Friday, October 19, 2012

Well, Maybe He Can Still Claim, "My Foreign Policy Is Way Better Than My Domestic Policy

When you start trying to figure out why President Obama's foreign policy is so screwed up, this article at Foreign Policy is a good guide.  Particularly when you consider that the author is a former member of Obama's foreign policy team...
Despite some successes large and small, Obama's foreign policy has disappointed many who initially supported him. The Middle East initiatives heralded in his 2009 Cairo speech fizzled or never got started at all, and the Middle East today is more volatile than ever. The administration's response to the escalating violence in Syria has consisted mostly of anxious thumb-twiddling. The Israelis and the Palestinians are both furious at us. In Afghanistan, Obama lost faith in his own strategy: he never fought to fully resource it, and now we're searching for a way to leave without condemning the Afghans to endless civil war. In Pakistan, years of throwing money in the military's direction have bought little cooperation and less love.  
The Russians want to reset the reset, neither the Chinese nor anyone else can figure out what, if anything, the "pivot to Asia" really means, and Latin America and Africa continue to be mostly ignored, along with global issues such as climate change. Meanwhile, the administration's expanding drone campaign suggests a counterterrorism strategy that has completely lost its bearings -- we no longer seem very clear on who we need to kill or why.  
Could Obama have done better?  
In foreign policy as in life, stuff happens -- including bad stuff no one could have predicted. Nonetheless, to a significant extent, President Obama is the author of his own lackluster foreign policy. He was a visionary candidate, but as president, he has presided over an exceptionally dysfunctional and un-visionary national security architecture -- one that appears to drift from crisis to crisis, with little ability to look beyond the next few weeks. His national security staff is squabbling and demoralized, and though senior White House officials are good at making policy announcements, mechanisms to actually implement policies are sadly inadequate.
Brooks goes on to criticize Obama for failures in strategy (he doesn't have one), structure (it's crumbling), process (no comment needed), and personnel. The last is most entertaining, as Brooks notes that many positions in the national security and diplomatic infrastructure have been filled by campaign aides who don't really know what they were doing.  It's telling that so many of the criticisms in her article are ones that tell the story of the Obama Adminsitration as a whole -- a lack of strategy and failures in process and personnel seem to be the hallmarks of this presentation.

The closing section may be my favorite, however, when Brooks recommends that Obama reinstate a rule from his 2008 campaign -- the "no assholes" rule.  I'm stunned to think that the members of Obama's campaign staff may not be the biggest assholes associated with the President. 

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