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« At the EU, an eerie opacity | Main | A GOP Senate? Bring it on, for all anyone cares. »

May 28, 2014


Peter G

I hope you will forgive me if I remark that Americans not only like but insist on a certain degree of ideology in their foreign policy. Back in the days of yore when Thurmonds tread the earth comes a tale. In an interview following the re-election in Canada of a government led by one Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Strom expressed shock and dismay. Why? Because he had publicly declared PET to be a communist. This should have been a carreer ending declaration for Trudeau but damned if we didn't re-elect him! That interview was widely seen in Canada to much merriment.
Now the preference for an ideological bent is understandable. What is American Exceptionalism without it. And who loves Kissinger? (Not that I'm equating Obama with Kissnger.) But this is why I considered all that crap about Hillary Clinton not declaring particular organizations to be terror organizations. That's childish in my opinion. It doesn't fundamentally influence anything more than Strom did in Canada. All it does is provide amusement and recruiting possibilities to people you may later have to negotiate with.


I have felt from the beginning that Obama's approach to foreign policy was the most reasonable I had seen in my lifetime, which is somewhat lengthy. He is not a pacifist, not is he a militarist. He is, as you so clearly state, a pragmatist.

Because of this, he works one way in regard to Syria and another in regard to Libya. He knows quite well, that in regards to foreign policy one size does not fit all.

But this has been a problem for him in terms of public perception from the very beginning, not only in foreign policy, but also in domestic policy.

The American populace has had the ability to think in a nuanced fashion driven out of its makeup. We live in the 30 second, or less, soundbite world. Complexity, as far as Americans are concerned, is a negative.

Yet, pragmatically, does not any approach to the world requuire complexity? Obama gets it. A very few others do as well. I used to think Hillary did not get it. I don't know if her time as SOS under Obama has taught her the lesson. I can only hope so.


Foreign policy is perhaps the most striking example of the quandary that vexes Obama and his presidency.

On issue after issue, Obama takes actions that, when considered on their own merits, poll quite strongly with the American public. This is particularly true with respect to foreign policy, with the possible exception of our intervention in Libya, and previously with the Afghanistan surge.

The public wants out of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Obama is delivering.

The public wants no part of a Syria entanglement, and Obama has strenuously avoided one.

The public is not interested in getting into a real confrontation with Putin, and Obama has so far avoided one.

The public does not want war with Iran, yet is concerned with the idea of them as a nuclear power. Obama is making the effort to thread that needle, and succeeding so far.

I don't know what the polling on Israel/Palestine looks like in recent years, but I would suspect that the public would support a more nuanced approach and a push for a two-state settlement, which Obama and Kerry tried to accomplish without success thanks mostly to Bibi's boobery.

And yet, approval of Obama's handling of foreign policy is underwater. The same has happened with health care and the economy to varying degrees. When polled, the public support his policies with pluralities and sometimes strong majorities. But it doesn't seem to matter. Amazing what a shallow "win the morning"-obsessed political punditry that is often obsessed with taking Obama down a peg over nothingburgers, paired with a nonstop negative propaganda operation can do to an already-easily distracted electorate.

This phenomenon is true of moderate pundits, too. Just recently on Ukraine, Fareed Zakaria, among others, has admonished Obama to do things...that Obama is already doing. Tom "Moustache of Understanding" Friedman does this all the frickkin time, too. Hell, even GOP officials, when actually asked what we should be doing in Ukraine, usually list things Obama is already doing.

It's maddening, the thicket of ignorance and deliberate idiocy this president has had to navigate these six years. He's by no means perfect, but this country doesn't deserve him, and he deserves better than to be stuck trying to lead this country.

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