Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rubin on Obama

Clinton's former deputy Secretary of State James Rubin has an opinion piece in the WSJ today explaining Obama's kinder, gentler approach to foreign policy, and towards the end of it says the following:
Mr. Obama's new diplomacy is well-suited to an era of democratic government and instant communication. By refusing to snub Hugo Chávez, Mr. Obama makes it harder for dictators and anti-American activists to demonize the U.S.
Well sure. My problem with Obama's handshake wasn't the handshake, it was the whole 'bro' toothy grin look and feel to it. Would Obama greet Karl Rove or Joe the Plumber the same way if he ran into them somewhere? A nice crisp handshake would have sufficed just as well. It's possible Obama had that in mind but was snookered by Chavez, who saw the opening and made a big production out of it. Alas, one of the drawbacks to that strategy.

The funny thing is the notion of this new policy being based almost entirely on the perception of the previous president's "bully" strategy towards diplomacy, one largely based on a leftist-created strawman. Bush got the support he sought from most of our Democratic allies (many helped behind the scenes) while trying to isolate the dictators. For that he was branded a bully by the left despite trying to fight a war. Now the same people who helped to create the strawman are happily knocking it down.

What about Mr. Rubin's own foreign policy experience? He failed to mention any successes during the 90s, for obvious reasons. But he's a faithful party man, saying this about Joe Biden last August:
Since 9/11, Senator Biden has also sought to focus American national security policy on the real threats from al-Qaeda. He never accepted the Bush administration's false claims of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin. Instead, he advocated the kind of counterterrorism plan that the experts know would have worked much better. That is, winning the war of ideas in the Muslim world, using military and law enforcement against the al-Qaeda group, and maintaining international solidarity. Unfortunately, again, the Bush administration didn't listen to him.
Chuckle. Biden voted for the war and Bush never lied about the CIA's standing intelligence--developed before 2000--of previous connections between Saddam and bin Laden. It would have been an outright lie to say Saddam was involved in 9/11, but Bush never said that. As late as 2007 Biden was telling Russert the WMDs might have been moved and it wasn't some Cheney pipe dream.

Finally, while it may be crass to mention a man's private life in the context of his political opinions the fact that he married one of CNN's most notorious reporters somehow seems relevant.

As for me, I will stand on the sidelines and try to quell my partisanship when it comes to Obama's reverse psychology FP strategy. It might work. If it does, conservatives should applaud appropriately and respectfully (unlike the left). But as Mr. Rubin's hero predicted, there will likely come an event (it wasn't four teenaged pirates) where the new president's strategy will be tested and he'll be forced to draw a line and take a stand. That's where true judgment gets measured. As Mr. Rubin suggests, we'll have to wait and see.

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