OPINION: In foreign policy, image is created through action, not branding

He could care less about Obama’s story

Every time I hear about how Sen. Barack Obama is going to “re-brand” America’s image in the Middle East, I can’t help but think about Jimmy Carter’s toast.

When the idealistic Democrat came to Iran in 1977 to ring in the new year with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the country’s much-despised despot, throngs of young, hopeful Iranians lined the streets to welcome the new American president. After eight years of the Nixon and Ford administrations’ blind support for the shah’s brutal regime, Iranians thrilled to Carter’s promise to re-brand America’s image abroad by focusing on human rights. That call even let many moderate, middle-class Iranians dare to hope that they might ward off the popular revolution everyone knew was coming. But at that historic New Year’s dinner, Carter surprised everyone. In a shocking display of ignorance about the precarious political situation in Iran, he toasted the shah for transforming the country into “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” With those words, Carter unwittingly lit the match of revolution.

It’s just this sort of blunder — naive, well-meaning, amateurish, convinced that everyone understands the goodness of U.S. intentions — that worries me again these days. That’s because a curious and dangerous consensus seems to be forming among the chattering classes, on both the left and the right, that what the United States needs in these troubling times is not knowledge and experience but a “fresh face” with an “intuitive sense of the world,” and that the mere act of electing Obama will put us on the path to winning the so-called war on terror. [complete article]

See also, America has a clear-cut choice: the candidates of hope or fear (Andrew Sullivan).

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One thought on “OPINION: In foreign policy, image is created through action, not branding

  1. Monte Asbury

    From an Iowan who will caucus for Obama: Indeed, the “re-branding” idea seems shallow. Obama gives me hope for two other reasons. He may be the most intelligent candidate in the race (not many can claim editorship of the Harvard Law Review). And, when David Brooks wrote Run, Barack, Run a long time ago, he commented with admiration that when you talked to Obama, even if you disagreed with him, you came away feeling like you had been heard.
    Having humility and security in sufficient measure to earnestly listen to the world could generate huge shifts in foreign policy.
    It certainly would be a new brand.

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