The World Doesn’t Stand Still

by Dave Schuler on June 6, 2014

At The American Interest Walter Russell Mead reviews the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and finds it wanting:

Obama’s mix of high rhetoric, noble ideals and risk-averse decision-making plays into the stereotypes that Russians, Chinese, and others around the world have about the American national character. The idealistic speeches and the human rights gestures feed their fear of American purposes; the risk aversion plays into their contempt for American resolve. The result is to tilt policy in both Moscow and Beijing toward aggressive anti-Americanism. The governments in both countries believe that we are a threat to their internal security, but that we can be buffaloed if our opponents get tough.

What feels in the Obama White House like a smart mix of idealism and pragmatism looks very different abroad; unwittingly, the Administration’s “house style” of foreign policymaking is virtually guaranteed to promote aggressive behavior abroad.

It used to be claimed that politics stops at the water’s edge; now it is foreign policy. Those for whom the sum total objective of American foreign policy is to avoid American “boots on the ground” are certain to be delighted with the president’s foreign policy. After all, isn’t he more popular in France and Japan than his predecessor? How else is a foreign policy to be judged?

Others like me who are non-interventionist by predisposition are chagrined with the president’s intervention in Libya, with the use of armed drones in a dozen places around the world, in the president’s inclination to make hollow threats, and in the chaotic situations in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and various areas of Africa and role that the U. S. has played in fomenting or abetting the chaos.

Unmentioned in Dr. Mead’s summary is that WTO trade talks have gone nowhere during the Obama Administration, that China continues to be in breach of the obligations it assumed when it was admitted to the WTO, and that our trading partners continue to play mercantilist monetary games to our economic disadvantage. There are an enormous number of foreign policy action items that have nothing to do with military intervention that have languished over the last six years.

Even non-interventionists realize that the world does not stand still, that other nations have their own interests, that they will pursue them when they have the opportunity, and that nature abhors a vacuum.

{ 18 trackbacks }

The Colossus of Rhodey
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Trevor Loudon's New Zeal Blog » The Council Has Spoken!! This Weeks’ Watcher’s Council Results — 06/13/14
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The Council Has Spoken!! This Weeks’ Watcher’s Council Results — 06/13/14 | askmarion
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The Razor » Blog Archive » Council Submissions: June 11, 2014
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

... June 6, 2014 at 7:36 am

… the chaotic situations in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and various areas of Africa and role that the U. S. has played in fomenting or abetting the chaos.

This is a surprise from a Chicago politician?

The [US President] isn’t there to create disorder; the [US President] is there to preserve disorder.

steve June 6, 2014 at 9:28 am

How did Obama foment chaos in those places? Libya I can see, but the others? I thought some of the trade talks were making progress but Congress wasnt wanting to approve fast tracking. (I was unaware that Moscow’s primary motivation was anti-Americanism. However, I can certainly see that China’s primary motivation in wanting to control its seas would be to piss off the US. LOL)

Steve

Dave Schuler June 6, 2014 at 9:56 am

How did Obama foment chaos in those places?

You don’t think that the approach in Syria has fomented chaos? I do. At the very least it has abetted it.

CStanley June 6, 2014 at 10:33 am

I don’t think Russia’s motivation is anti-Americanism but I do think that Putin is using that sentiment for domestic political purposes, to rally people around his nationalistic ideals.

That’s not entirely Obama’s fault but I think what the Russian people are seeing is that Obama’s administration promised this “reset” but then continued to meddle in Russia’s sphere of influence.

steve June 6, 2014 at 11:58 am

I think the folks in Syria would be killing each other even if the US never existed. The rebels wold like for us to help against Assad, but I am under no illusion that they like us, and I dont think it is a group we want much to do with. I cant really think of much we can do to stop things that would be to our benefit. There are a lot fewer chemical weapons there now, which is probably good for us.

CStanley- I think we are the Great Satan for some areas of the world. It is not clear to me how much we had to do with the actions in Kiev that got things rolling. To the extent that we initiated any of that, I think we probably made things worse. However, I think that goes back even further. From the time the USSR collapsed we have pushed on increasing NATO/US influence in the area. While I generally reject the idea that Putin is some genius, manipulating everything with some grand plan, it does look like he can be a winner if we help him. The Ukraine is an economic basket case. If as a result of this recent conflict, we pour money into the Ukraine and build it up, Russia may have a better trading partner on its border.

Steve

michael reynolds June 6, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I think it’s utterly bizarre to attempt to lay blame for Syria on the US or on this administration. It’s absolutely ridiculous. We tried to get Assad to stop and therefore we’re . . . what? If I yell “Stop!” next time I see a bar fight do I become responsible for whatever happens next?

Libya? OK, though I can’t help but note that it’s taken some time for critics to migrate from “Obama’s just carrying water for the Europeans, he needs to lead not follow!” to accepting what I said from the beginning, which was that this was as much a US move as European. But setting aside that snark, yes the situation in Libya is a mess which is what it was before we intervened. Maybe we could pause to remind ourselves that we did Libya because civil unrest bordering on civil war had already broken out. Unless Obama is once again engaging in time travel, not quite sure how we end up with 100% of the blame for Libyan factions in a totalitarian state erupting into conflict.

Iraq? What? What? That’s on Obama? Excuse me?

Pakistan? So. . . they’d be fine if not for the fact that we’re occasionally blowing up terrorists out in the sticks? Pakistan was doing just fine, was it? Nice and stable?

The initial analysis in the piece is dumb and Dave, sorry, but your additions to same are not an improvement.

michael reynolds June 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm

You know what else Obama is responsible for? The Israeli-Palestinian thing. Damn Obama. That was all going so well before he took over.

Obama is 100% responsible for the state of the world and should have long since fixed it, but without intervening, without saying anything mean to anyone, without using force, but apparently, by nagging China.

Ice agrees! Drew agrees! Where’s Jan? She’ll agree! Yay! Three people who couldn’t locate Pakistan on a map of Pakistan, all agree that Pakistan was Vermont until Obama came along and messed it all up.

Guarneri June 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm

“Ice agrees! Drew agrees! Where’s Jan? She’ll agree! Yay! Three people who couldn’t locate Pakistan on a map of Pakistan, all agree that Pakistan was Vermont until Obama came along and messed it all up.”

When you can’t make a coherent argument………..create a straw man and knock it down. So much easier. Creative stuff indeed from, Mr. Creative.

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