Responding to Russia

The Obama administration has orchestrated sanctions against Russia for taking over the Crimea from Ukraine.  What we’ll do is target 11 individuals, freezing their assets and not letting them travel in the West.  That’ll  show ‘em!  These Russian officials won’t be able to come to Disneyland, and we know how much that means to them! [Read more...]

The consequences of weakness

Last week, President Obama gave a stern warning to Vladimir Putin not to intervene militarily in the Ukraine.  Whereupon Putin did just that.  We have had the “red line” that Syria dare not cross, dropping sanctions against Iran to encourage them not to  develop a nuclear weapon, “leading from behind” in Libya, dropping the missile shield in Eastern Europe at Putin’s request,  proposing cuts to the military, and on and on.  America today is projecting weakness, not strength, on the world stage.  The result is global instability and assertive authoritarians.

Even the Washington Post, that consistently liberal publication and a stalwart defender of the president, is exasperated at the administration’s foreign policy weakness.  An excerpt from an editorial on the subject after the jump. [Read more...]

The new isolationism

The Obama administration is throwing America’s weight around less and less on the world scene, and many conservatives are saying that America should just mind its own business and avoid, as George Washington recommended, “foreign entanglements.”  Is this revival of isolationism a good thing?  Consider Michael Gerson’s worries after the jump and see if you agree.  Or can we derive principles for when we should and should not get involved in  foreign entanglements?   [Read more...]

Victory in Libya

It looks like the Libyan rebels, with the help of NATO planes and American bombs, have overthrown the Gaddafi regime.  All that remains is to find the guy.   No Americans were killed, the Libyans themselves did the heavy lifting to free themselves, and the terrorist-supporting dictator who has been the West’s nemesis for decades is out of power.  Does this vindicate President Obama’s stated policy of “leading from behind”?  You would think conservatives would celebrate an American victory.  And that liberals  would celebrate one of the administration’s success stories.   But we aren’t hearing much from anyone.   Not even the British and the French, who were the ones who went into combat.  Is everyone afraid of another “mission accomplished” moment, after which everything turns very bad?  Is it that Republicans don’t want to give the President any credit, while the Democrats, being peaceniks at heart, are ashamed of President Obama’s war?  Or is everyone so sick of all of these post-9/11 wars that the martial spirit has died out?

We have no cynicism

Kathleen Parker, writing about diplomatic  fallout from the Wikileak documents, includes a poignant reaction:

Writing for the center-right Le Figaro, French journalist Renaud Girard said: “What is most fascinating is that we see no cynicism in U.S. diplomacy. They really believe in human rights in Africa and China and Russia and Asia. They really believe in democracy and human rights.”

Yes, we really do.

If Americans are guilty of anything, he said, it is being a little naive. Let’s plead guilty as charged and get on with it.

via Kathleen Parker – Can we become an America WikiLeaks can’t assail?.

I guess the rest of the world doesn’t really believe in all that stuff about democracy and human rights like we do.  So in our idealism we naively try to help the world and just get beaten around for our trouble.  I know that critics of America ascribe sinister motives to our policies–they are just in Iraq for the oil, etc.–but I think our real problem has been our good intentions, which just don’t work out the way our optimistic national character expects them to.

And yet I think it’s good not to be cynical about democracy, freedom, human rights, etc.  Is there a way to keep our ideals without being naive?

Our foreign policy is also a mess

It isn’t just our economy and Congress that are out of whack. Robert Kagan of the Washington Post cites the ways President Obama is botching our foreign policy:

The contretemps between President Obama and Israel needs to be seen in a broader global context. The president who ran against “unilateralism” in the 2008 campaign has worse relations overall with American allies than George W. Bush did in his second term.

Israelis shouldn’t feel that they have been singled out. In Britain, people are talking about the end of the “special relationship” with America and worrying that Obama has no great regard for the British, despite their ongoing sacrifices in Afghanistan. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly criticized Obama for months (and is finally being rewarded with a private dinner, presumably to mend fences). In Eastern and Central Europe, there has been fear since the administration canceled long-planned missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States may no longer be a reliable guarantor of security. Among top E.U. officials there is consternation that neither the president nor even his Cabinet seems to have time for the European Union’s new president, Herman Van Rompuy, who, while less than scintillating, is nevertheless the chosen representative of the post-Lisbon Treaty continent. Europeans in general, while still fond of Obama, have concluded that he is not so fond of them — despite his six trips to Europe — and is more of an Asian president.

The Asians, however, are not so sure. Relations with Japan are rocky, mostly because of the actions of the new government in Tokyo but partly because of a perception that the United States can't be counted on for the long term. In India, there are worries that the burgeoning strategic partnership forged in the Bush years has been demoted in the interest of better relations with China. Although the Obama administration promised to demonstrate that the United States “is back” in Asia after the alleged neglect of the Bush years, it has not yet convinced allies that they are the focus of American attention. . . .

Who has attracted attention in the Obama administration? The answer, so far, seems to be not America’s allies but its competitors, and in some cases its adversaries. If there were a way to measure administration exertion in foreign policy, the meter would show the greatest concentration of energy, beyond the war in Afghanistan, has been devoted to four endeavors: the failed first-year attempt to improve relations with Iran; the ongoing attempt to improve relations with Russia; the stalled effort to improve cooperation with China; and the effort — fruitless so far — to prove to the Arab states that the United States is willing to pressure Israel to further the peace process. Add to these the efforts to improve relations with Syria, engage Burma and everything with Af-Pak, and not much has been left for the concerns of our allies.This is bad enough, but compounding the problem has been the administration’s evident impatience with allies who don’t do as they are told. Europeans get spanked for a pallid commitment to NATO defense spending even as they contribute 30,000 troops to a distant war that European publics mostly don’t believe in. Japan gets spanked when its new government insists on rethinking some recent agreements. In both cases, the administration has a point, but it’s always easier to hammer allies when they misbehave than to hammer tough competitors such as Russia or China.


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