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As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Dump the carrot, drop the stick

Q: In the past week, China and Israel have issued sharp rebukes to President Obama and his approach to issues relating to trade and West Bank settlements. As a world leader facing political challenges at home, is this the right moment for Obama to show toughness and resolve and risk escalating the confrontations or to demonstrate patience and diplomacy in trying to defuse them?

Our country's symbiotic relationships with China and Israel color any potential response towards either country. China, endlessly accommodating in its acceptance of U.S. bonds, has happily subsidized the United State's mountainous debt. Despite violent interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel still remains our most trusted, least mercurial ally in the region. Our government's foreign policies towards both countries must transcend the traditional, often times hubristic, reward/reproach model so popular in foreign affairs circles.

Any response to recent slights by China and Israel must be measured against the Obama administration's long-term foreign policy goals for each.

So far, the Obama administration's actions toward China resemble a watchful d├ętente. Despite numerous taunts over the past year, the administration has maintained a subdued, conciliatory tone in their responses to China. It appears that they have acknowledged China's growing economic power and are invested in the advantages of a stable, if not friendly, relationship. At this point, a confrontation with China would be detrimental to this administration's cautious approach.

The Obama administration's relationship with Israel has struck a markedly different tone. While maintaining staunch political support of Israel, the Obama Administration has also been very candid about its distaste for many of Israel's actions over the past year. With the rest of the Middle East watching, the White House's behavior suggests a belief that mitigating Israel's indiscretions will increase security and peace in the region. Consequently, a strong reprimand of Israel seems worth the potential for renewed partnerships elsewhere in the region. Unlike their approach to China, the Obama administration appears short on patience with Israel.

A reactionary, sweeping response to perceived insults by China and Israel will ultimately hurt valuable relationships with both countries. There is no uniform salve for the United State's increasingly difficult international relations; the carrot and the stick are far too simple for these issues. The Obama administration has already shown that they are aware of the complex challenges and opportunities that China and Israel present.

Going forward, they would be wise to keep the recent events in context, focus on the larger foreign policy picture, and act with an understanding of the complicated international environment surrounding them. --Lanre Akinsiku

By Coro Fellows

 |  March 16, 2010; 6:28 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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What do you mean drop the stick? This is the part where we beat Israel with the stick! Why are we still giving them carrots?

They are arrogant jerks and somehow, it seems that we, the USA, are at their beck and call. I can tell you for one that I really hate that country's policies and would be glad to cut off funding 100% until they close EXISTING settlements. Are we stupid or something?

Posted by: overdrive_68 | March 16, 2010 1:16 PM
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Screw Israel. Tell them they are on their own, and watch the world come to our support. Israel is a scourge upon the earth.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | March 16, 2010 11:33 AM
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You are the ball or club. I bought a new driver and a bag of goodies yesterday. Keep it simple sweetheart. It's getting time to go hit balls.

Posted by: tossnokia | March 16, 2010 10:36 AM
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What has Israel done for the US? Nothing. To call it an ally is ridiculous. Israel is more like a customer who never pays his bills. If the US has any sense it will cultivate a strong relationship with India, which, ahem, like Israel, shares democratic values, and practices them more consistently than Israel does.

Israel needs to try to become a good citizen of the international community and to stop relying so much on papa "US" with the two parties pretending that it is some kind of marriage.

Marriage with a country smaller than most American states and which takes a lot and gives nothing in return? It is not marriage, it is blindness.

Posted by: rohitcuny | March 16, 2010 9:22 AM
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