Five weeks ago, President Obama stood before the U.N. General Assembly and spoke of having “sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world.” He went on, “It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 - more than at any other time in human history - the interests of nations and peoples are shared.”
This reflected his campaign promise to adopt a multilateralist approach “based on mutual respect” of both allies and adversaries, which he suggested would fundamentally improve relations between the United States and the rest of the world.
In other words, goodbye Bushian “cowboy diplomacy,” hello Obamaesque cerebral “engagement.” Coupled with his “I’m not Bush” charm offensive, Mr. Obama sold “engagement” as a surefire winner.
Ten months into his presidency, what has all of this “engagement” achieved? Not only has it not produced improved relations with our adversaries, but it has also actually made them worse.
c Iran. Last week, word came from Tehran that the Iranian government is rejecting a much-touted plan to ship its low-enriched uranium out of the country, primarily to Russia, to be highly enriched and then sent back to Iran to be used only for “peaceful purposes.”
When this tentative deal was announced, there was much ballyhooing, despite the failure to get Iran to abide by four United Nations resolutions to stop enriching uranium entirely: Mr. Obama has done it! He’s flipped an enemy into a deal-making partner!
The only one being flipped is Mr. Obama. The Iranians have perfected lying and deception about their nuclear program over the last 30 years, but never has it been made so easy. Taking full advantage of Mr. Obama’s policy of “engagement,” Tehran stalled for a few weeks (while Iranian centrifuges spun) and then returned to Mr. Obama’s altarlike negotiating table to say that on second thought, they’re not going to ship their uranium out. And they’re never going to stop enriching uranium.
Next stop: nuclear weapons.
c Russia. The Russians continue to play Mr. Obama like a Stradivarius. After much premature celebrating about the Russians getting onboard with new sanctions to help strangle Iran’s nuclear program, they’ve now made clear that, on second thought, they’re not going to back sanctions after all. And neither will the Chinese, who look to the Russians for guidance on sanctions but who also have huge oil and commercial interests in Iran, which they refuse to sacrifice.
Further, after Mr. Obama unilaterally killed the land-based Eastern European missile-defense shield without first extracting a single concession from Russia, Moscow is now increasingly intransigent on other issues. On missile defense cooperation, which the Obama administration seeks, the Russians are “noncommittal.” And on the new U.S. sea-based missile defense system (the one we chucked the land-based one for), the Russians now say they’ve got a big problem with that because it “could pose an even stronger security threat to Moscow.”
c Pakistan. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton alighted in Lahore and ignited a firestorm by suggesting that the Pakistani government has known the location of top al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden and has refused to move against them. Pakistani leaders, already prosecuting an escalating war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, were furious at her blunt suggestion. Earlier in the day, 2,000 Pakistani university students unleashed their anti-American wrath toward her, demanding answers about current U.S policy toward their country, Afghanistan and Iraq. Her answers were met by tepid applause and audible groaning when she defended the administration. Further, David Rohde, the New York Times reporter kidnapped by the Taliban, reports that his captors expressed “more hatred for President Obama than for President Bush.”
c Afghanistan. While public attention has focused on Mr. Obama’s eternally impending troop decision, he has also been focused on leveraging Afghan President Hamid Karzai from power. Considered by Mr. Obama to be a corrupt Bush holdover, Mr. Karzai was pressured by the administration into submitting to a presidential election runoff with his top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Abdullah refused to take part, arguing that the system was still rigged in favor of Mr. Karzai. So despite Mr. Obama’s undermining, Mr. Karzai will remain president, and will now be disinclined to trust and work energetically with the United States.
c The Palestinians. This week, the Palestinian Authority refused to bend to Obama administration pressure to resume negotiations with Israel and restated its demand for a “complete freeze” on Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Perhaps the Palestinians are suffering whiplash, since Mr. Obama had changed his position from demanding an Israeli “freeze” to encouraging settlement construction “restraint.” The softening of the U.S. position led the Palestinians to accuse the White House of hurting prospects for the suspended peace process, which in turn, led Mrs. Clinton to backpedal yet again.
Further, even after nearly a year of intervention by special envoy George Mitchell, things have deteriorated over Jerusalem, a negotiation framework, and the controversial Goldstone report on alleged war crimes during Israel’s offensive in Gaza last year.
Ten months of Mr. Obama’s much-vaunted “engagement” has shown that the Iranians, Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Afghans and Palestinians are just not that into us. In fact, they’re even less into us than they were when Mr. Bush was in office. At least they feared and respected us then. Now they’re just rolling us.
Give the enemy an inch, he’ll take a yard. Our enemies are now taking miles.
Monica Crowley is a nationally syndicated radio host, a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group” and a Fox News contributor.
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