OBAMA'S LACK OF SEA-LEGS IN FOREIGN POLICY
Or the politics of foreign policy. Senator Barack Obama
is being blistered by his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination
:" Barack Obama's offer to meet without precondition with leaders of renegade nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran touched off a war of words, with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton calling him naive and Obama linking her to President Bush's diplomacy.
Older politicians in both parties questioned the wisdom of such a course, while Obama's supporters characterized it as a repudiation of Bush policies of refusing to engage with certain adversaries.
It triggered a round of competing memos and statements Tuesday between the chief Democratic presidential rivals. Obama's team portrayed it as a bold stroke; Clinton supporters saw it as a gaffe that underscored the freshman senator's lack of foreign policy experience.
"I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive," Clinton was quoted in an interview with the Quad-City Times that was posted on the Iowa newspaper's Web site on Tuesday."
As a tactical diplomatic move, a change of administrations is a good time to quietly
investigate de-escalating conflicts with adversaries or improving frigid relations with important partners or allies. In principle, it makes more sense than a blanket refusal to ever negotiate. An early, high profile volte-face in relations with previously hostile countries, provided there are substantive achievments with which to point as well
, can be a very important signal to the rest of the world for a new president.
On the other hand, giving out something as valuable as presidential face-time, across the board to some of the world's worst state actors, in exchange for nothing, is stupid. It diminishes the value of a presidential summit, undercuts our diplomats and demoralizes our friends while giving our enemies all the wrong incentives. If I were to guess, I'd say this empty, photo-op, gesture was the brainchild of Tony Lake
, a fountainhead of bad national security analysis for four decades and currently Obama's top foreign policy guru.
I could be wrong. Lake may have had little to do with Obama's statement but the political fallout at least would have been easy to predict if it had been widely discussed on the Obama team. My two cents is that Obama should broaden his advisory circle, or avail himself of the experience available to him as a Senator in the form of staffers, elder statesmen and thought leaders. The questions are only going to become harder and sharper from this point on.
Labels: 2008, democratic party, diplomacy, elections, foreign policy, national security, obama