The debate continues:
There is a symposium at Foreign Policy.com with various folks making claims about Obama being or not being a realist. Ug!! Drezner, too!!
As I said yesterday, the dichotomy between realism and idealism is not terribly useful unless one is strictly focusing on seeing the world as it is versus seeing as they would like it.
Personal relationships are not an either or thing. They can be useful to folks who are pursuing security/power and to those who see other interests in play. They may get in the way of the national interest, whether it defined in terms of power or not. Likewise, a realist or a liberal would consider soft power to be a tool of foreign policy (see Hans Morgenthau), but would disagree about their relative usefulness. Downplaying democracy and human rights? Is that the distinction? If so, the realization that peace between Israelis and Palestinians (defined in some places as a human rights issue) is actually a security issue makes clear how unclear or useful this debate is.
Obama is, thus far, a pragmatist. He is sensitive to the consequences of his policies, which is why it took awhile to make a decision on Afghanistan. He sees the tradeoffs. He is not going to confuse a good personal relationship (see into Putin's eyes) with making good policy. Obama is not perfect, but this debate about realism vs. idealism is entirely misplaced.
But it gives these folks and myself something to talk about. So, no harm then?