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November 09, 2010

Beinhart's Revisionism

We've become accustomed to the President seizing credit for the policies of his predecessor, while simultaneously blaming his predecessor for all the ills we currently face. Today Peter Beinhart takes a page out of President Obama's book, revising history and trying to paint the President as some sort of tough foreign policy guy.

Here's the lede:

Peter Beinart on why Obama's cozying up to China's rivals this week—and how his policy is more hawkish than Bush's.
Obama more hawkish than Bush? Sounds a little unlikely, doesn't it? So let's check out his supporting evidence.





Beinhard SezReality
Obama conducted joint naval exercises VietnamBush conducted joint exercises with Japan, India, South Korea, the Phillipines and created the Proliferation Security Initiative (hated by China)
Obama is negotiating a nuclear deal with VietnamBush negotiated a nuclear deal with India
Obama is drawing closer to IndonesiaBush began the push to restore bilateral military ties with Indonesia
Obama "has been more aggressive than the Bush administration in selling arms to Taiwan"The Taiwan arms deal was initiated, negotiated, and signed by Bush. In fact Obama held back the F-16s that were supposed to be part of the deal, and the deal itself is being held up until 2011 by the administration.
"Hillary Clinton ambushed the Chinese by rallying 12 countries to protest its territorial incursions"...and that did what, exactly?
"now Obama is visiting India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan, the four Asian countries most crucial to its effort at balancing Chinese power"Obama is continuing Bush's efforts in all four countries

It is pleasing to see the Secretary of State pushing the Chinese a bit, but thus far it's only been a bit. And it's nice to the President starting to note the importance of challenging Chinese consolidation of Asia. But he's lost two years already, and for every ASEAN meeting where we promote US interests, there are several SCO meetings where China continues to wrap its arms around Asia.

China may not be as substantial a threat as it appears to be, but there's no question as to threat it wants to become. Bush realized it belatedly, assuming at the start that economic interests would outweigh geopolitical ambitions. Obama failed to learn from Bush's lesson, even though the signs were much more obvious by the time he assumed office.

So was Obama really "more hawkish" than Bush? Not at all. Obama has been hawkish for Obama, but for Bush, this was routine. Protecting American interests, forestalling emerging threats, forging alliances - it's all in the job description.

I'm genuinely and pleasantly surprised to see Obama be as 'aggressive' as he is. I didn't think he had it in him. But I hardly think that continuing your predecessor's policies promotes you to a 'more hawkish' status.

Meh - it was a stupid point anyway - the question is not who is more hawkish, but whether this foreign policy approach will succeed. To my mind, it's too little, too late. But I had already ceded that battle by the end of the Bush administration.

Now it's just a question of how long it will take China to absorb Taiwan and boot us out of Asia. At our current rate, I'm giving those 5 and 10 years, respectively. And after that things will get really ugly.


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posted by Geoff at 11:09 AM

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