Friday, October 16, 2009

The Stuff Of Nobels

Surveying the Obama administration's poor performance so far in Iran and the Middle East, Charles Krauthammer sums up Secretary of State Clinton's recent visit to Moscow, during which the Russians retreated on Iranian sanctions:
The Russian leadership, hardly believing its luck, needs no interpreter to understand that when the Obama team clownishly rushes in bearing gifts and "reset" buttons, there is nothing ulterior, diabolical, clever or even serious behind it. It is amateurishness, wrapped in naivete, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.


MK said...

I’ve been thinking about your suggestion that it might be useful to have a third, somewhat centrist, third party. One which could accommodate realists and pragmatists who don’t carry the baggage on foreign policy and on some domestic issues the two major parties do. Given his stance on Iraq, Krauthammer is the wrong person to carry the message on alternatives to U.S.-Russia policy.

I heard a number of people who came to the U.S. from countries once occupied by the Soviet Union discuss the Presidential campaigns last year. What I kept thinking was, “I get what you support in terms of U.S. policy towards Russia, but for those of you who identify as Republicans (not all did) you’re dragging a huge ball-and-chain called Iraq. The decision to launch a war of choice which resulted in no WMD being found tilted some U.S. voters towards isolation.“ Unfortunately, for some, being a foreign policy hawk in the U.S. has come to be associated with supporting the Iraq War.

Given the baggage people such as Krauthammer trail, what is needed is a “reset button” for discussing foreign policy. Not by purely political pundits but by those who focus on outcomes beyond undermining the opposition party. (Politics often reduces people to nyah-nyah-nyah arguments which I associate with immature boys.) Fresh voices to which open minded people might be willing to listen.

I would like to see the emergence on foreign policy and defense issues of some knowledgeable women in the mold of the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick. (Kathleen Parker noted in a column about candidates and domestic policy that, rightly or wrongly, opponents often argue now that “the Republican party is a party of men.” Lindsay Graham argued recently, albeit in a domestic policy context, that "We're not going to be the party of angry white guys.") That said, even a Kirkpatrick type would need a reset. The “blame America first” line Kirkpatrick first introduced effectively in her ringing defense of Reagan’s foreign policy at the 1984 Republican Convention may no longer work. Again, the reason largely is Iraq. Many voters resented the implication that questioning U.S. Iraq policy was “unpatriotic.” Since many felt they had a right to blame their own government for going to war, the blame line in defense can sound like a dodge of responsibility. Fewer voters identify as liberals than as conservatives or moderates. Absent that centrist third party, Republican Russia experts need to figure out a way to get Independents who opposed the Iraq war to listen.

To reach Independents, the right woman (not a female version of Dick Cheney) could play a role, although I can’t point to whom. Kathleen Parker pointed to some of the new Republican women on the scene but focused mostly on domestic policy. She noted, “In the past few months, several conservative women have emerged as candidates and critics to challenge the notion that the GOP is the party of men. They're also putting to rest any thought that Sarah Palin is the female face of the party. The McCain campaign had the right idea; it just picked the wrong woman.

Among the newer comers are two mega-businesswomen and two famous daughters, representing younger generations with divergent ideas. . .they offer a glimpse at what could become a surge of hormonal correction on the conservative side.”

In pointing to the paucity of female Republican governors, Parker argued that “This deficit in high office is both a taint on the GOP and a reflection of the broader assumption that Republicans are monolithically against women's rights.” Perhaps there is a need for fresh voices on foreign policy, as well—men and women who are smart, knowledgeable, firm, committed to using hard and soft power wisely, but not overly macho and insulting in addressing the American people. If anger and bluster and insults don’t work in resolving personal relationships, they may not be as effective in politics and punditry as some well-intended practitioners, such as Krauthammer seem to believe, either.

MK said...

Just to make it clear, in addressing the need for a reset, I am talking about how to reach out to the domestic American audience, not taking a position on U.S. foreign policy itself.

MK said...

Rainy morning in the DC area so I have lots of time to browse the web. Another clarification. Jeanne Kirkpatrick is associated with neoconservatism, although she expressed some private doubts about the Iraq war. I'm not arguing for more female and male neocon voices or voices associated with a particular approach to foreign policy. I'm just arguing for a wider palette in terms of image as well as voices which can discuss foreign policy and defense issues authoritatively. People who can project something beyond what I view as the often tiresome (to me) frat boy vibe at The Corner. People with good EI, female as well as male.