Soft Power: We Has It

The other day I posted about how Obama’s international popularity will put more pressure on unpopular regimes, but another lens through which to examine soft power is the powerful effect of legitimacy granted by good faith intentions.

Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month.

“Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011,” said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. “If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama.”

Of course, I would be wrong to cite Obama’s election as singularly hastening any forthcoming agreement on the SOFA. To give credit when due, the Bush administrations abandonment of its neo-imperialist fantasies also had a great deal to with the progress.

Mr. Obama’s election also coincided with the American negotiators’ acceptance of many of the changes Iraqis demanded in the agreement, which created an overall picture that was easier both for the Iraqis and their neighbors — Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia — to accept.

The American negotiators sent a new version of the agreement to Iraqi leaders on Thursday that included many of the changes Iraqis had demanded. In public, Iraqis said merely that they were studying the document.

As the report notes, the American chapter in Iraq is far from over, but it’s worth noting how much can be accomplished when the loony idealism of neoconservative foreign policy is left correctly at the wayside.

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