.

Time to end the naivete of the neocons and hawks.

by catilinus 2008-06-14 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Exactly. Foreign policy is fine-tuned based on opportunity and threat. The idea that it is carved in stone at a debate is absurd, as are all Republican talking points.

by Rationalisto 2008-06-15 07:53AM | 0 recs
Foreign policy for 12 year olds.

It would be hilarious if it were not so dangerous to listen to the juvenile chest thumping and 2 dimensional cartoon character assessments of our adversaries that passes for foreign policy in the US today.

GWB recently remarked something to the effect that their was no point in speaking to Ahmadinejad because he was not going to be able to win him over to the American world view. After 8 years as president this idiot thinks the point of diplomacy is to convince your enemies that you are right and they are wrong? Scary.

The other widely espoused bit of idiocy is the view that all of our adversaries are foaming at the mouth irrational crazies. No sense in talking to the Iranians they are a bunch of religious loonies.

The fact is the Iranians are very rational. They act in ways that extend their influence and protect their national interests as they see them. So rational that they have completely out maneuvered Bush in Iraq. The party and militia that props up Maliki (the SCIRI and its Badr militia) was founded, organized and trained in Iran by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. So the Iranians have more influence then we do with the Shiites who are supposedly on our side as well as the Shiite Sadrists who we are fighting.

These irrational crazies have bamboozled us into removing their biggest enemy in the region and handing the country to them on a silver platter. The Neo-Cons Iraqi poster boy Ahmed Chalabi, the guy Cheney wanted to make prime minister was an Iranian double agent.

The Iranians have cooperated with us. After 911 in Afghanistan they provided help looking for an opening to increase their own security by engaging a super power they see as very dangerous.

I could understand why a pea brain like Bush would not want to engage in a battle of wits with the Iranians. But tabling diplomacy and statecraft means we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back. The first step towards an intelligent and effective foreign policy would be to dump the Bush world view made up of cartoon characters in white hats and black hats. Russia, China, Iran, the USA and Israel, etc., all have a complex web of economic, political and national interests. Internally they are dynamic societies with different groups vying for power and influence. There is a lot that can be leveraged for the nations that can deftly use both soft and hard power to influence events.

Obama never suggested he would pick up the phone and call Ahmadinejad and say let's get together next week. The state department would have to negotiate dates, location, an agenda for the meeting and expected goals and how they would be anounced. That is not the same as preconditions. If you expect your adversary to run up the white flag as a condition of talks you have ruled out diplomacy as a weapon.

by hankg 2008-06-14 10:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Foreign policy for 12 year olds.

 I want to associate myself with Hank G's remarkable remarks. Mojo!

by xdem 2008-06-14 10:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Foreign policy for 12 year olds.

All Middle-Eastern governments that don't hew to US interests totally are said to be "run by madmen".  It's such an obvious line of propaganda that I could literally pick up on it as a 10 year old girl, having heard the word "crazy" attached to an Arab name like about 15 times too many.

It's fucking sad that people have to point out that "such-and-such government behaves rationally in the interests of the people controlling it" in this day and age.  Should go without saying.  Instead, the mainstream view is that Iran is hellbent to the sole purpose of getting a nuclear weapon as quicly as possible, so that they can launch it against Israel.  They're crazy!

by Jess81 2008-06-15 12:22AM | 0 recs
Well said.

The belligerent idiocy passed off as policy by GWB's neocon cabal must be disparaged and rejected as a frame of reference first, before any intelligent discussion of policy can begin. One cannot build consensus around future future policy initiatives until the mounds of elephant sh*t piled up over the past decade has been carted away, the floor scrubbed and disinfected, and all infected by this terrible plague have been treated or quarantined.

by Sumo Vita 2008-06-15 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Great link.

More proof that Americans (like the Democrats) are ready for a bold, open-minded thinker.

by NeverNude 2008-06-15 12:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Concern trolls make a point to not a miss a single diary.

Mojo'd and rec'd.

Maybe when Hillary repeats these Obama talking points when she campaigns for him some of the usual suspects might agree with it.

by spacemanspiff 2008-06-15 01:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More
Great diary, Shef. Well written, good analysis and spot on wrt Obama and his developing foreign policy. Rec'd
Hope we see more from you!!
by skohayes 2008-06-15 04:04AM | 0 recs
Good diary

Please lose the title. He never was Bambi. I almost didn't read the diary because the title indicated it was going to be some Clinton supporter rationalizing their way to excusing his "inexperience" that they'd previously figured meant doom to the nation.

by Mobar 2008-06-15 05:53AM | 0 recs

The more I think about it, the more the title bothers me. I could write a diary about how one of the benefits of the primary season was that people who'd previously considered HRC a cold fish discovered that she's actually a very warm person. And it would never occur to me to title that diary "Frigid Bitch No More."

by Mobar 2008-06-15 05:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Bambi No More

Matthew Yglesias is the same anti-Hillary hack who said it's difficult to know how much of the recent now-discredited Vanity Fair piece was true and how much was false.

Imagine if one progressive writer said the same thing about the "whitey" rumors about Michelle, of which there exists no evidence?

by kingsbridge77 2008-06-15 06:57AM | 0 recs


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