So, apparently Barack Obama is unfit to be president. Or, at least, that's what people like Charles Krauthammer would have you believe, claiming that "To be on the same stage as the leader of the world's greatest power is, of course, a prize" and is therefore apportioned out according to whether or not the particular prospective meeting partner deserves it.
Sameer Lalwani points out the fallacy of this empirically on Steve Clemons' blog, The Washington Note: Vladimir Putin seems to enjoy more and more access the farther and farther he moves away from any semblance of democracy. I'd like to go a step further, though, and ask a simple question: what reason does anybody have to believe that Charles Krauthammer's opinion is valid?
He has been so unbelievably wrong on so many issues that it almost beggars description. He claimed that the more nuclear powers there were, the greater world security was; clearly, people don't believe that these days in the case of Iran. He claimed that the world would be better off for having a single superpower in a "unipolar moment"; it doesn't appear much stabler, except to the effect that there are no longer as many American and Soviet proxies fighting their masters' battles for them. He claimed that Iraq was both necessary and a success; it was neither, and most reputable scholars think theories of unipolar stability are about as valid as the theory of phlogiston. He continually claims that the Republicans are better suited to the task of defending the United States; even aside from this defying the historical record of the 20th century, the Bush administration put paid to that notion. He is batting zero; unlike Thomas Friedman, doesn't even seem to realize it.
The bizarre part about all this is that I think that Krauthammer's position reflects that of American foreign policy elites, but their track record hasn't been all that wonderful either. They have not succeeded with North Korea, they have not succeeded with Iran, they have not succeeded with the Palestinians, and they sure as hell have not succeeded with Iraq. If Krauthammer is simply parroting the conventional wisdom in Washington, then that only raises the question of whether to take that seriously either. Certainly "'Jaw, jaw' instead of 'war, war'", Churchill's old dictum, is a pretty good rule of thumb, and he rather famously won the war that he was involved with. The only thing that Krauthammer and his ilk can boast is the Cold War, and the only reason they "won" that was because Mikhail Gorbachev was idealistic enough to place the needs of his country over "the national interest".
I'm not an Obama backer, at least not yet, but I do think that he had an important point to make, and I support it. Provided that it is handled properly on all levels, diplomacy is better than isolation. Even in cases of quiet or open belligerency, there should be dialogue, because at some point you're going to want the belligerency to end or, God forbid, prevent it from happening in the first place. To hell with failed "analysts" like Krauthammer. Obama demonstrated that he has a better grasp on diplomacy than many of his detractors, and I think their disagreement says more about them than it does about him.
(It also says a lot about Hillary, but that's a tale for another time.)