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Monday, April 6, 2009

The President Fails Rule 1 of Geopolitics

It's gone from annoying to disturbing how often the president is making a habit of finding a foreign audience to criticize prior American foreign policy. Make no mistake, while a large majority of that prior policy is George W. Bush's, the current president's criticism isn't limited only to his predecessor. In 1952, Arthur Vandenburg presented a very simple geopolitical principle.

politics stops at the water's edge

In other words, whatever disagreements we may have, we present a united front outside our nation. Vandenburg believed that this is vital because in his words,

to unite our official voice at the water's edge so that America speaks with maximum authority against those who would divide and conquer us

President Obama seems to never miss an opportunity to talk to foreigners and find a point of prior foreign policy to criticize. The latest comes in a speech to the Parliament of Turkey.

An enduring commitment to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people. Robust minority rights let societies benefit from the full measure of contributions from all citizens.

I say this as the President of a country that not too long ago made it hard for someone who looks like me to vote.

As Powerline itself points, it wasn't even the federal government that stopped African Americans from voting but rather individual states. This may be a nit picking technicality however what's more important is that this follows in a disturbing pattern of the president using just about any opportunity to take shots at the country he is leading.

He has already gone overseas and accused America of torture, violating civil rights, violating the rule of law, acting arrogantly, not listening, and acting as imperialists. This disturbing onslaught on the country he purports to lead has real geopolitical consequences. From now on, any action which ally or foe alike doesn't like by his administration can be characterized by our adversaries as "imperialist", "arrogant", "torturous", etc.

By doing an endless string of mea culpa for all sorts of prior perceived bad policy, the president also by extension weakens the credibility of the nation as a whole. That's because he presents an image of the nation as a terribly flawed and failed nation. He presents a nation that has an image of doing wrong rather than right. What is really most troubling about all of this is how little time the president spends pointing out all the times that the United States has been a force for good rather. Instead, the president seems to always find any and all prior acts of bad and tells the world about the country's bad, but he rarely points out when the country has been a force for good.

If you were to only listen to the president, you might not realize that our blood and treasure freed both Western Europe and Eastern Europe. If you listen to the president, you wouldn't know that both Afghanistan and Iraq now have a chance at freedom because of the blood and treasure of the United States. It was also the United States that lead in the effort to isolate the Apartheid government of South Africa that ultimately lead to its disintegration. These are just a few examples of a history of good of our nation, and these examples rarely find their way into things the president says about the nation when he is overseas.


Anonymous said...

While Obama probably thinks he has to play diplomat to Bush's cowboy, I don't think this is such a good idea.

I think the particular points Powerline decided to highlight about voting rights were nitpicking, but still, Obama would have been much better off just playing up America's good rather than "admitting" to America's bad or whatever.

I have a rule that the lower down the political totem pole you are from President to Senator to House member to state politician, the less your comments are going to matter. And Obama's at the top of the totem pole right now, so what he says can and will be used against him in the court of propaganda.

That being said, your comment about ending Apartheid is kind of a double edged sword. Yes, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was a catalyst of sorts in getting the major powers to close ranks against P.W. Botha, but were it not for Desmond Tutu it never would have gotten the votes to override Reagan's veto. Dick Cheney called Nelson Mandela a terrorist. I'm not going to go so far as to accuse Reagan of supporting Apartheid (although considering he launched his presidential campaign from Philadelphia, Mississippi of all places, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine), but ending it was clearly secondary in his mind to getting Cuban troops out of Angola.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we should never admit we are wrong. USA USA! USA! USA! It damages our country if someone says, for example, that anything the USA has done wrong was wrong. I think that whatever we have done, that's something we need to stand by because this country is so great it can never do anything wrong. USA USA! USA! USA! U!S!A!!!

Anonymous said...

He is rebuilding the American image overseas. People like him over there - a lot.

It's smart politics and a refreshing change to the "America can do do no wrong" arrogance of the Bush era.

mike volpe said...

That's not what I said. I said leave the criticism for inside the country. Don't go outside the country to criticize. Politics stops at the water's edge.

mike volpe said...

Going around and telling everyone in the world about every single thing America has done wrong isn't smart politics. It's someone more concerned with being liked than with basic principles of geopolitics.

Did you once hear Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, or Nicholas Sarkozy bash their predecessors? No, why do you think that is? It isn't as though Chirac, Shroeder, and Blair are this monumental figures. It's because there is nothing to gain by going overseas and bashing your fellow politicos internally.

Anonymous said...

Never admitting you are wrong to other countries. And you wonder why people think America is arrogant?

Take a look in the mirror

mike volpe said...

The reason that Europe thinks we are arrogant is first because we conduct foreign policy with or without their permission and second because it makes them feel better because we are the superpower and there is a natural envy there.

Every country has a long history of doing wrong. As president, you can either constantly point out mistakes or you can focus on the good deeds. President Obama has chosen the former and it is very poor form.

Anonymous said...

You are quoting someone from the fifties to do with the geo-politics of that time.

This is 2009. The world has changed - a lot. With respect, you seem to a little out of touch.

Obama is setting an example [and yet did criticize the anti-Americanism of Europe.]

He seems a lot more mature than Bush.

mike volpe said...

Yeah, the world has changed a lot since Sun Tzu, but we still quote the Art of War. There are certain truths that stand the test of time, and crticizing your own country abroad is one of them. That one comment condemning Europe came among dozens of comments condemning America. It's classless, it's weak, and it's something that no politician should ever do abroad let alone the President.

Anonymous said...

The "criticisms" are really of the Bush administration than America per se.

I thought that was obvious?!?

Obama wants to signal a clear break from the idiot to show he is different.

By all accounts, he has been very successful in this image reconstruction.

Good for him!

Kim said...

A mature nation like a mature person acknowledges both shortcomings and triumphs.

mike volpe said...

First of all, Obama criticized the U.S. for slavery, segregation, dropping a nuke along with several long standing traits like "arrogance" so it wasn't only Bush but rather U.S. policy in general that he was criticizing.

Second, neither Sarkozy nor Merkel took shots at their predecessors even though during their respective campaigns they took plenty of shots at Chirac and Shroeder respectively. That's because these two leaders know this basic geopolitical principle.

mike volpe said...

Well, a classy president has some balance. President Obama spent about 95% of his time criticizing the U.S. and 5% of the time pointing out its good points. Like I said, all countries have done things in the past that are bad and a source of shame, but for a president to spend anytime condemning that past to his/her counterparts is just pure lunacy.

Nick said...

You're right Mike.

"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Too bad the Republicans didn't understand this. Thank God Obama doesn't

Anonymous said...

Well, we must understand the Obama vision to realize why he acts the way he does.
The liberal bent is but the tip of the iceberg and there is an active move to become THE leader in a new WORLD order. He will not be satisfied with undermining only the Constitution to meet with his own view of social progressive ideology.
He sucked up to the minorities and leftist groups to get where he is, and the people who got fed up with politics as usual went along for the ride. He was touted as bringing change, and now we see the changes and don't particularly care for what they are.