Obama’s unrealistic realism

Today David Brooks asked Barack Obama to expand on his deep thoughts for dealing with Hezbollah. Obama seems to think that Hezbollah can be turned into a constructive force in Lebanon.

Brooks thinks Obama can’t be as clueless as he appeared to be when he recently called on “all those who have influence with Hezbollah” to “press them to stand down” and declared: “It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.”

This is what passes for sophistication among Democrats seeking to formulate a passable position that might purport to confront the threat posed by a genocidal terrorists. It is frankly pathetic.

Invited to take another pass at the topic by Brooks, Obama presents himself as a foreign policy realist. Brooks reports:

Right off the bat [Obama] reaffirmed that Hezbollah is “not a legitimate political party.” Instead, “It’s a destabilizing organization by any common-sense standard. This wouldn’t happen without the support of Iran and Syria.”

So why is Obama reaching out to offer unconditional negotiations with Iran and Syria, but not their tools in Hezbollah? Brooks doesn’t ask and Obama doesn’t say. Is the problem here really something that calls for a dose of good government? Brooks adds:

I asked him what he meant with all this emphasis on electoral and patronage reform. He said the U.S. should help the Lebanese government deliver better services to the Shiites “to peel support away from Hezbollah” and encourage the local populace to “view them as an oppressive force.” The U.S. should “find a mechanism whereby the disaffected have an effective outlet for their grievances, which assures them they are getting social services.”

The U.S. needs a foreign policy that “looks at the root causes of problems and dangers.” Obama compared Hezbollah to Hamas. Both need to be compelled to understand that “they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims.” He knows these movements aren’t going away anytime soon (“Those missiles aren’t going to dissolve”), but “if they decide to shift, we’re going to recognize that. That’s an evolution that should be recognized.”

It’s nice to know that Obama has a “root causes” approach to dealing with terrorism. Although it was long ago rejected as a liberal nostrum with resepct to American law enforcement, it’s sure to work wonders with Hezbollah terrorsits. Brooks continues:

Obama being Obama, he understood the broader reason I was asking about Lebanon. Everybody knows that Obama is smart (and he was quite well informed about Lebanon). The question is whether he’s seasoned and tough enough to deal with implacable enemies.

“The debate we’re going to be having with John McCain is how do we understand the blend of military action to diplomatic action that we are going to undertake,” he said. “I constantly reject this notion that any hint of strategies involving diplomacy are somehow soft or indicate surrender or means that you are not going to crack down on terrorism. Those are the terms of debate that have led to blunder after blunder.”

Obama said he found that the military brass thinks the way he does: “The generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”

I asked him if negotiating with a theocratic/ideological power like Iran is different from negotiating with a nation that’s primarily pursuing material interests. He acknowledged that “If your opponents are looking for your destruction it’s hard to sit across the table from them,” but, he continued: “There are rarely purely ideological movements out there. We can encourage actors to think in practical and not ideological terms. We can strengthen those elements that are making practical calculations.”

Brooks doesn’t ask Obama whether Hamas, Hezbollah and the mullahs who control Iran are ideologically driven, but the implication seems to be that they are not. Brooks quotes Obama’s self-assessment as a foreign policy realist: “This is not an argument between Democrats and Republicans. It’s an argument between ideology and foreign policy realism.” Brooks fails to observe that Obama’s foreign policy “realism” is of the peculiarly unrealistic kind that verges on fantasy and delusion.

PAUL adds: This is vintage Obama. Instead of serious argumentation, he falls back on labels. People who disagree with him are ideologues; he’s a “realist.” Obama is being particularly slippery because foreign policy “realism” is as much an ideology — a belief system — as whatever it is he thinks he’s opposing. Unless by “realism” Obama simply means that being right.

I also love the part about the generals being “light years ahead of the civilians.” It would be interesting to know which generals favor trying to defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon through “good works” and what credentials or expertise these generals, if they exist, possess regarding Hezbollah, Lebanon, and diplomacy. If Obama is elected, it will also be interesting to see how much respect “the generals” have for him and visa versa.


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