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Obama's Unmacho Diplomacy

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By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, April 8, 2009; 12:00 AM

A few decades on the planet confirm a certain consistency among males in their approach to love and war.

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Suffice to say, there is usually much talk of sabers, missiles and such. "Speak softly and carry a big stick," was how Teddy Roosevelt framed his foreign policy.

Thus, in evaluating Barack Obama's first European tour as president, analysts have focused on whether he was quite manly enough. On their leadership blog, former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee and columnist Steve Pearlstein asked whether Obama should have "grabbed an opportunity ... to demonstrate his toughness, showing his saber as well as his smile."

Verily, spoken like men.

What they're really asking is: Did Obama do justice to the fire hydrant?

Call me a mother of boys. Or call Freud, if you must. But would that life were really as complicated and confused as leaders insist it is.

Unfortunately, most of world history seems to have pivoted on the balance or imbalance of hormones, with testosterone presenting the greatest challenge. (I note this as a fan.)

In what may prove to be an epochal development, Obama seems to have his under control. He doesn't strut, swagger or flex. He doesn't even notice the hydrant.

If George W. Bush was a cowboy, Obama is a group hug.

He says we should show leadership by listening. That we should work in partnership with others. That we should show humility. This is, of course, pure porn for women. But unfortunately, women don't rule the world. Men still do. And we have to worry whether Obama will be viewed as weak and the U.S., therefore, vulnerable.

And because the world is thus, we are also necessarily concerned whether Obama will respond aggressively enough when appropriate. This is because Americans still don't really know Obama yet. At each turn since taking office, he reveals new aspects of himself.

We now know that he is without qualm when he finds it necessary to fire corporate chiefs. But will he be as bold when rogue nations strap on their Speedos and display their missilery, as North Korea just did?


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