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Obama Foreign Policy Assumptions

The current administration seems to think it can alter the world through sheer force of goodwill.  This may be likened to a kind of moral psychokinetics where the force of will is considered sufficient to change difficult circumstances around the world.  This is otherwise known as the Jimmy Carter approach to foreign policy. 

There may be something I have overlooked, but I have identified 8 principle assumptions that underlie this optimistic approach to the world. 

First, begin with the assumption that all cultures are legitimate and are of equal value. 

Mr. Obama stated this in his message to the “Muslim world” from Cairo University in Egypt recently.  “…America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.  Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” 

He helpfully neglects to mention that women have a bit less “dignity” than men in Islam.  He also omitted the Islamic practice of Dhimmitude for non-Muslims, and the hundreds of thousands of slaves purchased and owned by Muslims in Africa and the Middle East. 

He later said in the same speech, “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”  Aside from dealing with the question of what world order he’s talking about, note that he is saying that no one group of people should be elevated over another. 

I certainly share the President’s disposition about equal value if he’s talking about a race of people, or a gender.  But Mr. Obama is so far above us that he is using this set of values to make common ground with an Islamic state.  The President doesn’t want to suggest that the United States should be elevated above Sudan, for example.  The people of America have no greater intrinsic worth than the Muslim slaveholders in Sudan, but he takes this even farther by suggesting that Sudanese Islamic culture is equal to that of the United States!  So this is the first principle – all cultures are of equal value. 

This new way of thinking has been a healing balm here in America, and as a consequence, we have seen the rise of “black culture,” “women’s studies,” “gay studies,” and so on.  If a guy wants to marry his boyfriend, that’s cool.  If a woman thinks she is a man, that’s cool – one culture is as good as any other.  

Now this new way of thinking has grown to the point where all these cultures must have their own place on the college campus.  After heroic efforts at implementing integration, we have finally reached the point in our history where we have segregated dorms, segregated cafeterias and the like on state university campuses.  Government approved, sponsored segregation paid for with your tax dollars!  All these cultures…! 

He has selected Sonia Sotomayer as his nominee to the Supreme Court because she is a Latina.  She has publicly pronounced many times over many years that her judgments would be superior to that of a white male.  So we are about to have the first proudly racist Supreme Court Justice since Hugo Black.  We are coming to think of this as Multiculturalism on the Bench.  If you are a Latina, you need a Latina judge; if you are a black male, you need a black judge.  Otherwise justice cannot be done. 

Second, assume that all international tensions are resolvable if you have the goodwill and integrity to make an honest appeal to all parties. 

The liberal project believes in the perfectibility of all people.  All limitations on human perfectibility can be removed if you write a sufficient number of laws.  People won’t need to steal if a benign and compassionate government spreads the wealth around.  Provide bread and circuses to one and all, let everyone pursue their passion – in public –  and outlaw opprobrium by criminalizing thought and free expression, and the earth will burst into song.  All you need is the will to create this brave new world.  History offers us nothing to conserve anyway. 

Third, assume that all conflicting parties have honest desires for non-violent resolution, and are just waiting for the proper approach. 

Be sure to listen to all parties and validate what they are saying because even if it’s not true, it’s true to them, and they need to be validated.  Their grievances exist because nobody has approached them in the right manner previously.  Some problems have existed for millennia, but your effort to resolve them will succeed if only you have the courage to make the proper approach to the situation.  Others have always approached the problem wrongly!  People have been waiting for You. 

If your goal is create Utopia, then you must view all humans as good at the core.  Even here in America, this works well.  When an individual commits a heinous crime, immediately look into his family – was he abused, did his Mother drink or use drugs during pregnancy?  Was he influenced by some “hate group?” Has he been checked for a mental disease of defect?  What about genetic screening; has he been checked for double Y syndrome? 

Remember what Rousseau said, “Man is born free yet he is everywhere in chains.”  It is the circumstance that corrupts.  People are born good, but get corrupted by their environment and need the various medicines and redemptive nostrums of the State. 

Never let a criminal be punished alone. If you want to stop criminal activity, you must address the root causes of crime.  People steal because you aren’t giving them enough money.  Duh!  People commit murder because other people have made them angry.  Of course!  We have to resolve these root causes.  Be sure to find the influences in the criminal’s life so you can blame all the guilty parties for his crime, not just the perpetrator.  An example is when Scott Roeder murdered the abortionist Dr. Tiller.  Mr. Roeder can’t be held entirely responsible for this, others like Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh have denounced abortion, so they and other pro-life people too must share the blame for murder.  Consider: does Mr. Roeder have any culpability in the murder when you have pro-life people constantly saying that Dr. Tiller was murdering babies?  What choice did Mr. Roeder have? 

This translates neatly into foreign policy by assuming terrorists are not really bloodthirsty murderers – they have, alternately, unduly influenced by some evil group; or they have been maltreated in the past by the U.S., and so we must share their criminal guilt.  We drove them to it, can’t you see? 

All that is necessary is to acknowledge that we share their guilt,  and everything is resolvable!  The answer in international tensions is to communicate your real concern for those trying to kill you; that you understand their frustrations.  Give them a forum so they can spew their hatred for you – get it off their chest so to speak – and promise to send them money to ameliorate the squalor and pathology they created by focusing on their grievances and neglecting to build a constructive and prosperous culture. 

Some may see this as masochistic foreign policy.  If we understand enough, and apologize sufficiently, every human condition can be healed.  To the degree to fail to become a piñata for those who hate us, we will fail to resolve their anger, and international tensions will continue. 

Fourth, assume that all past efforts at resolution failed because the United States was arrogant, insensitive, and negotiated in bad faith.

This goes without saying, but in the interest of complete disclosure, I include it here.  Sure, others tried, but they didn’t agree with this set of prior assumptions; so they were doomed to failure.  Now, it is necessary to apologize for their ham-handedness, self interest, and putting the interests of the United States first.  Why should we be arrogant, any culture is as good as any other, so who are we to think we are superior in any way? 

Fifth, assume that all belligerents have legitimate grievances. 

Do not, under any circumstances come into a negotiation with the belief that one side may be negotiating in bad faith.  Assume that they are really concerned with that they say they are concerned with, and have no hidden agenda.  If Hamas says they only want a Palestinian state, take them at their word.  Ignore the propaganda about them wanting to push Israel into the sea.  If Iran says their interest in nuclear power is only for producing electrical energy, that is a legitimate claim; do not make any other assumptions.  All grievances are legitimate. 

Sixth, assume it is wise to publicly announce that the “failed policies of the past” are ended, a new day has dawned on earth, and international relationships will be “reset.” 

It is wise to begin any negotiation by announcing that all your predecessors are failures, your country has been a failure as well, but you have put an end to all that and now you are ‘resetting’ the table so to speak.  Can’t we all just get along?  The past is the past, let’s just start over and not be sidetracked by the clumsy efforts of predecessors. 

Seventh, when appealing to the parties in question, assume that history is fungible.  It isn’t the real actions of people, governments, cultures, and religious that are relevant – it’s the history you want to have had that’s relevant.  

To quote the novelist and foreign policy expert David Baldacci in his book, “The Whole Truth,” “Creating truth is critical because real truth is too unpredictable.  Created truth is controllable.”  The Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton and Sergei LavrovDepartment of State under Secretary Clinton has become – and we say this with appropriate humility – very good at this technique.  It has been employed with vigor over the first 4 months of the new presidency and has proven to accomplish a great deal. 

If history is too unpleasant or inconvenient for the result you seek, change it.  This can be done in two ways, of course.  First is omission of critical historical facts that might lead the parties to a different conclusion than the one you seek.  The second is to invent things that will help the negotiation along. 

An example of the first would be to omit any information about there being a Jewish presence in Palestine for over 3,000 years; that there has been century upon century of kings, cities, administrations and Jewish culture; that Jerusalem has never been the capitol of any Arab group; that Mohammed never went to Jerusalem; that Africans are still being castrated by Muslims in order to create eunuchs; that hundreds of thousands of Muslim women are being circumcised each year; stuff like that.  It’s just not helpful.  “The real truth is too unpredictable.” 

An example of the latter would be to point out that western civilization isn’t really western after all, it is the result of Islamic tolerance and literacy; that we would still be stuck with long division if Islamic mathematicians hadn’t invented algebra; that it’s okay with us if Muslims butchered Christians who had occupied Palestine for 700 years before the birth of Islam, that was a long time ago, and the Christians were probably mean to the Muslims anyway; that Muslims instead of the Christian Gutenberg invented modern printing; that it was Muslim physicians rather than “western” scientists that developed modern medicine; that it was Muslims, not ancient Rome that invented the architectural arch.  (Don’t be visiting the Coliseum.)  Remember, “Created truth is controllable.” 

Eighth, assume that all parties in all conflicts are all motivated by the same things that motivate you. 

Let me illustrate the ascription of motives to a belligerent party by using the informative history of colonial Britain in India.  Mr. Mohandas Gandhi is often credited with gaining Indian independence from Britain through non-violent demonstrations against their policies.  (We know this from the movie.) 

This story is quite dynamic (Mr. Gandhi supported wars, and even won military medals) but why get into that here?  The dynamic, however, is important. 

Imagine if Gandhi threatened to “fast unto death” if he didn’t get what he wanted and India was a colony of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.  He would, of course have been shot on the spot thus saving him the agony of waiting 4 – 6 weeks to die.

It was because of the nature of British religion and culture that letting this old man publicly starve himself to death was unthinkable. 

Therefore it is critical in international relations to assume your enemy is motivated by the same things that motivate you.  (Like Britain and Gandhi; not like Gandhi and the Soviet Union.)  President Obama is motivated by compassion, comity, tolerance, goodwill, and restraint, so it is critical to assume your enemies are motivated by the same things.  It thus becomes important to plan your negotiations around this assumption by giving the enemy the chance to be tolerant, to express goodwill and restraint.  If this path is followed, peace will soon roll down. 

Never assume that when you reach out with an extended hand of welcome that some people may reach out to you, and then slit your throat with the other hand.  Always ssume he is motivated by what motivates you.  You know the truth, and the truth is that all people have good hearts, have been corrupted by their environment, and when given the chance will be your good bud and quit doing bad stuff.