Monday, November 23, 2009

Obama gets an education

While it is too soon to be sure, it appears that Pres. Obama may be learning from experience. At Der Speigel, Gabor Steingart writes of Obama's failures and the signs that he may be learning from them:
Although Obama did not lose face in China and Japan, he did appear to have lost some of his initial stature.

In Tokyo, the new center-left government even pulled out of its participation in a mission which saw the Japanese navy refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean as part of the Afghanistan campaign. In Beijing, Obama failed to achieve any important concessions whatsoever. There will be no binding commitments from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A revaluation of the Chinese currency, which is kept artificially weak, has been postponed. Sanctions against Iran? Not a chance. Nuclear disarmament? Not an issue for the Chinese.

The White House did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China. The president, who had said only a few days earlier that freedom of expression is a universal right, was coerced into attending a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at which questions were forbidden. Former US President George W. Bush had always managed to avoid such press conferences. ....

Obama's new foreign policy has also been relatively unsuccessful elsewhere, with even friends like Israel leaving him high and dry. For the government of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, peace is only conceivable under its terms. Netanyahu has rejected Obama's call for a complete moratorium on the construction of settlements. As a result, Obama has nothing to offer the Palestinians and the Syrians. "We thought we had some leverage," says Martin Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel under the Clinton administration and now an advisor to Obama. "But that proved to be an illusion." Even the president seems to have lost his faith in a genial foreign policy. The approach that was being used in Afghanistan this spring, with its strong emphasis on civilian reconstruction, is already being changed.

Now, for the signs that Obama may be learning, he cites changes in Obama policy toward Iran and Korea:
An end to diplomacy is also taking shape in Washington's policy toward Tehran. It is now up to Iran, Obama said, to convince the world that its nuclear power is peaceful. While in Asia, Obama mentioned "consequences" unless it followed his advice. This puts the president, in his tenth month in office, where Bush began -- with threats. "Time is running out," Obama said in Korea. It was the same phrase Bush used against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, shortly before he sent in the bombers.
Mr. Steingart may be over-optimistic. it seems unlikely that Pres. Obama could lose his naivety in only ten months while ex-Pres. Carter has not lost his in three decades. Separately, there are no signs that Obama is moderating his even more disastrous domestic agenda. For example, Obama is showing no signs of a course correction on his medical takeover despite it having reached a new low in popularity with Rasmussen finding that voters oppose it by 56% to 38%. Obama campaigned as the candidate of hope and, so it is: all we can do is hope that he is learning.

Hat tip: Jules Crittenden.

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