Obama’s Open Hand

I was thinking this morning about how a lot of the Obamaadministration’s initial foreign policy moves have amounted to lettinggo of unrealistic and counterproductive Bush administration demands –whether made of friends, partners or adversaries — that hadessentially trapped us into losing positions.

Dialing backdemands on NATO allies in Afghanistan, shelving missiledefense to reset relations with Russia, dropping inflammatory rhetoricwith Iran(and I think ultimately moving the redline back from uranium enrichmentto preventing weaponization of the Iranian nuclear program): all ofthese represent areas where the Bush line could not be held, and whereletting go of them — something the Bush administration was unwillingto do — becamenecessary to free us to pursue our interests more effectively.

Andthe image came to me of the well-known (perhaps apocryphal) SouthAmerican Spider Monkey trap: the one where the monkey reaches his handinto a narrow opening to retrieve a nut from inside a heavy box. Oncethe monkey grasps the nut, though, his hand is too big to pass backthrough the opening. The trap is based on the monkey not beingintelligent enough to let go of the nut in order to free his hand.

Itadds another layer of meaning to the “open hand, clenched fist” memethat has dotted President Barack Obama’s foreign policy rhetoric thesepast few months. Namely, it was about time we opened our hand, too, toget it out of the trap.

Note: Updated for clarity.