Obama’s foreign policy simply isn’t working and, more importantly, is putting America at greater risk

Pete Wehner on Obama’s foreign policy in The God That’s Failing…:

…President Obama looks to have been taken to the cleaners by the Russians. The United States bowed before Russian demands when it came to retooling a missile-defense system for Poland and the Czech Republic. We gave up something tangible and important — and in return we got a vague promise that Russia might be amenable to tougher sanctions against Iran. Now that vague promise appears to be inoperative — but the decision to scrap the Bush-era missile-defense program remains in place.
This episode captures Obama’s approach to international affairs and underscores its dangers. The president is weak and flaccid when it comes to our adversaries, and unreliable and unsteady when it comes to our allies. America’s enemies don’t respect us, and our allies increasingly don’t trust us. President Obama garners praise from the man attempting to lead a Marxist revolution in Latin America, Hugo Chavez, and is criticized by the hero of Solidarity, Lech Walesa. We pressure friends like Israel, Honduras, Poland, and the Czech Republic, and place our hopes in the goodwill and reasonableness of regimes like Russia, North Korea, and Iran. And in the process, some of the world’s foremost spokesmen for democracy publicly express their concern that Obama is “softening on human rights.”
It was not supposed to be this difficult when Obama ran for president, when tyrants would bend to the will of America’s “sort of god.” But reality is turning out to be a tough task master for our young president. All around the world, Mr. Obama is increasingly seen as impotent; he is both popular and largely ignored, viewed more as a celebrity than as an imposing leader.
It is all quite alarming and dangerous.


…Obama has been sucked into — or rushed into, depending on your assessment of his motives — talks that have forestalled sanctions and provided Iran breathing room. In fact, the Iranians are no longer in the spotlight, facing harsh judgment for their violations of existing sanctions, a secretive enrichment site, and human rights atrocities. No, they’re sitting in cushy meeting rooms in Geneva getting encouragement to keep at it. Are we further ahead or further behind from six months ago in preventing a nuclear Iran?
It seems that the entire engagement gambit was based on a false premise: the administration would be competent and maximize its leverage. Instead, we’ve tossed leverage away like confetti and have been, as Pete says, taken to the cleaners at each encounter with an adversary. At some point, even those inclined toward soft power will recognize that it’s time to get out of conference rooms if all we’re going to do is make concessions and provide cover for despots.

David Satter on Calming the Iranians.
Jennifer Rubin in Failure Everyone Can See Now:

At some point, not even the mainstream media can spin sufficiently for the hapless Obama foreign policy. This Washington Post report is blunt….
In other words, Obama’s Middle East gambit, apparently inspired by those known Middle East policy wonks Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, has failed. Spectacularly so. Putting daylight between the U.S. and Israel and sneering at the Bush team for being too close to Israel didn’t really get the Obami anywhere, did it? The Post is candid that the fixation on settlements “backfired.” As virtually every pro-Israel conservative commentator predicted, “It raised hopes among Palestinians, who began to demand nothing less than a full freeze, and led to severe tensions in U.S.-Israeli relations.”
And all that ingratiating with the “Muslim World” in Cairo? Not much was gained; in fact, the parties are more estranged than ever. Our relations with Israel have not been this strained since…well, ever…and the administration’s credibility is arguably worse than any of its recent predecessors.
What can be learned from all this? Sanctimonious speeches and fractured history-telling don’t make for “peace.” Savaging your allies doesn’t get you anywhere. And ignoring hard truths — including the Palestinians’ unsolved internal divisions and refusal to renounce and root out terrorism — also doesn’t get you anywhere. Moreover, Obama’s appearance on the scene doesn’t change any of the fundamental issues; neither does chanting “diplomacy” or “dedication to the peace process.”
This should be a wake-up call for the administration. The Obama team might want to consider letting domestic pols run foreign policy. And they might put away some of their egocentric misconceptions about the power of Obama’s aura.

More Rubin on The Seminar Presidency:

David Ignatius concedes that Obama is conducting a do-over on Afghanistan. (“What’s odd about the administration’s review of Afghanistan policy is that it is revisiting issues that were analyzed in great detail — and seemingly resolved — in the president’s March 27 announcement of a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.”) But what is most horrifying is the description of the process — academic, indecisive, and seemingly designed to get to the lowest common denominator…
Yikes. Works smoothly? Well, if the point is to reach some blissful, mushy middle ground on virtually everything without regard to the real-world consequences of the actions, then it’s like silk. But is the presidency a graduate course on international relations? This one appears to be — filled with platitudes and catch-phrases one would hear in the Ivy League (“interdependence” is right up there), disdain for military force (“Never solves anything!” — er, except slavery and Nazism), and the fetish for “consensus.” It’s all very smooth and polite and the results are very well disastrous.
A half-measure in Afghanistan, the quagmire of “engagement” with Iran, and jerking missile defense out of Europe may engender “consensus” among essentially like-minded advisers, but all will leave the U.S. more vulnerable and the world more dangerous…

Previous AR foreign policy posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
14 years ago

