Red, White, and Skewed: So many crises, so little time
Issue date: 4/24/09 Section: Opinion
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The mantra, "Everything they did, we will do the opposite," seemed to be written between the lines of Obama's and Clinton's campaign speeches, but currently, the President/Secretary of State duo is finding that the path is somewhat harder to navigate than they may have thought.
When George W. Bush created the "Bush Doctrine" of punishing "terrorists and those who harbor them," after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he fundamentally changed foreign policy the world over. Describing the world as allies and enemies, good and evil, seemed to give Bush the ability to predict other states' actions. As the doctrine developed and an "axis of evil" emerged, it was even easier to see with whom the United States would and would not negotiate.
The new president and his cohort of advisers and ambassadors created a very dangerous situation for themselves during their campaign and subsequent statements; by announcing they would be more open to multilateral negotiations in "hotspots" around the world, the Obama administration effectively dared enemies and marginalized governments of the United States to make a move.
In the last two weeks, many moves have been made. Raúl Castro and Hugo Chávez played along with the United States at an economic summit in Trinidad, but neither leader seems to know whether to take a hard line against Obama or wait for a little stimulus money. The rigid lack of affect displayed by Chinese president Hu Jintao left many analysts wondering how exactly Beijing will respond to Obama economically. The Pentagon, however, released a statement in March claiming that China is investing heavily in its military; many theorists believe China is making use of the weakened U.S. economy to catch up militarily and technologically.
Other, more conventional enemies of the United States have begun pressing the country. Much as Saddam Hussein pushed the limits of the UN in the late 1990s, North Korea captured and imprisoned two U.S. journalists earlier this month. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did the same, but was courteous enough to allow the reporter's father and lawyer into the country as she was being tried for espionage.