Charles Krauthammer, the ultimate bleating-heart neoconservative, is all atwitter over Barack Obama’s foreign trip. Where most rational observers saw a significant U.S. triumph, the beginning of our reconciliation with the rest of the world after eight years of stupid bellicosity, destructive threats and empty bluster, Krauthammer sees decline and weakness. Obama admitted past U.S. misbehavior! That is surely a sign of weakness…or maybe, perhaps, a sign of renewed strength? Or maybe, it’s just being honest, a quality the Bush Administration eschewed. The Euros chose not to play on Afghanistan? Perhaps that had something to do with the Bush Administration’s myopic avoidance of that theater of battle for the past seven years–the Euros, not the heartiest of allies when it comes to warmaking, were left to fend for themselves without any U.S. leadership or much U.S. support and they are aching to leave now. Over the next year, we’ll see what effect a renewed US good-faith effort in Afghanistan has when it comes to stiffening the spines of our allies. The Euros didn’t buy Obama’s plea for a stimulus plan? Perhaps that has something to do with the rampant corruption that has marked US-style capitalism during the Reagan-Bush era. Oh–and uh-oh–another sign of Obama’s embrace of weakness: he actually admitted that the US finance-thieves had been part of the problem.
And there was–oh. my. God.–the failed North Korean rocket launch. The Gates Defense budget is cutting anti-missile defense systems in Alaska. More Obama wimposity! Except that Gates has decided not to spend tens of billions on an anti-missile system (that doesn’t work) to counter a North Korean rockets (that don’t work) carrying North Korean atomic bombs (that have, so far, fizzled when tested). The real North Korean threat, created by George W. Bush’s first-term ineptness, is the nuclear fuel that was produced in the past six years–fuel that the wildly impoverished North Koreans could sell to terrorists or rogue states (as they sold their nuclear plant design to the Syrians). That is a threat that doesn’t yield easily to the empty bluster of neocons–indeed, it was accelerated by US bluster.
The point is that Krauthammer’s nonsense–the whole neoconservative project–proved an utter failure during the Bush years and now exists well outside a vast, stable, liberal-moderate consensus on foreign policy that includes most Democrats, the Bush 41 realists and the leading strategists of the U.S. military. Rectifying the Bush 43 embarrassment will not be easy and it will not come quickly. There are no Krauthammers and nails when it comes to diplomacy. But Obama’s effort to show the rest of the world that the US can be trusted to lead once more is precisely what is needed right now.