No room for knee-jerks
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?
Though I don't often find myself quoting Henry Kissinger favorably, I think that his long-held position is on the mark in this case. Leaders, such as the U.S. president, need to have thought out long-term strategies in their dealings with other nations. Talk and action in such cases ought to reflect the long-term "grand" strategy.
It is a big mistake to get too involved in tactics and say, |'Well, Israel misbehaved
last week, and so we need to respond tit for tat." Or: "The Chinese were annoyed by my seeing the Dalai Lama and that is just what I wanted to happen."
The president's reactions, if any, ought to embody the grand strategy of foreign relations, nuanced with strategies geared toward closer allies, like Israel, or those nations with whom we have a less intimate relationship, like China. If there are going to be significant changes -- for example, in our relations with Iran since the president took office -- these significant changes need to be thought through thoroughly,
applied consistently, and not changed without considerable additional reflection.
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