John Bolton, the far-right’s go-to guy on foreign policy, has a list of President Obama’s foreign policy “failures” that reveals much about the right-wing view of that subject. The psychological roots of that view, it seems to me, are found in typical American male psychology.
Another major foreign policy showdown came in September over Syria. After the international community concluded that President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, President Obama attempted to convince allies and Congress that military action was necessary. Neither was interested. The political and diplomatic showdown was averted when Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Syria could avoid military strikes by giving up all chemical weapons. Kerry immediately said that would never happen, but Russia seized on the comment and eventually worked out a deal for Assad to stay in power in exchange for turning over his chemical stockpiles.
“This is another situation where the United States has absolutely failed to achieve its objectives. The president said his objective was removing the Assad regime from power. That obviously hasn’t happened. If anything, momentum is now in the direction of the regime. The president said that if he saw the use of chemical weapons, that would be a red line that would prompt American intervention. Chemical weapons were used. There was no American intervention,” Bolton said.
“Whether you agree with the administration’s policies or not, what they have done has let the United States again in a much weaker position.”
Now I partially agree with this. I think Obama and John Kerry stumbled accidentally into success and that Russia helped them pull a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. They were fumbling badly with all that ridiculous saber-rattling about bombing Syria that no one was really buying and Putin came in and saved the day. But the end result was still a positive thing. One of the world’s more brutal thugs was forced to agree to give up the chemical weapons he had shown such willingness to use. That’s a very good outcome, however it was we got there.
But notice that Bolton, as with his other examples, is mostly concerned with how others view us. It’s not about achieving actual geo-strategic goals, it’s about posturing and posing as the only country that actually matters, as the one true imperial power. And if any other country is ever viewed as having done something positive, that is a negative for us. It’s a zero-sum game. This is the psychology of the bully. It’s the psychology of the typical American macho man, constantly preening about how masculine he is and perpetually jealous if anyone else does the same thing. It’s all about macho posturing rather than intelligence or thoughtfulness.
But here’s where I think it really gets amusing:
In each of these diplomatic matters, Russia played a key role and Bolton said they are just some of the signs that Russian aggression is on the rise. Not only does he see Russia more influential now than at any time in the past four decades, but he warns of Vladimir Putin’s attempts to reconstitute the old Soviet Union.
Putin is putting the communist band back together! But wait, I thought Putin was the savior of Christianity with his anti-gay views? I thought Putin was doing such an amazing job of creating the perfect Christian society that American Christians would soon begin moving to Russia to drink from its healing waters of anti-gay authoritarianism, according to Scott Lively?
Like Dispatches on Facebook: