Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's wrong with thoughtfulness?

On Meet the Press this morning, Senator Lindsey Graham attacked President Obama's foreign policy for being thoughtful and deliberative. Seriously. When asked about the situation in the Ukraine, Graham's exact words were: "President Obama is trying to be deliberative. It comes off as indecisive. He's trying to be thoughtful. It comes off as weakness." Such are the perils of a thoughtful and deliberative foreign policy, in contrast, say, to the thoughtless and reckless policies that most people believe characterized the previous administration. At least Senator Graham is smart enough to recognize what President Obama is attempting to achieve. And also smart enough to recognize the opportunity to score cheap political points by equating thoughtfulness with weakness.

When asked what specifically the Obama administration should be doing differently with respect to Russia and the Ukraine, Graham's answers became more revealing. First, he criticized President Obama for not calling Putin "the thug that he is." So instead of calling for a thorough investigation that will reveal exactly what Putin is, more name-calling is the suggested solution, as if we were back in high school. Second, Senator Graham criticized the president for failing to send more arms to the Ukraine to defend themselves against the Russian-supplied separatists. In other words Graham is nostalgic for the days of proxy wars with Russia that we engaged in, for example, by arming Afghanistan in the 1980's. Anybody remember how that effort came back to bite us later? Finally, he suggested additional sanctions against Russia and Putin, which is something the Obama administration is already doing.

The opposition doesn't have a credible alternative foreign policy to suggest. If they are attacking the president for being thoughtful and deliberative, that must mean that their suggested alternative ideas would be thoughtless and immature. But what these kinds of criticisms expose is the vulnerability of any administration that seriously attempts to pursue peaceful solutions as a strategy. That strategy can always be attacked as weak and wishy-washy, in contrast to the glib answers and tough talk these critics are espousing. Never mind that more militaristic approaches previously led us into Vietnam. And Iraq. And into a Cold War that lasted 40 years and verged on nuclear Armegeddon more than once. Or that by contrast President Obama's more "thoughtful and deliberative" approach has kept us out of war, and led to notable successes in reducing dangerous weapons, removing dictators, and managing conflicts around the world.

If you want a contrast to the careful policies of the Obama administration, all you have to do is look at the childish and dangerous approach to conflict being taken by Putin himself. Surely Lindsey Graham doesn't want the United States to start acting just like the thug with whom we are trying to draw a contrast?

1 comment: