Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama and the Axis of Stupid

So, there is quite the furor here in the States over President Obama's public overtures to the Castro Brothers in Cuba, Ahmadinejad in Iran and Chavez in Venezuela.  Republican critics are fond of crying that this "legitimizes" these rogue leaders.  But here they completely miss the point.   By making public overtures Obama is actually backing these bozos into corners.  And so far only the Castro brothers seem smart enough to realize it (you don't stay in power for half a century without learning a thing or two about politics).  

Here is how it's working. For years Bush has lead US policy from a position of intransigence and unreasoned bellicosity.   For years leaders and constituencies that might be open to taking our side on a variety of issues are repelled by this.  And all eyes are on the US waiting for it to get real.  In a stark reversal, Obama makes a public show of being reasonable and compromising.  This throws all the eyes back onto to the tyrants mentioned above.  If they respond by making their own moves towards reconciliation and compromise, great.  But if they respond by trying to take advantage of percieved weakness by the Obama administration, they look like the intransigent and bellicose ones.  

Of these three tyrants, only the Cubans have responded with talk of returning compromise with compromise.  Very clever.  If they play it right, the Castros might just be able to have some modicum of influence over the identity of their successors.  They are not young men and their time in power is limited at best.  They must be thinking a great deal about not just their own mortality but the future of their party, movement and regime.  

In contrast, Chavez and Ahmadinejad responded by reverting to type.  Chavez responded to Obama's rather mature approach to the Summit of the Americas by handing the President a copy of book about the history of war and oppression in Latin American in an obvious attempt to make it appear as if he's teaching Obama something about a tragic history.  Of course, Chavez didn't say that the room smelt like sulphur after Obama left (which he did say after Bush gave a speech) so I guess this is compromise of a sort by his standards.  

Ahmadinejad went into a fairly predictable anti-Semetic/anti-Isreali rant at a UN conference about ending racism.  Because of his presence and influence on the conference, a number of countries chose to join the US in boycotting it: Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland.  Now, the payoff for Obama's strategy though came when another group of European governments, including UK, France and Finland walked out in the middle of Ahmadinejad's speech.

The result is that Europe and the US are now rather publicly driven together in opposition to Iran's government.  Ahmadinejad could have made the US look bad by showing up to the conference and playing Mr. Nice Guy.  But he's too stupid. 

I've heard stuff on TV and radio that Ahmadinejad is going up for reelection soon and the Iranian economy is in trouble with lower oil prices.  So it may be that Ahmadinejad is willing to sacrifice sound foreign policy for the sake of populist appeals designed to squeeze out just enough votes back in Iran to stay in power...hmmmm, sounds familiar, sounds a lot like Bush-Cheney-Rove politics to me.  

LTG and I were talking last night about some other positive developments in Russia.  So far, Obama has been in power for only 3 months and already he appears to have radically altered US foreign policy and is already starting to see some positive returns.  So far so good!


The Law Talking Guy said...

It never occurred to Bush that the way to make Chavez et al. seem unreasonable - to the world and even to some of their own people - was for Bush to pplay the good guy, to extend a hand in good faith and let them slap it back in front of the world.

It never occured to these dumb conservatives that their own red-faced bellowing was what legitimized Chavez and Ahmadinejad to their own people. Their power depends on the USA being perceived as the enfant terrible: talking about "crusade" in the middle east, torturing terror suspects, lying about WMD, and running around like a cowboy.

We may see big dividends in Cuba soon. The Castro brothers may realize that if they can achieve some rapprochement with the USA (and the economic benefits that flow from it) for their people without being perceived as having given in to Yanqui Imperialistas, they will be doing very well for themselves. And the Castro brothers must realize too that, as with China, the USA isn't very demanding in terms of human rights or democracy if you're willing to play ball on trade. Obama is giving them the opportunity because he's being magnanimous. (Magnanimity, by the way, is from the Latin magna + anima meaning "big-spirited.")

Conservatives, mentally trapped in the playgrounds of their youths, seem to think of this as no more than appeasing a bully. They forget that the rest of the world thinks of the USA as the bully, and we are bigger and stronger than everyone else. They also don't seem to realize that this is a grownup world, where the psychology of children must be left behind.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

RBR, do you think that North Korea's actions of late (the missile launch, the extra bellicose threats about sanctions and war, the arrest of those U.S. journalists) and Iran's actions (the UN conference, the sentencing of the U.S. journalist, his comments about "no one can push around Iran", etc.) could be because they are testing the limits? Pushing up against Obama to see what gives? Certainly seems that way to me.

Raised By Republicans said...


Yes, they are testing the limits they can go to. But I hardly think that either Iran or North Korea have dramatically changed their policies in response Obama's election. It's not as if this is the first time Iran has publicly talked about their nukes program or that North Korea has tried to launch a missile.

So I do see the timing of these things as an attempt to test Obama but they do not represent a policy shift in response to Obama's election. This is an important distinction because the conservatives who complain about Obama's supposed weakness assert that it will provoke shifts in policy from our enemies to take advantage. I'm suggesting that in substance these rogue governments are "staying the course" and they are being made to look the fools for doing it.