Aretha Franklin gave a roaring performance at Barack Obama's inauguration in January—and maybe, writes Gideon Rachman, she's had a bit of influence on his foreign policy. "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" has been the guiding principle for the new administration's rhetoric and engagements with Iran, Iraq, Russia, and China. Neocons might see it as a weakness, says the Financial Times columnist, but Obama's team "reckons that humiliated nations are often dangerous nations."
When Vladimir Putin says Russians "are not cripples" or when Beijing tries to designate a "National Humiliation Day," they are voicing national insecurities that can result in violence and war from Georgia to Tibet. Respectful platitudes can make a big difference—especially in the Middle East, where fundamentalists appeal to a sense of cultural humiliation. But some places, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, require a different aspect of the Franklin Doctrine; there, says Rachman, "the appropriate song would be 'I Say a Little Prayer.'"