Om Pandya, Staff Writer
Ideology: Conservative | Writing From: New York City
Americans should be embarrassed by Obama’s actions in Japan and fearful of his foreign policy.
I am sure that by now the picture and video of Obama bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan has circulated far and wide, but just to do it justice I would like to describe the scene. Obama approached the slight Japanese figurehead and bowed so low that his face was parallel to the ground. Akihito, the son of the infamous Japanese emperor Hirohito, acknowledged the bow with a smile, not a reciprocal bow as is custom in Japanese culture, and watched as Obama then bowed slightly to the Empress.
Now, this is not an assault on Emperor Akihito; from what I have heard, he is a dignified and wise public figure in Japan and around the world. But the fact that just a few days after Veterans Day, when men and women who fought and bled for our nation stood together to commemorate their friends who died in combat, Obama was acknowledging his (and therefore our) inferiority to symbolic head of a nation that subjected almost 12,000 American soldiers to an atrocity we know as the Bataan Death March. Should he have shown respect to the emperor? Yes, but as one leader treats another, not as a subservient aide greeting his boss. A viral video by the College Republicans of the University of Connecticut shows a slideshow of meetings between Akihito and many other heads of state and ambassadors in which none of them bow. I do not think our leader is any inferior to the others.
Many Democrats have attempted to play this off as a sign of respect and cultural understanding, praising the fact that we have a leader who is sensitive to other cultures. Sensitive? Sensitive to other cultures was George W. Bush, whose famous picture in which he holds hands with Crown Prince Abdullah was circulated by liberal bloggers to counter a backlash against the Obama bow. Holding hands in the Arab culture is a sign of trust and friendship, qualities that are essential between equal allies. While George Bush was hated in many parts of the world for his (arguably unnecessary) aggressive foreign policy in regard to terrorism, he was effective on many other foreign policy issues and commanded respect – different from the adoration that Obama receives – from our allies. Bush’s worries about his global popularity rating didn’t stop him from confronting Russia about their relation to Iran or pressuring China to help contain North Korea. On these two issues Obama continues to play it politically safe, stroking the egos of leaders and telling them they are doing a great job while dangerous nations militarize.
Back in April Obama was thoroughly bashed for his (denied) bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, but it was easily dismissed as a rookie mistake. Now, more than a year after his election he needs to realize that diplomacy is more than getting people to like you; it is a strategic mix of carrots and sticks. In October I wrote about “The Obama Doctrine”, highlighting the dangerous path that a diplomacy of concessions will take us down, with the message being even clearer today. Showing yourself off to the world as someone who yields easily and seeks to please is a dangerous tactic. Had Obama bowed to the emperor in private there would be much less of a issue, since Emperor Akihito is a genuine humanitarian and he personally carries no role in international negotiations, nor is his nation’s interest drastically opposed to our own. But Obama’s reputation as a pleaser, which has already been instrumental in Iran rejecting a concession we tried to give, has been further magnified in the eyes of the world.
It is in the nature of politicians to be well liked, and to believe that they alone are blessed with the persuasive power to use diplomacy in all situations. Neville Chamberlain suffered from this syndrome when he thought Hitler might back down if he just met Chamberlain and found him to be a likable person. While America and its people may be more liked by the rest of the world with Obama at the head of our government, foreign relations do not revolve around public opinions. We need a leader who is willing to let the world know that the United States is a force to be respected, not a nation that can be extorted or intimidated into making decisions.