From Yid with Lid:
By Barry Rubin
December 25, 2011
I don’t think one could come up with a more teachable moment regarding international affairs—and including Middle East politics–than a little incident that just happened between President Barack Obama and Venezuela. First, the facts.
Obama gave an interview with a Venezuelan newspaper in which he articulated some of his administration’s most basic themes. Obama said:
“Venezuela is a proud, sovereign nation….The United States has no intention of intervening in Venezuela’s foreign relations, However, I think the government’s ties with Iran and Cuba have not benefited the interests of Venezuela and its people.
“Sooner or later, Venezuela’s people will have to decide what possible advantage there is in having relations with a country that violates fundamental human rights and is isolated from most of the world. The Iranian government has consistently supported international terrorism.”
Now, this is precisely the same approach that Obama has taken toward Iran. He said, and this has been a common talking point for administration officials, that Iran would not benefit from having nuclear weapons. He continued:
“Iran understands that they have a choice: They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and foreswearing the development of nuclear weapons, which would still allow them to pursue peaceful nuclear power, like every other country that’s a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the entire world.”
Obama has rejected America’s leadership role. He feels that the United States has been too much of a bully historically, so he doesn’t stress what U.S. interests require but politely asks other—hostile—countries to behave differently. He tells them that to do so is in their interest because their current behavior doesn’t benefit them.
Foreign leaders can only react with astonishment and—if they are hostile—laughter. If they are pro-American they react with horror.
First, you are signaling weakness and fear, practically putting a “kick me” sign on your back.
Second, telling some else what their “true” interests are is just as patronizing as telling them what your own interests are and demanding that they be respected. When you ask an aggressive dictator “pretty please” you are asking for some spit in the face.
And that’s just what Obama has received from Venezuela, Iran, and others. Here’s how the Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, responded:
“Obama, mind you own business, man. Focus on governing your country, which has become a disaster. Now you’re going looking for votes by attacking Venezuela.
“Obama, you’re a phony….Go and ask the black community in your country what you are to them: the biggest frustration in I don’t know how many years. Go and ask the many people in Africa who may have believed in you because of the color of your skin, because your father was from Africa. You’re a descendent of Africa, but you are the shame of all those people.”
In other words, your enemy reacts with disdain. You may not criticize him but he’ll criticize you. You may not do things he doesn’t like but he’ll do things you don’t like.