It Takes Two to Tango
Michael Gerson pronounces the Obama Doctrine of engagement DOA:
But even lacking an ideology, the administration does have a doctrine. The defining principle of President Obama’s foreign policy is engagement with America’s adversaries. Much of the president’s public diplomacy has been designed to clear a path for such talks — expressing respect for legitimate grievances, apologizing for past wrongs and offering dialogue without preconditions.
Six months on, how fares the Obama doctrine? Concerning North Korea and Iran, the doctrine is on its deathbed.
North Korea responded to administration outreach by testing a nuclear weapon, firing missiles toward U.S. allies, resuming plutonium reprocessing and threatening the United States with a “fire shower of nuclear retaliation.” During congressional testimony, Clinton admitted, “At this point [it] seems implausible, if not impossible, the North Koreans will return to the six-party talks and begin to disable their nuclear capacity again.”
The Iranian regime’s reaction to engagement was to cut the ribbon on a nuclear enrichment facility, add centrifuges, conduct a fraudulent election, and kill and imprison a variety of political opponents. Regarding administration overtures, Clinton recently told the BBC, “We haven’t had any response. We’ve certainly reached out and made it clear that’s what we’d be willing to do . . . but I don’t think they have any capacity to make that kind of decision right now.”
I agree with Mr. Gerson’s view that President Obama actually believes his campaign rhetoric. However, as James has chronicled effectively, President Obama ran successfully against President Bush’s foreign policy c. 2003 but as president affirmed Bush’s foreign policy c. 2008 with astonishing regularity. The Obama presidency is still in Act I and he’s been fortunate so far to have escaped serious foreign policy challenges.
They will come. And when they do perhaps a recalcitrant North Korea or Iran will come to the bargaining table. Or President Obama may doggedly try to continue to dance with the one that brought him, however ineffective it might be.
Or he may successfully redefine himself as he has done with protean facility throughout his adult life. Stay tuned.