It is increasingly apparent that Barack Obama's early schooling in Indonesia missed some of life's lessons contained in Robert Fulghum's classic "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten". A few related thoughts from this week's international news:
1. Don't needlessly antagonize your rivals. China's official news agency condemned Obama's July 16 meetingwith the Dalai Lama claiming that Obama supports anti-China separatists and "has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, hurt the feelings of Chinese people and damaged the Sino-American relations." Obama demurred on such a meeting in 2009, but held a similar provocative meeting a few months later. For what purpose?
2. Respect the kids who are trying. In a July 10 visit to Turkey Hillary Clinton found it necessary to reverse her praise of 2009 that “Turkey has made tremendous progress in freedom of speech and freedom of religion and human rights,” and instead to publicly chastise our NATO ally for mistreating the press. At a point when we are seeking the cooperation of highly popular, publicly electedPresident Recep Erdogan to use Turkey's rising regional power to help solve problems with Palestine/Israel, Iran, Syria, and Libya the administration chooses a poke in the eye.
3. When playing with strangers, ask for references. The administration's July 15 recognition of the ragtag opposition as the legitimate government of Libya in order to give them access to impounded financial accounts violates several current principles of international law. For one, we recognize countries, not governments; for another, they do not control all (or a majority?) of the population or territory of the country. With no clear mission or plan, no Congressional approval, a military standstill, and no ability to kill Qaddafi with a bomb, we'll latch on to this group, whoever they are.
So, the question is: if you were the leader of a country looking for a reliable partner in this dangerous world, who would you trust to keep your back? If you were Israel worried about a dangerous neighborhood? If you were Saudi Arabia worried about Iran? If you were Columbia worried about Venezuela? If you were Japan or South Korea worried about a resurgent China? If you were Pakistan worried about a rapidly growing India? Leading from behind would be bad enough, but the Obama administration is choosing to irritate important countries for no purpose while giving billions to people that we don't know.
Fortunately most world leaders understand that American politics ebb and flow, that long term relationships are built upon mutual self interest, and that this administration is an aberration.
This week's "video" is stunning evidence that Barack Obama has hired Jimmy Carter's speech writer.
bill bowen - 7/22/11