Monday, March 3, 2014

A Feckless Foreign Policy

Most of this Washington Post editorial is not new. What stands out is the source. I do not normally follow the Post editorial page, so I might just be behind the times, but still, the Post’s brutal critique of the Obama foreign policy reads like a wake-up call.

The first sentence lays down the predicates:

FOR FIVE YEARS, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which “the tide of war is receding” and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world.

The paper heaps scorn on our naïve Secretary of State and his musings about how power games, invasions and shifting alliances are things of the past:

That’s a nice thought, and we all know what he means. A country’s standing is no longer measured in throw-weight or battalions. The world is too interconnected to break into blocs. A small country that plugs into cyberspace can deliver more prosperity to its people (think Singapore or Estonia) than a giant with natural resources and standing armies.

It’s time, the Post continues, for the Obama administration to wake up from its somnolent blindness. Reality is calling:

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.

Of course, members of both parties are more than happy with an American retrenchment, but, as the old saying goes, the buck stops with the president:

Today Mr. Obama has plenty of company in his impulse, within both parties and as reflected by public opinion. But he’s also in part responsible for the national mood: If a president doesn’t make the case for global engagement, no one else effectively can.

And finally:

…  as long as some leaders play by what Mr. Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.

As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further — into eastern Ukraine, say — he will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements. China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.

It’s a harsh indictment of the feckless Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy team. Given the source, it will surely have an impact.


Sam L. said...

"Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in."

And every other century for at least 5000 years. But some think they are too smart for that, and it doesn't/won't apply to them.

Anonymous said...

I've been fruitlessly hoping for more than a decade that our Elites realize we can't rearrange or tidy up the world. Did Afghan & Iraq teach them nothing?

We can't even fix Mexico, a failing state of 120 million on our border. If it fails, the effects on US could be dire.

Ukraine is on Russia's border. I'd rather it be Finlandized than invaded. But there's nothing we can do in either case.

I only know of one, maybe two cases where economic sanctions worked. Japan before Pearl Harbor. Maybe S.Africa.

Machiavelli and Bismarck are better guides than moral posturing and fretting about "our word".

The world is an amoral jungle. The US National Interest is paramount.

Dennis said...

"Herein lies a paradox at the heart of foreign policy realism: that same, all-powerful US and EU octopus which is capable of overthrowing governments with the flip of a switch is somehow incapable of confronting Russian hard power. Any attempt at repelling Moscow’s aggression is quickly derided as “warmongering,” with requisite references to the mistakes of Iraq thrown in for good measure. Perhaps we should stop calling these people “realists.” “Isolationist” seems more apt.

Another irony is that foreign policy realism—which purports to seek stability and the maintenance of the status quo—has given free reign to a revanchist Russian regime seeking to re-establish the Soviet Empire, international law be damned."

Isolationism always leads to larger wars that had the US engaged in an interest outside itself would not have happened. Obama's lack of a real foreign policy is why we are in the situation we are in. We are watching the rebuilding of the Soviet Union and the building of a larger haven for terrorists to grow and prosper.
As the old saying states, "One cannot run away to the mountains to escape the crime in cities because eventually the criminals will be on that mountain."

Dennis said...

Isolationism is always a sign of a poorly crafted foreign policy.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Isolationism! Charles Lindberg, America Firsters, the 30s. Shudder.

If it's Iso to avoid boots on the ground, or bombs in the air - if we can avoid it! - or backing "new democratic leaders" in Muslim lands, I plead Guilty.

If it's Iso to make a cold, educated, sober consideration of The National Interest in foreign policy - Guilty.

If it's Iso to refrain from fruitless discord with a humiliated, polluted, sick, corrupt Russia in demographic decline, whose economy is mineral extraction - a beast at bay, if you will - Guilty.

Barring a few close calls, we've prevented another world conflict for almost 70 years.

We don't have 100s of military bases worldwide, treaties and alliances, for nothing.

"Catastrophic Terrorism" will remain a real threat indefinitely.

China is a growing threat. It's buying countries and leaders everywhere, and expanding its military more than iffy numbers indicate. It pays military personnel almost nothing.

Napoleon: "China is a sleeping giant. Let him sleep. For when he awakens, the world will tremble".

I admire China immensely. But there it is. IMHO, anyway. -- Rich Lara