Historically,we have seemed to make the most progress in foreign policy under presidents who have been feared by world tyrannies. Nixon achieved the breakthrough with China that seemd like science fiction under previous administrations. Reagan gave the push that was needed to topple the already rotten edifice of communism that had not only controlled the USSR,but had brought decades of dehumanizing occupation to Eastern Europe. OTOH Jimmy Carter was never taken seriously by the mullahs in Iran or Castro when the latter inundated us with the detritus of his prisons and mental hospitals. Qaddafi had a very interesting experience with Reagan-after his home being incinerated in response to Flight 103,Qaddafi became much,much,meeker,although he did quietly pursue nuclear power for awhile. Obama elicits nothing but a kind of patronizing tolerance from the world’s armed thugs like Chavez,Putin,Ahmedinajad,and Castro,The latter may actually like Obama because he sees a potential end yo the embargo,and that would help his crippled economy. These are tough guys,or in the case of the Iranian cab driver,a religious fanatic,who are devoid of any fear where Obama is concerned.They view him as a soft,cocktail party gladhander who ahs never been forged in the furnace of conflict or personal ordeal. They pretty much viewed Bush as a playboy also,which didn’t help things,although they also worried about Bush being quick on the trigger. Bill Clinton was somewhat respected by these people because he was like them,a slick and devious survivor of political warfare and willing to use force to make a point. Obama’s effete nature appeals to the Nobel Prize selection panel because they are the same ilk that have surrendered western Europe to the Moslem influx that will soon overwhelm them and consign their “culture”to the trash heap if it is found to be in conflict with the principles of… Read more »

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
14 years ago

Could it be that we are seeing the first signs of America’s decline in power? I am not sure that cancelling the missle defense project was a matter of choice.
While we may not be completely “broke”, we are in financial trouble. Could we afford a missle defense system and maintain all of our domestic programs?
If we simply couldn’t afford it, I don’t see the government announcing it

14 years ago

*sniff* *sniff*, hmm, what’s that smell like? Oh yeah, a one-term president!
Just like in sports coaching, you never want to be the man after the man. Meaning, you never want to be the coach to come in after someone has completely messed things up. You want to be the guy who comes in after someone else tried to clean up the mess and looked like a failure. See Tony Dungy and John Gruden for a great example. See Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick.
Maybe Bush didn’t leave the country in great shape, but Obama’s making it seem like he’s doing a worse job. Easy pickings for the next candidates to tear him apart or at least destroy his control over Congress.
Hey Jimmy Carter, at least you might not be looked upon as the worst president of our lifetime any more.

14 years ago

Does Warrington Faust understand how global finance works? His comment would have made perfect since in 1979, but in 2009 it lacks any actual understanding of the economic order and how actual macroeconomics works in contemporary american. Maybe read the new foreign affairs just to understand the strength of American power in the world. Almost as classic as Joe Bernstein, who had he had the same views during the Nixon era would have probably called him a weak socialist for siding with the heathen red chinese and sacrificing long term allies like the democratic taiwan (much like how he has commented on the Obama/Russia/Poland issue). Atleast realize your own slanted bias and ignorance before going off on rants

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
14 years ago

Jim-when you get done reading the CFR propaganda journal,Foreign Affairs,you might check out history.
Nixon didn’t “side”with Red China,he engaged them without weakness,but at least we were acknowledging each other’s existence.China isn’t Iran or some other minor power-they are ignored at one’s peril.
As to who betrayed Taiwan,it was Jimmy Carter.He actively participated in their expulsion from the UN Security Council and the UN itself if I am not mistaken(not 100% sure).
I was around for Nixon’s trip and I thought it was a good idea.
If you understand macroeonomics,good for you.I don’t pretend to so I don’t have any basis to debate you on it.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
14 years ago

Jim writes:
“Does Warrington Faust understand how global finance works?”
Actually, I have degrees in Finance and Economics. I may not be an expert, but I am conversant on it. I even understand “derivatives”. Not sure how this relates to my post. To survive in the “macro” that you refer to, it is necessary to keep your house in order in the “micro”. If you believe that gifts such as the missle defense system aid one in “global finance”, I suggest that is a political opinion rather than an economic one. If you mean it was part of a trade agreement, of which I am unaware, that might be another question.
RE: Nixon and China. I recall Nixon’s visit there, accompanied by WFB. They attended a play in China where they referred to Americans as “running dogs. WFB wondered if, in the interest of national comity, that could not have been altered to “amicable running dogs”.

14 years ago

Mr, Hawthorne,
Are you saying that the Nobel committee was wrong when it awarded the prize for peace to our president? If you are, you must be part of that vast right-wing- conspiracy! Things are so much better now! Our enemies don’t fear us, our allies don’t trust us, US deaths are up in Afghanistan & Iraq. Our national debt is the highest it’s ever been. Mortgage foreclosures are rising along with unemployment. Our president will not talk with Fox news but will talk to Hugo Chavez. Some of the president’s supporters are now protesting his lack of action. The democrat party’s plan for this country is working fine!
Ask yourself “Are you better off today then you were a year ago?”

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