No one will accuse Jackson Diehl of being a right-wing neocon, but even from his center-left perspective, the Washington Post columnist recognizes disaster when he sees it. After watching Barack Obama abdicate all responsibility for Porkulus to Nancy Pelosi, Diehl wondered whether Obama was tough enough for the presidency. Obama’s Grand Tour of Europe leaves Diehl more convinced that Obama is a weak sister, unable to stand up for America’s interests:
Barack Obama has proved in the past few days that he can work smoothly and productively with a wide range of foreign leaders — provided that he allows them to set the agenda. …
What’s striking about Obama’s diplomacy, however, has been his willingness to embrace the priorities of European governments, Russia and China while playing down — or setting aside altogether — principal American concerns.
As U.S. officials readily acknowledge, strategic arms control is of much greater interest to Russia — whose nuclear arsenal is rapidly deteriorating — than it is to the United States. From Washington’s perspective, stopping Iran’s nuclear program is far more urgent than agreeing on the next incremental reduction in Cold War warheads. Yet Obama essentially consented in his first summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to devote the next four months of U.S.-Russian relations to an intensive effort to complete a new START treaty. No such cooperation on Iran is on the horizon. “I don’t think we want to suggest that somehow . . . there’s agreement about how to proceed,” one U.S. briefer conceded.
The G-20 and NATO summits followed a similar pattern. Even before Obama traveled to Europe, his administration surrendered on the biggest U.S. priorities — which were prompting Germany and other Western European countries to boost domestic spending and dispatch more troops and trainers to Afghanistan. With stimulus off the table, the economic summit centered on the platform of Germany and France — expanding government regulation — and on areas of general agreement, such as the provision of fresh funding for the IMF.
That sounds excellent! We can work on retreat from Russia — which, by the way, still hasn’t removed its troops from Georgia as promised — in return for Russia selling arms to Iran. We get to trade a lack of support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan with our promise to give the IMF a trillion dollars.
As Diehl notes, Obama’s “pliability” did not go unnoticed. Angela Merkel refused to consider Obama’s plan of government stimulus spending (which in this case was a smart choice anyway). Nicolas Sarkozy insisted on getting his statist expansion, and got it. Very little occurred in terms of negotiations, but it seems Europe had no trouble with ultimatums.
This isn’t “smart power.” It’s mindless, unilateral surrender. That seems to be Obama’s specialty at home and abroad.
Diehl tries to soften his analysis at the end by suggesting that surrender just might help America gain more respect from Russia and its allies. I’d like to see one historical instance where unilateral surrender ever made a nation stronger and more respected.