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Last week I spent a pleasant evening at a Bedford County home talking with some teachers and students from Indonesia. The Indonesians are here under the auspices of Legacy International and the United States Department of State. The event I attended was a dinner for those who are staying with families in the Bedford area.
Most of the Indonesians were Muslims, but they weren’t frightening Muslims. Some of the ladies wore the headgear that Muslim women often wear, but others didn’t. One of them, an economics teacher named Indri Hermawaty said that some choose not to dress that way and, in Indonesia, they are free to make that choice.
They were a very nice group of folks and I enjoyed talking with them. I’ve not met many people from that country, so I was happy for the opportunity. I think it’s good to get to know people from other cultures and learn about their part of the world.
This, by the way, is not an endorsement for President Barack Obama’s kumbayah approach to diplomacy. The United States can negotiate with a country like Indonesia because that country’s leaders are reasonable people. Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy and, earlier this month, held its second free, fair election in a row. We can reach out to Indonesia with the open hand of diplomatic friendship because that country will respond in kind.
This doesn’t mean that we will always agree. When Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently visited India, the world’s largest democracy, India politely declined her offer to jump on her global warming band wagon. India’s government isn’t willing to stifle its economic growth.
Unfortunately, not all the nations of the world are like Indonesia. There are many countries that do not have free and fair elections and do not have leaders who are reasonable. Iran is run by extremists who send out goon squads to beat their citizens if those citizens dare protest any government action. North Korea’s government seems to consist of a bunch of thugs headed by a wacko.
Reaching out to these countries with the open hand of diplomatic friendship is like trying to pet an angry pit bull. Do that and you’ll be lucky if you’re able to draw that hand back with all five fingers still attached.
I hope, at some point, President Obama can come up with a realistic foreign policy. This will be a foreign policy that avoids extremes when dealing with countries such as Iran and North Korea. On the one hand, we need to avoid the extreme of recklessly charging in with guns blazing. On the other hand, we need to avoid the extreme of thinking that we can all just be friends. Some countries have leaders who don’t want to be friends. They have their own agendas. These agendas may include dominating their neighbors and helping people who hate us.
I’m not optimistic. His administration seems intent on attempting to open negotiations with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmandinejad even though Iranians are protesting his “election” at the risk of getting their heads busted. He has yet to indicate that he has a clue about how to approach North Korea and he’s actually helping Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez put his buddy Manuel Zelayo back in power in Honduras.
So far, President Obama’s foreign policy is more like Jimmy Carter’s than Ronald Reagan’s. While an inept foreign policy could help Republicans retire him in 2012, woe to us if President Obama, like President Carter, is never able to come to his senses.