Friday, March 06, 2009

Reset button "gift"

Oh this story is so cringeworthy. So first Obama gives Gordon Brown a boxed set of 25 DVDs. And now Clinton gives Lavrov a craft project? I mean, I get the symbolism, but it is soooo cheesy. I mean, who came up with that idea, and I feel bad for Clinton having to go through with presenting it:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red "reset button" to symbolise improved ties, but the gift drew smiles as the word "reset" was mistranslated into the Russian for "overcharge"."I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: 'We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together," said Clinton, presenting Lavrov with a palm-sized yellow box with a red button.

So, I wonder exactly how Russio-American relations will improve? I mean, it's not like Obama is looking to be so strikingly different from Bush with regards to Russia.


Blogger Pistolmom said...

2:42 PM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

Obama is letting Russia bully Kyrgyzstan into kicking us out of our main supply base for Afghanistan just as he's talking up increasing the Afghanistan effort.

Methinks he's really not thinking much about Russia at all. And that is a huge mistake.

But, then again, what do I know. I would have given the Browns entirely different gifts upon their visit. So, obviously, I'm not nuanced enough.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

That's funny. I hadn't heard about this. I would think after all the years of such a strong focus on relations with Russia the state department would have at least one person that knew the language.

The absence of Bush presents entirely different circumstances for all of our foreign policy. I don't know if Obama has to be entirely different to improve relations, just not having Bush and the neocons in control will improve a lot of things.

6:40 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Hey Chris,
Your comment makes me think that Obama doesn't actually have to do anything differently, but just because he isn't Bush people will think that everything is better. Which I do think has a ring of truth to it, but I think it’s sad, because it basically means that people just need an attitude readjustment. I mean, people aren't whining as much about the economy now, they seem to have that magical "hope". It's all about mind-set. I hope Obama doesn't change the foreign policy too much. I read a very interesting article
in the French Le Monde the day after Obama was elected, where Medvedev straight out said that the US was responsible for the war in Georgia. So it’s not like I think we are dealing with a government that is completely non-aggressive. And considering that Gorbachev just said that Putin and Co. are as bad as the worst communists, I hope Obama does stand up to them. I mean, I will be really impressed if Hugo Chavez and Mugabe and similar leaders become less powerful during Obama’s administration or not. If you ask me, Obama is starting to look more and more like a 21st century Wilson, but I certainly hope that is an underestimation on my part, and he is just coming off that way, and will actually surprise many.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

My favorite comment was over at Volokh:

"So, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan all work hard to make sure the Russians never start a nuclear war and the first thing Obama and Clinton do is present them with a red button and encourage them to push it?"


6:36 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Quite the contrary actually. Obama must do many things differently, especially in foreign policy and extra-especially in domestic policy. As unpopular as George Bush was/is here in America (and we're talking extremely 25% approval unpopular) he's even more unpopular in foreign countries. That's quite a statement actually and quite sad that our country was led by such incompetence. So the mere fact that he is no longer president helps greatly in diplomatic circles. Not only were people here in America tired of dealing with George Bush and the neocons, so was the world. An attitude adjustment was not needed. A change in leadership was. A new face will help things out greatly.

As far as substance of Obama's policies, surely we are already seeing the differences. We have a date set for leaving Iraq, we have Secretary Clinton engaged in foreign policy, and a greater focus on Afghanistan, the country actually responsible for 9/11. To me those are big differences in a short amount of time.

It wasn't just about mindset. George Bush was that unpopular, the most unpopular in modern American history. Thankfully he is gone. I don't think the Obama administration is naive enough to think dictators and terrorists are going to change their tune just because he's president now. That's more right wing Fox News talk than actually coming from the Obama administration. But our friends and allies will greatly change their tune with the new administration, which is more important and a greater help in combating our enemies than anything else.

4:11 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Hmmm Chris, I disagree…lols, but there is nothing new there, right?

Firstly, the date set for leaving Iraq? It’s not like it’s that different from what Bush was proposing. He will be removing troops, but leaving a force of what? 30,000 soldiers. And I am pretty confident that if the generals on the ground there say that they don’t feel comfortable leaving the remaining US soldiers there “alone” with the current security standards, that Obama won’t force the troops to be reduced by then. From discussions I have had with a few people in the military about this one is that it doesn’t really seem like a big deal and doesn’t seem to differ much from what Bush was proposing. Sure he has set a date, but realistically that date can be pushed back if necessary. Hopefully the Iraqi security will take the date seriously and step it up, but if they don’t, they won’t have US troops leaving Iraq under fire, i.e. retreating: the US can only reduce troops when it is safe to do so. So it’s mainly symbolic the date setting.

Secondly, Senator Clinton engaged in foreign policy. Don’t have much to say to that. I mean, I don’t really have an opinion. I can’t really judge as of yet.

