Barack Obama had been impressing me a while back with some calibrated, sensible approaches to recasting US-Cuba relations in this next era. I think that he was on to something big — and had a general vision of how engagement works with parts of the world, particularly nations, that are not convergent or in lockstep with our own.
I remain hopeful that Obama if elected President of the United States will be as calculating with other nations and regions that require a very different course.
But to make these changes, or leaps, into alternative bilateral, multilateral, and global arrangements requires shrewdness and diplomatic skill, not sentimentalism, leaps of faith, or gut instinct. I think experience matters — but experience can also be requisitioned. Judgment matters also — and some approaches to problem-solving can be stymied by living too much in the weeds of a problem rather than seeing some of the big opportunities.
But national security and foreign policy making is both art and science; there are many moving pieces — and America’s national security portfolio is in possibly worse shape than at the end of the Vietnam War.
Hope and gut instinct are not enough. Today, John Kerry endorsed Barack Obama — and he has every right to do so. Gary Hart did as well this week — and I should disclose that I work closely with former Senator Hart.
But I have to say that I find myself repulsed by this line from Kerry:
Like him, I also lived abroad as a young man, and I share with him a healthy respect for the advantage of knowing other cultures and countries, not from a book or a briefing, but by personal experience, by gut, by instinct.
There are many things to admire in Senator Obama. His political instincts may be impressive — but solving America’s global problems will require methodic, hard work that struggles to keep some semblance of a proactive 21st century foreign policy agenda active while many problems we need to react to will be trying to squash it.
There are legitimate differences between people and candidates on how to approach foreign policy — and I think that Obama get some of this right, as does Hillary Clinton.
But gut instinct is how George W. Bush did it — and we can’t suffer through more years of shoot from the hip approaches.
I very much hope that Barack Obama’s campaign will begin to ask his various endorsers to DROP the gut instinct line. It is not a compliment to Obama and plants more doubts than it does secure confidence.
— Steve Clemons