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August 03, 2009

How Do You Know "Soft Power" is Working?

Oddly enough, "When your allies blatantly thumb their noses at you" wasn't the first answer that sprang to mind:

In another assertion of Iraq's growing sovereignty, Iraqi forces Tuesday took control of a compound outside Baghdad that houses members of an Iranian opposition group long protected by the U.S. military.

The attack occurred without prior notification of U.S. authorities and took place while Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was in Baghdad.

The compound, known as Camp Ashraf, is home to about 3,500 members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The group, responsible for acts of violence against Iran, against Iraqi Shi'ites in 1991 and against Americans in Iran in the 1970s, is on the U.S. State Department terrorism list. But U.S. officials have protected Ashraf residents since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 for fear that they would be tortured or executed if forcibly repatriated.

...Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert for the Congressional Research Service, called the attack on the camp "especially troubling for the Obama administration because it occurred while Defense Secretary Gates is in Iraq, and the United States considers the Ashraf residents protected persons under the Geneva Convention. It suggests that, as the Iraqi government is increasingly independent of the United States, it might use this freedom of action to act against perceived domestic opponents or on behalf of outside benefactors. In this case, the attack would appear to be at the behest of Iran, which has accused [the MEK] of involvement in the recent internal unrest in Iran."

Funny. Speaking softly doesn't seem to work terribly well without that big stick:

The immediate challenges are North Korea and Iran, governments that the American left claimed were "evil" only because Mr. Bush had declared them so. Perhaps Mr. Obama believed this too, though five months later he has learned otherwise. North Korea has rejected his every overture and is now defying the U.N. to press its nuclear and proliferation ambitions. As for Iran, the mullahs are attempting to crush a popular uprising after a stolen election while also showing disdain for Mr. Obama's diplomatic entreaties.

The question is whether Mr. Obama will now adapt his policies to meet challenges he clearly didn't expect. Jimmy Carter took office with similar illusions about the Soviet Union, promising to cure our "inordinate fear of Communism." Our enemies pushed back at what they perceived to be U.S. weakness, and Mr. Carter and his NSC adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski never recovered.

Where foreign policy is concerned, Obama seems determined to convince the world that he's George Bush. Only without the courage of his convictions.

Posted by Cassandra at August 3, 2009 11:31 AM

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He's already made a *better* start at convincing the world he's Jimmeh Cottuh.

Heh. Welcome back.

Ummmmmm, to *you*, not Cottuh.

Posted by: BillT at August 3, 2009 12:38 PM

Nice to have you back. From your 7/29 I was afraid you were going for a long while.

That's the problem with real writers - they can't stop writing. Bill Ayers is a real writer - he's always writing something. Oddly, Barak Obama seems to have written two books but nothing else. No college papers, no law review articles, nothing since the books.

He must have incredible will-power to be able to turn it off like that. Glad you don't have so much willpower. I enjoy your writing and would miss it if you quit.


Posted by: joe doakes at August 3, 2009 02:33 PM

I was thinking about that the other day, when the British government released a formal complaint about our Afghan strategy. 'Wow,' I thought, 'that's a pretty big slap in the face.'

Of course, that happened with Bush from time to time -- particularly with the Spanish -- but he was never supposed to be that interested in pursuing the consent of all parties involved. He stated pretty early that he was prepared to roll with 'A Coalition of the Willing,' and do what he thought was right. Of course some people outside that Coalition sneered and sniffed.

Posted by: Grim at August 3, 2009 05:54 PM

"Speaking softly doesn't seem to work terribly well without that big stick..."

Ain't it da troof?!

He's already made a *better* start at convincing the world he's Jimmeh Cottuh.
Heh. Welcome back.
Ummmmmm, to *you*, not Cottuh.
Posted by: BillT at August 3, 2009 12:38 PM

"Welcome back, Cottuh"? Ouch...

Posted by: camojack at August 4, 2009 01:21 AM

Heh. I actually figured bthun would twig to that first, camo.

Speaking softly hasn't turned out well with Iran, either.

Hillary: "We'd *really* like you to return those three tourists you say you don't have."

Ahminadinnerjacket: "We do not know which tourists you are referencing because we do not have them. And we will continue to not have them until they confess to being Israeli spies."

Posted by: BillT at August 4, 2009 01:57 AM

The Obama administration will convene a summit of experts to figure out what to do about the problem of texting while driving.


The comedy *does* just write itself...

Posted by: BillT at August 4, 2009 08:46 AM

"Heh. I actually figured bthun would twig to that first, camo."
Having lived through Cottuh I, the prospects of Cottuh II - Bigger, Badder, Bovine-Scattier with New & Improved AmericasFault, Clueless-Arrogance-on-Parade, OffendAllies, CowerbeforeTyrantsandOppressors, DismantleDefense, StagDeInflation-with-a-Vengeance, and CradletoGraveHealthCare administered by Soylent Green Industries, a subsidiary of Government Motors, all coming to your hometown. Watch your local government news organ listing for promotional details, I initially decided to whistle past this one.

Maybe in 454 days and a wake up, I can ease up on the whistling. One step at a time...

Yeah, the midwatch was boring.

Posted by: bthun at August 4, 2009 09:32 AM

Heh. I actually figured bthun would twig to that first, camo.
Posted by: BillT at August 4, 2009 01:57 AM

Working 3rd shift in the Military-Industrial Complex™ does give me something of a head start...sometimes. Other times, I'm way behind the curve... ;-)

Posted by: camojack at August 5, 2009 03:56 AM

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