March 3 2010

Policy Brief #29: Obama's New Engagement Policy Is Costing the U.S. Allies and Risking National Security

Julie Gunlock

Executive Summary

President Barack Obama began his term with a grand, more affable vision for U.S. relations with the world. The United States would no longer refuse to speak to rogue nations and the heretofore forbidden practice of negotiating without preconditions would be accepted policy. This new U.S. posture was certainly different. No other U.S. President had so publicly stated his intentions to engage the world's worst actors, but Obama viewed the policy of isolating rogue nations as "ridiculous"-an arcane policy much in need of revision.

In his short 12 months in office, Obama has fulfilled this promise to engage: beginning talks in Iran, bowing to Russian pressure on missile defense, chatting personally with Venezuelan President Chavez, and sending high-level delegations to North Korea and Burma. At the same time, the Obama Administration has shown a clear discomfort with declaring support for America's allies: abandoning Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense, rigorously defending ousted Honduran President Zelaya over the Honduran officials working to preserve their democracy, staying silent after Iran's brutal crackdown on reform demonstrators, and publicly snubbing the Dalai Lama in favor of the Chinese.

As a result of these actions, the Obama Administration is alienating our allies, depressing opposition groups working for freedom in the world's most oppressive nations, and emboldening our adversaries to continue their provocative and dangerous activities.

The United States must maintain its role in the world as a voice for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. If it doesn't, the world may forever view Obama as having a preference for dictators over democrats, which is hardly the legacy Obama hopes to leave.

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