Former members of the crack Obama foreign policy team have begun the arduous task of salvaging their reputations. Their opening gambit has been to criticize the president's conduct of foreign policy.
After all, there comes a time in the life of every presidency when you can no longer blame everything on George W. Bush. For Barack Obama, that time is now.
Nearly five years into his presidency, Barack Obama confronts a world far different from what he envisioned when he first took office. U.S. influence is declining in the Middle East as violence and instability rock Arab countries. An ambitious attempt to reset U.S. relations with Russia faltered and failed. Even in Obama-friendly Europe, there's deep skepticism about Washington's government surveillance programs.
In some cases, the current climate has been driven by factors outside the White House's control. But missteps by the president also are to blame, say foreign policy analysts, including some who worked for the Obama administration.
Note Pace’s remarkably misleading turn of phrase. Whoever would have imagined that the world would be what Barack Obama envisioned? He’s not a magician, is he? Given his lack of experience, Obama only had his imagination to rely on. No sentient adult should be surprised that reality has refused to do his bidding.
In her second paragraph Pace explains that the president can be blamed for some of the changes but cannot be blamed for others. You would have a difficult time disagreeing with a statement whose truth value does not depend on reality.
More importantly, whatever it is that a president envisions, he and his foreign policy advisers should have been prepared for many different eventualities. It is better to be prepared to deal with reality than to pretend that reality must correspond to your vision.
Pace then begins to list the failures of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team:
Among them: miscalculating the fallout from the Arab Spring uprisings, publicly setting unrealistic expectations for improved ties with Russia and a reactive decision-making process that can leave the White House appearing to veer from crisis to crisis without a broader strategy.
I would qualify the statement by saying that the administration mismanaged the Arab Spring and the relationship with Russia. Yet, Pace is correct to see that the amateurs who are running the administration foreign policy seem more to be lurching from one crisis to another than following a coherent strategy.
As a result America has lost the ability to influence events around the world:
But the perception of a president lacking in international influence extends beyond the Arab world, particularly to Russia. Since reassuming the presidency last year, Vladimir Putin has blocked U.S. efforts to seek action against Syria at the United Nations and has balked at Obama's efforts to seek new agreements on arms control.
Strangely, Pace closes with a reference to Obama’s approval ratings. Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that people around the world like Barack Obama. They like him less than they did before they had the chance to see him conduct foreign policy, but they still like him.
Obama has long enjoyed high approval ratings from the European public, though those numbers have slipped in his second term. So has European approval for his administration's international policies.
A Pew Research Center poll conducted this spring, before the NSA programs were revealed, showed that support for Obama's international policies was down in most of the countries surveyed, including a 14 point drop in Britain and a 12 point drop in France.
The real question is: do they respect him?