Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Richard Cohen on Obama Foreign Policy

WaPost columnist Richard Cohen--a reliable lefty--unloads on The One with this piece today.  Actually, Cohen's been able to dredge up a remarkable amount of bile for Mr. Obama in the past two years, and has come to be for me a sort of bellwether for principled opposition on the left.

Of course, Cohen and I disagree completely on the policy aim here.  It seems to me the Libya thing had at its outset a pretty classic "Punnett Square" of decision making, with a leadership approach on one axis and an intervention status on the other.  Strong leadership in an intervention--this is the style of George Bush.  The concept of not leading--and especially, ceding leadership to the French would of course, be anathema to Mr. Bush.  In this case, my preference was for leading a non-intervention; that is, making a strong and direct case that while Libya's turmoil is regrettable, bad things happen everywhere and we have to pick and choose where we seek to be involved--with such involvement in all cases springing from a clear-eyed view of national interest.  Mr. Obama however, has in all cases, chosen not to lead.  First, in the weeks leading up to the war, by allowing his Secretary of Defense to make statements against intervention without any public support for or against them, he appeared to be allowing events to overtake him.  In the process, he looked feckless and out of his league.  Now that his foreign policy muses (Clinton, Rice, Powers) and the Euros have pushed him into war, he is content for America to appear as just another nation, a part of a coalition, a provider of service as it were--while weaker, pompous, de-fanged Euros strut about reclaiming Napoleonic glory. 

The bottom line here is that whatever the policy--America MUST lead.  While I am disappointed in Mr. Obama's decision to become embroiled in Libya, I am positively embarrassed by his decision to sing in the chorus. In both dithering and now acting, he continues to show us how out of his league he really is.  Not that we weren't warned.


Bryan said...

Well said. Whether we intervene or not, America can't let the international community flail when these events occur. Even if the intent is for the U.S. to only deliver the initial high-volume or stealth strikes and then provide C2and logistic support, America still has to lead the conversation until another power becomes the world leader.

One point of contention, though. Even if one takes a realist approach to foreign policy, the perception of America is still one of our national interests. If, as you've often argued, the U.S. is perceived as isolationist or uninvolved, alliances will be degraded, and the ability of the U.S. to continue being a world leader will be affected. That is a significant reason behind our intervention in Bosnia - the growing perception that NATO was irrelevant and the U.S. was walking away form the alliance. If the Libyan situation continued without U.S. involvement, one could argue eventually our alliance relationships and leadership position would be affected.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Bryan--looking forward to lunch today.

I don't disagree that how we are perceived is of interest to us, which is why I would want a positive statement of leadership that says "this is not our problem", rather than the dithering that happened.

The slope where your standing is slippery, in that our ability to define our national interests would be limited to what the mob asks of us.

Leadership and alliances have to be balanced against capacity, will, economics and geopolitics.

As for Bosnia--if memory serves--our intervention came AFTER a period of time in which we asserted the responsibility of the Euros. They failed. And yes--it put a strain on NATO and its relevance. But that President appeared at least to TRY and let the Euros take care of their knitting.

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