Thursday, August 16, 2007

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Let's re-engage with John Edwards foreign policy vision

Yesterday I took some potshots at Rudy Giuliani's Foreign Affairs essay -- and I wasn't the only one.

In the wake of Giuliani's steaming pile o' crap, however, John Edwards' Foreign Affairs essay "Reengaging With the World," has been badly neglected. The hardworking staff here at will now rectify this omission.

Let's start with the writing. See if you can pick out Edwards' key theme from this introductory paragraph:

We must move beyond the wreckage created by one of the greatest strategic failures in U.S. history: the war in Iraq. Rather than alienating the rest of the world through assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement. We must reengage with our history of courage, liberty, and generosity. We must reengage with our tradition of moral leadership on issues ranging from the killings in Darfur to global poverty and climate change. We must reengage with our allies on critical security issues, including terrorism, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation. With confidence and resolve, we must reengage with those who pose a security threat to us, from Iran to North Korea. And our government must reengage with the American people to restore our nation's reputation as a moral beacon to the world, tapping into our fundamental hope and optimism and calling on our citizens' commitment and courage to make this possible. We must lead the world by demonstrating the power of our ideals, not by stoking fear about those who do not share them.
There's a fine line between emphasizing a phrase for rhetorical effect and bludgeoining the reader into a stupor through mindless repetition. Fortunately, Edwards ignores this line completely and chooses to "reengage" the reader with the literary equivalent of a frying pan to the head.

Then there's this priceless pair of sentences:

What we need is not more slogans but a comprehensive strategy to respond to terrorism and prevent it from taking root in the first place. This strategy should transcend the familiar divide between "hard power" and "soft power." Instead, we need to place "smart power" at the center of our national security policy.
Way to transcend those slogans!!!

Let's go beyond the writing, however, to the policies. Here's Edwards on Iran:

[T]he situation in Iran has only worsened under this administration. With a threat so serious, no U.S. president should take any option off the table -- diplomacy, sanctions, engagement, or even military force. When we say something is unacceptable, however, we must mean it, and that requires developing a strategy that delivers results, not just rhetoric. Instead of saber rattling about military action, we should employ an effective combination of carrots and sticks. For example, right now we must do everything we can to isolate Iran's leader from the moderate forces within the country. We need to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions through diplomatic measures that will, over time, force Iran to finally understand that the international community will not allow it to possess nuclear weapons. Every major U.S. ally agrees that the advent of a nuclear Iran would be a threat to global security. We should continue to work with other great powers to offer Tehran economic incentives for good behavior. At the same time, we must use much more serious economic sanctions to deter Ahmadinejad's government when it refuses to cooperate. To do this, we will have to deal with Iran directly. Such diplomacy is not a gift, nor is it a concession. The current administration recently managed to have one single-issue meeting with Iran to discuss Iraq. It simply makes no sense for the administration to engage Iran on this subject alone and avoid one as consequential as nuclear proliferation.
A three-question pop quiz:
1) In what way will talking with Iran's current leadership "isolate Iran's leader from the moderate forces within the country"? I'm not saying "don't talk," but there does seem to be an inconsistency in Edwards' logic here.

2) What would Edwards think about the Bush proposal to sanction Iran's Revolutionary Guards? Surely this would achieve a separation, yes?

3) Does Edwards seriously believe that the negotiations to date have not broadcast the message to the Iranians that "you know, it will be really bad if you develop nukes"??? What would be different about Edwards' negotiations???

Not all of Edwards' ideas are bad (I like the "Marshall Corps" idea), but after reading the whole essay, one has to conclude that Edwards' thinks the word "reengage" actually means "sprinkle magical fairy dust from the House of Gryffindor on the problem, which will cause all parties to recognize their common fate."

posted by Dan on 08.16.07 at 08:31 AM


I'm about halfway through Edwards' essay right now, and if he says "re-engage" one more time, I might scream. He goes to such lengths to use that word that he ends up contradicting himself.

"When the United States was attacked, the entire world stood with us. We could have pursued a broad policy of re-engagement with the world, yet instead we squandered this broad support through a series of policies that drove away our friends and allies."

So let me get this straight. If we needed to re-engage after 9/11, that means we were already disengaged before 9/11. Which means Bush's policies in Iraq and the War on Terror didn't really disengage us at all - we were already disengaged!

I'll say more when he stops talking about re-engaging and actually gets to some policy proposals. I'm halfway through and still haven't seen a single one.

posted by: Dan on 08.16.07 at 08:31 AM [permalink]

Good gravy! Edwards wants to "increase our funding for global primary education sixfold, with a $3 billion annual effort to educate children in countries with a history of violent extremism."

Ok, so the US is going to pay for the education of every child in the world, because of a handful of countries that produce violent extremists. Providing education for those countries would be ambitious enough, though perhaps more understandable, but Edwards' solution is for the US taxpayer to educate the whole damn planet. Forgive me if I'm very, very, very underwhelmed. I'm still trying to wade through the muck of this article. It's not easy.

posted by: Dan on 08.16.07 at 08:31 AM [permalink]

Ohhh boy - It gets better.

"I will concentrate on reversing the spread of these three deadly diseases by guaranteeing universal access to preventative drugs and treatment by 2010."

That's not just for the US. This is a foreign policy article, and he is talking about water and lack of sanitation that cause AIDs, TB and malaria. In other words, he just promised universal healthcare for the world within two years.

This guy is so out of his depth.

posted by: Dan on 08.16.07 at 08:31 AM [permalink]

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