Discretion is the Better Part of Statemanship

The latest complaint from Conservative Inc. blogger Dan Riehl is that President Obama — on a visit to Japan — sidestepped a question about the nuclear attack on that country that concluded World War II.

Mr. Riehl writes:

Asked whether or not the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the appropriate decision, Obama initially ignored the question. Then in an exchange immediately after when reminded of his failure to answer the question, he simply moved on. Evidently that one’s above his pay grade.

Says John Hinderaker at Powerline: “Every time he goes abroad, he embarrasses himself and sells out his country.”

How dismaying that a loud subset of the right so consistently demands that President Obama privilege their childish desire for self-righteous rhetoric above the actual demands of statesmanship. What good would it possibly do to tell the Japanese, “Yes, I think it was right to incinerate your cities”? It wouldn’t do any good. On the other side of the ledger, it would antagonize an allied nation, put its leadership in a difficult spot that might impede its ability to help the United States. President Obama is also endeavoring to slow nuclear proliferation, so it would hardly due to have headlines in Iranian newspapers pointing out that even as he demands that other nations give up nuclear weapons, he is saying that their only actual use in history was justified.

Asked whether the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified, President Obama correctly calculated that answering either yes or no would harm American interests, so he gave neither answer, the wisest course available to him, even if it didn’t satisfy the jingoistic vanity of certain critics.

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6 Responses to “Discretion is the Better Part of Statemanship”

  1. tylerandrewsmith Says:

    Excellent point. I’m really sick of the right complaining about him “apologizing” for America. Actually apologizing for genuine mistakes would advance our foreign interests amazingly. For instance, if Obama were to visit Guatemala and Nicaragua and simply apologize for the CIA overthrowing democratically elected governments, we halve the problems we currently have with Zelaya, Ortega, and Chavez.
    Really it all stems from the immature conservative conceptualization of foreign policy as a zero-sum offensive-realistic affair, the prime manifestation of which was W’s foreign policy.

  2. The Fat Man And The Little Boy Never Die « Around The Sphere Says:

    […] Conor Friedersdorf responds to Riehl and Hinderaker: How dismaying that a loud subset of the right so consistently demands that President Obama privilege their childish desire for self-righteous rhetoric above the actual demands of statesmanship. What good would it possibly do to tell the Japanese, “Yes, I think it was right to incinerate your cities”? It wouldn’t do any good. On the other side of the ledger, it would antagonize an allied nation, put its leadership in a difficult spot that might impede its ability to help the United States. President Obama is also endeavoring to slow nuclear proliferation, so it would hardly due to have headlines in Iranian newspapers pointing out that even as he demands that other nations give up nuclear weapons, he is saying that their only actual use in history was justified. […]

  3. Tweets that mention Conor Friedersdorf - Metablog – Discretion is the Better Part of Statemanship - True/Slant -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Drew Tipson, Tweets Tube. Tweets Tube said: Discretion is the Better Part of Statemanship http://bit.ly/1EY1RR […]

  4. A Grand Illusion » Conor Friedersdorf lays the smackdown Says:

    […] On the right’s reaction to comments made (or not) in Japan: How dismaying that a loud subset of the right so consistently demands that President Obama privilege their childish desire for self-righteous rhetoric above the actual demands of statesmanship. What good would it possibly do to tell the Japanese, “Yes, I think it was right to incinerate your cities”? It wouldn’t do any good. On the other side of the ledger, it would antagonize an allied nation, put its leadership in a difficult spot that might impede its ability to help the United States. President Obama is also endeavoring to slow nuclear proliferation, so it would hardly due to have headlines in Iranian newspapers pointing out that even as he demands that other nations give up nuclear weapons, he is saying that their only actual use in history was justified. […]

  5. feministx Says:

    Conor, this is quite similar to an idea I posted on my blog a while back which was promptly poo pooed by the many conservatives who read my blog. I think it is foolish to hype the value of this empty posturing. No reason to go out and offend other countries. I don’t care who yells at Iran the loudest. I care only about who will enact the best long term policies. I think we should make other countries as amenable as possible to the policies we want to enact. And we don’t do that by alienating them with tough guy attitudes.

    http://feministx.blogspot.com/2009/10/obamas-nobel.html

  6. Inexact Possibilities: Politics at the Cutting Edge » Blog Archive » Rudy Giuliani and the Deep Unseriousness of the Right on National Security Says:

    […] supposed weakening of America during his Asia trip—by bowing to the Emperor of Japan and refusing to say whether he believes that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was appropriate. How can the Kenyan […]

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