How Obama undermines US allies

Obama has made his own personality and identity cornerstones of US diplomacy.

obama 298.88 (photo credit: )
obama 298.88
(photo credit: )
For those worried that US President Barack Obamais particularly antagonistic toward Israel, there's good news and badnews: The good news is that Israel is hardly Obama's obsession; the badnews is that his administration's conduct toward it is consistent withits pattern of backing away from embattled American allies - apredictable byproduct of Obama's approach to foreign policy throughdictator outreach.
Obama,more than any recent president, has made his own personality andidentity cornerstones of American diplomacy. He assumes his potentcharm can bend America's adversaries his way, that American historybegan anew on January 20, 2009 and that hostilities can be resolvedthrough dialogue with him. His tactic of choice has been to visit atroubled region, apologize to the local authoritarians for America'ssinful pre-Obama history, disavow acts of previous administrations andsuggest that he brings with him a diplomatic "reset-button."
But there are dangerous repercussions to conducting suchpersonality-focused foreign policy: By promoting his unique diplomatictouch as the key to rapprochement, any failure by Obama to harmonizehostile relationships indicates the insufficiency of his skills.
Accordingly, in practice, hostile governments have learned thatObama sets lofty diplomatic goals in public, but is willing to cutalmost any deal to keep up appearances. He has made countlessconcessions and conciliatory gestures to Iran, the Arab world, China,Russia and Venezuela, vainly urging some demonstration of good faith inreturn. Yet time and again, seeing no downside, America's adversariessimply pocket the concessions without reciprocating.
Refusing to concede any error, Obama has insteaddoubled his diplomatic bets, paying in the currency preferred by thehostile regimes: by jettisoning the interests of US allies who arethorns in their sides.
Obama has vocally criticized Israeli security policy, coerced asettlement freeze and put the status of established Jerusalemneighborhoods in question. Yet the Arab governments and Palestinianleadership keep moving the diplomatic goalposts, making no concessions,knowing he will only increase pressure on Israel to restart the "peaceprocess."
Obama's one-sided pressure against Israel has earned him, according to a Jerusalem Post poll published in June, the assessment of only 6 percent of Jewish Israelis that his administration is pro-Israel.
But it's not just Israel. In April he praised "the CzechRepublic and Poland, [who] have been courageous in agreeing to host" amissile-defense system, promising deployment "as long as the threatfrom Iran persists." By July, though the threat from Iran certainlypersisted, Obama caved in to Russian objections, abandoning themissile-shield along with those courageous Czechs and Poles.
In Honduras, his administration backed thereinstatement of a power-usurping, Chavez-allied anti-Americanpresident in spite of the legal democratic process which had removedhim.
In Iran, Obama still talks of engaging the mullahs and slowingdown sanctions even as the theo-fascists thumb their noses, ramping uptheir nuclear capability and mowing down democratic protesters holdingsigns saying "Obama, are you with us or against us?"
From China, Obama had high hopes for progress on human rightsand cooperation regarding Iran and North Korea. He got nothing, savefor an ironic lecture on fiscal responsibility from the communistgovernment.
Is there a threatened ally he has ever stood up for? If I were Taiwan, I'd be worried.
OBAMA TRULY believes in his special persuasive powers. "I have agift," he is famously reported to have said to Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid. During the campaign, the crux of his foreign policy was hiseagerness to immediately meet the world's most brutal dictators andenemies of America, without preconditions; he would personally makethem less antagonistic. He wants to hold a Muslim summit, since "I havelived in a Muslim country" [as a schoolboy], "I know it is possible toreconcile Islam with modernity and respect for human rights and arejection of violence."
Well, that's a relief.
Obama's belief in his own powers was reinforced by a love-struck press. After his vaguely messianic campaign and inauguration, Newsweek'sEvan Thomas typified the mood, hyperventilating that Obama was"standing above the country... above the world. He's sort of God." Butonce president, reality intruded: The leaders of Russia, China andNorth Korea don't believe in God. And the Islamist God is somewhat lesswarm and fuzzy than Barack Obama.
With nothing to show for his efforts, Obama's continued beliefin his ability to pacify adversaries by personal appeal is asdelusional as it is dangerous. Nations don't have personal friends;they have interests. And American interests are not advanced bypresidential groveling, but by creating the right mix of carrots andsticks to induce desired behavior.
Obama's willingness to sacrifice embattled allies to appeasehostile regimes ultimately weakens America. As Bernard Lewis has said:"A nation can make few mistakes worse than this: to be harmless as anenemy and treacherous as a friend."
Especially when that nation gets nothing in return.
The writer is an American attorney and political commentator currently living in Jerusalem. He is also Counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.