Perrspectives - Bringing light to Darkness

Right Blasts Obama for "Humble" Foreign Policy

April 6, 2009

When it comes to foreign policy, George W. Bush was right - once. During the 2000 campaign, then candidate Bush declared the world would welcome America's role if the United States was not arrogant, but a "humble nation." But now that Barack Obama in London, Paris, Prague and now Ankara is practicing to near universal acclaim what Bush only preached, the usual suspects on the right are predictably furious.
First a little background. Before the advent of the disastrous and thankfully short-lived Bush Doctrine, George W. Bush for a brief, shining moment almost made sense on foreign policy. During the second presidential debate with Al Gore in October 2000, Governor Bush described to moderator Jim Lehrer how as President he "project us around the world":

"It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And it's -- our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we have to be humble. And yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom."

As we fast forward to 2009, President Obama is trying to restore an American image and fragile alliances left in tatters by the dangerously counterproductive unilateralism of his predecessor. To help replenish the U.S. account of soft power left empty by the Euro-bashing of Bush and his allies, Obama during a town hall meeting last week in Strasbourg, France addressed his European audience with frankness - and humility:

So we must be honest with ourselves. In recent years we've allowed our Alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there's something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad.
On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America.

But that fair and balanced approach more than the likes of Sean Hannity could tolerate.
Selectively editing out President Obama's Strasbourg lecture about reflexive anti-Americanism among some n Europe, the Fox News host claimed, "America is arrogant. That's what Mr. Obama said today, doing his best Dixie Chicks impression." Pronouncing "the liberal tradition of blame America first, well, that's still alive," Hannity thundered:

"I resent this. When you consider...all we have done just in the last century alone to save Europe from themselves. I resent this. I think it's outrageous, the media's ignored it...
Do you think he harbors deep resentment that he just hides? Because I believe he does."

But for sheer resentment, Hannity was no match for Washington Post columnist and Fox News regular Charles Krauthammer. It was Krauthammer who in June 2001 approvingly coined the hilarious term "humble unilateralism" to describe American foreign policy in the age of Bush. Four year later, he led the right-wing media echo chamber with huzzahs in the form of "three cheers for the Bush Doctrine." Responding to Obama's speech in France, Krauthammer apparently had enough of his own 2001 mantra to "be nice, be understanding, but in the end, be undeterred":

"It's hard to appreciate an entity's leading role in the world when it's been sucking on your tit for 60 years like Europe has...
Then he goes on and calls America arrogant, dismissive and derisive...When Kennedy arrived in Paris, he did not attack Eisenhower in the United States."

(Unsurprisingly, Krauthammer conveniently forgot President Bush's smear of candidate Obama delivered in person to the Israeli parliament in May 2008. Using his typical straw man formulation, Bush claimed, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals," later adding, "We have an obligation to call this what it is: the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.")
Of course, what has been thoroughly discredited is George W. Bush's primal scream approach to foreign policy that in the wake of the September 11 attacks produced not only the catastrophic invasion of Iraq, but the undermining of America's position in the world. If a broken clock is right twice a day, that's still a record President Bush never approached in foreign affairs.
As Colin Polin might have described it, Bush's was the "Pottery Barn" foreign policy. George W. Bush broke it and now Barack Obama owns it. And despite the best efforts of the raging right, President Obama is trying to put the pieces back together.
UPDATE: As ThinkProgress notes, the "hate America" meme has picked up steam among the talking heads of the right even as Newt Gingrich decried what he deemed Obama's "fantasy foreign policy."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

Follow Us

© 2004 - 
 Perrspectives. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram