By David T. Jones on August 20, 2014

Washington DC…U.S. foreign policy is (Select one of more of the following:  adrift; unfocused; contradictory; confused; disheartening; disconcerting; wrong-headed).  

In a concerted issue to be anti-Bush, President Obama and his Administration have spent almost six years attempting to create a working, understandable, coherent foreign policy.  In so doing, they have:

-- Announced “reset” of policy toward Russia, without really saying what was wrong with the previous policy other than Dubya Bush pursued it.  And then they have found themselves confronting a bear whose aggression annexed Crimea and appears intent on destabilizing the rest of Ukraine;

--Determined Libya’s Khadafy was a vicious dictator about to slaughter his citizens and to prevent such, orchestrated extended air attacks and military action that destroyed Libya’s regime.  Now Libya has no effective government and terrorist gangs are so pervasive that we have withdrawn our embassy (not to mention having our ambassador killed earlier);

--Embraced an “Arab Spring” that was supposed to prompt a flowering crop of new democracies throughout Middle East and North Africa, ridding the region of bad old autocrats.  Having jettisoned old friend Egyptian president Mubarak, we recoiled with horror at the “democratically elected” successor Mohamed Morsi whose Muslim Brotherhood acolytes promised to transform Egypt into an Islamic theocracy.  Here we were saved by Egyptian military, who foresaw a future in which they would be shot against walls by militants (re senior Iranian military in 1978) and mounted a coup (that we dared not say was such).  Now we back a traditional Egyptian military dictatorship of the Nasser-Sadat-Mubarak ilk and depend on it to help construct an Israel-Gaza peace agreement that a Morsi Islamic Brotherhood government would never have supported.  

--Scorned, belabored, and implicitly insulted Israeli leader Netanyahu.  Obama’s 2009 “apology tour” of the Middle East deliberately ignored Tel Aviv.  (Then Washington appeared surprised when Netanyahu preferred “President Romney” in 2012.)  Now Obama-Kerry desperately tries to cobble peace in Gaza that is more than a reloading break for Hamas.  And trying to square the circle of endorsing Israeli attacks on rocket-firing terrorists with the negative PR of 2,000 dead Palestinians including all-too-many children is daunting.

-- Trumpeted the departure of U.S. military forces from Iraq as finally rebutting Dubya’s disaster; it also worked well as campaign rhetoric.  Unfortunately, the inability to conclude a Status of Forces Agreement left Iraqi forces without vital mentoring and no U.S. leverage to stem corruption/incompetence in its leadership.  The wind sowed; the whirlwind is being reaped in the form of Islamic State’s massacres of routed Iraqi military.  A desperate Obama is trying to stabilize quicksand with airstrikes while muttering the mantra of “No boots on the ground.”  “Boots in the air” will have to do.

--Dramatized our military departure from Afghanistan (also campaign rhetoric useful).  Late recognition that continuing USG military presence is vital may prevent a politicomilitary collapse comparable to Iraq.  

--Declared Syria’s Assad had to go (dustbin of history and all that).  But Assad deigned to slip-slide away.  His army stayed loyal, fought effectively against “rebels” whose competence level seemed on the level of the medieval “Children’s Crusade” to free the Holy Land.  Thinking that Assad’s forces would collapse, Obama avoided arming rebel forces.  Now that Assad has defacto won the war (with the brutal-beyond-belief ISSI claiming a swath of Syria-Iraq), we are supposedly arming “moderate” rebels.  Another wind sowed; another whirlwind in progress.

--Announced an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable.  But we must prevent it without draconian economic sanctions, rather by “negotiation.”  Now with negotiations predictably failing, shall we reconsider “kinetic” action to prevent an Iranian nuke—or just let the Israelis bite that bullet while we tish-tish after the fact? 

-- Declared a “pivot” to Asia, but without defined objectives.  Support Japanese/Philippine/Vietnamese territorial disputes with China?  Revive bases in Vietnam/Philippines/Singapore?  Looking for a new enemy?  If the latter was the objective, we have succeeded.  Beijing is now, just short of shooting war, hostile. 

The conclusion:  this pudding has no theme.  “Don’t do stupid shit” isn’t a foreign policy unfortunately “stupid shit” has characterized Obama’s approach.  Worse, he has no discernible definition of “stupid” other than action hurting his domestic ratings.

More essentially the president has no feel for foreign policy.  He is a domestic animal seeking to reorder American society; foreign policy is an irritating distraction.  Concurrently, he has no appreciation of role of military force or its interlock with foreign policy.    

U.S. foreign policy is now akin to the carnival pinwheel:  spin it and where it stops, nobody knows.


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