The outburst from Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the so-called Shanghai Cooperation Organization should close the chapter on the much bandied about “outreach” to Iran voiced by candidate Obama in 2008. Events in Syria, despite the administration appellation of Assad as a “reformer,” likewise ended another chapter in the supposed reset diplomacy of reaching out to illiberal Middle East regimes that might not have been so illiberal had Bush & co. just given them a chance.
I don’t think the outreach to Russia is paying any dividends; they were silent as Ahmadinejad went on his rampage, have been sounding off about missile defense and U.S. ships in the Black Sea, and are clearly not “helping” to curtail the Iranian nuke project.
We hope for the best in Egypt, but for now the military interim government is jailing more people than did Mubarak and a plebiscite would probably elect an Islamist government that would reject the Camp David Accords with Israel. Pakistan just arrested those who helped us kill bin Laden, most likely in fear that someone would leak information that its own intelligence services were involved in shielding him for a decade. The Europeans are leaving Afghanistan despite the presence of a new multilateralist in the White House. Given that the Bush administration followed the War Power Acts by obtaining congressional decrees to go into Afghanistan and Iraq, one waits for the liberal anger at Obama for following in the footsteps of Clinton in the Balkans and not consulting Congress; all that is academic, since the Anglo-French and the lead-from-behind U.S. are still flummoxed by 6-million-person Libya.
Pressuring Israel has led nowhere; since the apparent Palestinian coalition government-to-be that includes Hamas includes de facto a charter calling for Israel’s destruction. And the subtext behind much of this administration’s foreign policy abroad and redistributive plans at home — emulation of the soft-power, socialist European Union — has imploded: The only strange thing about the massive U.S. debt is that Europe’s is worse and with less available in the way of mechanisms to address it. And if the air strikes over Libya are evidence of a new EU rapid-response force, well, enough said on that. If European redistribution and antagonism to private enterprise have shown us the way, it has been the way to their problems: near-steady 10 percent unemployment, massive deficits, sky-high gas and food prices, and an immigration mess.
All of the above can neither be defended as something positive nor blamed on George Bush, so the third alternative of simply not talking about the state of the nation and world, and instead focusing on either trivia, Republican heartlessness in trimming away entitlements, or the quasi-racist and illiberal criticism of Barack Obama is about all that is left.