Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Macho In Foreign Relations

This will be a very quick post; I hope to flesh out these ideas in more detail later.

I see a lot of strutting and puffing that President Obama has "lost" to President Putin. That perhaps makes sense to those who are fully preoccupied with winning and losing in their own lives, but it makes much less sense in diplomacy.

An ideal diplomatic solution serves the needs of all parties. That's usually not possible, and yes, nations jockey to get the best for themselves. But "winning" and "losing", short of unconditional surrender, are a great oversimplification that blinds those obsessed with it to large areas of strategy.

I also see that the strutting and puffing is coming from men. I can't think of a single woman I would put in this category - possibly Susan Rice and Samantha Power, judging from their tweet streams before the Lavrov-Kerry framework came out, but they have been silent on the subject since.

The age of that kind of diplomacy is over, guys. President Obama said it well this morning in his interview with George Stephanopolous: he wants to get the substance of policy right, not the style. So he is not strutting and puffing. Let Vladimir Putin do that.

A foreign policy in which the American President calls all the shots and dictates to lesser countries (all of them, according to the strutters and puffers) is, at most, a feature of the fifties, even more a feature of the strutters and puffers' dreams. That's how a manly man would act.

George Bush put on that facade, and it got us Iraq. President Obama has learned from that, and he's been responding to opportunity, as a good strategist should. We don't know how this will turn out; Russia and Syria may not be playing in good faith.

It's white guys who want the strutting and puffing. My experience is that women often have to take what others may see as humiliation and make the best of it. Fortunately, I had mentors who showed me how to turn that into a strength. I suspect that Barack Obama has experienced that sort of thing and is using his experience. I think he's doing the right thing.

And oh yes, strutters and puffers: exactly how would you have handled the past few weeks and not gone to war? Or do you think another war would be a good thing?

No comments: