Can we please stop using the word “embolden” to describe American policies with respect to our enemies?
“Embolden” has become a buzz word to attack the foreign policy maneuvers of political enemies here in the United States. President Bush used to say that withdrawing from Iraq would “embolden” the terrorists–and many Democrats pushed back by arguing that in fact the Iraq War itself had “emboldened” the terrorists. Just today Mitt Romney attacked Obama for “emboldening” North Korea by trying to engage with them diplomatically.
But what does “embolden” actually mean? The dictionary definition is to make bold, to give someone courage or confidence. But in the context of a strategic environment, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.