Friday, April 24, 2009

Like a good neighbor, Obama was there

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative, writing at The Week, is a welcome antidote to the Fox-News hyperventilating dumbassery re: Obama's recent South American jaunt:
During the Summit of the Americas last week, Obama avoided the hectoring condescension that all too often marked American foreign policy during the Bush years. Instead, he demonstrated that the American case can be made with a combination of humility and accountability. This shift in tone happens to be the best path for improving America’s reputation abroad, and for increasing U.S. influence. In fact, it has already had the effect of reducing tensions with Russia, opening doors for collaboration with alienated allies such as Turkey, and isolating inveterate critics of the United States to the margins of international discourse.

Most controversially, Obama last week met and shook hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who continues to consolidate his power and tighten control over Venezuelan civil society. Obama also chose not to answer Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s long tirade against U.S. policy. This has led to accusations that Obama has encouraged authoritarian and left-wing leaders in Latin America while discouraging their political opposition. But such complaints fail to grasp that these leaders have always thrived on demonization by Washington.
This is exactly right, and welcome coming from Larison, who is no Obama fan. What strikes me is that FDR took exactly the same approach in his "Good Neighbor" policy (as I was just reading in Herring's From Colony to Superpower last night). That similarity points us to Larison's observation as to what is really ticking off the wingnuts:
Most important, Obama’s willingness to acknowledge America’s past tendency to dismiss the views of allies and to disrespect legitimate foreign interests reflects a degree of self-confidence that has been oddly lacking in the strongest advocates of U.S. hegemony. This is especially notable for a Democratic president--who often feel must prove their hawkishness. Instead of the almost-obsessive need to celebrate American achievements, Obama’s handling of foreign relations has shown a steady, humble confidence in the United States. This is a refreshing departure from foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, as well as from some of Obama’s own more aggressive campaign rhetoric. In contrast to that familiar Democratic “defensive crouch” on matters of national security, Obama has acted as a leader who feels no need to overcompensate for any perceived weakness and no need to apologize for giving priority to rebuilding damaged international relations with both allies and rivals. Indeed, it seems that the problem Obama’s critics have with him is not that he has been admitting American mistakes, but that he has failed to cringe and apologize to them for pursuing the course of action he thinks best for the United States.
Exactly. What maddens the Hannitys and O'Reillys is that Obama doesn't care what they think ... and neither do most Americans. The Fox crowd has internalized the "Democrats are pussies" meme so strongly that they don't know what to do with a non-pussy Democrat. (By which I do not of course mean any biological distinction b/t Obama and Hillary Clinton.)

... Speaking of which, non-biological sense I mean, note this from Emptywheel (whose blog, btw, you should be reading for the top-notch torture-memo coverage which TBA has so conspicuously failed to provide). The feds are going to quit blocking release of further photos of detainee abuse (it's not clear whether these are the photos said to be too shocking to release):
Whether you believe Obama is impeding investigation or playing 11 dimension chess to set it up without looking like the bad guy, his policy on FOIA has already begun to open up the floodgates that may enable public opinion make this happen.
I am reluctant to attribute to Obama the godlike subtlety that his more fervent supporters seem to see, but it would be fascinating if his backtracking on a truth commission, etc., was part of a tactic to seem to be dragged into investigating these crimes.

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