Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Smart Power" Isn't Smart or Powerful

Hillary Clinton made the laughable claim that the U.S. is employing "smart power" with regard to Libya and Syria. With all the focus on President Obama's miserable handling of domestic policy, it's always worth reminding people that this administration is almost as clueless when it comes to foreign affairs. Here's Clinton on what she thinks we are doing in Libya.
Libya was a study in the use of "strategic patience," whereby the United States resisted the impulse for immediate intervention and instead helped to build support for the country's nascent opposition, which the U.S. now recognizes as Libya's legitimate government. She said the unprecedented NATO-Arab alliance protecting civilians on the ground was a key result of the tactics of smart power.
Here's what we are actually doing in Libya. Despite already being involved in two wars, fighting Islamist terrorists across the globe, and mired in an economic mess, we decided to intervene in the Libyan civil war. This intervention was completely unnecessary, particularly given that Britain and France were already going to intervene. Not only did we do so anyway, but we created a terrible precedent at the UN by signing on to a resolution that could easily be directed against America in the future. In addition, once in the war, we refused to win it by taking the obvious action of trying to eliminate Gaddafi. We are basically helping prolong a civil war, wasting money, and keeping forces tied down in yet another open-ended commitment. If that's a smart use of American power, I'd hate to see a dumb one.

In Syria, we are doing essentially nothing. In my opinion that's actually pretty smart. But it has nothing to do with exercising some sort of power. We are refusing to employ our power at all. Hillary Clinton even thinks it would be going too far if we called for Assad to step down. And then there's this gem from the Secretary of State that demonstrates yet again how Obama's foreign policy is based primarily on naivete and wishful thinking.
"I think this is smart power, where it is not just brute force, it is not just unilateralism," she said. "It is being smart enough to say you know what we want a bunch of people signing out of the same hymn book and we want them singing a song of universal freedom, human rights, democracy, everything that we have stood for and pioneered over 235 years."
Brute force is an actual application of power. It can be smart or it can be dumb. It depends how and why it is employed. Doing things unilaterally is sometimes necessary and can also be smart, and in American interests -- which aren't exactly a priority for the Obama administration. What is "universal freedom" supposed to be? Maybe it's the same thing as "a universal set of values and interests."
"The United States stands for our values, our interests and our security, but we have a very clear view that others need to be taking the same steps to enforce a universal set of values and interests,"
There is obviously no such thing as universal values or interests. But Clinton wants to "enforce" them somehow. Hopefully we can replace the Obama administration with one that at least grasps the basic fact that different states have different interests, and that values vary wildly across the globe.

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