Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Shunning non-democracies and other things that never happened

By Christian Brose I’ll have something more thought-out to say soon about President Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo. But in the meantime, I just can’t resist chiming in on this comment from Obama today: We can stand up for human rights, stand up for democracy. But I think it’s a mistake for us to somehow ...

By Christian Brose

I'll have something more thought-out to say soon about President Obama's upcoming speech in Cairo. But in the meantime, I just can't resist chiming in on this comment from Obama today:

We can stand up for human rights, stand up for democracy. But I think it's a mistake for us to somehow suggest that we're not going to deal with countries around the world in the absence of their meeting all our criteria for democracy.

By Christian Brose

I’ll have something more thought-out to say soon about President Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo. But in the meantime, I just can’t resist chiming in on this comment from Obama today:

We can stand up for human rights, stand up for democracy. But I think it’s a mistake for us to somehow suggest that we’re not going to deal with countries around the world in the absence of their meeting all our criteria for democracy.

Wha? Who exactly does he mean by "us"? I imagine he’s referring to the Bush administration’s knuckle-dragging unwillingness to deal with the undemocratic governments of, say, China, Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and most of the other states in Central Asia and the Middle East. And obviously, not having official diplomatic relations with undemocratic governments like Cuba, Iran, and North Korea was a development of the past eight years. But what does it matter anyway, because the previous crowd didn’t talk to the Iranians about Iraq or Afghanistan, nor the North Koreans about their nuclear proliferation. And of course, when the Bush administration did engage and build relationships of necessity with non-democratic governments like Musharraf’s Pakistan or Putin’s Russia, it was all raucous applause and praise for its subtle, shades-of-gray realism from the other side of the aisle, right? Does that about cover it?

Sorry to seem testy and bitter, but we’ll never have a serious approach to the complex issue of balancing interests and values in our foreign policy, as well as the trade-offs between them, if we continue to traffic in baseless caricatures like this. If these are the assumptions that will inform Obama’s Cairo speech, to say nothing of his foreign policy, then this will be quite disappointing.

Christian Brose is a senior editor at Foreign Policy. He served as chief speechwriter and policy advisor for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2005 to 2008, and as speechwriter for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2004 to 2005.

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