By Con George-Kotzabasis
Reply to: The Mellow Doctrine by Roger Cohen
global.nytimes.com May 03, 2009
Roger Cohen riding his high horse as a columnist of The New York Times trots a ‘neighing’ argument that throws the rider on the paddock. He claims and infers that the new policies of President Obama in foreign affairs, which he frames in his term of The Mellow Doctrine, are holistic remedies for the wanton malicious inflicted maladies that the Bush-Cheney administration had placed upon the body politic of America that had alienated it in the minds and hearts of so many people in the world.
These policies now are spreading and reverberating across Latin America, Europe, and Asia Minor and are creating an echoing melodious sound of Europeans, Turks and Latinos–with only a slight discordant hoarse bass note coming through the nostrils of an old dog, Fidel Castro, who can smell in Obama another imperialist rat. In Strasbourg the French and Germans loved to hear the President expostulating on the new fully cooperative conduct of the U.S. with its major allies, the French seeing him as an exemplar of their own past mission civilisatrice in the sphere of diplomacy, and the Germans as a second Ich bin ein Berliner, after John F. Kennedy. In Prague, the multi-cultured Czechs were delighted to hear him say that he was “committing the United States to a world without nuclear weapons,” and his outpouring of a profusion of mea culpa of America’s past misdeeds and the arrogance of imperial powers and its leaders, who like Roosevelt and Churchill would determine the fate of peoples “sitting in the room with a brandy.” In Turkey, the most modern of Muslim nations thanks to its insightful great Soldier-Statesman Kemal Ataturk, the Turks were regaled to see Obama parading before them his own partial Muslim origins and hear him say that Muslims had been treated with “insufficient respect” in the past. And in Trinidad and Tobago, where the Fifth Summit of the Americas was held, Obama enraptured the Latinos to such a degree that even the spirited anti-American warriors Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez were won over, the latter being moved so much so that he gave as a gift to Obama a book on American imperialism and the latter reciprocating to Hugo’s generous gesture by giving him a warm handshake and a friendly touch on the shoulder.
To Cohen, all the above related events are a clear sign that “Foes…have been disarmed by Barack Obama’s no-drama diplomacy.” Obama’s “mellow doctrine…finding strength through unconventional means: acknowledgement of the limits of American power; frankness about U.S. failings; careful listening; fear reduction; adroit deployment of the wide appeal of brand Barack Hussein Obama; and jujitsu engagement.” If the above quotes are not a perfect illustration that Obama made a confession of American weakness before the ‘priesthood’ of his ‘Catholic’ enemies, then one will ever search in vain for a definition of weakness in any dictionary. And to bring jujitsu in this bout of weakness as a saving line is like offering someone who already lies unconscious on the floor from the blows of his opponent the Japanese art of training the mind and body in unarmed combat. In this context for Cohen to mock Dick Cheney for saying that America’s enemies perceive “a weak president,” is to brand himself with his own mockery.
This confession of weakness is the ‘Eighteenth of Brumaire of Barack Hussein Obama,’ to paraphrase Karl Marx on Louis Bonaparte, an intellectual coup d’état by the constitutional lawyer against the constitution of the political wisdom of the ages in whose preamble imprescriptibly is written that to show and admit weakness before one’s enemies is the cardinal unforgiveable political sin. As in any human contest only when a party is weakened is prepared to make concessions whereas the strong seek and drive home their victory. This applies more so to fanatically religious enemies who have an ineradicable tendency to see, due to their irrational cogitations, any conciliatory initiative of their opponents as an admission of weakness.
But the intellectual fragility of Cohen’s argument is exposed by his use of the weakest enemies of America, that is, the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez, and surprisingly Turkey, which has not been an enemy of the U.S., to drive home the success of the conciliatory attitude of President Obama. In the case of Turkey, he claims that at the NATO meeting the Turks dropped their opposition to the nomination of Denmark’s Anders Rasmussen as the alliance’s secretary general because of “Obama’s conciliatory message to Muslims.” In contrast, the previous administration by “humiliating Muslims” filled the schools of Waziristan and Ramadi with recruits for future terror. When one asks whence this humiliation of Muslims started the unutterable answer of Cohen must be since 9/11. The undeniably harsh but necessary measures that the Bush administration took against Muslim terrorists to protect its citizens from, at the time, imponderable future attacks, were in the eyes of Cohen measures that “humiliated Muslims.” Just as well columnists of this sort are ‘unsheathing’ their pens to write their columns instead of unsheathing their paper swords to protect Americans.
Most of all Cohen is apparently very fond of the following by President Obama. “Resistance” to a set of U.S. policies “may turn out to be based on old preconceptions or ideological dogmas” of the previous administration, and “when they are cleared away …we can actually solve a problem.” So President Obama with a broom in his hand once he sweeps this ideological debris of the Bush administration he will be able to start solving the innumerable problems that America is facing. But the fact is that the United States is not countenancing these problems because of “old preconceptions or ideological dogmas,” but because of its status as the sole superpower is inevitably burdened to carry like Atlas all the world’s crises and hot spots on its back and to set up actions that are not always agreeable by the rest of the world that would have a chance to resolve these crises. And inevitably because of the multiple actions it has to take in so many complex parts of the world it cannot jump over the shadow of fallibility. The alternative, to restrict its engagement with the rest of the world because of its immense risks and possible errors of judgment, is not the raison d’être of great power. Moreover, a disengagement from the hot spots of the world would allow sinister and brutal fanatical leaders to take over countries and oppress their peoples as well as endanger the stability of the world.
The political naivety and immaturity of President Obama is encapsulated in his own terms in regard to Iran: Normal relations can be restored on the “mutual respect” of opponents. This would be forsooth the reality if your opponent considered you to be negotiating from a strong position. It would not be true if his estimate was that his opponent was negotiating from a weak position contra his own strong position. The strong can be at times kind, gracious, and helpful toward the weak but never have any respect for the weak. This is more so in the hard realm of geopolitics. The Iranian theocracy will see any diplomatic initiatives by the United States as an admittance of political feebleness by the latter and will exploit this to their advantage. And by the time when President Obama will become aware of this the Iranians will be already close to the entrance of the nuclear club. No angelic or mellow doctrine of Obama will disarm America’s implacable irreconcilable foes. Only the thunder, and as last resort the bolt of Jupiter, can defeat these deadly enemies.
Hic Rhodus hic Salta