FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
What Barack Obama Said on Foreign Policy vs. What He Hopefully Intends to Do
I was encouraged by President Obama’s willingness to address the “Muslim world” as a whole in his inaugural discussion of the need to renounce terrorism and violence and to adopt a more civilized worldview. Despite his clear understanding of the terror networks threatening civilized societies the world over, former president Bush was often reluctant to address the problem of Islamist terror by its name.
We can only hope that Obama’s message to that “Muslim world,” on the other hand, was simply phrased as it was to please his liberal/progressive base, rather than an accurate expression of his worldview. “We seek a new way forward,” Obama said, “based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”
Though the far left often claims that President Bush’s policy was unnecessarily heavy-handed and reckless, the reality is that “mutual interest and mutual respect” was exactly the basis for Bush’s policy with the post-Taliban government and people of Afghanistan, the post-Saddam government and people of Iraq, and with so many others the world over.
Further, Obama’s message “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” hints at a view of international relations which is hopelessly Utopian, and which has no place the affairs of this world. All too many residents of the Muslim world are happy to judge their leaders on what they destroy, rather than on what they build (case in point: Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has sacrificed infrastructure for the chance to convert water pipes into homemade rockets built to fire at civilian populations in the sovereign country to their north).
President Obama’s decisions since the election suggest that his eyes have been opened to a degree by the information he has become privy to (or that he has begun learning now that he’s no longer skipping hearings on Afghanistan and other foreign crises because campaigning for president was a far higher priority to him than actively serving in his paid job as a Senator). I truly hope that his words today, which demonstrated a simplistic and entirely unrealistic worldview, were just that — words — and that President Obama’s actions will continue to demonstrate an understanding of the true complexity and danger inherent in the international challenges currently facing the U.S. and its allies.