Ever since his bizarre campaign stop in Berlin and his primary debate promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "without preconditions," Obama has consistently stressed his preference for soft diplomacy and gauzy platitudes about international cooperation. For instance, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany proved, according to then-candidate Obama, that "there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one" -- an incomprehensible claim that would earn an F from any high school history teacher.
Since then, on issue after issue, Obama's rhetorical globaloney has met the grinder. Perversely, his best moment was when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and felt compelled to explain why he didn't deserve it -- yet -- and give a legitimately stirring defense of military action.
It is certainly true that Obama inherited many of his foreign policy challenges. Iran was pursuing nukes back when he was in the Illinois state Senate, and North Korea has been crazy since before he was born. But Obama insisted that his would be the better way. Engagement, dialogue, kumbaya would all win the day.
And yet they keep losing. A month after his inauguration, the North Koreans tested a ballistic missile. Since then, they've revealed yet another nuclear program and attacked South Korea just weeks after Obama's embarrassing failure to win a trade deal from Seoul during an official visit. Meanwhile, according to WikiLeaks and other sources, the North Koreans have been selling ballistic missiles to the Iranians.
And what are Obama's global priorities? The START treaty, Israeli settlements and climate change.
The irony is that Assange represents a purer form of Obama's own idealism. According to Assange's dangerous utopianism, in governance purity must define means, not just ends. He is convinced that he has revealed the hypocrisy and corruption of U.S. foreign policy, when in reality all he has revealed is that pursuing foreign policy ideals is messier and more complicated in a world where bad people pursue bad ends. We can hope that Obama has been learning that lesson. Assange, meanwhile, is simply blind to it.