Saturday, November 16, 2013

Obama Power:

This is a post that JQ started working on several years ago but never posted. It was a summary of an excellent analysis of the Obama administration negotiation style.

The Jerusulem Post - Analysis: Does Obama's candor on naivete inspire confidence?

In summary, the article discussed how flying in the face of advise from experts, Obama blundered:

1) Naïve/Hubristic Worldview -

2) Inability to Learn from Mistakes -

1) Misread the Situation: Thought he could bully Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table without realizing how difficult this would be.

2) Overestimated Ability: Thought that his abilities to persuade to overcome any obstacles.

Obama quote:  "I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to [negotiate] when their politics ran contrary to that,"

3) No foresight - The White House did not anticipate the Israeli and Palestinian reactions.

It's as though legions of Middle East experts, Arab and Israeli officials and large chunks of the American Jewish community hadn't told the administration exactly that, repeatedly. Acknowledging not having comprehended that reality smacks of, indeed, naivete; proceeding in the face of such advice suggests, well, hubris.

4) Raising Unrealistic Expectations - Failing on points 1 -3, the White House hinted at historic progress.

Obama quote: "If we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high."

5) Public Declarations Instead of Private Consultations - Trying to pressure parties with public declarations rather than the laying the groundwork via private consultations. These declarations along with the corresponding raised expectations drew lines in the sand that made it difficult for either side to compromise.

6) Loss of Public Support/Momentum - Obama lost the faith of the Israeli people early in the process. By not making grand gestures himself and belittling the efforts of others.

7) Overall Lack of Discernment - Little ability to assess and respond. The Democrats recent loss of the Senate seat and their super majority, show a lack of ability to discern and address their own problems let alone resolve bigger issues.

8) Gratuitous Mea Culpas - After making all the mistakes mentioned above, the administration then acknowledges, engendering people to question that administrations ability to serve as a competent intermediary, and then charges right back for another cycle of the same blunders.

These latest public ruminations, while honest, also might not be strategically helpful. Whose cause does Obama aid, exactly, by acknowledging that his administration misread the situation such that it "overestimated" some of the basics, i.e., the difficulty of the situation and that it is "as intractable a problem as you get"? Does it inspire the confidence, does it command the respect whose lack some have argued made it that much harder for the US president to extract the concessions he sought from the parties?

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