A Kinder, Gentler World: Obama’s Foreign Policy Naiveté



Around Christmas or my birthday my kids will sometimes ask what I would like as a gift, and in teasing them I’ll say “world peace.”  In which my kids will respond, “DAAAAAAD” in frustration.

The Obama Administration is starting to remind me of the movie Miss Congeniality when Sandra Bullock’s character is asked what she most desired for the world in a pageant interview, “tighter gun control measures Harsher punishment for parole violators… and (in copying every other contestant) world peace.” (Thanks Frances for the correction.)  It is wonderful to desire, but how is it actually achieved?

Transnationalism isn’t the way to go about it, but that seems to be the desire of Obama’s new State Department counsel, Harold Koh.  Rick Santorum opining for the Philadelphia Inquirer states:

Let’s set aside Koh’s disputed comments about the possible application of Sharia law in American jurisprudence. The pick is alarming for more fundamental reasons having to do with national sovereignty and constitutional self-governance.

What is indisputable is that Koh calls himself a "transnationalist." He believes U.S. courts "must look beyond national interest to the mutual interests of all nations in a smoothly functioning international legal regime. …" He thinks the courts have "a central role to play in domesticating international law into U.S. law" and should "use their interpretive powers to promote the development of a global legal system."

Koh’s "transnationalism" stands in contrast to good, old-fashioned notions of national sovereignty, in which our Constitution is the highest law of the land. In the traditional view, controversial matters, whatever they may be, are subject to democratic debate here. They should be resolved by the American people and their representatives, not "internationalized." What Holland or Belgium or Kenya or any other nation or coalition of nations thinks has no bearing on our exercise of executive, legislative, or judicial power.

Giving away our national sovereignty will not accomplish world peace, but what it will do is erode our way of life.  This will lead to compromises for sure, but ignores problems that need to be addressed like Islamic extremism, and Sharia law that tramples on basic human rights.  So that is the domestic, legal philosophy that is driving some in the Obama administration toward this “kinder, gentler world.”  Then we have President Obama’s response to threats that we are facing now.

In response to North Korea’s missile launch, President Barack Obama said the following during a speech given in Prague:

This provocation underscores the need for action _ not just this afternoon at the UN Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons. Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response. North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons. And all nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime.

Relying on the U.N. Security Council for do anything in this instance is akin to saying to North Korea, “stop or I’ll say stop again.”  This action ended up being an utter failure and did nothing, but empower North Korea.  This crisis is testing President Obama’s reliance on the U.N.  Another response to this crisis is calling for a $1.4 billion cut in missile defense.  Really?  Cutting what could protect us from a North Korean missile attack?  This doesn’t make sense in light of this growing threat.  A bipartisan group of senators and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (the Alaska National Guard has a missile defense unit) oppose this cut.  We should be strengthening our missile defense capabilities, not cutting them.  How does this make us safer?  North Korea won’t stop their testing because we are backing off missile defense.

Charles Krauthammer is concerned about President Obama’s gift-giving mood during his Europe visit:

There’s little harm in engaging in talks about redundant nukes because there is nothing of consequence at stake. But Obama seems not even to understand that these talks are a gift to the Russians for whom a return to anachronistic Reagan-era START talks is a return to the glory of U.S.-Soviet summitry.

I’m not against gift-giving in international relations. But it would be nice to see some reciprocity. Obama was in a giving mood throughout Europe. While Gordon Brown was trying to make his American DVDs work and the queen was rocking to her new iPod, the rest of Europe was enjoying a more fulsome Obama gift.

Our president came bearing a basketful of mea culpas. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.

And what did he get for this obsessive denigration of his own country? He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.

He wanted more stimulus spending from Europe. He got nothing.

From Russia, he got no help on Iran. From China, he got the blocking of any action on North Korea.

And what did he get for Guantanamo? France, pop. 64 million, will take one prisoner. One! (Sadly, he’ll have to leave his bridge partner behind.) The Austrians said they would take none. As Interior Minister Maria Fekter explained with impeccable Germanic logic, if they’re not dangerous, why not just keep them in America?

It seems like Obama’s approach to foreign policy is paying off… for Europe, North Korea, and Iran.  For us, not so much.

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  • http://livedout.blogspot.com Frances

    Miss Congeniality's comment was actually, “Harsher punishment for parole violators. . . and world peace.” (Yes, I have seen the movie too many times.)

    I think you are right on with this post. Giving away our national sovereignty is so stupid I can't even describe it.

  • Argon

    The sky isn't falling…

    Again.
    Heck, even Kenneth Starr supports Koh.

    Read outside the echo chamber. This opposition would have nothing to do with Koh's long-standing and vocal disagreement with Bush's detention policies and his penchant for using the “T” (torture) word to describe some of the prisoner interrogation techniques, would it? In any case, this is not a Supreme Court nomination, it's for the State Deparment.

  • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

    Thank you so much for the correction. I'll update the post!

  • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

    Didn't say the sky is falling, just that he is making numerous foreign policy errors.

    Wasn't this supposed to be his strong suit?

  • Argon

    IMHO repeating the “Koh is a dangerous transnationalist devoted to giving away national sovereignty ” meme is an example of a breathless hyperbole.

    And, there are more strategies to foreign policy than the big stick, neo-con approach.

  • http://livedout.blogspot.com Frances

    You are welcome.