I don’t think you will find a better article on the foreign policy of Obama other then Fouad Ajami’s stuff at the WSJ. In it he gets right to the meat of the matter.
No despot fears the president and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue.
After a year in office the world knows what to expect. A bunch of “soaring” rhetoric about democracy and freedom but NO action whatsoever. In essence, Obama is intending to stay above it all and withdraw from any and all action on the world stage.
With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the “progressives” holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power.
In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration “cheats.” It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn’t fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid’s last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)
As revolution simmers on the streets of Iran, the will was summoned in the White House to offer condolences over the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, an iconic figure to the Iranian opposition. But the word was also put out that the administration was keen on the prospect of John Kerry making his way to Tehran. No one is fooled. In the time of Barack Obama, “engagement” with Iran’s theocrats and thugs trumps the cause of Iranian democracy.
In retrospect, that patina of cosmopolitanism in President Obama’s background concealed the isolationism of the liberal coalition that brought him to power. The tide had turned in the congressional elections of 2006. American liberalism was done with its own antecedents—the outlook of Woodrow Wilson and FDR and Harry Truman and John Kennedy. It wasn’t quite “Come home, America,” but close to it. This was now the foreign policy of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. There was in the land a “liberal orientalism,” if you will, a dismissive attitude about the ability of other nations to partake of liberty. It had started with belittling the Iraqis’ aptitude for freedom. But there was implicit in it a broader assault on the very idea of freedom’s possibilities in distant places. East was East, and West was West, and never the twain shall meet.~~~
Everywhere there is on display evidence of the rogues taking the Obama administration’s measure, and of America’s vulnerable allies scurrying for cover. A fortnight ago, Lebanon’s young prime minister made his way from Beirut to Damascus: Saad Hariri had come to pay tribute to the Syrian ruler.
You may remember the name of Hariri. Five years ago he was the match that lit the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. Syria had watched as President Bush had actually backed up his words and brought democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. They were afraid of the same thing happening to them.
Amazing what backing up your words can do.
We’re now worlds away from that moment in history. The man who demolished the Iraqi tyranny, George. W. Bush, is no longer in power, and a different sentiment drives America’s conduct abroad. Saad Hariri had no choice but to make peace with his father’s sworn enemies—that short voyage he made to Damascus was his adjustment to the retreat of American power.
In headier moments, Mr. Hariri and the leaders of the Cedar Revolution had been emboldened by American protection. It was not only U.S. military power that had given them heart.
There was that “diplomacy of freedom,” the proclamation that the Pax Americana had had its fill with the autocracies and the rogues of the Greater Middle East. There but for the grace of God go we, the autocrats whispered to themselves as they pondered the fall of the Iraqi despot. To be sure, there was mayhem in the new Iraq—the Arab and Iranian rulers, and the jihadists they winked at and aided, had made sure of that. But there was the promise of freedom, meaningful elections, a new dignity for men and women claiming their own country.
What a difference three or four years make.
What a difference indeed. All the dictators, kings, and despots had to do was wait out Bush, which they did, and watch as 52% of the American people installed a man no one fears. A man whose picture could be included in the dictionary definition of Paper Tiger.
It is different today, there is a cold-bloodedness to American foreign policy. “Ideology is so yesterday,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed not long ago, giving voice to the new sentiment.
History and its furies have their logic, and they have not bent to Mr. Obama’s will. He had declared a unilateral end to the “war on terror,” but the jihadists and their mentors are yet to call their war to a halt. From Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, the terror continues.
But to go by the utterances of the Obama administration and its devotees, one would have thought that our enemies were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, not the preachers and masterminds of terror. The president and his lieutenants spent more time denigrating “rendition” and the Patriot Act than they did tracking down the terror trail and the latest front it had opened at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. Our own leaders spoke poorly of our prerogatives and ways, and they were heard the world over.
The world understands we are a weaker nation, because of one man, and they have nothing to fear. Obama will do his best to have it both ways; using his rhetoric while doing almost nothing. He talks of engaging the enemy or despots, yet in Obama World that means he intends to sit down and talk. We used that policy for 13 years with Saddam and now we are using it with Iran: it is only meant to appear as if we are making an effort while accomplishing nothing.
And the whole world is watching.