Senator Barrak Obama is a nice young man. He means well. He exudes goodness.
Americans are nice people--despite rumors to the contrary. We mean well. We want to do good.
We the People would generally much rather see our military forces used for disaster relief than for inflicting the disaster of war. We the People want the warlike use of our military to be covered by the flag of an international organisation. Heck, We the People would much rather talk with even our worst enemies than fight them.
It's no surprise that Senator Obama's reiterated declaration that he would talk without preconditions with the presidents of Syria, Venezuela, Cuba or Iran resonates deeply with the American public. The depth and breadth of this general American commitment to a faith in negotiations were brought out in a recent Gallup poll.
The Gallup organisation contacted 1,013 Americans between 19 and 21 May to ask their views on meeting generally with the leaders of countries considered hostile to the US and, more specifically, their views on a meeting with Iran's president.
Two thirds of those asked thought it was a good idea generally. Six out of every ten thought meeting with the Iranian president would be a good idea.
Among Democrats seventy-nine percent gave thumbs up to the face-to-face concept in general with the approval rating dipping only slightly with respect to Iran (seventy-one percent in favor.) Independents went for the general idea with seventy percent approving. Among this group the thumbs-up for gabbing with Ahmedinejad dropped to fifty-nine percent. Now the Republicans. Here the disapprovers held a very narrow advantage. In both the general and specific cases, the "no" vote won by a margin of fifty-one percent to forty-eight.
Check it out yourself, http://www.gallup.com/poll/107617/Americans-Favor-President-Meeting-US-Enemies.aspx.
Seems like the junior senator from Illinois has a winning issue.
More to the point, it appears that John McCain has a hell of a job persuading the American electorate that his hard nosed, realpolitik approach is better for US interests (to say nothing of the chances for peace in the world) than his opponent's sweetness-and-light view of international life.
That's going to be a very tough sell.
Talking for the sake of talking is undoubtedly preferable to shooting for the sake of shooting. That's a given. However, history demonstrates that talking without preconditions, without the necessary diplomatic grunt work and absent the right mix of inducements and (potential or actual) coercion is unlikely to produce more than unrealistic expectations, headlines and migraines for those who have to pick up the pieces later.
Obama's position is warm and fuzzy. It feels good. It resonates with the American public's long, long standing desire to be left in peace to get on with life unburdened by the potential or actuality of war. Hell, the Cold War was as much fun as having a root canal along with unpleasant surgery involving the anal region. All of us who lived through the half century of Soviet threat know that.
McCain's view of international relations is filled with cold sharpies. His world is a lot less pleasant than the one projected by Obama.
The position of the senator from Arizona is redeemed only by the fact that it is realistic and much more likely to result in enhanced security for the US and other nations. It is more likely to accomplish goals that we all want to see accomplished including an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without an ultimately disastrous American failure.
Throughout much of the world, and most particularly the Mideast and Northwest Asia, you either oppose the bully relentlessly or you pay him tribute or you join him. Strength and resolve are demanded both by diplomatic interlocutors and bystanders.
Beyond that, regardless of the so-called "tattered" image of the US in much of the world, now as during the Cold War, the leaders and citizens of other countries want the US to establish and maintain a firm position.
The operative word is "firm." That does not mean war fighting or war threatening. It does not mean inflexible. It most assuredly does not mean an arrogant, go-it-alone-come-what-may stance. It means a realistic view, consistently advanced without fits and starts, zigs and zags.
Realistic firmness means policy carefully crafted by professionals and executed by pragmatists. That's right, pragmatists, not ideologues or innocents.
Ideologues--the neocon ninnies--are behind the horrible failures of the past six years. This sort of narrow minded zeal must not be allowed to happen again.
Innocents ruled the Clinton Administration. Overall our foreign policy was a triumph of late out of the gate. Yes, we, in conjunction with allies had some successes, most notably in the wreckage of what was once called Yugoslavia. Then there were our failures ranging from limp wristed responses to the initial al-Qaeda provocations to the unseemly cut-and-run from the rubble of Somalia to the desperately misleading quasi-success in Haiti.
Innocents, naifs must be kept from the levers of foreign policy power. Not because there is anything inherently evil about naivete, but because someone later has to pick up the peaces--often with bloody hands.
Whether either of presumptive nominees like it or not, whether any of We the People like it our not, the next administration will be a foreign policy oriented administration. Our problems including the price of oil, the food crisis, the global warming affair, the nature of the global economy and its implications are all foreign policy concerns first and foremost. Over and above those problems is the looming mass of the ongoing conflict between the US and the sponsors or executors of terror and destabilization.
None of these challenges can be meaningfully addressed, let alone overcome by a combination of sweetness, light, kind words and a slogan of "change."