In other words, Obama's China policy failed
President Hu Jintao of China is coming to town this week, and American officials say President Obama will be taking a far more assertive stance as he greets his biggest global economic rival. . . .
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had a testy series of meetings in Beijing last week, telling reporters beforehand that the United States would counter China's military buildup in the Pacific by stepping up investments in weapons, jet fighters and technology. . . .
The more assertive strategy comes after Mr. Obama was criticized as appearing to kowtow to China in his visit there in 2009, and then again for allowing Beijing to get the upper hand against the United States at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Seoul late last year.
In short, the gang that came into office touting the need for "smart" diplomacy wasn't smart at all. It projected weakness and ignored vital issues, including human rights. And, lo and behold, we got a more aggressive, more thuggish China. The Times puts it more bluntly: "The result was that Mr. Obama appeared on the world stage as a leader of a country losing ground to a rising China."
Funny that the Times didn't mention this until now. But many conservative critics sure did. Perhaps the president has finally started to listen to those who have been urging a course correction. After all, our policy has not delivered assistance on North Korea, or an improvement in human rights, or military co-operation.
As on Iraq, Afghanistan and certain aspects of the war on terrorism (e.g. closing Guantanamo), Obama has discovered that the left's desired approach (e.g. engagement, downplaying human rights, downplaying "hard power") is inconsistent with America's national security interests.
There are two hitches, however. First, it is hard to get your credibility back once it is frittered away. Second, Obama has to do more than talk. A reader e-mailed the other day complaining that conservatives like myself are too hung up on carrots and sticks and consequences. It was either a very droll bit of sarcasm or a wonderful example of the fuzzy approach to foreign policy that has gotten Obama in trouble in many hot spots. Unless Chinese leaders feel there are consequences -- that they will lose something or fail to gain benefits -- they will discount Obama's words and keep on their current course.
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