Thirdly, a greater focus on Afghanistan? It’s not like Obama’s military strategy is so much different from Bush’s. I mean, he kept on Gates, and some of this other choices for defense department and related positions aren’t exactly controversial. So it’s difficult for me to see how other countries are going to look at our strategy now and say: “wow, they have really changed, time to jump on board.” I hope Obama sets his sights low, and just aims for continued containment, because in a country like Afghanistan, it’s not like you will be able to change much. I think that Afghanistan is attractive for al-Qaida for a few reasons: the terrain makes for easy hiding, the infrastructure is really backwards, so it is harder for a large military which relies on roads, etc., and the population is easily persuaded to dogmatic ideas (Taliban) because of the lack of alternative information. Now, I don’t quite know what Obama is going to do in Afghanistan to change these factors? Talking to elements of the Taliban might work, but it’s not quite like the Sunni awakening in Iraq. The Taliban is defined by its dogmatic hatred of all things un-Islamic. So I am not sure how that jives with working together with the US? I think the best we can hope for is containment. And avoiding a war with Pakistan, while encouraging them to acknowledge they are harboring terrorists. Now it’s not like the Bush administration wasn’t doing anything here. So once again, it’s difficult for me to see this as a new horizon. But hope springs eternal.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

It's good to see we are still disagreeing :)

I would say President Obama's strategy for Iraq is quite the change from Bush's. Announced over the weekend was a draw down of about 12,000 U.S. troops from Iraq- the largest since 2003. Obama has also ordered that we will no longer engage in routine combat missions after August 2010- a huge change from Bush's endless war. Not to mention that all troops must be out of Iraqi cities by June 30 this year. Bush never set a date, instead calling such a surrender or retreat. Just those three items alone are a vastly different approach than the Bush administration, who has been waging ongoing war in Iraq for 6 solid years.

I agree the generals will and should have the final say in a timely withdrawal from Iraq, but I think Obama's time frame is much more than arbitrary, at least in my opinion. Even with all that said, I still think we'll have troops in Iraq for some time to come. But I have always been for permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hillary at state is a huge, gigantic change from the previous administration. I think she'll do a good job.

Obama is sending 27,000 more troops to Afghanistan, to me that's a much greater focus on the country with an actual link to 9/11. He's keeping Gates on for a year, and then removing him, which to me is wise given that Obama inherited two ongoing wars and I think Gates has done a decent job with the disaster he had to work with. I totally agree we aren't going to be able to change much in Afghanistan. Absolutely agree with that. And noticeably absent from Obama's rhetoric about Afghanistan and Iraq are vague imagery about building great democracies for a safer world. I think if anyone had unrealistic dreams about Afghanistan it was George Bush and his freedom and democracy war rhetoric.

The best we can hope to do there is finally defeat the taliban or at least make it impossible for them to return. In addition, to give the country of Afghanistan hope for the future without taliban control. But it will take more than just military power and America all alone. It will require allies and Afghanistan's neighbors. It won't be solved in a month or in a year but what George Bush gave us in Afghanistan obviously wasn't working.

You might not think any of that is change but like I said in my very first comment, the absence of Bush is change. An overwhelming majority of Americans are happy to see it.

8:54 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...


Obama announces a withdrawal date: he’s getting the same information as Bush did. The only difference is that Bush didn’t want to publically announce a draw down date. And it’s not like just by setting the date, it means that we are going to keep it. So it’s just talk; as long as people feel better about it, and the world sees us differently...but follow through is needed.

I thought of you when I was reading this comment :
A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama's inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to "even fake an interest in foreign policy".

But, perhaps it’s just the British press miffed at the State Department’s snub: "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."

This kind of tactless reply to explain the White House aides’ lack of preparation for a visit from the British PM during the Bush administration would have been media fodder…but like you say, people just see Obama differently, and they interpret his actions differently so that explains the contrast.

But time will tell.

But don't get be wrong: I'm happy that the overwhelming majority of Americans see it that way...I just hope they won't be too disappointed when their high expectations aren't met. I really don't have too many.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Obama hasn't even been in office two months. It's going to take just a little bit longer than that to fix Bush's blunder of Iraq. I find it encouraging that Obama has set a date, whether it holds or not is a matter of debate, but even the top American commander in Iraq says it is "unlikely" the date won't hold.

I would find it very unlikely that President Obama would not be slightly interested in foreign policy. He inherited two ongoing wars, I firmly believe he has offered interest in foreign policy, despite what the British press is saying.

I too hope that me along with an overwhelming amount of Americans won't be disappointed in Obama's four years. America can't afford another four years of failed presidential politics. If Obama doesn't deliver then he will be a one-termer and a third party candidate will have the best shot at the presidency since Lincoln.

2:40 PM  

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