Commentary Magazine


Evil Dictators Strengthen Ties

President Obama entered office believing there was no U.S. adversary whom he could not bring around with diplomacy. He offered an olive branch to Iran, shook hands with Muammar Qaddafi, and sought to soften Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad by lauding him as a reformer. Toward Russia, he initiated a ‘reset’ policy, meant to erase the Bush legacy and begin with a blank slate.

Too often, presidents enter the Oval Office convinced the fault for diplomacy’s failure lays more with their predecessor than with the adversary. Just as did the Iranians, Libyans, Syrians, and North Koreans, when Obama gave ground, Putin took it. Vladimir Putin played Obama like a fiddle.

Self-described realists too often embrace the ideological assumption that diplomacy is a panacea. The reality is that adversaries seek advantage however they can find it. Rather than see diplomacy as a means to get to an agreement, the North Koreans, Iranians, and Russians see it as an asymmetric warfare strategy.

Yesterday, the Kremlin underscored its hostility to the international community and basic human rights by docking an aircraft carrier in Syria. “The port call is aimed at bringing the two countries closer together and strengthening their ties of friendship,” the Syrian state-owned news agency quoted a Russian naval officer Yakushin Vladimir Anatolievich as saying.

That the Syrian press is broadcasting such blatant propaganda only underscores the poor judgment of Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Arlen Specter as they met with Bashar al-Assad and allowed themselves to become the dictator’s useful idiots because of their single-minded quest to show defiance toward President Bush.

The only silver-lining in the situation in Russia is the Obama administration has someone as capable as Michael McFaul now confirmed to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia. As he takes his post, McFaul becomes one of the clearest-headed and most skilled diplomats the State Department has at its disposal. However, not even McFaul will be able to compensate for the bad judgment of the reset policy which the Obama administration forced upon him. It is time to cancel the reset once and for all and recognize Putin for what he is: A dictator as evil as Bashar al-Assad, the man whom Putin now seeks to prop up.

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