The current President of the United States, his government and cabinet secretaries seem totally unaware of and unconcerned about the importance of history, precedent, diplomacy and war.
Precedent makes law. And precedent and how to respond in both diplomatic settings and in a crisis tells both friends and enemies what to expect from great powers.
The precedent that the United States will respond almost immediately and with force at signs of piracy and other troubles on the high seas dates almost to the start of the Republic. In 1804, at the very start of the U.S. Navy, war ensued with pirates off the coast of North Africa because the price of ransom paid to pirates just kept going up.
But this year we have seen the Chinese disrupt at-sea operations of a U.S. naval vessel, without much U.S. response, and now African pirates hold for ransom a U.S. merchant captain.
I guess Jimmy Carter showed the world that the U.S. would be slow to respond in hostage situations. But Ronald Reagan and others made sure the message was sent again that toying with the American people even in far flung assignments would not be tolerated and could result in war or lesser uses of more than strong language.
But President Obama has more rapidly re-written precedent on how the U.S. will respond than any president in modern history. That is his course to take but he needs to be aware that others have tried the soft approach before: earning Neville Chamberlain the nickname “appeaser.”
Nations usually change their diplomatic course gradually, like the gigantic ships of state that they are. Putting the rudder over quickly toward appeasement or force has its dangers.
It would have seemed an open and shut case a few weeks ago, for example, that Presidents of the United States do not bow to anyone.
Now that they do: what does that mean? After two hundred years, outsiders have to see America in a new light, which is apparently what Mr. Obama wants. But who has guessed at the consequences? Who in team Obama is telling the president how China, Russia and the others see this great breakthrough and what it might mean?
My guess would be nobody is discussing this At the White House (who denied that a bow ocurred) or at State. Nobody who can make an educated guess at how others will see the new U.S. and its conduct. I base this observation on Hillary Clinton presenting her counterpart in Russia with a giant red button bearing a misspelled word and with an unclear meaning. In most Russian experience, I believe, giant red buttons launch nuclear weapons — not improved or “reset” relations — even if you could spell the word correctly.
My real point here is this: when a few thugs at sea can hold an entire sea faring nation like the United States hostage for ransom something is certainly amiss — and a dangerous precedent could be in the making. The precedent now being set by President Obama and his Administration is that perhaps America will cower to brigands of any and all sorts.
After all, precendent sets law so precedent bears watching.
This line of thinking would also include North Korea’s recent missile launch and the inability of the United States to make the United Nations act in a sure and responsible way in condemning that nation. Japan has already withdrawn its demand that harsh actions be taken in response to the North Korean missile flight. Japan’s voice is unheard without U.S. backing.
What precendent did America’s top ally in the Pacific just learn?
The message now sent by Mr. Obama around the globe is that he will bow to just about anybody at any time and on any terms. This does not bode well for America’s future or the security of the United States and allies like Israel.
Each American has to judge for him or her self if this is good or bad. But my experience tells me that in places like Moscow, Beijing and Tehran; leaders are seeing a new precedent set by the United States. And that can mean mischief.
See Michelle Malkin
Was it Joe Biden, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton that thought it was a good idea to encourage Russia to just hit the “reset” button? Well, whoever…..
Barack Obama’s “Great Bow to Saudi” and the red “reset” button given to Russia are more than faux pas and less than the end of the world. But they do certainly indicate a certain lack of professionalism and due care for diplomacy.
The almost unnoticed fact that Austrians do do speak Austrian and other errors great and small means to me that we are in for more errors unless the Obama Administration starts to do some homework and learns from the errors committed thus far….
See the “faux pas” view from the Washington Post: