Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some apologies Obama could make, but probably won't

President Barack Obama continued his worldwide apology tour at the Organization of American States over the weekend. Much like his trip to Europe was spent emphasizing his break with the previous Administration on several fronts, this trip was all about the new direction America will take - one that will apparently leave Venezuela's brave democrats in the dust, but that's for another post.

Of course, new Administrations usually spend their first few months emphasizing their differences with their respective predecessors. John F. Kennedy tried to project his youthful image and vigor into nearly every foreign policy issue. Eight years later, Richard Nixon's messages to Moscow and Beijing were more subtle (and kept a secret from the American people), but Mao and Brezhnev understood them fairly quickly. Jimmy Carter tried to turn thirty years of American history on its head in one commencement speech. If conventional wisdom is to be believed, Reagan got the point across to Tehran even before he was inaugurated. Despite running as Reagan's heir, even George Bush the Elder spent his first year emphasizing a closer relationship with continental European allies. Bill Clinton spent nearly two years loudly announcing differences from the previous twelve. Bush the Younger's divergence on Kyoto and other European multilateral efforts are now the stuff of legends, but Asian democracies quickly noticed that he paid more attention to them than - arguably - any president in American history.

Thus, it should not surprise us that, roughly 100 days into his term of office, Obama is mainly emphasizing contrasts with the person he succeeded - and against whom he railed for nearly two years. Sadly, and more tellingly, are the areas where the President has chosen not to strike new ground or ask forgiveness for past errors.

For example, we have yet to see, and probably never will see, Obama apologize to the Chinese people for nearly 20 years of neglect while "engagement" with the corrupt Chinese Communist Party set the tone for every previous post-Tiananmen presidency.

We neither have nor likely ever will have witnessed Obama ask the forgiveness of the people of northern Korea for allowing so many of their loved ones to starve to death, be murdered, and/or be tortured to death while Kim Jong-il played two presidents for fools over fourteen years. Likewise, Japan has heard no regrets for the nerve-wracking missile launches that were largely received with a shrug and a slew of useless words from the United Nations.

Obama has offered a regret-soaked olive branch to Tehran - but only for the mullahcracy and its sycophants. The long-suffering Iranian people received the same cold shoulder that has been shown to them for decades.

Any of the above apologies would be different from the easy and empty ones the Administration has been spouting. The apologies I propose would involve recognition of weakness and lack of nerve at critical times. More importantly, they would show an Administration willing to do the hard work necessary to achieve a true, lasting peace - because it understood that could only come with freedom.

Ironically enough, Obama can look to George W. Bush for the best example of this. In May of 2005, Bush expressed his regrets for the Yalta agreement that handed Eastern Europe over to the Communists. The dramatic gesture helped seal the peoples of Eastern Europe as America's closest allies, and emphasized the danger of thinking a deal with a tyrant today is worth his exploitation of it tomorrow. Unfortunately, that may be the very reason Obama does not consider it worthy as a precedent. This Administration appears to have no concern about what our tyrannical enemies will do with their newfound opportunities, namely: 1) bind America to agreements they have no intention of honoring, 2) repeatedly raising the bar just to see how high the president will jump for them, and 3) using the smiles and handshakes to ostracize and persecute those who would lead their victims to overthrow them and take their countries back.

Even as we take in the reaction from the OAS gathering, the Taliban continues to gain strength in Pakistan, North Korea is getting back in the plutonium business, and Iran is moving forward in both nuclear weapons and repression of its citizens. All the while, the regime that aides them - the Chinese Communist Party - continues to avoid blame or consequences.

For that, this president owes all of us an apology.

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