Broken? I don’t think there was any coherent policy put in place from the beginning…Obama’s foreign policy was a failure the first day he sat down in the oval office:
The White House took a hands-off approach to the Libyan conflict. It failed to act quickly after reports of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It allowed Edward Snowden to escape from Hong Kong to Moscow, keeping the NSA leaker in the news for weeks. And it’s dithering on its long-term plans for Afghanistan.
The void caused by delayed White House action has allowed others to dictate the international conversation.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to needle Washington over Snowden
- European allies have taken the lead in Syria and Libya
- Afghan President Hamid Karzai humiliated the White House by pulling out of peace talks unexpectedly
- Even Obama’s Africa trip was eclipsed by the health of Nelson Mandela and the return of George W. Bush to the public eye
This pattern has led critics to claim that the foreign policy operation within the Obama administration is reactive, rudderless and dominated by political, not geopolitical, concerns.
And all of Obama’s decisions are made with politics in mind…not what’s best for the United States and its leadership in the world but what’s best for Obama. Even some of his advisers agree:
For instance, Vali Nasr, who served as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke when he was ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said this of Obama’s Afghan policies: “Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play on the nightly news, or which talking point it would give the Republicans. The Obama administration’s reputation for competence on foreign policy has less to do with its accomplishments in Afghanistan or the Middle East than with how U.S. actions in that region have been reshaped to accommodate partisan political concerns.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, said this about Obama’s Syria policy: “Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act. He should understand the deep and lasting damage done when the gap between words and deeds becomes too great to ignore, when those who wield power are exposed as not saying what they mean or meaning what they say.”
And Rosa Brookes, a former senior adviser at the Pentagon, attacked Obama for his failure to outline a broad, sweeping foreign policy strategy. “The Obama administration initially waffled over the Arab Spring, unable to decide whether and when to support the status quo and when to support the protesters. The United States used military force to help oust Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, but insisted at first that this wasn’t the purpose of the airstrikes — and without any clear rationale being articulated, the use of force in seemingly parallel situations seems to have been ruled out.”
All three no longer work for the president. But all of their criticisms share one central theme – Obama does not have the personnel in place to outline and execute a broad international strategy. At the heart of this problem is a disconnect between the State Department and the White House’s national security team.
Bush at least acknowledged he needed people who had experience with foreign policy:
The best way to illustrate this disconnect is to look back to the Bush White House. Members of Bush’s inner circle included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They were included in the president’s decision-making processes, and were then able to take the strategy back to their respective departments and execute it.
Say what you will about Bush’s actions. But it’s undeniable that the world spent eight years reacting to the United States, not the other way around.
Compare that to the Obama White House. Hilary Clinton was given the State Department as a consolation prize. Because of her clout, State operated in an orbit separate from the White House.
In his second term, Obama has brought in Susan Rice as national security adviser, a long-time political ally who is protective of the president and vice versa. John Kerry and the president are friendly, but they don’t share much history.
This has lead to a lack of communication and strategy coordination between Obama and State. Now, America is reacting to events instead of shaping them.
And reacting badly. What other outcome could there be when all he does is react politically? All any of his advisers know is politics. “What’s going to play badly on the nightly news?,” “What’s going to hurt Obama in the polls?”
That is no way to lead.
But we’ve sadly known from day one that Obama is no leader. Great at speeches, great at politics….sucks at leading.
And the world pays the price.