Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Mere Anarchy Is Loosed Upon the World"

Yesterday in the New York Times, Peter Baker presented a sobering assessment of President Obama’s efforts to manage foreign policy.

He wrote:

Rarely has a president been confronted with so many seemingly disparate foreign policy crises all at once — in Ukraine, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — but making the current upheaval more complicated for Mr. Obama is the seemingly interlocking nature of them all. Developments in one area, like Ukraine, shape his views and choices in a crisis in another area, like the Middle East.

The crosscurrents can be dizzying. Even as Mr. Obama presses Russia to stop fomenting a virtual civil war in Ukraine, he is trying to collaborate with Moscow in a diplomatic campaign to force Iran to scale back its nuclear program. Even as he pressures Iran over its nuclear program, he finds himself on the same side as Tehran in combating a rising Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Even as he sends special forces to help squelch those insurgents, he is trying to help their putative allies against the government in Syria next door.

And then there is the mushrooming conflict in Gaza, where Mr. Obama seems to be losing patience. While backing Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rockets, he sent Secretary of State John Kerry to work with Egypt to force a cease-fire. This is the same Egypt to which Mr. Obama cut financial aid for a time because its leaders came to power after the military overthrew the previous government….

A few months back, Mr. Obama argued that foreign relations is not a chess game. But at times, it seems like three-dimensional chess. Admirers said Mr. Obama’s strength was seeing those connections and finding ways to balance them. Critics said he allowed complexity to paralyze him at the expense of American leadership in the world.

As has been noted, here and elsewhere, the proliferation of seemingly unmanageable crises must be a direct function of President Obama’s failure to lead. The world is spinning out of control because no one is in charge.

In his six years as president Barack Obama has convinced the world that he wants out of foreign policy. Developing events and crises are a function of the void at the helm.

I am reminded of this passage from William Butler Yeats. In his 1919 poem “The Second Coming,” Yeats wrote:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Dennis said...

The faster one runs away the quicker one gets caught.

JP said...

"As has been noted, here and elsewhere, the proliferation of seemingly unmanageable crises must be a direct function of President Obama’s failure to lead. The world is spinning out of control because no one is in charge."

"In charge" of what?

And what is "spinning out of control"?

Obama is almost certainly making situations worse, but the underlying crises are not caused by his "failure to lead".

Russia is it's own high culture, and seems to be in the process of recovering from 80 years of communism, Ukraine isn't even a viable country, Iran is changing as the generation of wackadoos are dying (a major problem that was partially caused by Kermit and company in the first place), Outremer's (Israel's) problem is caused by the fact that it's Outremer, and Egypt's primary problem is that it has too many people and an in ability to feed them.

Syria is the only problem that I see that could (and should) be adequately addressed by Obama, so I will give that one to you.

If the last global Great Power contest (from the point of view of "The West" was the USA vs. the USSR, then the U.S. entered world leadership in 1991 and should be entering the delegitimation period right about now.

In any event, Obama is passive and inert and is going to be gone soon.

Here is one of Mike Alexander's (a data-centric amateur historian/economist) discussions on the entire great power issue:

That document is old and no longer has graphs, but it's a good starting discussion of great power issues starting in the era of Prince Henry the Navigator.

I'm giving Obama a grade of C- as president.

Not the worse, but he's no Buchanan.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

not in charge of American foreign policy. Or, as you say, "passive and inert."

When you are the leader of the only remaining superpower in a highly interconnected world, your failure to lead leaves a vacuum.

Anonymous said...

It's a lot simpler.

If US had not intervened in Iraq, ISIS would not running rampant.

If US and EU hadn't intervened and toppled Gadaffi, Libya would be at peace.

If US, Israel, and Saudis hadn't supplied rebels in Syria, that war would have ended ages ago.

If the likes of Victoria Nuland hadn't intervened in Ukraine, there would be peace there and Yanukovich would have lost the next election.

US should butt out.

Obama's real foreign policy failure is not securing the borders as the massive invasion of illegals continues.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Too simple, as it happens. Your statements are all counterfactual... they are speculation, nothing more or less. They prove nothing. It might just as well be true that if we hadn't intervened, things would be worse. There is no way of deciding which is true in any sense of the term.

To state it correctly, you should have said, for example: If the US had not intervened in Iraq, ISIS might not be running rampant. But then again it might be running rampant. After all, it is being led by one of Saddam's henchmen.