There’s one good sentence in Tom Friedman’s latest column:
It can’t be easy being Pollyanna, John Wayne and Henry Kissinger all at once.
Sadly, that mild wisecrack is expanded into a column that doesn’t offer much additional insight. I won’t bother fisking it.
The one thing about which I think we can be absolutely certain about in Barack Obama’s foreign policy is that he’s no Jimmy Carter. My criticism of Carter’s foreign policy at the time and which I believe has held up since is that he thought the U. S. could maintain its position in the world on the basis of moral suasion alone.
My basic criticism of the president’s foreign policy is that I believe that domestic political considerations overwhelm our actual policy interests. That’s not unique to him but I do find a difference in degree so great that it becomes a difference in kind. I think it explains everything about his foreign policy from why he campaigned on an “Afghan surge”, why we haven’t withdrawn our forces from Afghanistan long after it was obvious that we had accomplished whatever could be accomplished there with the effort we were willing to expend, his reactions to Iran, the “Arab Spring”, you name it. It’s a Unified Field Theory of Obama foreign policy.
I think it explains why he reacted as he did to the situation in Syria. Surrounded as he was by R2P (“responsibility to protect”) advocates, he initially responded quite aggressively. However, when he realized that was a miscalculation and popular reaction wasn’t what he had supposed it was, he pulled back and Russian President V. Putin gave him the figleaf he needed for a hasty retrenchment. Haven’t heard much about Syria lately, have you? Civilians are still dying there in the thousands.
With respect to the situation in Ukraine I think the president has taken the temperature of the country (this country) pretty well. We’re not interested in intervention. We don’t like it that the Russians are intervening but, honestly, in the final analysis we don’t much care.