• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: Hot Dog Engagement

    If one word can sum up the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, it’s “engagement.” From Cuba to Iran and the Middle East to Russia, engagement is the White House’s magic word, an incantation that it uses to justify everything it does. Engagement’s the improved, touchy-feely way of announcing that you plan to rely on diplomacy, and it’s all the more attractive to liberals as a result.

    Diplomacy is really just a means, not an end, but to liberals it can sound suspiciously like old-fashioned, state-to-state stuff. Engagement has a cheerier tone, because it implies that you’re going to get along, not just stubbornly defend your interests and values. It’s all about feeling the other guy’s pain.

    Regrettably, as a policy, engagement’s a failure. It’s also an embarrassment. Sometimes, even the White House is compelled to realize this. Last week, the Obama Administration confirmed that, in spite of the massive protests and state-led brutality around the fraudulent Iranian elections, it would not rescind the invitations it had issued to Iranian diplomats to attend 4th of July parties at U.S. embassies around the world.

    This was the first time since the Iranian Revolution that the Iranians had been invited to share the hot dogs. When asked if, especially now, this wasn’t a disgrace to the spirit of 1776, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly predictably replied:

    “We have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran . . . . We tried many years of isolation, and we’re pursuing a different path now.”

    Or not. A day later, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced that the invitations had been rescinded, and that, in any case, none of the Iranians had accepted in the first place. And that sums up one of the problems with engagement as a foreign policy: it turns you into a patsy. If the other guy doesn’t want to play ball – and we have 30 years of evidence that the Iranian regime is not interested in friendly relations with the U.S. – you can apologize for America all you want to and succeed only in looking like a sucker. And that just encourages the other guy to act up again. It’s foreign policy with a ‘kick me’ sign on its back.

    When it’s about the 4th of July and hot dogs, that’s bad enough. But when it’s the lives of American men and women in uniform, the war in Afghanistan, and the safety of the American homeland that are at stake, it’s a lot worse. Next month, Italy will host the G8 Summit. In advance of it, the Italians have put a lot of emphasis on their belief that Iran can be engaged into being a responsible player in Afghanistan. But predictably, Iran last week refused to even attend a meeting on Afghanistan with the G8 foreign ministers.

    That should tell Italy – and the Obama Administration – something that’s already obvious: Iran is not a responsible player, and it has no intention of becoming one. Pretending that we can engage our way to victory in Afghanistan, or to friendship with the Iranian mullahs, will only encourage them, and distract us from what we need to do to defeat the Taliban, to deal firmly with Iran, and to protect ourselves and our friends from the Iranian missile threat.

    Quick Hits:

    • After the House narrowly passed (219-212) the Waxman Markey Global Warming Tax on Friday afternoon, the legislation moves to the Senate. President Obama said he was concerned with the new tariffs included.
    • New York Times liberal columnist Paul Krugman accused those who voted against Waxman-Markey of committing “treason against the planet” and said global warming was a bigger threat to America than terrorism.
    • A military led coup in Honduras ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya. The Honduras Congress also voted to remove him. Zelaya had wanted to eliminate presidential term limits. Hugo Chavez and other leftist leaders condemned the coup. President Obama said he was “deeply concerned.”
    • 300 boxes of new material from Sonia Sotomayor’s time at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund were discovered last week. Senators have asked for time to review, with hearings slated to start on July 13.
    • Thousands of protesters in Iran took to the streets silently on Sunday, as Iran continued to detain British embassy workers who they accused of stirring up the demonstrations.
    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Morning Bell: Hot Dog Engagement

    1. Jason, Colorado says:


      You spent several paragraphs defining the problem of engagement (I agree with your analysis)…Yet your tidy summary of "what we need to do to defeat the Taliban, to deal firmly with Iran, and protect ourselves and friends from the Iranian missile threat" is floated without a definition. As an accomplished scholar in international affairs, could you lend a few tactics that could help us understand not only what should be done, but how? Thank you!

    2. Charles E. Brown - L says:

      George F. Kennan, who in 1947 formulated the idea of containment which sought to contain the Soviet Union and its empire within its present reach, was Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. At a dinner given in recognition of his ninetieth birthday the author of these lines in an article written for Foreign Affairs “On American Principles” ventured to say that what our country needed at this point was not primarily policies,”much less a single policy.” What we needed, he argued, were principles — sound principles –”principles that accorded with the nature, the needs, the interests, and the limitations of our country.”

