‘Macho Again” is the name of a race horse, one upon which President Barack Obama seems unlikely to bet. Likewise for Fareed Zakaria, who praised Obama’s resolve to reset his song in the key of humility by being kinder and meeker in foreign affairs.
“Machismo is not a foreign policy,” Zakaria wrote in The Washington Post, in which he claimed that a) the United Nations is a legitimate, useful, and powerful body; b) that “machismo is not foreign policy,” c) that “tough and stupid” is an even worse policy, and d) that “denouncing, demeaning and insulting other countries was a cheap and easy way to seem strong.”
Perhaps. But the horse found a backer in the president of France, who lost no time in noting that if “tough and stupid” could be a bad policy, “weak and stupid” could be even worse.
“We live a real world, not a virtual world,” he scolded Obama, who missed a chance to indict Iran before a world audience when he ignored the discovery of an new illegal enrichment facility near Qom in order to rabbit on with irrelevant fantasies about the joys of a weapon-free world.
In the real world, as Nicolas Sarkozy described it, Iran violated five Security Council resolutions in five consecutive years, while turning down five consecutive offers of dialogue. And what did “the international community” gain from these efforts? “More enriched uranium, more centrifuges and a statement by Iranian leaders proposing to wipe a U.N. member state off the map.”
In the real world, the “international community” as the liberals see it doesn’t exist. The U.N. was invented by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been driven nearly insane by his inability to rouse his country against Adolf Hitler until the attack on Pearl Harbor, and saw the Security Council as a police force that would keep an eye out for aspiring Hitlers, and quash them while still in the bud.
But war soon broke out among the five permanent members, and since then the organization has been to most extents useless, with major threats addressed by ad hoc and outside coalitions, driven largely by American power and will.
If machismo means power and the intention to use it, then it is machismo that has saved civilization, not the U.N. It was machismo and NATO that saved Western Europe from being invaded, that saved West Berlin from being enveloped, that saved our east coast from being menaced by Soviet missiles, that kept the oil fields of Kuwait (and Saudi Arabia) out of Saddam’s clutches; that gave Iraq the chance to become a democracy instead of a menace, and is trying to stabilize the dangerous lands to the east.
Zakaria says (and Obama must think) that all countries have conflicts and interests, which can be resolved diplomatically, but this isn’t true. Most countries have conflicts that can be resolved diplomatically. Others (such as Iran and North Korea) have “interests” that involve conquest and murder, and have to be muzzled by force, or the threat of it.
President John F. Kennedy ended the Cuban missile crisis without using force because Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev believed he was willing to use it. Reagan collapsed the Soviet Union without a shot fired because he denounced and demeaned its system as “evil,” and because he made certain that he and his allies were both defended and armed to the teeth.
Zakaria is right about one thing: Machismo is not foreign policy. It is merely the indispensable thing that makes policy possible. It buys time, space and opportunity. It lets the lawful extract peaceful concessions, and gives the lawless a reason to listen to reason. It is not the enemy of negotiations, but their enabler. Without it, there is nothing but air.
By adjuring machismo, Obama is making his country a vacuum, the one thing that nature abhors. Someone has to play the role of America, so Sarkozy is stepping up for the duration, as Obama decides to play France.
In reaction to France in the Iraq war run-up, Americans stopped buying Brie, and other French imports. Americans may want to boycott goods made in their country until their leaders come back to their senses. And start being macho again.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.