President Obama’s selective “innocence”

I have suggested, in connection with President Obama’s dealings with Russia, that to call him a fool is to give him the benefit of the doubt. For Obama’s hat-in-hand approach to Russia assumes that the thuggish, autocratic, expansionist Russian regime is more sinned against than sinning in its relations with the U.S. If Obama believes this, he is anti-American; If he doesn’t believe this but elects to act as if it were so, then he is a fool.
Now, it may be starting to dawn on the more perceptive members of the MSM that portraying Obama as a fool — or, more kindly, as naive — puts him in the best plausible light. This desire to offer an innocent (in two senses of the word) explanation for Obama’s foreign policy may well explain today’s front page Washington Post story regarding the alleged origins of Obama’s approach to foreign policy.
The author, Scott Wilson, is pretty clear that Obama’s approach to dealing with our allies and our adversaries has come up empty so far, whether in enlisting allies to help us in Afghanistan, persuading them to stimulate their economies, or causing Iran to change its behavior. How to explain Obama’s embrace of an approach that seems so ineffectual?
Wilson does so by claiming that the president’s approach to dealing with nations is an outgrowth of his days as a “community organizer.” He argues that Obama sees foreign countries, including our adversaries, as part of a community to be organized. Wilson writes:

President Obama is applying the same tools to international diplomacy that he once used as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, constructing appeals to shared interests and attempting to bring the government’s conduct in line with its ideals. . . .
As a community organizer, Obama worked to identify the common interests of neighborhoods suffering through the economic aftermath of plant closings and of the politicians elected to represent them. The role requires patience — a word used consistently by his advisers in regard to reviving Middle East peace talks or reaching out to Iran — and cultivating a lower profile than the other parties involved.

Whether Obama is actually cultivating a lower profile than the other parties involved in his foreign dealings — and, indeed, whether he did so during his ascension through Chicago politics — is open to question. But let’s put that issue to one side. Does Obama really believe that the relationship between the U.S. and its allies with the likes of China, Russia, and Iran is comparable to the relationship between aggrieved constituents and their elected representatives? If so, then he certainly is a fool.
But the evidence is that Obama believes no such thing. Obama has not treated Israel and Honduras with the same “patience” he has treated our adversaries. They have not been the beneficiaries of his “I come here to listen, not to lecture” approach to activism.
Thus, Obama’s selective use of what Wilson calls a “cool, interests-based” approach to foreign policy should be viewed as a matter of ideology, not one of style. After all, Jimmy Carter was never a community organizer; yet his approach to the world was an awful lot like Obama’s.
In sum, the only relationship between Obama’s diplomacy and his community activism is the left-wing ideology behind both.

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