We’ve written before about President Obama’s willingness to follow only the second half of the Godfather’s adage, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Abe Greenwald has described the phenomenon this way: “If you’re an enemy we’re sorry; if you’re a friend you’re sorry.”
In the aftermath of the latest manifestation of this phenomenon — the fit Obama has thrown against Israel — Robert Kagan compiles the case histories. Our “sorry” friends include, in addition to Israel, Great Britain, France, several Eastern European countries, Japan, and India. The nations Obama has courted include Russia, China, Iran, Syria, and Burma.
Kagan notes that Obama is departing from a 60-year old American grand strategy when it comes to allies. I’m not nearly as learned as Kagan, but I think he’s understating the matter. Isn’t it fair to say that Obama’s counterintuitive approach is unprecedented?
Kagan declines to speculate about why Obama curries favor with our enemies while treating our friends with disdain. For my part, I’ve been unable to move beyond the two tentative explanations I offered last July:
Perhaps there is a side of him that harbors contempt for nations that find large amounts of common ground with the U.S., a country for which Obama himself feels the need constantly to apologize. Or perhaps, Obama sees himself as a philosopher king, a “neutral” who stands above the usual politics of favoring particular nations. From this lofty, ahistorical perch, it may be possible to view Britain as “the same as the other 190 countries in the world.”