Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obama's Whimsical Foreign Policy

Obama’s Syrian fiasco has been an appalling spectacle of a President who does not seem to think that attacking a country demands serious thought and preparation. Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call runs down the highlights:
First the president of the United States draws a red line, promising action if it is crossed. Then, when Syria crosses the line, he prepares for action, saying that absolutely, positively, a military response is necessary. 
Then, at the last minute, he apparently changes his mind and figures that passing the buck to Congress to authorize military action is a good idea. But, of course, he won’t say what he’ll do if Congress fails to authorize action. Then, after his secretary of state seeks to mollify those worried about a full-scale war by promising that the U.S. military response would be “unbelievably small,” the president responds that “the U.S. does not do pinpricks.” 
Is this an Abbott and Costello comedy routine? A Peter Sellers movie about an inept political leader?
One could go on listing the contradictions and confusions of Obama’s Syria “policy.” The interesting question is: why? Why is Obama doing this in the first place and why is he so laughably inept? Here are a few thoughts.

1. Pragmatism. Since World War II American foreign policy has flown by the seat of its pants, and the problem is bipartisan. Obama’s fecklessness goes beyond this, but without the heritage of pragmatism the current events would not happen.

2. Symbolism over substance. The purpose of Obama’s threatened use of force is not to accomplish anything but to demonstrate his altruism. Action that will do nothing but show a leftist’s good intentions? Yes, this is very much liberalism in action.

3. Leftover Cold War thinking. Leftists have long believed that US support of authoritarian regimes abroad is imperialist and evil. Obama has been willing to send the Middle East into chaos with the “Arab Spring” to show that he supports the so-called democratic movements against dictators.

4. Keeping up with Bill Clinton. I suspect that if Clinton had not bombed Serbia, where no US interests were involved, Obama would not have thought of bombing Syria. Clinton committed US forces in a purely humanitarian cause, and Obama does not want history to ask why he did not do the same.

5. Never let a crisis go to waste. When your goal is to weaken American influence abroad, it doesn’t matter if you’re inept, sloppy, stupid and unprepared. Why think something through? Let crisis and destruction take their course! Another round of golf, anyone?

Obama’s Syrian mess is very much of a piece with the rest of his presidency. Stimulus, bailouts, Obamacare, exploding regulations, “quantitative easing,” Fast and Furious, Benghazi — none of these was given much thought, and none will achieve any values but destruction. Such a record does not happen by accident.

I believe Barack Obama will be the most successful President in history. He came into office wanting to increase state power at home and weaken America’s power abroad. He did both.