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Friday, September 6, 2013

Obama's red lines

I have held off for as long as I can in contemplating the failure of Obama's foreign policy approach.  

I had originally hoped that his rhetoric should be interpreted as: "I will tone down the American assumption of of the role of policeman of the world without abandoning our vital interests."

Although he says he can, without Congressional approval, rewrite laws in the middle of implementation - which the Constitution does not allow - he apparently cannot, without Congressional approval, function as the Commander in Chief - which the Constitution and/or modern practice does allow.

He looks like he is continuing the arguably bellicose tone of our foreign policy (red lines and all that) while implementing it in a very timid and contradictory way.  His earlier talk was of what HE would do about the use of chemical weapons.  When it came time to do it, he waffled and then collapsed in an attempt to get Congress to join him.  Or does he want Congress to disapprove and therefore extract him from his red line rhetoric?

I do not  think that he is directly abandoning our vital interests with one very important exception.

His and America's credibility have taken a dramatic hit in the last few weeks.


  1. It is possible that the worlds’ perception of US credibility was solidified one year ago in Benghazi and that Syria’s boldness in, apparently, being dismissive of serious US intervention is a consequence.

    I think that the role of the US as “policeman of the world” was, in the past, a major reason the US was not popular abroad. Is it possible the world would like its policeman back?

    In general I would classify world leaders as type “A” personalities. A foreign policy of “Play nice and the rest of the world will like us” never had a chance in that demographic.


  2. On Benghazi you may be right.

    On "world policeman" a year or two ago Tom Friedman said (approximately) : "If you don't like the Middle East with American power in it, wait until you see the Middle East without American power in it."

    "Play nice" was not what I was hoping for from Obama, because I agree with your observation. What I was hoping for was the exercise of American power in recognition of a) our reduced capacity to maintain American power and b) a better understanding of the limits of that power. Doing that would require that a special care be taken to ensure that the new rhetoric was consistent with the new more limited willingness to use power. Rhetoric that was consistent with the old commitment and not followed up even to the lesser level that one would expect from the reduced commitment would be especially bad. But that seems to be what we are getting.