A Dangerously Naive Foreign Policy

By | September 20, 2012 | 0 Comments



Years ago, when I was young and naive, I was searching the movie page of the paper, looking for a movie I had missed. I found that it was still playing at a theater in a minority part of town. This didn’t bother me. I worked at a public hospital where many of the doctors and nurses were minorities, as were many of our patients. Yes, it was a time of racial unrest and hostility. But I didn’t feel hostile, so I assumed no one felt hostile toward me.
So I got into my Chevy, parked on the street, and went to the movies on Saturday night. A large man a few rows in front of me turned around and glared at me with overt hostility. I paid no attention. Then the film began, and I forgot about the man. Afterward, I walked to my car and drove back to my two-room apartment without a second thought.
Later the Los Angeles riots broke out. I realized that the theater was in the midst of the riot zone. I realized that I had been naive. I realized that because of my daily work with minorities and my good relations with them, I somehow had gotten the idea that I was walking around with a sort of halo around my head – which everyone could see. I realized that I somehow had gotten the idea that others could sense my good intentions – and that therefore they would also have good intentions.
I realized that I had been lucky. But many people are not so lucky. Some are extremely unlucky. Look at the news from Libya. The worst aspect of naiveté is that – like other unpleasant things – its bad effects flow downhill. If your leaders are naive, you may suffer for it, even if you are grounded in reality and think clearly.
Take the Middle East and North Africa. Take Afghanistan. Take the “Arab spring.” We assumed – as President Bush did and President Obama does – that in their hearts, all people yearn for freedom. But as a lawyer would object, this is stating something not in evidence. Look at history. Look at Nazism, fascism, and communism. Look at the atheist tyrannies of Marxism, and the religious tyrannies of Islamic extremism.
Then look at how rare freedom is in world history, and how fragile it is. Look at how long it takes for people to prepare themselves to handle freedom.
The English and Scots-Irish who first settled this country might not have been aware of it, but they had been preparing themselves for freedom for half a millennium. From the English Magna Carta in 1215, to the Scottish and Irish struggles for independence, these people had been studying how to be free for many generations. And then, in 1776 they got their chance. After all those generations of study, they passed their exam with flying colors – literally.
But it wasn’t the final exam – there is none. It was only a midterm. Every generation must pass its own exam. Some exams are easy. Some are hard. The generation of the Great Depression and World War II had a really rough one. And the way things look, our generation is facing another hard exam. Only time will tell whether we are sufficiently prepared, and whether we have the guts to persist through a lengthy test.
That freedom is the natural state of humanity, and that all people yearn for it, is one of the most widespread beliefs, but also one of the most unrealistic and naive. It is also narcissistic. It assumes everyone is like us. Even worse, it assumes everyone can sense our good intentions. Worst of all, it assumes that even if they could sense our good intentions, everyone would act kindly toward us.
In effect, we are wandering through a dangerous world that contains many people who hate us and hold our beliefs in contempt. But like me at that movie years ago, we somehow have gotten the odd notion that we are going around with a halo that everyone can see. We don’t have a halo. Even if we had one, many would see it as a reason to hate us even more, and as an invitation to attack us.
The strong make demands of their enemies. The weak make demands of their friends. The strong evoke anxiety in their enemies. The weak evoke anxiety in their friends. As a result, the weak have more enemies and fewer friends.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens by all accounts was a superb foreign-service officer. He represented the best aspects of America to the world. He risked his life to help Libyans overthrow the odious dictatorship of Kadaffi. He connected with ordinary Libyan people. But he is no longer with us. Neither are his security men and his aide, Sean Smith.
Because of his naiveté – or more likely, because of the naiveté of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton – he went into a dangerous area with only two security men. True, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were former SEALs. (“When you care enough to send the very best.”) But two of the best are no match for perhaps 400 of the worst, especially when the worst are armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and armored vehicles, and they have been planning the attack for some time.
This sad episode is symptomatic of a widespread problem. Naiveté leads to underestimating the rage of extremist Muslims. Narcissism leads to the myth that Obama’s astonishing brilliance, and his awesome ability to persuade, will suffice to turn enemies into friends. Leftism leads to the fantasy that most of the problems of the world are America’s fault, so if we just apologize, promise to mend our ways, and abase ourselves by bowing low, all will be forgiven, and everyone will love us.
But all this is a dangerous delusion. It seems to make sense only in the rarefied atmosphere of elitist universities, where reality consists of what leftist professors imagine the world to be. On the contrary, in the real world, a desire to be loved often leads to being despised. Instead, we should strive to be respected by the world.
Respect includes admiration, honor, gratitude, and – yes – fear. The Obama administration has bent over backwards to assure the world that America has done nothing to deserve admiration, honor, or gratitude – and that America is no longer to be feared. Thus respect becomes impossible. If you are feeling charitable, you could call this a foreign policy. But is it a successful foreign policy? Only if success is defined as diminishing America’s influence throughout the world.
Naiveté is charming in a small child. It is inappropriate and potentially dangerous in an adult. It is especially dangerous in those who are responsible for the lives of others. In striving to be loved, the administration lost the respect of the world, and in addition taught the world not to fear us. We see the results all about us.
We have bowed too low in an attempt to show we are no longer the leading proponent of freedom. We have bent too far over backwards in an attempt not to give offense. But those who bow too low risk falling on their faces, and those who bend too far over backwards risk falling on their posteriors. It is best – and safest – to stand up straight. Those who cannot stand up for their beliefs should stand down, and make way for others who find an erect posture more appealing.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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