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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Hubris of Humility

In last night's talking points memo, O'Reilly did a fine job of describing President Obama's strategy so far in foreign policy.

In Europe, Mr. Obama went out of his way to tell the world how he is going to correct what he believes were the mistakes of the Bush administration


The Obama strategy is to clear the decks of any anti-Bush hostility and present a new day dawning. He wants to make the nations of the world our partners in problem solving, and if he has to eat a little crow to do that, he'll butter up the bird.

Of course, while former President Bush is the biggest recipient of his ire, the current president is in fact criticizing our modern day foreign policy in general. After all, as he once said

too often we dictate the terms of the debate


we speak when we should listen

He will turn the page not only the wrongs of President Bush, but on all the wrongs of America. He will listen. Listen he did. He listened for nearly an hour while Marxist Daniel Ortegan went into an anti American diatrobe and said nothing. Later on, he only mused that he was glad that Ortega didn't blame him (President Obama) for things that happened when he was very young. That was rather revealing. The president wasn't terribly concerned if Ortega blamed his country, just not him personally.

President Obama will have a new sort of a foreign policy philosophy. This starts with a whirlwind tour in which he apologizes for every previous American wrong, real and imagined, all over the globe. It started in Europe, move to Mexico, and hat its latest stop in Trinidad and Tobago. What is the effect? Well, his advisor, David Axelrod, summed it up.

What’s happened is anti-Americanism isn’t cool anymore,” Mr. Axelrod said, speaking to an audience of a few hundred at a conference in Washington sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“This president has not only engaged the leaders of the world, he’s engaged the people of the world,” Mr. Axelrod said, arguing that Mr. Obama’s approach to foreign policy has restored “a sense of humility” that “was missing” in the past.

He's right. It isn't cool to bash America anymore. After all, why bash America, when its leader beats you to it. It is an old trick. Beat your critics to the punch. Before they have a chance to bash you, you bash yourself. It's the best part of self deprecating humor.

There's a bit of irony in all of this. President Obama is convinced that America has been doing it wrong all this time. America has been far too arrogant. It's time for more humility and he's just the one to do it. In fact, the only real arrogance is his own. He isn't merely bashing President Bush's foreign policy but America's in general in our recent history, all the way back to JFK. This nation, which brought freedom and democracy to millions in multiple continents, is the one that has been getting it wrong all this time. It's his job to fix it all. Job one is telling the rest of the world about each and every mistake. Job two is taking seriously the views of each and every tyrant and despot that has a beef with us.

Of course, so far at least, all of this "humility" has given us absolutely nothing tangible. We got no troops in Afghanistan. We got nothing of substance on North Korea. Iran put an American in prison for years on trumped up charges. His supporters continue to say that these things take time. That's true. His presidency has a lot more days left than days past. Maybe, we, critics, are wrong. Maybe after some more buttering up soon everyone will come to work with him constructively. They just haven't yet. I'd just like to know how much time he needs. At what point will he see that maybe, just maybe, his approach is wrong.

For me, it's rather simple. What sort of arrogance can be behind a belief that hundreds of years of history is wrong while your own view point is right. If America is so wrong, why are we more often than not on the right side of history? if we are on the right side of history more often than not, maybe that's what you tell the rest of the world rather than focusing on each and every mistake. That's what I would have told Ortega, but then again, my view of foreign policy isn't nearly is humble as the president's.


Anonymous said...

"If America is so wrong, why are we more often than not on the right side of history? if we are on the right side of history more often than not, maybe that's what you tell the rest of the world rather than focusing on each and every mistake."

Goodness me so sensitive! [or are you trying to stir up patriotism to effectively accuse Obama of being anti-American?]

Obama is making nice at first.
He will see what results this brings.
This takes time.
He can change his approach if he feels it isn't working.

mike volpe said...

He needs to trash the nation he is the leader of to make nice? Why?

Subtlety is not one of my strong suits, so if I wanted to call Obama an anti American, I would just do it.

Yours is the excuse all his defenders take. This takes time. Do you have any idea just how much he will trash his country in order to accomplish whatever it is he is trying to accomplish?

did you ever think that maybe trashing your country is just not the best approach.

Anonymous said...

Wow! You think he has been TRASHING America. Strong words!

I see him as laying out some fair criticisms - in particular showing how different he is from Bush.

He has been in office less than 100 days and you are demanding immediate results. I think you are unrealistic.

mike volpe said...

Well there is an awful lot that he finds to criticize. I notice that Merkel didn't apologize for Hitler. I notice that Sarkozy did not apologize for Napolean. I notice that Gordon Brown did not apologize for King George. Putin doesn't apologize for Stalin.

You don't really see leaders going onto an international stage and go into a long rant about everything that their country did wrong. That's because politics stops at the water's edge. You never criticize your country once you leave our shores. That's geopolitics 101.

I don't expect any great foreign policy breakthroughs, but I also don't understand what he gains by constantly criticizing the nation that he is supposed to be leading when on an international stage.

Anonymous said...

A mature nations acknowledges its shortcomings.
Quite simple really. But
you seems to have difficulty grasping it.

A "show" of strength differs from real strength. Again, elementary.

A strong nation can admit mistakes because it knows it is still the strongest. You don't make yourself weaker by acknowledging flaws, you set an example. Human knowledge 101.

In particular, he is showing how he is different to one of the most hated Presidents in modern history.

The days of talking self-righteously about America while refusing to consider other viewpoints are over.

Your view is [thankfully] is the minority. Check approval ratings of Obama, Bush/Cheney, and the Republicans if you don't believe me.

Al last America is becoming more civilized.

Anonymous said...

One of the main ways Obama is criticizing Bush is his use of torture - trying to highlight the gap between himself [new America] and Bush [old America].

If this country is to be distinguished from those led by monsters like Hitler and Stalin, then it must begin as expeditously as possible the process of eliminating in the minds of those watching throughout the civilized world that we as a people -- as a government run by law, not by outlaws -- neither accepts, endorses, approves nor otherwise condons the use of torture under any circumstances.

We should prosecute to the fullest extent under the law those responsible for spearheading this outrageous conduct. And that means everyone. Bring them to justice because there can be no law if those who broke it remain unaccountable.

mike volpe said...

Like I said, it seems we are the only nation acknowledging mistakes on the "world stage". We are now rather "mature". I am just curious as to how long we need to "acknowlege our mistakes".

I think any politician that goes overseas and criticizes his/her own nation doesn't know what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Obama is scary America’s jihadist enemies. Knowing Islam across the dinner table, he has no fear of it.

His predecessor, in Facebook terms, went on a spree of de-friending that made terrorist recruitment easier. Now the tables have been turned.

mike volpe said...

That last comment sounds like a lot of wishful thinking. You have absolutely no evidence of anything you just said.