      John Quincy Adams was the Secretary of State during the

      presidency of James Monroe (1817-1825) when he realized that the United States historical experience left no choice but to welcome and give moral support to all peoples in their struggle for the recognition and consolidation of their independence. Adams was enunciating a principle of American foreign policy: namely, that while it was “the well wisher to the freedom and independence of all,” America was also “the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

      In his July 4th speech of 1820, Adams continued by saying that the Declaration of Independence was “the first solemn declaration by a nation of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the corner stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe….It stands, and must for ever stand alone, a beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light till time shall be lost in eternity, and this globe itself dissolve, nor leave a wreck behind.” Considering both statements, Adams is confronting Realism with Idealism.

      Conventional wisdom seeks to simplify our history and codify as doctrine what is, in fact, only a part of a much more complicated truth, and that truth is that American foreign policy has an interest in both realism and idealism, and always has. Jefferson shared Franklin’s belief that idealism and realism should both play a role in foreign policy. In this nation our leaders are realists without illusion or at least they should be if they are not. We must instill this nation with ideals and principles, while fully understanding that we can not fall prey to illusion. We must believe without becoming cynical, we must be cynical without becoming cynics.

      Still it is important to remember the remainder of Adams speech of July 4, 1820. Adams continued by saying that the Declaration of Independence was “the first solemn declaration by a nation of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the corner stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe….It stands, and must for ever stand alone, a beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light till time shall be lost in eternity, and this globe itself dissolve, nor leave a wreck behind.”

    3. Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D. Ted, Washington DC says:


      Thanks for your comment. The "how" is mostly a matter of politics, domestic and international. On Iran, Heritage's "Ten Tips" are excellent: http://www.foundry.org/2009/06/05/ten-tips-for-…. On missile defense, Heritage is a leader: see http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity…. Finally, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, our S. Asia expert Lisa Curtis's Congressional testimony is very much worth reading: http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacifi….

      Perhaps all of these issues have one thing in common. If you want to deal with a problem, you have, first, to be willing to admit it's a problem. The threat of missile attack on the US homeland is real: read the paper. Afghanistan is a war against the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. And the Iranian regime has been deeply and fundamentally hostile to the US since 1979: that is what they are. The weakness of 'engagement' is that it refuses to admit that there is a world out there that you cannot talk into agreeing with you, and against which you need to take measured and sensible kinds of protection to defend freedom at home and abroad.


    4. Bob, Minnesota says:

      Sounds a lot like the old Détente to me. Didn't work then, won't work now.

    5. Pingback: Cap-and-Trade’s Narrow Passage and Faltering Evidence for Climate Change Have Supporters Ratcheting Up Attacks « Quick Daily Hits — Politics and Such

    6. Jamey, Central Calif says:

      Ugggh. Inviting thug dictators to a celebration of freedom. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Actions speak louder than words. If you believed the current administration knew what the hell they are doing before, how can you think they know what they are doing now? Dig a hole, and put your head in it. Be embarrassed, you got emotional, and now we are all paying for it. Thanks. Lets vote in some conservatives next year. I don't care what party they come from, lets just elect men and women with real character.

    7. Pingback: Vote Against Cap-and-Trade ‘Betraying the Planet’, says NY Times — The Truth Is, Vote For Cap-and-Trade Is Betraying Your Kids and Grandkids « Quick Daily Hits — Politics and Such

    8. AntonioSosa says:

      Rather than defending the human rights of Hondurans and Latin Americans, Obama is siding with the Marxist thugs who are trampling on those human rights!

      I guess it was to be expected from Obama. As his parents, relatives, friends and mentors, Obama is a U.S. hating Marxist. As such, he sides with the oppressors in Iran and with the Marxist dictators and would-be dictators working with Islamic terrorists in Latin America to destroy the U.S.

      Zelaya behaved illegally (like Obama) and the Honduras military acted under the orders of the country's Supreme Court to remove that president, and to elevate the person next in line under the Honduras Constitution. This is Constitutional Democracy in action combating illegal behavior by a sitting President. That's why Obama does not like it!

      Zelaya was implementing in Honduras the strategy devised by Castro and implemented by Chavez and the rest of the Marxist thugs to gain absolute power. That’s why all of them are complaining about it. They would like Zelaya to be reinstated so he can continue with his plans to enslave Honduras while pretending to act democratically. That's why Obama wants Zelaya reinstated!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.