The 2003–08 Liberal Foreign-Policy Vision Lies in Ruins

The front page of today’s Washington Post previews President Obama’s trip to the EU summit in Northern Ireland, observing that Europeans are deeply disappointed, and feeling betrayed, by Obama’s policies on long-delayed assistance to Syrian rebels, widespread NSA eavesdropping, and expansion of drone warfare.

In his use of drones and the NSA, Obama is acting more like the European caricature of President George W. Bush. Le Monde, in fact, referred to him as “George W. Obama.”

What the five years of Obama’s presidency have taught us is that the dominant worldview in the American Left and Europe in the preceding five years — 2003 to 2008 — was an unrealistic, idealistic fantasyland wishing away complicated problems of terrorism, security, and the politics and culture of the Middle East. As discussed in today’s Jolt . . . 

A Foreign-Policy Shift That Obama Won’t Even Personally Discuss, Much Less Explain

From 2003 to 2008, we were served up large heaping piles of crap that somehow managed to become foreign-policy conventional wisdom:

  • A major obstacle to Middle East peace was that the Bush administration wasn’t making it enough of a priority.
  • The Iraq War was the main cause of alienation and anti-American attitudes in the Muslim world.
  • Greed for oil and war profiteering drove American interventions in the Middle East, not humanitarian concerns or desire to check aggressive, inherently dangerous forces.

After taking the wheel of American foreign policy, the Obama administration pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed the Israelis and Palestinians, and five years later, we see that the basic obstacle to peace — i.e., one side wants to destroy the other, and the other side refuses to accept destruction — remains. The troops are home from Iraq, and the United States is still hated in much of the Muslim world. (They actually hate us even more now in Jordan and Pakistan than during the Bush years.)

And now the United States will be sending some sort of military assistance to the Syrian rebels, finding the brutal actions of Ba’athist Arab dictator — including use of sarin gas — too dangerous to ignore any further.

Although apparently the president doesn’t really want to do this. This weekend, the New York Times reported:

[Obama’s] ambivalence about the decision seemed evident even in the way it was announced. Mr. Obama left it to a deputy national security adviser, Benjamin J. Rhodes, to declare Thursday evening that the president’s “red line” on chemical weapons had been crossed and that support to the opposition would be increased. At the time, Mr. Obama was addressing a gay pride event in the East Room. On Friday, as Mr. Rhodes was again dispatched to defend the move at a briefing, the president was hosting a Father’s Day luncheon in the State Dining Room.

Come on, man! Mr. President, own your decision. If you don’t think this is the right decision, tell your advisers and former President Clinton and McCain and Graham and everyone else that you think they’re wrong, and stick by it. Don’t adopt a policy that you don’t really believe in just because you want the complaining to stop.

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