President Obama’s foreign policy success based on a commitment to strong diplomacy was on full display today during remarks he gave at the Chief of Missions Conference. Citing the criticism for his commitment to diplomacy, the President touted JFK’s reasoning for trying negotiation, “‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.'”
The President explained the importance of diplomacy first and negotiation, saying, “Conflicts and wars do not end on their own.” In case anyone missed it, that was a rather obvious reference to the mess of the Iraq war that former President Bush left on Obama’s doorstep.
The President said:
There are those who criticize our commitment to diplomacy, for investing so much effort in trying to resolve conflicts that seem intractable. But here’s the truth: Conflicts and wars do not end on their own. Breakthroughs do not just happen. Agreements don’t write themselves. It takes diplomacy, being willing to sit down with others — and sometimes with adversaries, sometimes with people whose values are completely contradictory to our own. But as John always says, we have to try.
This Secretary of State from Massachusetts follows on the heels of the original JFK from Massachusetts, who said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” And we’ve seen the results, thanks to John, but also, most importantly, thanks to so many of you. An historic democratic transition in Afghanistan. Chemical weapons removed from Syria. The Iran nuclear deal. Detained Americans coming home. The Paris climate agreement. The cessation of hostilities in the Syrian civil war. That’s strong, principled diplomacy at work.
President Obama’s diplomacy first doctrine offers a sharp contrast to the empty rhetoric of Donald Trump, and frankly the pro war rhetoric of the rest of the Republican field.
Republicans have reduced themselves to Donald Trump playground bully levels. They think in simple terms and only taking into account the moment they are in right now. They don’t think about getting out of wars or how their words might impact trade relations. They think about how they can sound tough and feel puffed up and big. They think stepping on an ant makes them a big man.
Anyone can step on an ant. How many people can take the enormous power of the executive office and treat it with reverent care? How many people are able to step away from their ego and their feelings long enough to think carefully and dispassionately about the impact of their decisions.
Not many, judging from the current Republican field.
The entire Republican 2016 field is offering us George W Bush foreign policy on steroids, save for John Kasich who is just offering George W Bush foreign policy as it was. He only looks moderate in comparison on this issue, but in reality, he is not a person to be near the red button.
President Obama only needed to say a few words to offer this telling contrast. A grown up is in the White House, and I’d like to keep it that way.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.