Barack Obama was supposed to be a foreign policy genius. There were two reasons cited for this. Firstly, he had spent a portion of his youth in Indonesia, and purportedly had traveled to Pakistan at some point. Secondly, he had taken a class in foreign affairs or foreign policy while at Columbia University. Proponents of this view ignore some very important problems with their position. The ability of a pre-teen to fully understand any culture, including his or her own, is limited. The lack of experience that permeates youth often leads to conclusions that are out of step with reality and can only be remedied by greater experience. At the same time, foreign travel does not necessarily grant one that experience unless it is for a significant amount of time and allows the traveler to delve into the intricacies of the local culture.
At the same time taking one class at a university cannot provide the amount of education and experience that anyone needs to become expert in any subject. In foreign affairs the different regions and even nations of the world are all colored by their individual histories, cultures, languages and other traits. One cannot, as was once popular, lump all Asian people into a group that thinks and acts alike. One who spends enough time on the subject can also discern that they don’t even really look alike, although the differences maybe somewhat subtle. One must also question whether the class was taught from a real world perspective, or from an ideological format that ignores historical reality in favor of political rhetoric.
As a result, well informed people who wish to engage in some sort of foreign activities will seek the services of an expert, not in just a general region, but in the specific part of that region; perhaps an exact nation or part of a nation, if they wish to be successful in whatever they are doing. For the political office holder it is wise to surround oneself with a number of experts, not only in policy, but history as well, or things may easily spin out of control because of actions taken from the wrong perspective, and for the wrong reasons.
The most important rule that anyone can master in dealing with the reality of the world stage, is that it is a dangerous place. Rodney King’s famous plea for as to all get along frequently does not work because there are people out there who simply don’t want to do so. Vladimir Putin is one of those people. The mullahs running Iran also don’t want to get along. They simply “don’t play well with others.”
The Obama approach to foreign policy, which assumes that the problem stems from an American bad attitude or unwillingness to recognize the virtues of other cultures, ignores two underlying facts; first, that other cultures may have the same problem that the big Left accuses Americans of having, and second, the historical reality shows that cultures are not static, but change over time, so that today’s friend or ally may be something else in the next decade or even the next political administration.
This last has shown itself in the Crimea/Ukraine crisis. Both the United States and Russia signed an agreement that they would respect the borders of the newly liberated Ukraine and provide protection if necessary. In exchange, Ukraine largely demilitarized, and gave up the nuclear arsenal that it had inherited from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Mr. Putin no longer wants to recognize Ukrainian sovereignty. The Obama administration seems to think that by wagging a finger in Putin’s direction and implementing some ineffective sanctions is sufficient to fulfill America’s duty. One has to wonder what they would do in the event of an invasion of South Korea by the north, or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. America has even more binding treaties with these two nations, not to mention Japan.
Looking from today back as the awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize to Obama for doing exactly nothing one has to wonder what was in the mind of the prize committee. It appears that they, like Obama base their decisions on wishful thinking. Peace in the world is a fragile thing, and generally based on preventing aggression through strength and stability. The operative word is “stability.” Unfortunately, with a feckless USA governed by a politician who understands essentially nothing about international relations stability is in short supply. Trust and talking points are all right when you have a big stick to back them up and people know that you will us it. Joe Biden to the contrary, no one believes that America is willing to actually hit anything. To make matters worse, the stick is being reduced in size. The belief that the use of military force is out of date and that talking can solve anything flies in the face of reality. Talk does not stop a determined militarist or imperialist.
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping know that they are dealing with someone who is either unwilling or more likely unable to play hardball in the world of international politics. They know that he does not understand the game. Further, his behavior indicates that Obama sees the American people as his number one enemy, while the political leaders elsewhere are somehow his friends, regardless of their intentions toward the USA or its allies. If Russia and the PRC team up to take on Eurasia Obama will be the most surprised person in the room. He shouldn’t be, as his position is analogous to the father who gives and irresponsible 16 year old the keys to a hot rod. Being surprised that the car ends up in a wreck when you made it possible is no more surprising than the present generation of imperialists engaging in expansion when you gave them tacit permission to do so.