From Lucy Steigerwald at antiwar.com:
During the most recent GOP debate, there appeared to be a contest between candidates over who could sound the most outraged by the Obama administration on foreign policy. These men are running against Hillary Clinton (and Barack Obama, at least in rhetoric) and to do so – and to pander to the most basic version of a Republican – those two must be called doves, weaklings, and politicians who apologize for America nonstop.
It’s painful to praise Obama’s foreign policy in any way. We will live to regret the precedent his administration set for drone presence in various countries with which the U.S. isn’t even at war. And an official legal defense for assassination of American citizens is something even George W. Bush didn’t manage to get to during his terrible eight years. Yet, for all of the bloodstained embarrassment that is our Nobel Prize-winning President Obama, he could have been much much more sanguine.
Obama still heads the empire known as the United States, but he does appear to have a certain level of fondness for diplomacy. Much like the generally-loathsome Richard Nixon, Obama may eventually get some historical credit for talking instead of fighting. And he may even deserve it.
In 1972 when Nixon decided to recognize Communist China, the phrase – and it has lingered – was “only Nixon could go to China.” That is, Nixon was a Republican who had proven his warmongering bona fides already. He did not look weak when he decided to start talking to one of the 20th century’s great villains, Mao Zedong.
The above link is to a National Review piece which disputes the daring of Nixon in this case, noting that support for the action was high, and the U.S. had lost its taste for leaving China on its own a few years previously. So even a seemingly-soft Democrat could have made the leap. The point, however, is that Mao’s heinous crimes were not wiped away by the fact of the United States recognizing Red China. Nixon himself had an enlightening quote that said this had to be done not because the U.S. loved China, but because China was there.
Forty years later, China is richer and less brutal than it was, with millions and millions lifted out of poverty. And whether Nixon in China has taken on certain mythic conceits or not, it still was a moment of speech instead of warfare. That’s always nice. It also doesn’t seem to be popular among today’s Republicans.
Even more undeniable than the benefits of countries communicating is the fact that sanctions and embargoes do so little. Cuba has been plugging along oppressed and isolated from the U.S. for 60 years, and men named Castro have ruled it for all that time. Cuba’s dictators were not removed or particularly harmed, but the people of Cuba certainly were when they were prevented from buying medicine.
Iran is similar, and that is where the true vitriol still seems to lie. The Castros are old and tired, but Iran is still infuriating conservatives by refusing to be a U.S. puppet. Only that, it seems, would satisfy them.
To continue reading: What Kind of Diplomacy Do Hawks Want?